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Drops: Surfer dude Jack Johnson's 'To the Sea'

In this CD cover image released by Brushfire

In this CD cover image released by Brushfire Records, the latest by Jack Johnson, "To the Sea," is shown. Credit: AP Photo

Jack Johnson must be a carefree guy.

After all, the good-looking 30-something surfer dude living in Hawaii with his wife and three kids makes it all seem easy. He sells lifestyle, as much as his music, and his biggest gift is his ability to count his blessings while still sounding humble.

And that persona is sure to grow after his fifth album, "To the Sea" (Brushfire), because when there's a rare bum note, as there is in "Pictures of People Taking Pictures," or a slightly off-tempo musical phrase, Johnson leaves it in. It's a choice not made out of laziness - obviously, studio tools can clean up those minor issues with a few mouse-clicks - but because it adds to the vibe. Johnson really is all about the vibe.

The first single, "You and Your Heart," sets the scene for the album, with its acoustic groove and its tale of finding an easier life by following your heart. "My Little Girl" is a pretty, simple acoustic song for Johnson's daughter that promises love and support while also accepting the limitations of parenting.

While the sentiments are sweet and the backdrop is soothing, Johnson is more interesting when he shakes things up. "Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology" brings in the blues, while the indie-rock leanings of "At or With Me" should raise some eyebrows. They are signs that while Johnson could just float along, "To the Sea" finds him still striving for something more.

Jack Johnson: "To the Sea"

Grade: B

Bottom line: A bit of blues, a dash of politics and a whole lotta laid back

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