In Between Dreams, by Jack Johnson
Suggested by Dreena Jane
Exactly two hundred albums ago, I reviewed Jack Johnson’s debut album, Brushfire Fairytales.
I enjoyed it, on that day at least. It came over as a fine example of the Bloke With A Guitar genre, full of strong yet gentle songs with a fresh and interesting approach. I gave out an eight, high praise indeed, and relished the idea of checking out more of Johnson’s work in the future.
Two hundred albums later, and that future is now. If I may cut to the chase, I didn’t enjoy this album quite as much.
If I’m honest, I’m hard pressed to articulate why. In Between Dreams is Johnson’s third release, coming a mere four years after his successful debut, containing the same brand of engaging acoustic guitar and vibrant song-writing that resonated well back in November 2020. Of particular note, this time around, are the delicate standout opener Better Together, with its intricate piano refrain and optimistic lyric, and the low-key soar of Sitting, Waiting, Wishing. There’s nothing that matches the standout from Brushfire Fairytales, the understated gem Inaudible Melodies, but there’s plenty in a similar vein. So what gives?
I think that the difference lies in me, and in the nature of this project’s effect on both my musical development and my musical sanity. I’ve made no secret of my waning appetites for albums of late, a malaise that’s plagued me until very recently thanks to my self-imposed force-feeding for seven full and frantic months. My tastes have seismically shifted as my horizons have broadened, and my genre paddocks have started swelling with a host of themed acts that have strengthened the gene pool and set the bar higher amongst themselves. As I wend my way along my thousand album path, the albums I reviewed in this journey’s breaking dawn can only be eclipsed as the hours and days roll by. To put it bluntly, with so much more to choose from each passing week, how can the early albums do anything but diminish as other albums enter the battlefield?
It’s an odd side effect of the project, one I’d not considered. My thoughts and reviews on previous albums are subtly altered as more music is consumed, as more albums are placed in the memory banks, forming the tapestry against which all are compared. Everyone is in the same boat, naturally, but my tapestry is growing at a seemingly exponential rate as I artificially pad my accounts with album after album, day after day. The subtle changes are not so subtle, when you’re hyper-fixated on the form and operating at a break-neck speed. I’m obsoleting my output, little by little, in five-hundred-word increments. Once I’ve reviewed one thousand albums, I’ll probably have to review them again.
Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe this album is just, well, a bit crapper than his first. It didn’t inspire me to wax lyrical about it, although the guitar is seemingly just as lovely, the vocals are pretty much just as understated, the lyrics are definitely just as quirky, and the songs sound just as assured. But “more of the same” isn’t what this project demands.
Unlike his first album, Jack Johnson’s third merits a pleasant enough 6/10, but barely. It’s not Jack’s fault; everything withers under the scornful gaze of enforced and unrelenting progress.