Jack Johnson doesn't do anything forcefully. Gentle, mellow vibes have been his stock in trade since his 2011 debut, Brushfire Fairytales, and that doesn't change on Meet the Moonlight, his eighth studio album, delivered some 21 years after his first. That's a long stretch of time to mine the same vein, but the relaxed vibes of Meet the Moonlight are somewhat deceptive; underneath the placid surface, Johnson is taking a few risks. Much of the shift can be attributed to his collaboration with Blake Mills, a guitarist who usually works with such indie rock and Americana acts as Fiona Apple and Alabama Shakes. Mills doesn't bring the noise or explicitly arty attacks to the laid-back environs of Jack Johnson. Rather, Mills coaxes out the atmosphere, allowing "One Step Ahead" to pulsate to a vibrant, colorful, and relaxed beat, and letting "Costume Party" unfurl with an appealingly languid gait. Other parts of Meet the Moonlight also have readily apparent textures -- "3AM Radio" gurgles softly, "Don't Look Now" almost has an urgency to its chorus -- but the Mills approach lets such spare numbers as the closing "Any Wonder" feel full and realized, and not like sketches. These subtle shifts and shadings help make Meet the Moonlight a quietly adventurous album as well as one of Jack Johnson's best.
Meet the Moonlight Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine