The mellowest artist on the market is back with his fifth studio album, “To the Sea.” Singer/songwriter Jack Johnson has finally come out of hiding to release an album that is largely about guiding his young son through life. Johnson does a great job at accurately portraying his love and appreciation for his son.
Johnson gets things going with his electric single “You and Your Heart,” a song about someone who hasn’t quite found himself and consequently takes out his confusion on others. The upbeat piano keeps the mood light, and Johnson’s gentle vocals make those who are confused want to forgive him.
In the title track, Johnson volunteers his guidance to his son and offers to take him down to the sea. He encourages his son to go after his dreams. “Dreams are dreams, put them in a cage / unlock the pain, and I’ll be here waiting,” Johnson sings. He then surprises listeners with a bluesy electric jam à la Hendrix, which is a career-first for him.
“No Good With Faces” is a song that could have been left off the album. On the upside, it’s a simple, quiet pop song about not being good with names or faces, so listeners can at least relate to the lyrics.
“At or With Me” is sure to be the song that will get everyone on his or her feet during Johnson’s summer tour. He innocently asks, “Are they laughing at or with me? / Why can’t we just say what we mean?” It’s another track with a bluesy chorus that’s hard to resist, and a clapping interlude keeps listeners engaged. This song might be the loudest on the album, but that’s a good change of pace for Johnson. Foot tapping by the end of the song is inevitable if listeners aren’t out of their seats already.
“From the Clouds” opens with drums that demand attention and the catchiest guitar riff on the album so far. “We can watch it from the clouds / we can’t stop it anyhow, it’s not ours,” he sings of today’s fast-paced society. He tells his son that he’s sweet even though the world isn’t always fair, which is one of the most touching lines any father-artist has sung in the past five years.
“My Little Girl” is addressed to his newborn daughter, singing, “Hey little girl…you stole my heart and made it your own.” Could this man be the perfect American father-musician? It certainly seems so.
“Turn Your Love” is the slow love song fans have been waiting for since the start of the album. Johnson returns to his acoustic roots on this track and utilizes airy female background vocals on this song.
“Pictures of People Taking Pictures” is a cute song about Johnson envisioning he and his son in the future. It’s an ideal tune for any musically inclined parent to play in the car when with their kids.
“Only the Ocean” sounds like a song that should have been played in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” when Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are by the ocean. The high-pitched piano makes sounds that would come out of the atmosphere if it could play music. Light cymbals add to the gentle rhythm of the closing track.
Overall, Johnson’s effort on “To the Sea” is quite a success. Johnson is donating 100 percent of his summer tour’s profits to charity, so be sure to catch one of his gigs and support the music as well as a good cause.
Reach Lenni at Lenni.Rosenblum@asu.edu