King of the Beach Bums Churns Out More of the Same

Jack Johnson’s fifth studio album, To The Sea, is just as uninspired as its title suggests. While the 13 songs don’t stray far from Johnson’s typical style — laid-back jams ripe with acoustic strumming, lightweight drums and carefree beach-day vocals — the tracks blur together until the album’s reduced to a never-ending bonfire sing-along.

Working out of his solar-powered studios in Hawaii and Los Angeles, Johnson has nailed the chill, environmentally-friendly, beach-bro image to perfection — but it’s hard to take the perpetually stoned surfer facade seriously when the guy’s released four albums and fathered two children.

The lyrics continue in the same vein. Instead of providing genuine, meaning we’re lost in a swarm of confusing metaphors. “Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology” sounds like the product of one too many glasses of Merlot, as it finds Johnson stringing together muddled phrases like “little crying robots.”

Jack Johnson

To The Sea

Brushfire Records

Johnson attempts to supplement his usual simplistic acoustic guitar sound by sporadically adding flowing keyboard, reverb-heavy electric guitar and a healthy dose of tambourine throughout the album. But this attempt at variety only steers Johnson further off course — the intro on the title track sounds like a Shins ripoff, while “No Good With Faces” is a drugged-out Brandon Flowers impersonation.

The album does have its moments, particularly with “When I Look Up,” a minute-long collection of running water noises, xylophone plunking and a chorus of background singers. Too bad the album’s best song is its shortest.

Johnson’s fifth attempt isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s pleasant in all the same way smoking a bowl is. But as charming as that might be, To The Sea still feels as though we are trapped on a boat in the middle of the ocean — water everywhere gets a little redundant.

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