Like the son of a surfer he is, Jack Johnson never makes any of his music sound hard, yet All the Light Above It Too, his seventh studio set, almost seems like it will drift away on the slightest breeze. Blame its lightness on Johnson's determination to make this album a series of ten barely dressed demos -- or "sketches," as he calls them. Sometimes, this sparseness accentuates Johnson's knack for tunes that sound like charming singalong ditties -- "Sunsets for Somebody Else" has more than a modicum of charm -- and this deliberate skeletal crew also means that when a song gets a fuller arrangement, it grabs your attention. In particular "Big Sur," with its effervescent worldbeat rhythms, brings to mind Paul Simon and Vampire Weekend, a nice accent to Johnson's cool Pacific breezes. If the simple production -- so direct, it sometimes barely feels there, although its crisp, clean lines offer a reminder that this is indeed a professional affair made for a major label -- winds up spinning every one of Johnson's songs so they seem like a miniature; it also captures his appeal. Johnson never seems to be bothered by much, he always seems to be in good spirits and, at times, his laid-back vibes are infectious, which they certainly are here because he never, ever seems to be trying too hard. He's a back porch strummer and fireside singer, playing for comfort, and that's precisely what All the Light Above It Too provides.
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