Sound — 6
Oscar Wilde once said "nothing is so aggravating than calmness." He wasn't a man to lose his cool very often, but he would have torn his hair out over Jack Johnson. The world's biggest beach busker is so utterly okay with everything that it can be maddening. He's been sat on his a-se in Hawaii for almost fifteen years, happily strumming at an acoustic while the world's banks crash and humanity edges closer to nuclear annihilation. Could he not drop the act for once and be bitter and disillusioned like the rest of us? Does he not have a raging heavy metal record inside of him? The answer to both questions is invariably no. Sixth album "From Here to Now to You" is not only the picture of contentment, another wholesome serving of sun-kissed surf folk, it's arguably the most serene record he's ever made. He's lived in the comfort zone for so long that they're starting to develop serious infrastructure around him - schools, hospitals, the lot - and you can't help but like him for it. Open strings and open textures are the key to this album's tranquillity, but the vocals are always at centre stage. Johnson's pleasant manner and natural charisma make the thing very, very easy to listen to while he explores a couple of new possibilities, most interestingly the open tuning on "Don't Believe a Thing I Say." A lively percussion section gives "Tape Deck" and "Shot Reverse Shot" some kinetic energy but the compositions rarely leave cruise control. "Never Fade" harkens back to his 2005 hit "In Between Dreams," with a modest bassline tastefully underpinning idyllic, life-affirming chord and melody.
Lyrics — 7
Approaching middle age and well into his second decade of happy marriage, 38 year-old Johnson seems eager to reconnect with his youth in the case of "Tape Deck," recalling the joys of slapping a band together and playing Fugazi covers at talent shows. Otherwise, he's perfectly happy to issue dispatches from the frontline of domestic life - wonderfully twee without skimping on substance. As he told AP: "This record has been a lot of just sort of being in the family in just kind of my own little bubble. Dropping the kids off at school, and just day-to-day life, just washing the dishes, working in the garden, taking the trash out. That's not necessarily what the songs are about, but that's kind of where I was living, in that space." "Home" sees Johnson use his gardening as a metaphor for growing old and making peace with the hand life's dealt you ("Get out my machete, battle with time once again/but I'm bound to lose 'cause I'll be down if time don't win") while "Washing Dishes" is an astute observation of the work that goes into love, charmingly told from behind the sink. He covers some serious ground too, with his criticism of global complacency over climate change on "Ones and Zeroes" as close to a pointed remark as he's ever likely to come ("all the greatest of the heroes started jumping from the books... looking more and more like crooks/they stole the sunlight from the future/took a sip, drained half the glass, and put it back.")
Overall Impression — 7
Jack Johnson's career trajectory is starting to middle out. Bringing a little calm and happiness to a hectic world is a noble charge, but one question always remains: is that enough? Could this vastly successful songwriter do even more with the considerable talent he shows on "Never Fade" and "As I Was Saying"? His form suggests that no big change is on the horizon. He's not one of the best American songwriters, but he's certainly one of the coolest, and that, ultimately, is alright. No problem. Hakuna matata. Approach "From Here to Now to You" with the same seriousness that Jack Johnson approaches life and it will serve you nicely.