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Album review: Jack Johnson, "To The Sea"

By Allison Stewart

The trouble with being Jack Johnson, if the placid lyrics and unruffled surfaces of his perfectly fine new disc, "To the Sea," are any indication - is that there seems to be no trouble at all.

Johnson's albums exist at the mythical intersection of dad rock, Don Ho and the acoustic solo discs Eddie Vedder will one day make when he's angst-ed out and retired to Maui. They're well put together and unerringly pleasant, because Johnson is great at what he does: making big-hearted, effortless-sounding surf folk discs.

And no one is more trapped, more boxed in by his musical circumstances. Whether it's lack of inclination or ability, Johnson has never really attempted to move beyond the Amiable Surfer Dude straitjacket he's created for himself. If you've heard any Jack Johnson album, ever, you've already heard this one.

"To the Sea," like many of its predecessors, starts with a bang-up track (the criminally hooky "You and Your Heart") and then settles in for a half-hour or so of benign uneventfulness. Johnson occasionally rails politely against double talkers, haters and other mellow-harshers, but mostly ruminates peaceably about love and fatherhood.

There's a nominal take on blues rock ("From the Clouds"), a lovely ballad about his daughter ("My Little Girl") and the less lovely "Pictures of People Taking Pictures," an upbeat but awkward number centered on a wayward Mellotron. In Johnson's case, it's the most appropriately named instrument in the world.

Jack Johnson performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on July 17.

Recommended tracks: "You and Your Heart," "Anything but the Truth"

By David Malitz  |  June 1, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Jack Johnson  
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