Review Summary: The hype about this album was misleading, but this is still a signature Jack Johnson album.
Even before it was released, “Sleep Through The Static” was going to be a defining album for Jack Johnson. Sure, of course we all enjoyed songs like “Banana Pancakes”, the carefree acoustic guitar slaps, feel good lyrics, and chilled out sound seemed to suit Johnson and his music perfectly. But as all of us know too well, artists tend to vary their sound every couple albums or so. Johnson appeared to be doing this as well, for while it was still in the works “Sleep Through The Static”, was touted as a more electric album. However, as you will soon find out, this statement is quite misleading, and not really a true representation of what this album is. Yes, Johnson did vary the sound on this release, but it isn’t in a way most people would expect.
The variation of Johnson’s new sound is exemplified perfectly on the opening track “All At Once”. It opens with a breezy clean electric guitar, with added drums and organ licks coming in later in the song. Jack keeps his signature voice, singing some typical lyrics that it seems we’ve all heard from him before. Even the by the end of this first track, the listener picks up on what Johnson is going to do with this record. Keep the signature vocals and lyrics, but put the same chilled out rhythms in a more electric environment. At first thought, it doesn’t seem like such an inventive idea, but as you continue through the album, you realize that this method is actually quite effective. The next two tracks “Sleep Through The Static”, and “Hope”, instrumentally both sound very akin to ska, heavily favoring the upbeats which gives a whole new feel to Jack’s music.
That isn’t to say that this album is without the signature acoustic guitar sound. “Angel” and “Enemy” are two beautiful acoustic tracks that would have fit well on any of Jack’s previous efforts. But even these acoustic numbers are varied slightly. Gone are the acoustic slaps, and the general quirkiness of Jack’s many previous acoustic efforts. In a way, they sound more traditional, less inventive or unpredictable. They don’t really blend in with the rest of the album very well, but “Angel” is a nice, catchy, simple love song, a style of acoustic songwriting Jack has perfected better than just about anyone else.
The rest of the album fairs well into Jack’s new themes. “If I had Eyes” keeps the electric ska sound alive on the record with some nice vocals as well. “What You Thought You Needed” sports some ukulele playing midway through, and some precise, rhythmic drumming. There is a fair share of mediocrity to be found unfortunately. “They Do They Don’t”, “Adrift”, and “Same Girl” are merely songs Jack seems to have rewritten again and again, only with changed instrumentals. The album would have been a lot stronger had these not been included, taking a “less is more” kind of approach.
Thankfully, the album is saved by two closing numbers “Monsoon”, and “Losing Keys”. Both tracks have swift, beautiful clean electric guitar sounds, with a bit of tremolo added. Midway through, “Monsoon’s” mood changes into a mid tempoed, swing kind of feel, keeping the pace fresh and inventive. “Losing Keys” is the perfect album closer, in a chilled out, typical Jack Johnson way.
While the hype about “Sleep Through The Static” may have been misleading, this is nonetheless a very good effort from everyone’s favorite chilled out singer songwriter. There is still a great deal of inventiveness going around here, but its most likely in a very different way than everyone expected. If you’re expecting Jack Johnson to start busting out some guitar solos with this one then you’re going to be disappointed. If you just want another chilled out, but slightly more original Jack Johnson album to add to your collection, then this album will fit your order perfectly.