Renewed optimism buoys Johnson's 'Sea'
By Dave Dondoneau
When Jack Johnson's much-anticipated fifth studio album "To the Sea" is released Tuesday, his faithful followers are going to hear a singer who seems to be focusing on the good times again.
He also ditches his trademark acoustic guitar for an electric one for some songs, and the result is some catchy, bolder tunes like the already-released "You and Your Heart," along with "At Or With Me" and "From the Clouds."
While it's still soft rock and easy listening, "To the Sea" has a different feel to it than "Sleep Through the Static," Johnson's fourth studio album, which debuted at No. 1 in 2008.
Though that album remained at No. 1 for three weeks, some critics felt it was too mellow, with too many same-sounding songs.
"To the Sea" is different. It has the aforementioned upbeat melodies, but "Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology" dabbles in blues, and ballads such as "My Little Girl" still highlight Johnson's smooth sound, which has sold more than 18 million albums worldwide.
The difference between the two albums reflects how Johnson's life has changed. He put out "Sleep Through The Static" at a time when his cousin and friend died at the age of 20 after a bout with cancer. Not long after, he lost his father to cancer. "To the Sea" was written and produced after Johnson's wife, Kim, gave birth to their third child earlier this year.
The underlying theme of the album is to reach for things beyond the surface, as you would diving into the sea.
"Water is the subconscious,"Johnson stated in the album's media kit. "That water for me is the ocean. To get to the sea is being able to dig in and touch things that aren't on the surface. That reference — that 'we've got to get to the sea' — is about a father leading his son to try to understand himself."
The album was produced by Johnson and Robert Carranza, along with Johnson's bandmates Zach Gill, Merlo Podlewski and Adam Topol. It was recorded at Johnson's Mango Tree Studio on the North Shore and also at the Solar Powered Plastic Plant in Los Angeles, which uses 100 percent solar power.
G. Love and Paula Fuga make guest appearances on the CD.
Following Tuesday's release, Johnson will head out for a world tour that includes dates across the Mainland, Europe and Australia. All proceeds from the tour will be given to local nonprofit groups around the world.