Album review: Jack Johnson's 'To the Sea'
Hawaiian-born troubadour Jack Johnson has elevated beachcomber soft rock to its platonic ideal. There’s not a coconut hair out of place on his new album, “To the Sea,” which is pleasingly packaged in all recycled papers. The micro-genre chill-wave has been ascribed to such bands as Texas’ Neon Indian and Chazwick Bundick’s solo project Toro Y Moi, but it sounds like something that Johnson should be conveying with his smoothie jams.
At this point in Johnson’s career, on his fifth studio album, a listener might expect some twists in the formula, but Johnson isn’t interested in risk. Time and again, his choices are predictable, but it’s comforting and hard not to like in its gently strummed affability. His music is on permanent vacation — it should be pumped into cardiac clinics across America, lowering the blood pressure of harried patients.
Johnson is at his most schmaltzy when he grasps for profundity and misses, like on the song “Pictures of People Taking Pictures,” which repeats its title, a clichéd kernel of meta-commentary, over and over again in an unimaginative attempt to scare up some awe. He’s better off working in watery paternal mode, like when he comforts a friend — “stop upsetting yourself, upsetting your thoughts” — over a wiry calypso beat and guitar work that darkens and then brightens again. It’s the most genuine sentiment on a record from a simple but ambitious man whose real-life philanthropic and environmentally sound practices aim to sooth the world, one bro or surfer girl at a time.
— Margaret Wappler
“To the Sea”
Two and a half stars (Out of four)
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