Jack Johnson — ‘All the Light Above It Too’ Album Review
Through the restless and intoxicated main-stream emerges rock’s king of mellow with a message of positivity and love for those who would prefer to chill.
On Jack Johnson’s seventh studio effort, the professional surfer-turned-musician delivers a melodic and simplistic ten track record that stays true to his signature, laid back sound. The album is no stand out by any means, but that is what makes this release important. In an industry where artists share a chart-topping sound until it’s exhausted, it’s refreshing to see Johnson stay true to who he is as a musician. The sound that’s been developed throughout his discography works, and instead of trying to force something new, Johnson continues to build off its strong foundation on All the Light Above It Too.
“Subplots,” the album’s first track, picks up right where 2013’s From Here To Now To You left off (the two album titles also rhyme but that could just be a coincidence). The track’s simple acoustic chord progression resurrects the familiar vibe from past projects, painting a picture of the easy-going lifestyle Johnson fulfils at his Hawaiian Islands home. Relatable topics of equality, personal responsibility and the search for the truth are all touched on through an effortless lyrical delivery. A dream-like transition of wavy guitar and percussion then follows, leading into the complimenting track “You Can’t Control It” that encourages the act of letting go despite life’s imperfections.
Perhaps the album’s most important track, “My Mind Is For Sale” is a subliminal stab at the Trump Administration. Standout lyrics “I heard those six or seven words he likes to use, are always in bad taste… the elephant in the room begins to dance, the cameras zoom into his mouth begins to move, those hateful words he uses” lay heavily on the track’s upbeat island sound, making them easy to overlook initially. 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” is a melodic sing-a-long that also serves as a powerful act of protest, making it one of Johnson’s most iconic songs to date.
Other key tracks include “Big Sur,” a palm-muted surf anthem with tasteful slide guitar and backing vocals that captures Johnson’s appreciation for the simple things. “Love Song #16” is a track dedicated to his wife who he has written numerous songs for in the past. It is the album’s simplest track, and perhaps it was intentionally produced that way just as previous love balads “Angel” and “Do You Remember” were on Sleep Through the Static and In Between Dreams, respectively. “Fragments,” which was featured in the documentary The Smog of the Sea, rounds out the track list with a message of activism concerning the world’s polluted oceans.
We could all benefit from the care-free feel this album delivers. There is not a time where too much is forced into any given song, both musically and lyrically. Johnson’s goal with this project was not to draw attention, but to provide an uplifting space for anyone seeking a moment of Zen.