Sound — 9
This is John Mayer's dip into folk and Americana. There is none of those blues-rock licks we all know and love. However, with that being said, I find this to be my favorite studio album he's ever put out. With prominent folk and country influences, John Mayer sounds so relaxed and at home with himself on this album. 01. "Queen of California" - A great riff throughout the song. Slide guitar can be heard throughout, giving the track a country feel to it. Mayer provides a simple melody that works well with the instrumentation. 02. "The Age of Worry" - A much more complex riff throughout the song that sticks with you. John Mayer sings in a lower register about losing worry in the daily life. This song has a nice, open feel to it. It's very relaxing. 03. "Shadow Days" - My least favorite song on the album, sonically speaking. I'm not a big fan of slide guitar, which is prominent on this track. The vocals seem meshed together and the melody is repetitive. Some nice guitar work, but that's about it. 04. "Speak for Me" - A nice acoustic song. Some of my favorite songs of his are acoustic, but this one doesn't hit it for me. He has a nice vocal quality throughout, using both his lower register and falsetto, and the guitar is actually really technical if you listen really close to it. But to me, it seems a little empty. 05. "Something Like Olivia" - The bluesiest song on the album, using a simple G-C-D shuffle. This is definitely a standout track on the album, which is much-needed after two filler tracks. The track is definitely going to be a favorite of those who liked Continuum. This song has a great vocal, using layered background vocals to give the song a gospel feel, paired with simple yet effective guitar work throughout. 06. "Born and Raised" - One of my favorite songs on the album, John Mayer vocally kills on this track, employing Crosby & Nash for backup vocals. The harmonica is what makes the song, although the acoustic work in the background is a nice subtle touch. Just a happy song. 07. "If I Ever Get Around to Living" - This song isn't for everybody, but no matter what, give it a play through. Some might be turned off by it's length (5:22). At first, I hated it, but with a couple of listens it began to grow on me. One could definitely fall asleep to this song. It has a lounge-meets-folk feel. 08. "Love Is a Verb" - Although a little repetitive lyrically, this song is incredible. John doesn't take himself too seriously and just lays down a track about loving someone. The harmonies and guitar are relatively simple, but so is the song. The only real issue is how short the song is (2:25). 09. "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967" - A song about the invention of the submarine. I am not joking. The vocals are my favorite from the album, but bear a resemblance to a Jonas Brothers song, "Lovebug." There is great instrumentation, implementing brass, piano, acoustic and electric guitar and a snare drum, giving a slow march feel to it. Don't take the song too seriously, but it's still my favorite on the album. 10. "Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey" - The chorus in this song will be stuck in your head. For. Days. Although the song is a little bittersweet, it is a standout track on the album. The harmonica and swells of organs and slide guitars are the main instrumentation in the song, which is most certainly not a bad thing. The vocals are pretty simple and a little repetitive, but the melody is still nice and catchy. 11. "A Face to Call Home" - This song took a while to grow on me, but once it did I really liked it. There aren't any gimmicks to this song, just a singer-songwriter track with a Dave Matthews-esque outro. Would've been the perfect song to end the album. Nice big guitars in the end, which is great. 12. "Born and Raised (Reprise)" - I really don't see the point of this track. I mean, I like it, but it's not a good way to end an album. A simple country song with more vocals from Crosby & Nash, more harmonica, and a Paul Simon-esque vocal from John Mayer.
Lyrics — 7
Lyrically, there are some hit and misses throughout the album. The best song for me lyrically was "A Face to Call Home." He's singing about love, but in a unique, slightly abstract way. Here are some lyrics from the song "I am an architect//Of days that haven't happened yet//Can't believe a month is all it's been//You know my paper heart//The one I filled with pencil marks//I think I might've gone and inked you in." Meanwhile, songs like "Shadow Days" seem... boring lyrically. It has a nice message, but the lyrics don't seem very thought out "I'm a good man with a good heart//Had a tough time, got a rough start//But I finally learned to let it go//Now I'm right here, and I'm right now//And I'm open, knowing somehow//That my shadow days are over, my shadow days are over now." Overall, the album contains more hits than misses so...
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, I love this album. Yes, it is a grand sonic departure, and it is prone to fillers just like most every other album is. To me, the standout tracks are "The Age of Worry," "Something Like Olivia," "Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967," "A Face to Call Home" & "Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey." I love how light the album is as a whole, both musically and lyrically. He keeps the subject matter light for the most part, and the musical textures throughout the CD are nice and airy, yet complementative to the song. If someone were to steal this album, I'd gladly go to the nearest record store, and buy two copies in case one was stolen again.