Jack Johnson Has Mastered Simplicity on ‘All The Light Above It Too’
Jack Johnson is back with his seventh studio album, and one that continues the surfer-turned songwriter’s sense of calm in a world that seems to be progressively chaotic. “All The Light Above It Too” reminds us that there’s always solace to be found in music that sports acoustic instruments and soothing melodies. Though Johnson does speak topically on politics and climate change, he doesn’t negate his underlying appeal. Though summer may be coming to an end, the skies are always blue when immersed in a Jack Johnson album.
Continuing the now long-reaching trend of musicians devoting songs off their albums to comment/protest the current presidential administration, “My Mind Is For Sale” is at the same time acute and abstract when speaking on the President, the most obvious of which comes from the chorus: “I don’t care for your paranoid/Us against them fearful kind of walls/I don’t care for your careless/Me first gimme gimme appetite at all.” Then there’s lines like “I heard that six or seven words he likes to use/are always in bad taste,” a clear jab at a certain someone’s well-documented illiteracy and nonsensical vocabulary. Throughout his political messaging though, Johnson still maintains that gentlemanly, fatherly sense of charm that he’s had since his “Brushfire Fairytales” debut back in 2001. The lyric video for the track shows the singer building children’s stacking-blocks into towers, each holding a lyric or two. The stop-motion style video was, according to Rolling Stone, shot on Johnson’s iPhone with the help of his kids. “It was the cheapest video I ever made,” he said, “$0.”
Other tracks on the record follow a similar, topical vein, with one in particular tackling an issue near and dear to his heart. Like his new documentary “The Smog of the Sea,” the track “Fragments” poetically dissects the plight of plastic intruding on the world’s oceans. Johnson’s superb acoustic picking only helps to embolden his words as he traipses through a plea, “All that lies beneath/No longer what it was, it changed/Why can’t we relate.”
But then there’s “Sunsets For Somebody Else,” a song that takes listeners back to the days when all the young guitarist wanted to do was surf and write love songs to his high-school sweetheart, now wife and mother to his kids. Johnson wrote this tune while on a surf trip through Micronesia. “Something about being on boats,” he said in a statement to Billboard, “always pulls songs out of me.” Though over the years he’s taken opportunities to write politically-charged songs about war, climate and more, it’s always been through a laid-back surfer’s lens, and this album is no different. There’s something oddly refreshing about an artist that keeps putting out timeless music, someone that doesn’t conform his sound to fit a changing market. Over the years, all of his records could basically be interchangeable, even his 2006 chart-topping “Sing-A-Longs” album from the “Curious George” soundtrack. After selling 25 million records and counting, Johnson continues to spin gold, proving that despite the direction of popular music, there’s always a place in the world for good ol’ down-home front-porch songwriting.
“All The Light Above It Too” is available Sept. 8 on Apple Music.