With his latest album, Sleep Through The Static, Jack Johnson proves he can still make solid zen-like, beach-side, laid-back tunes that can either put you to sleep or have you sing along. It is certainly not as great as the milestone of In Between Dreams, and some of the best songs on Sleep actually sound and feel like leftovers from that album. It is a bit confusing as this album was supposed to mark a radical departure from his traditional sound, with a more electric and darker feel to it, but actually, it feels like surfer Jack went out to the buoys and decided to swim back to safer waters.
While the cover has him sporting an electric guitar, that instrument is only heard on a handful of tracks. The opener, All At Once, attempts to set the tone of the album with smooth electric strumming, but the sound is extremely familiar to something you’d hear on In Between Dreams, and halfway through it, the acoustic guitar dominates. Nevertheless, the song is good enough to forgive the sin of starting an album with such a mellow sound.
The title track, Sleep Through The Static, is meant to be a political commentary on the Iraq war, and while it doesn’t sound exactly right, it eventually finds a way to stick in your head.
The best songs do in fact seem to be the In Between Dreams leftovers. All At Once, is a melancholy, rainy day song with familiar and hinting lyrics of “there’s still hope between the dreams” and a more mournful “sometimes it feels like a heart is no place to be singing from at all”. The cool acoustic stylings of the reflective Go On are accompanied with a piano riff, drums and a catchy chorus. But powerful love songs like Angel (one song you will surely repeat several times) and Adrift resonate the loudest, along with acoustic-driven gems like Enemy. All together, these make up the bulk of the sweetest songs on the lengthy, 14-track album.
Other tracks, like Hope, What You Thought You Needed, and If I Had Eyes are more joyful with the latter a reminder of one of Johnson’s first hits, Flake. Meanwhile, tunes like They Do, They Don’t and Monsoon fall pretty flat despite interesting lyrics like “You tell me that time never waits. That’s ok cause I don’t wait for time.”
The general theme of the album seems to be about Johnson’s life as a father; a more sophisticated studio album to build on the chart-topping anomaly, Curious George soundtrack. All in all, not as great as its predecessor, but Sleep still has that warm, breezy, mellow feel that makes it an all together worthy album: 3/5