Jack Johnson - Sleep Through The Static
Review by Jack Johnson
WITH Jack Johnson you know pretty much what you’re going to get – thoughtful, soothing, acoustic based songs that accompany you through life like a close friend.
Only this time, they’re touched with sadness, doubt and even anger at the state of our world. The former surfer may specialise in laidback music-making and continues to go from strength to strength on new album Sleep Through The Static – but it’s a long-player with plenty to say that’s well worth taking the time to listen.
The title track, for instance, is rife with candid observations that operate in contrast to the subtle riffs and underlying banjo. The chorus, especially, is full of questions: “Who needs sleep when we’ve got love? Who needs keys when we’ve got clubs? Who needs please when we’ve got guns? Who needs peace when we’ve gone above but beyond where we should have gone?”
It may have to singing along but the words are full of the frustrations that Johnson appears to be feeling as an artist, both with his country in general and people’s indifference.
Hope, which immediately follows, employs a similar device: the riffs taking on a calypso vibe that’s clearly inspired by Marley, while the lyrics contain musings on loneliness and insecurity. It’s a clever ploy and evidence of Johnson’s brilliance as a songwriter and musician that he can raise some serious issues and yet continue to make you feel happy about the music.
That said, the album isn’t just a serious collection of songs and there are some equally beautiful odes to love that sit alongside the likes of Better Together as instant classics. Angel, for instance, is an instant heart-melter that finds Johnson’s soft vocals and a lone acoustic guitar celebrating the fact he has “an angel” who “doesn’t wear any wings”. With lyrics such as “she gives me presents with her presence alone”, it’s the perfect song to adopt for the one you love: be it girlfriend, wife, mother or daughter.
Further highlights come from the likes of Enemy, which again juggles some wonderful acoustic guitar work with some excellent lyrics (“after we spoke I had a dream that I broke the teeth from the mouth of a snake”), and former single If I Had Eyes, which again has a sense of the melancholy underpinning it.
What You Thought You Need is another firm favourite, this time drawing on some soothing “mmms”, a vibrant percussion backing and some excellent guitar, and Go On, which introduces some enchanting piano chords. It’s another track that’s great for kicking back and really listening to, such is Johnson’s ability to conjure some terrific heartfelt imagery.
They Do They Don’t opens with some really striking electric guitar riffs, Monsoon a fragile but deeply impressive reflection on humanity and feelings, and bonus track Home another Johnson gem that provides final telling evidence of the way he writes songs that are so simple and yet so effective in winning you over.
Sleep Through The Static is an important album in many ways for Johnson, given the super-stardom that he now finds himself basking in following the overwhelming success of In Between Dreams. But he has risen to the challenge in exemplary fashion to craft another beautiful collection of songs that are sure to befriend many, many listeners over the coming year.
Download picks: If I Had Eyes, Enemy, Go On, What You Thought You Need, Angel, They Do, They Don’t, Sleep Through The Static, Home
- Buy it (HMV)
- Buy it (Amazon)
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- In Between Dreams reviewed
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