In Between Dreams is the third album from laid-back Hawaiian singer-songwriter and former surf champion Jack Johnson. There’s been minimal musical progression from his previous releases, On And On and Brushfire Fairytales, but for most of his fans that’s not going to be a problem. Johnson’s mellow acoustic approach is supremely endearing. This is real feel good stuff, in the best possible sense.
As with its two predecessors, this is an album capable of putting a smile on your face, of injecting a little warmth into your world. And though it’s undeniably upbeat, it’s never overbearing or cheesy. Johnson has a soft, sweet voice and a distinctive semi-spoken style of singing that exudes cool and charm.
The opening song Better Together exemplifies his particular style, starting with a delicate finger-picked intro that leads into a gentle acoustic backing over which his tender, deceptively simple lyrics flow; it’s an unabashed love song and quite a wonderful one at that. Never Know is an equally infectious track, both quirky and catchy, and forthcoming single Sitting, Waiting, Wishing is one of the album’s definite high points, a bittersweet love story with a strong chorus that sees Johnson’s guitar playing underscored by a bit of jagged piano.
Do You Remember? is a muted musing on the passing of time and Constellations is a suitably mellow track with which to close the album. Other songs are a little more up tempo: Staple It Together has a very funky vibe going on, but Johnson usually sticks with the deeply relaxed and laid-back style he seems most comfortable with.
Having said that, In Between Dreams is far from just a collection of chilled out surf boy melodies. As always Johnson’s songwriting displays a social awareness and a sense of the poetic. If I Could is a touchingly sincere meditation on dealing with loss; Good People addresses the negativity of the media, its failure to reflect the better aspects of humanity. “Where did all the good people go?” he asks with genuine concern. Unlike so many of his singer-songwriter ilk who tend towards a darker variety of introspection, Johnson concentrates on the brighter moments of life, the good people. And it’s without a doubt a very welcome approach.
The album has its dud moments: Banana Pancakes is, unsurprisingly given its title, a bit of a sugary confection, and the pseudo-continental Belle is a trifle of a track. But it’s petty to pick at such failings when overall this is such an enjoyable album. Sure it’s in a very similar vein to his earlier releases, but Johnson’s appeal is such that that’s hardly a huge complaint. In Between Dreams should satisfy both Jack Johnson fans and those new to his music; it’s a bright slice of Pacific sunshine, the best antidote to a lingering English winter.