After four idle years, the ‘Banana Pancake’, Hawaiian-born singer, songwriter and guitarist Jack Johnson is back with his seventh studio album; following his last studio album, ‘From Here to Now to You’ in 2013. Similar to his previous works, Johnson channels his usual soft rock and acoustic folk sounds on the 10-track album, ‘All the Light Above it Too’. Released on Sept. 8, the mellow rhymes, yet cynical lyrics, take listeners on a thoughtful and romantic journey.
In the wholesome lyrics of, ‘You Can’t Control It’, Johnson uses metaphors to emphasize the understanding that there are things you just can’t control. With smooth vocals, a steady beat, and the acoustic sound of the guitar, the song gives off easy going, sweet-sounding vibes.
The cheerful lyrics and smooth guitar melodies on ‘Big Sur’ take listeners on a drive along the coastal route of California. In the light-hearted melody, Johnson’s down-to-earth and descriptive lyrics paint a picture of a setting sun and burning oak trees. As the song continues, Johnson sets the scene with, “dashboard feet”, “children by the stream” and sings about the, “endless conversation instigated by the stars”. Together, Johnsons lyrics create a dreamlike space with a hint of nostalgia.
In relation to our current political conversation, Johnson makes not-so subtle comments that hint towards president Donald Trump. In his single, ‘My Mind Is For Sale’, Johnson references the, “six or seven words he likes to use”, along with the, “‘me first gimme-gimme’ appetite” that we see in politics today. The lyrics, “watch those strings go up and down” depict the puppet-like actions that feel all too familiar. Encouraging a call-to-action, the hook emphasizes the careless attitude toward Trump and the, “us against them” ideology he advocates for.
On a softer note, the enchanting rhythm of ‘Love Song #16’ carries a folky tone and a sweet dedication to Johnson’s wife. Although it’s, “just another love song”, his lyrics paint a timeline showing the growth between him and his wife and expressing the appreciation held for his family and the foundation they’ve built together.
Active in sustainability and ecology, Johnson sailed the North Atlantic to film the 30 minute documentary, The Smog of the Sea. While working on the documentary, Johnson composed the song ‘Fragments’ for the soundtrack and used it to conclude this new album. With both the song and documentary focusing on the alarming amount of plastic pollution found in our oceans. Seen as another form of quiet-activism, this song seeks to target awareness to this epidemic.
Listeners can expect an energy that is mellow, harmonic, and similar to his past sound when hearing the project. From start to finish, the album emcompasses lyrics that steer attention to the bigger issues that surround us. Overall, the language throughout the album was surprisingly hard to understand. The album successfully taps into Johnson’s thoughts and feelings, but makes understanding difficult and open for interpretation. It’s safe to say that the classical Jack Johnson sound is here to stay, but this time, with a little more activism.