Confession: I’m probably not the best person to review a Jack Johnson album. He’s one of these guys whose talent I can definitely respect, but his relaxed, understated surf-folk vibe is something I personally can’t get into—not song after song, album after album. It’s not bad music—it just doesn’t give me much to get excited about. So listening to From Here To Now To You, Johnson’s sixth studio effort, I’m definitely trying to suppress my personal preferences and look at the man’s songwriting and talent for what it is, in order to be as fair as possible.
The good news for Johnson fans is that there is no drastic shift of direction here: if you like his vibe, you’re gonna get more of the same with this record. No sharp left turns, no reinventions—this is still music ideal for relaxing beachside with a margarita after a long day of surfing—or dreaming about said beachside relaxation. Same as the album before, and the one before that. Granted, his mood took a slightly darker turn with 2010’s To the Sea, but fans will be glad to know he’s back to a sunnier disposition here, as he reflects on the good times of the past and the joys of married life in the present. Jack Johnson has a niche, and he stays well within it musically, playing straight to his existing fan base without trying too hard. That’s not a criticism; that’s Jack being Jack. He is who he is, and the music is what it is. Anything else would be seen as inauthentic.
The better news is that there is actually more about this record that skeptics like me will find interesting. For one thing, From Here To Now to You offers more in the way of earworm melodies than some of Johnson’s previous work. The contagious whistle kicking off opening track “I Got You,” for example sets the stage for a delightfully sing-able melody. I found equally interesting material on tunes like “Washing Dishes” and “You Remind Me Of You,” and although “Shot Reverse Shot” is a bit monotonous melody-wise, the fun lyric and rhythm make it almost catchy. Fellow mellow-rocker Ben Harper joins in on “Change” with a contagious slide guitar that reinforces the whole fireside-at-dusk feeling; I can’t imagine this one not being a crowd favorite at shows.
Speaking of shows and crowds, the other appealing element of the album for me was Johnson’s acoustic guitar work, which at times is even more melodic than the melody. It actually made me wish I was watching him perform it live—so I have a feeling that most of these songs will do very well on the concert circuit.
So…yeah, I can get into this a little. From Here To Now To You is not what anyone would call a breakthrough album, but then again, no one expects that kind of thing from Jack Johnson. Instead, with this album, fans get everything they have come to expect: a relaxed, enjoyable collection of songs from a surf-folk troubadour who is good at what he does.
How did I do? Don’t answer that.