Picks and Pans Review: Jack Johnson

updated 03/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/07/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

In Between Dreams

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On his third album, In Between Dreams, former pro surfer Jack Johnson continues to ride the wave of breezy folk-pop that led to platinum sales of 2001's Brushfire Fairytales and gold for 2003's On and On. Born and raised in Hawaii, Johnson comes off as John Mayer in board shorts, making music that goes down as smoothly as a mai tai. You can practically feel the sand between your toes listening to his catchy, carefree sounds. The disc opens with the Hawaiian guitar intro of "Better Together," a light and lovely ditty that showcases Johnson's easygoing strumming and relaxed, cool-dude vocals as he sings about cozying up beneath a mango tree and "a shoebox of photographs with sepia-toned loving." He continues this sweetly romantic vibe on the buoyant "Banana Pancakes," where he imagines the perfect rainy day during which he and his lady "wake up slow" and he makes her banana pancakes.

While Johnson and his bare-bones combo—which again includes Adam Topol on drums and Merlo Podlewski on bass—mostly work in the same midtempo folk-pop mode, they do vary their musical approach a bit. "Breakdown" rides a slightly reggae-ish rhythm, while "Staple It Together" is a funk-tinged foray that provides the CD's most soulful moment. "Do You Remember" contains strong country accents, and the brief "Belle" is a Latin-flavored ballad featuring an accordion part. Similarly, Johnson diversifies his subject matter beyond island loving. "Never Know" offers vaguely philosophical lyrics ("The truth is all we got are questions/ We'll never know") and "Crying Shame" serves up an antiwar message: "By now it's beginning to show/A number of people are numbers that aren't coming home." Johnson delivers it all, though, with such laid-back surfer style that you can still hang 10 to it.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Better Together"


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