Jack Johnson

Sleep Through the Static

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Much of the press surrounding the release of Sleep Through the Static recounted Jack Johnson's claim that he gave all his peppy pop tunes over to the Curious George soundtrack and how that, combined with personal losses -- including the death of his cousin Danny Riley, to whom the album is dedicated -- led the surfing singer/songwriter into darker territory for his fifth album. To a certain extent, all of that is true, as the album does open with an atypically stark, moody number in "All at Once" and there are some darker sentiments lurking within the 14 songs here, but it takes some close listening to find the sorrow flowing through some of the words. Some very close listening, really, as Johnson's sand-brushed, gentle voice doesn't command attention. His voice lulls and soothes, so it takes concentrated effort to hear beyond his tone and hear what he's actually saying. Then again, the meaning of Johnson's music doesn't matter as much as the mellow mood, a feeling that he's sustained throughout his albums and doesn't change here. Johnson may use more electric guitars than acoustics on Sleep Through the Static, but he's strumming them like acoustics and his overall aesthetic has not changed at all: he's still a laid-back guy singing songs that roll so easy they glide into the background. No matter what instrument he's playing or what he's singing about, his music still feels the same, which is enough to satisfy his fans but not to win him many new ones.

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