New Jack Johnson might put you to sleep without his usual upbeat songs

Tawny Gestuvo

The album I have been waiting for is barely what I expected; Jack Johnson still has me longing for the days of “Banana Pancakes.”

The solemn play list features the love it or hate it single “If I Had Eyes,” which can be seen as the album’s link to its predecessors. The tone of music is more serious than his previous work and is almost too mature for its own good.

It is almost uncanny how the album is titled ‘Sleep through the Static,’ because that is all I wanted to do. I couldn’t believe how many songs had me reaching for the next button on my i-pod. I was looking forward to having a new playlist suitable for the nice warm days to come, but the search continues. The title on one of the tracks, “What You Thought You Need” is right on – I thought I needed this album but I would have been fine without it.

The innocence of his former collection is not present and it is greatly missed. There are no silly lovable tracks like “Banana Pancakes” and “Bubble Toes” from his past platinum albums. Eliminating the endearing quirkiness he is known for yet keeping similar beats, this album does not look like it will be a brooding success.

This time around, it seems the easy going life is not the thing to sing about for this former surfer. The lyrics in “All At Once” are a signifier for the change of pace and direction Johnson took this time around. “All at once, the world can overwhelm me, there’s almost nothing that you could tell me, that could ease my mind.” With the sound of his acoustic guitar and singing about the not so small things in life, ‘Sleep Through The Static’ is Johnson’s darkest album.

Always coming through with new material, I wondered if the album was rushed. Considering the 2006 release of the Curious George soundtrack (which was a success,) this one is almost premature and unnecessary. After listening to the tracks repeatedly, it’s evident that it was simply a case of fixing something that wasn’t broken to begin with.

By striking success with his previous work, this album is a statement. He has been there, done that, and is now tackling issues that are more tuned to reality. By the time I reached the last song “Losing Keys,” I found it hard to believe there really wasn’t one whimsical track in the entire album.

This is not the first time he has sung serious ballads, but it is a first for them to all be on one CD. I hope it isn’t permanent because it’s overwhelming. I tried listening to this set during different parts of the day, and found that it’s not such a downer in the morning. Johnson collaborated with producer JP Plunier, who is the same producer who helped him launch his 2001 Brushfire Fairytales album.

By trading silly lyrics for sensible ones, he clings to his poetic melodies and reggae instrumentals. These are good things, as they make him recognizable and are the foundation of his craft.

There are more background instruments, most notably a piano which is pleasing and most obvious in, “Monsoon.” Johnson hasn’t completely let go of his sound, but he is definitely experimenting. I’m curious to know if in two years we can look forward to a stronger, more playful comeback album.

In terms of jeopardizing his success, this will barely ding his affable standing as a recording artist. He definitely has the talent, so we can’t blame the guy for trying something new. In his own words, he should just “staple it together and call it bad weather.”