I’m not a huge “music reviewer” but since my current favorite artist just had an album come out, I figured I’d give it a completely biased (well, not completely) review, track by track. Here we go.
1. Waiting on the World to Change – For some reason everytime a new single of John’s comes out, it is inevitably going to be the worst track on the album. If you only know JM’s stuff through his singles, you have some serious listening to get to. I’m not nuts about this song. Sonically its great, but the subject of the lyrics, eh, whatever. I like the use of bells, rhodes, and hammond on the track but I just happen to be partial to that kind of sound.
2. I Don’t Trust Myself – This tune has some great sounds on it. I can’t tell if it’s synths or the instruments just have cool effects on them. At any rate it’s very cool. Lately John’s had a couple tunes that have a more vintage and timeless 70’s feel to them and this is one of them. The best part is they still sound new at the same time. If you’ve ever heard Eric Tagg, this might remind you of him. Roy Hargrove makes his second Mayer album appearance with some horn lines, nothin’ too fancy. This is a great bluesy, laid-back tune. Good for enticing the ladies with.
3. Belief – I like this song a lot. You can really hear the influence the Police/Sting has had on John – I mean its glaring in this track. I’m also vaguely reminded of Seal when I listen to this tune. The chorus is probably my favorite melodic part of the song, though the lyric of it doesn’t blow me away.
4. Gravity – A studio version of the same tune from the Trio album, this song shines. John is a very tasteful guitar player – he always seems to have just enough going on, but never too much. Gravity is a great example of what makes John a fantastic guitarist. Lyrically I love this song too. A good example of how John can express his feelings so that you just “get it.” You listen to this song and say “Yeah, I been there.” It’s not love bringing him down, or anything in particular, it’s some unseen force. I like that concept. I also like the addition of the gospel/blues backers in this tune at around the 3:30 mark. A nice touch.
5. The Heart of Life1 – One of my favorites on the album and, now, of his period. This is a really great tune. It’s a little George Harrison, a little McCartney, a little Dillon…a really nice mix of a tune. Very rustic. My favorite part of this tune is when it breaks open right around 2:25. It’s a nice release of the tension created up until that point. Great lyric and guitar solo as well. This song is great in its seeming simplicity.
6. Vultures – Another studio version of a Trio track, this is another timeless one of John. It sounds like he went back in time to write this song. I really like the lyrics for this song as well. To me this whole song is a never-quit attitude in the face of constant opposition or doubt. Pino’s bassline is great and provides a nice even-keeled drive.
7. Stop This Train1 – The guitar reminds me of “Mother Nature’s Son” on this track. He uses a technique here on the guitar where he finger picks and hits the low string with this thumb at the same time providing a really great sound. I love the lyrics to this tune. I also like the piano interlude giving the tune a sort of Nick Drake feel. Again John’s mastery of tension and release is apparent towards the end of the tune at 3:34. Fantastic. It’s hard to find songwriting like that anywhere right now. I’d also like to note how good his falsetto sounds on this track.
8. Slow Dancing in a Burning Room – Another one with an older, kind of timeless feel to it. Maybe it’s the blues of these tunes creeping out that makes me keep thinking that, I’m not sure but I like it. What I really like about Mayer’s tunes is the music suits the feeling so well. This song has its own slow burn about it. It sounds cliche but if you’re listening to the track it makes sense.
9. Bold As Love – A Hendrix cover. I think it’s done very well and by the only guitar player in the spotlight right now who’s actually good enough to pull it off. Even his sound is a close match of Jimi’s.
10. Dreaming with a Broken Heart – I’m not crazy about the piano at the beginning of this track. It doesn’t seem to be the right instrument until the chords start – the arpeggios might’ve been better suited to another sound. However, I love the chordal motion by the piano when it takes over. Not one of my favorites on the album, but in the past I’ve thought the same thing about certain tracks and then after listening to it a bunch I start to find more to like about it.
11. In Repair – “Too many hours in this midnight.” Awesome. I like this track a lot. It’s one of those where you hear the beginning and go “eh” and then it keeps getting better and better as the seconds tick on. I think this song is stronger lyrically than musically overall, but it’s a very nice tune. Kind of a tidying up of all the questioning of himself he was doing on Heavier Things.
12. I’m Gonna Find Another You – I feel like this song was written by and for Nora Jones. A really great song and the horn lines are classy. Classy like an oyster bar in New Orleans if that makes any sense. Another blues track worth its salt though it weighs in at under 3 minutes.
Overall a great new effort by John and once again he’s redefined himself. Overall these tunes are pretty radio unfriendly so you might have to saunter to the record store to grab this one to really hear all the good stuff on it.
1My two favorite tracks on the album, at least so far.