October 2, 2013 / 9:10 pm

Jack Johnson – From Here to Now to You

Released 9/17/2013

5/7 stars

Let’s put this out there right now before we get into this album: Jack Johnson is not trying to reinvent the wheel. Jack Johnson is not trying to craft the Next Great American album. He’s not going to pull a total 180 and put out a hard-bop jazz record. And that’s fine. In fact, it’s more than fine. For years, Johnson has been pumping out album after solid album of mellow, agreeable acoustic-based music. He’s a straight shooter, and you always know what you’re going to get from him.

On his newest album, From Here to Now to You, Johnson delivers exactly what you’d expect. We get the laid-back acoustic shuffles, the breezy melodies, the signature double-tracked Jack Johnson harmonies, and lyricisms that are simple and sweet. There are some particularly strong songs on this record, songs that wouldn’t feel out of place on his most well known album In Between Dreams (you know, the one with “Banana Pancakes”, “Better Together”, and “Good People”, among others).

The album starts with the single “I Got You”, and already Johnson has laid out what the rest of the album will hold. A combination of slide guitar and whistling sets the melody before Johnson sings about contentment over a pretty acoustic guitar pattern. The light, airy melody is an earworm, and there’s a good chance you’ll have this one stuck in your head for a while.

“Washing Dishes” is a great song and one of Johnson’s best. Featuring full instrumentation (drums, bass, even some organ flourishes), Johnson’s smooth voice sings about the days that lie ahead of his hard work that he’s doing for you (“One day I’ll be running this place”). It’s a tremendous song whose impact is dulled by the following “Shot Reverse Shot”. Its lazy melody (or lack thereof) never seems to pay off. There are some pretty slide guitar lines, something that occurs many times throughout the album.

“Don’t Believe a Thing I Say” and “You Remind Me of You,” a beautiful ode to his daughter, are both stunning moments on the album. One often forgets Johnson’s talent as a guitarist, and the delicate lines that form these songs only serve to remind us of that. The album’s highlight, “Radiate,” would sound right at home on 2010’s To the Sea. It’s got a funky groove and some tasteful guitar work and is just a fun track. That contrasts greatly with “Change,” a gorgeous ballad punctuated with slide guitar. The lyrics aren’t groundbreaking, but Johnson’s delivery is the key here. It’s a great example of the album’s production too; everything is so pristine and detailed, it’s a tremendous-sounding album.

Jack Johnson often gets unfairly labeled as an untalented commercial hack, but there’s an art to crafting the kind of music he does. It’s hard to make music that strikes a chord with so many different people, and Johnson has been doing it his whole career. With a keen sense of melody and a knack for writing a great, simple song, Johnson delivers again with this pleasingly familiar album.

—Sam Velazquez

reach Sam at sjvelazq@indiana.edu or follow him on twitter @SammyVMan