Jack Johnson's third album floats along, but never soars

March 22, 2005, midnight | By Jonah Gold | 15 years, 6 months ago

"In Between Dreams” falls short of expectations

"In Between Dreams," the newest release from singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, seems to be one continuous song, the acoustic guitar always soft, the melodies always upbeat, and Johnson always singing just over a whisper. But this formula has made Jack Johnson a platinum-selling artist and a favorite with people hoping to escape to his world of palm trees and beautiful beaches where even loss can be accompanied by major chords.

Johnson splits away from his previous records in that he seems to add some folk and reggae into his playing, but he still seems stuck trying to develop a new sound. While his debut, "Brushfire Fairytales" was a record full of original songs, each one dealing with distinct memories, this album seems to be one convoluted attempt to stay in his niche while exploring new avenues of sound. "Brushfire" also had a much more evocative tone of longing that Johnson cannot reach on this record.

The record's first single, "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," is the best song the album, mostly because it seems to separate itself from other songs with its rock feel. Jack Johnson's lyrics, although simple "I can't always be waiting on you/I can't always be playing your fool" get to the point, and Johnson's voice helps them to get there as he accentuates the sad parts of the song. Otherwise, Johnson's voice seems to fall into a lull for the rest of the record, forgetting all emotion, which makes for an easy-going record but nothing more.

"In Between Dreams" is no failure; in fact, by today's overdone pop and rap standards, it is a very satisfactory album depicting the seemingly carefree life of a Hawaiian surfer. But it is nothing more. Johnson seems to be confused about where he wants to go, leading all of his songs, even ones talking about the death of a friend to sound similar to the love ballads at the beginning of the album.

Jack Johnson's album is still a testament to a person searching for the good in a complicated world with songs saying, "where did all the good people go/we got heaps and heaps of what we sow." However, the album still leaves the listener yearning for more, hoping for songs to go a bit deeper, show a new point of view or have an original guitar run, but Johnson doesn't give that; he seems to hide behind the idea that all surf music sounds the same. Johnson tried to make strides with his record by somewhat expanding his style, but at the same time, he seems unable to make these songs distinct from one another.

Overall grade: B
Reason to buy: A truly pleasant album to hear, with a mix of songs to transport you to away from your responsibilities.
Reason to not: Too many of the songs sound the same. The album overall lacks any bite or sharpness to draw in the casual listener.

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