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Jack Johnson returns frustrated but optimistic

Grade: B

“All The Light Above It Too,” Jack Johnson’s seventh album, is pretty standard fare from the surf-rock crooner. Except for three songs, “You Can’t Control It,” “My Mind Is For Sale” and “Gather,” I would have been unable to differentiate this album from any of his past six.

That’s not to say it isn’t a worthwhile listen. Jack Johnson maintains his ability to share his relaxed mood with his audience. The issue is that every song has that mellow attitude that he’s known for, resulting in a lack of excitement.

“You Can’t Control It” is a heavily rhythmic, multi-instrumental tune. The lyrics reassure the listener of the insignificance of human life. The chorus goes, “Understand one thing/if and when you drink from this vast ocean/you can’t control it.” While it’s a somewhat desolate message, in context with the rest of the song, it’s comforting. The bad things in life don’t have a great bearing on life.

“My Mind Is For Sale” is a bubbly but frustrated rant against Donald Trump and American Republicans. For the chorus, Johnson sings, “I don’t care for your paranoid/us against them walls/I don’t care for your careless/Me first gimme gimme appetite at all.”

The juxtaposition of the upbeat melody with Johnson’s angry message to the president has a similar effect as “You Can’t Control It.” I could hear and appreciate Johnson’s concerns but felt reassured that things are alright, overall. It’s not a song of outrage, but of knowing that we, as a country, are better than our president.

Johnson warns us about becoming too invested in our own culture of commercialism in “Gather.” In one of the verses, he sings, “And who’s gonna tend the garden/If the rain forgets to fall/And who’s gonna spend as much as they can on baby Jesus at the mall?” This is his call to stop wasting our time being consumers and appreciate a simpler way of living.

The rest of the album doesn’t stick out as anything new. There is another love song to his wife, “Love Song #16.” It’s a sweet one but there is nothing original about the lyrics or melody. “Big Sur” is just an appreciation of nature. I admit it’s necessary for a lot of people, but coming from Johnson it felt like a repeat of his past songs.

There aren’t any songs I didn’t like, and several that I was very impressed with, but at its core, “All The Light Above It Too” isn’t different enough to be noteworthy.

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