Jack Johnson - Meet the Moonlight Music Album Reviews

Jack Johnson - Meet the Moonlight Music Album Reviews
Collaborating with Blake Mills to make his best album yet, the gentle songwriter pushes beyond feel-good stereotypes to look for small joys amid vexing times.

Jack Johnson never completely fit inside the “Life Is Good” T-shirt that two decades of adult-contemporary hits wove for him. Sure, Johnson—a strong-jawed Hawaii native with a disarming grin and a twilit voice as tuneful as a commercial jingle—extolled making banana pancakes as a romantic getaway, turned an ode to a lover’s bulbous toes into a staccato jam, and recruited certified goof G. Love to sing along about Curious George. Perennially posed on the edge of some salty shore, guitar in hand, he seemed the heir apparent to Jimmy Buffett’s fiefdom of mixed drinks and beach breezes, a pleasant guy with cheesy tunes about the surf and your soul, man.

But Johnson’s emotions and concerns have been mixed since his perspicacious 2001 debut, more complicated than facile no-shoes/no-shirt/no-problem sloganeering. He somehow snuck “diegetic” into a pre-9/11 plea about media callousness toward murder, and commiserated with a sex worker while excoriating a john’s religious hypocrisy. More James Taylor or even Jackson Browne than the cash cow that Mister Margaritaville became, his preternatural sense of sangfroid has sometimes crowded out his surprising depth as a world-weary songwriter in search of small moments of respite and delight.

Johnson’s timely and calming eighth album, Meet the Moonlight, should clear up some confusion. The 10 balmy songs sway into two broad lyrical categories, unified by the same open-toed shuffle from which Johnson has only occasionally wavered: polite protest numbers and little devotionals. He stakes out the twin territories on opener “Open Mind,” a winning lament about trying to step back from perpetual disappointment. First he bemoans blind faith in unseen gods—Christ, capitalism, whatever—and then tries to leave such true believers alone, intending to afford himself the sanity of ignoring what he cannot understand, let alone accept.

These sociopolitical songs aren’t out to change anyone’s minds or offer some revelatory worldview. If you’ve ever bemoaned a reply guy or frowned inside an infinite echo chamber, you’ve had the same worries about social media Johnson broadcasts during the tensile “One Step Ahead.” “I give in, I give up/It’s too much,” he snaps without a breath, his voice suddenly sharp as flint. “3 A.M. Radio” takes on the cheap salvation of disinformation with an irritation so velvet-gloved it’s easy to mistake for tenderness. The breezy “Costume Party” seeks to leave a society of posers, where we camouflage our true selves to be liked; its rudimentary accompaniment of beer bottles, blown by Johnson so they sound like pennywhistles, offers a charming and playful send-up of careerism.

But it’s the other songs—the ones about trying to find space to be anything but irate, exasperated, and exhausted—that make Moonlight so relevant and assuring. Nestled between a simple slack-key jangle and slide guitar sighs, his voice during “Calm Down” feels like a deep-breathing exercise. He asks someone he loves to sit beside him for a spell, so they can slip away from wailing sirens and our collective quest to find out “how low until the bottom.” And the title track extends an open invitation to find hope and wonder in an act as simple as walking outside, looking up, and spotting the moon. Johnson often crams lots of words into three-minute spaces, but here he luxuriates inside scenes for five minutes, as if he’s learned enough to shut up and be still. “It’s good to be right here,” he coos, the bloom of his voice betraying a sense of genuine surprise. This epiphany is the core of possibly the prettiest song of his career.

Johnson is a 47-year-old father married to his college sweetheart who has now made enough of a fortune to make two nonprofit businesses devoted to giving it away. But little about Moonlight scans either as a self-righteous sermon or a fireside lament about how bad he has it. Instead, Johnson is only wrestling with what he sees around him, trying to facilitate empathy in a society where just that can mean working overtime. He nails that conundrum on the masterful “I Tend to Digress,” a relatable snapshot of a mind spinning around a hamster wheel. In the first 100 seconds, he sorts through a litany of big questions: Is there a god, and, if so, does it care about us or how we feel about it? Why do we cripple ourselves through comparison? And are we ever more than people’s perceptions of us? “I want meaning/I want reason/It’s not enough to have a pleasing morning,” he sings to start the final verse before pulling back and admitting that such simple joys, no matter how brief or pedestrian, may indeed be the point.

Blake Mills produced Moonlight in Los Angeles and Hawaii, working with Johnson at his home studio. It may seem surprising that a guy typecast as a beach strummer now joins a string of Mills collaborators that also includes Bob Dylan, Perfume Genius, and Fiona Apple. But lean in closely, and you can hear Mills’ subtle flourishes—the lambent drone beneath “Open Mind,” for instance, or the spectral percussion underneath “Windblown Eyes.” Mostly he fosters a newfound restraint in Johnson, so that the lines rarely get goofy and the arrangements never try too hard. Really, Meet the Moonlight sounds a little like a backyard picnic in lockdown, as simple as a friend coming over when the weather’s warm to play some songs about the day’s sadness and distant hope. If, for 20 years, Johnson’s seemed like the guy insisting “Life Is Good,” this setting makes it clear that his message is both shorter and more complicated: Life … Is?

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Jack Johnson - Meet the Moonlight Music Album Reviews Jack Johnson - Meet the Moonlight Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, July 08, 2022 Rating: 5

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