John Mayer

Battle Studies

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It's no secret that John Mayer is a 21st Century Fox, wining and dining women all through the tabloid headlines, so it's about time he delivered an album that traded upon his loverman persona -- and Battle Studies is that record in spades. Retaining more than a modicum of the slick soul-blues undertones of Continuum, Mayer fashions a modern groove album, a record that maintains a smooth seductive vibe so thoroughly it spills into a weird one-man band cover of "Crossroads," turning Clapton's contained Cream masterwork into something about vibe, not virtuosity. Mayer remains a disciple of Slowhand, but he shows an unusual interest in the big AOR stylings of Journeyman, along with Stevie Ray Vaughan's In Step, creating a coolly clean blend of synths and Strats, one that's as much about texture as it is song -- something perfectly appropriate for a make-out album like this. Sometimes, Mayer dips too heavily toward the texture -- not just in the sound sculptures in the bedding of "Heartbreak Warfare," but even the strum-n-croon of "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye" -- and his love-as-war metaphors land with the thud of a dud bomb, but he can't resist a good, tight melody and builds the bulk of Battle Studies upon them: the elegant "Half of My Heart," the stoned self-deprecating wit of "Who Says," the softly soulful "Perfectly Lonely." Here, Mayer is effortlessly seductive and somewhat irresistible, and it's easy to see why the ladies love cool John.

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