After a three-year hiatus that recently ended with the September iTunes Music Festival in London, Jack Johnson returns to the music world with his sixth album, From Here to Now to You. Johnson again collaborates with producer Mario Caldato, Jr., who also produced the 2003 album On and On and the popular 2005 album In Between Dreams, to create a sound that seems the equivalent of a calming day at the beach, or perhaps a day of doing nothing at all.
Essentially, it’s the sound Johnson is most famous for — tracks filled with seldom more than acoustic guitars, drums, bass and, occasionally, piano. And it shouldn’t work for him this well — especially not for six albums — but it does because he executes it so nicely. From Here manages to reach a new level of mellowness derived from his old albums.
This album sound is also vastly different from the moodiness of his last two albums, On and On and To the Sea, which came after the death of his father and cousin, and instead returns to the mellow acoustic sounds of his first album, Brushfire Fairytales, which brought him to the spotlight in 2001.
It’s a sound fans are familiar with; he’s not experimenting with anything this go around, instead just doing what he does best. And with five successful albums already under his belt, it’s apparent that he doesn’t need a new sound.
The album’s first track, “I Got You,” is an ode to the singer’s wife and their marriage. With a catchy rhythm, the song is also easy to sing along to. “I got you / I got everything,” sings Johnson. “I got you / I don’t need anything.” It’s a rather naive and simple view, yes, but it’s a surprisingly endearing one. As with his past albums, much of the inspiration for the 12-song tracklist comes from his personal life. For From Here, the focus is very much on his life with his wife and children — life as a family man.
“This record has been a lot of just sort of being in the family in just kind of my own little bubble,” Johnson told the Associated Press. “Dropping the kids off at school, just day-to-day life, just washing the dishes, working in the garden, taking the trash out.”
One of the album’s tracks is indeed called “Washing Dishes.” The song, however, isn’t simply about a household chore — it delves into a budding love and the daunting thought of tomorrow. “One day is only two words we say,” sings Johnson. “I don’t want to let them get in the way / Of all the plans that we should be making right now.” It’s his ability to take a song about a seemingly commonplace object or an ordinary action — and make the lyrics mean more than the title innocently suggests — which seems to make Johnson so popular with listeners. After all, another one of his most popular songs, off of In Between Dreams, is entitled “Banana Pancakes” and describes having a lazy day doing nothing but, well, making banana pancakes.
“Shot Reverse Shot” is one of the most unique tracks on the album, a song that could be the most popular with listeners. It’s a cheerful song with lyrical breaks relegated to the two-line chorus, “Shot reverse shot / Look what the other got,” and the bridge. Other than that, Johnson doesn’t seem to pause to take a breath.
“Tape Deck” brings fans back to Johnson’s teenage years, creating a band with his friends in his living room. “From my tape deck there’s a recklessness,” sings Johnson, and though that recklessness might have somewhat disappeared between then and now — after all, this was the man who performed on stage in slippers — “Tape Deck” is nonetheless a fun song that takes listeners back to the past.
Ben Harper, who frequently collaborates with Johnson on projects, can be heard in “Change,” a nice, subtle shift to the more upbeat tunes on the album. His blues sound and backing vocals gives the song an interesting edge that complements Johnson’s smooth, soothing voice.
One might think that audiences would at this point be tired of Jack Johnson and his guitar-strumming, happy-go-lucky singing style. But instead, he has released six strong albums of sun-kissed, beachy tunes — songs that make you wish you could just drop everything and transport yourself to the nearest beach to relax and unwind.
And his latest accomplishment, From Here to Now to You, could possibly be the mellowest album Johnson has ever created. Filled with songs dedicated to his loving wife and songs embracing fatherhood, Johnson shows us that he’s at a happy place in life — and that we should try to find that happiness in each of our own lives. His songs won’t work for everyone, but his latest album will definitely satisfy fans and, as a kind of Brushfire Fairytales 2.0, be a good introduction to new listeners.
Follow us on Twitter @dailytrojan