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To the Sea

Pop and Rock album by Jack Johnson

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Electric Banana

  • Jun 15, 2010
Diehards of Tropical Pop music can never get enough of a good thing. That's why people will line up for miles to see Jimmy Buffet. He's made a whole career out of "Margaritaville," and any elaboration has brought the faithful, clad in Jamaican shorts and comfy shirts, to lean back, relax, and sit in the sun. Everyone from Kenny Chesney ('No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem') and actor Matthew McConaughey hang out at the beach for their own benefit and for the fans who want to let it all hang loose.

Now there are two ways to work this out: One is to coast on one's laurels (which really does fits the bill) or reinvent the wheel at some point.

Jack Johnson, who admirably has personified Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" like none other in recent memory, brings perhaps his most varied and festive luau to date. As one of the biggest selling singer-songwriters of the past decade, he's decided for the latter, adding electric guitar and piano accompaniment to refurbish his admirable penchant to strum out acoustical licks with sentiments of domestic bliss and utopian wishes without stressing out his laid-back Hawaiian surfer dude sensibilities. While even the 'Curious George' soundtrack was to the point, endearing, and reached a destination lyrically, his former work seems sketchy in comparison to latest C.D., 'To the Sea.'

The starter "You and Your Heart," the title track, and "From the Clouds" bring it all back home admirably, but the acoustical "My Little Girl," the intricate folk tune "Turn Your Love," and the bluesy "Red Wine, Mistakes, and Mythology" give a more kaleidoscopic musical vision, preventing a rut for the Hawaii-in-the-hammock backdrop of his music. For the latter, one can't help but think of the kind of accompaniment the Beatles had on "Hey Bulldog," without any complaints of copyright infringement. "No Good with Faces" and "The Upsetter" are familiar Johnson, but even these allegedly lesser tracks have a new flair with smooth harmonies (or a double-tracked voice) and smoother licks and new instruments. (Is that a harmonica I hear on "No Good with Faces" and "At or with Me"?)

Perhaps even more than 'In Between Dreams,' Jack has found the right groove and given all casual and faithful fans a reason to tune in once again. 'To the Sea' realizes these promises and shuffles the musical deck of Johnson's already rewarding music catalog.

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John L. Peterson ()
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I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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"I can't tell you anything but the truth." These words, sung by Jack Johnson in his latest studio album, To The Sea, define the ethos of a man born and raised in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

You could say it was a father's solo sail from California to Hawaii that opened his son's future fate and underpinned it with a personal mythology, but it was Jack's ability to learn his own lessons from life and the sea that birthed his astonishing alchemy of music and poetry.

Truth has found plenty of room to breathe in each of Jack's albums (and in all of his work, from surfing films to his nonprofit, the Kokua Hawaii Foundation), and it comes home to a deeper heart in To The Sea. Here, with his brothers in music - Adam Topol (drums), Merlo Podlewski (bass), and Zach Gill (piano and melodica) - he's on a journey to the center of himself, and to all of us.

It's a transformational crossing, a wide gyre (musically and lyrically) circling home. "You and your heart shouldn't feel so far apart," he sings in the album's opener ... and then:

Road signs were stolen Left here holding this flame Who stole my patience Who stole my way I'm lost I'm too tired to try

Jack is all about closing the distance, bridging the gap between who we are and the invisible stories that have shaped us. But even while his music is about bringing things together, he always seems aware of the larger truth:

You're so sweet to me In a world that's not always fair ... We could watch it from the clouds We can't stop it...

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Label: Brushfire
Artist: Jack Johnson
Genre: Pop, Rock
Release Date: June 1, 2010
First to Review

"Electric Banana"
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