Brooding at the Beach
Jack Johnson sends subtle messages on his seventh studio album, All The Light Above It Too. The album cover features him lounging on a Hawaiian beach surrounded by the plastic found on its shores. His recent documentary, Smog of the Sea, and the political unrest of late fueled his thought process for the album. All The Light is Johnson as he has always been — no frills. He has yet again mastered relaxation music for the writer in a coffee shop or a lazy day at the beach.
The album begins with Johnson and his acoustic guitar, with a sound similar to M. Ward on “Subplots.” Light keyboard and simple drum kicks give “You Can’t Control It” more depth than its predecessor. A prior Johnson hit, “Banana Pancakes” is channeled on “Sunsets For Somebody Else,” but the message is not nearly as whimsical. He sings, “The taste of trouble on your lips / ‘Cause now they’re biting at your thoughts / You tell yourself just to turn away / But you know you’ve already lost.” Then, continuing his streak of semi-political awareness, Johnson addresses Donald Trump in “My Mind Is For Sale.” “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,” is sung in harmony over a groovy bass riff.
“Daybreaks” features plucked strings for a folk sound, then the retired surfer plays with guitar slides and a beach vibe on “Big Sur.” Simple guitar follows for “Love Song #16,” “You give me too much love, so I blame you / Well, here’s another love song for you.” Another Conor Oberst-esque folk song, “Is One Moon Enough?” follows. The album ends with “Fragments,” a brooding song about climate change and a feature from Johnson’s documentary.
All The Light Above It Too is an attempt at activism caught in a beach breeze. Johnson’s seventh album is crisp and light in production, so his mellow vocals fail to send his messages to heart.