Jack Johnson briefly considers the functionality of metaphors in “Never Know,” one of several insidiously catchy tracks on In Between Dreams, before concluding, “I wanna give this imagery back.”
Johnson is the most plainspoken of singer/songwriters; he never resorts to metaphor if straight talk will do. Listening to the surfer/artist’s third album is like sitting on a barstool alongside a good friend, knocking back pints and rappin’ it down about, y’know, life and whatever.
Among the weightier topics Johnson ponders this time are the nocturnal struggle between worry and sleep (“No Other Way”), screwing up as a vicious cycle (“Staple It Together”) and coming to terms with the death of a friend (“If I Could”). As always, the sparest of arrangements surround his gentle vocals, appropriately paralleling his down-to-earth lyrical style. The opening and penultimate songs, “Better Together” and “Do You Remember,” conversationally celebrate Johnson’s relationship with his wife, and they’re all the more touching for their guilelessness. In the latter, he reflects on the day they met, singing, “I was crazy ’bout you then / And now for the craziest thing of all / Over 10 years have gone by / You’re still mine / Locked in time / Let’s rewind.”
Johnson’s songs contain little catharsis (riding waves apparently takes care of that), instead offering the soft-spoken assertion that, even in this imperfect world, life is worth living, if only for its beautiful minutiae—love, friendship, banana pancakes and a sizable swell on a sunny California afternoon.