by Jake Causley (ALT-J show, Thursdays 4-6pm)
There was only ever going to be one artist I was going to write an album review for. There is only one artist whose entire album repertoire I can listen to without skipping or switching off. There is only one artist who could set me off on a one-way musical journey leading towards unique genres of music. Mr John Mayer.
Despite ‘singing under-the-radar’ in Britain, with the majority of people I come into contact with not having heard of him, John Mayer is a huge hit in America. With 8 albums to his name since 1999, an extremely varied, experimental, but mutually-accepted musical style, and 4 whole years having passed by since his previous album release, there was a huge excitement in his fan-base following his reveal of a new album coming in early 2017.
“The Search For Everything” was released gradually, via two ‘Waves’ of EP’s across the two months prior to the entire album’s release, to build the buzz surrounding the marvellous music that was about to hit Planet Earth. John Mayer strikes you as a very trendy, hip, cool, and intellectual human being, thus I think he clearly made this release plan to both build expectations and please his fans.
It worked. Yet another album, spanning numerous musical styles, techniques, and vibes had been delivered. So without further-a-do, it is honestly my privilege, to take you through one of my favourite albums of all time, expertly designed by quite frankly a musical genius, who I believe will get your ears thinking: “You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me”.
Without a doubt the stand-out songs for me are the upbeat, funky-feeling tracks – one of which, “Still Feel Like Your Man”, opens the album. The bassline, guitar licks, and vocal interplay will get your head bobbing instantly. I feel Mr Mayer’s use of the single half-time, super-laid-back chorus is characteristic of his away-from-pop style of writing, where many of his songs feel like a journey, rather than an all-too-frequently-heard simple format. Perhaps with this in mind, this first song is a clear link to an ongoing “Search For Everything”?…(or perhaps I’m being too metaphoric).
“Moving On and Getting Over” and “Rosie” evoke similar grooves, where a longer song length, varied instrumentation (listen out for brief xylophone and flute interludes respectively!), and expressive vocals with harmonies make for really enjoyable music that you’ll want to put on repeat.
John Mayer’s more mainstream-style tracks on the album include “Helpless” and “In the Blood”, which feature a catchy guitar solo and modern drum effects – new to his music as far as I’m aware – respectively. Both tunes feature great harmonisations, and the latter proves particularly engaging given the upbeat nature contrasting deep, meaningful lyrics. “Emoji of a Wave”* acts as a stripped-back pop ballad on the album. “Love On The Weekend” has this pop-vibe, but I love the style-defying echo-ey guitar chords and the song’s highlight of the artist’s softer vocal tones. It is a truly meaningful song, particularly to me, as a student in a wonderful long-term relationship – it really is the perfect song to listen to, and one able to help you get through to home-time.
What I love about John Mayer is how he can move successfully from funk towards blends of country and folk within one album. These have no doubt been carried forward into this new album from those entitled “Paradise Valley” and “Born and Raised”, which encompass really expressive songs, with styles I honestly haven’t heard done by any other artist. You really must hear this easy-rock style for yourself, which is revealed in the middle of this album. “Changing” is easy to listen to, with a masterful solo section showcasing John Mayer’s amazing guitar abilities, and the “Theme” track, I think, is beautifully written and positioned; a superbly crafted instrumental interlude with soaring vocals and a spacious feel.
“Never On The Day You Leave” uses this same style as well as echo-ey drums and strings, which brings out the deepest emotions of the album. The saddest song of the album, yet, it will leave you loving it and wanting to experience it again. Finally, “Roll it on Home” picks up the pace with a continuous, moving drum pattern. I particularly like the interplay between the guitar melodies and the vocals in the verses, and the use of harmonies and vocal improvisation creates a truly fitting end to the album – par the final track, which perfectly culminates the entire album experience through a song so simple, different, and reflective. This is what John Mayer has always strived to achieve, which he regularly expresses to his fans – along with his gratitude for their support.
Be sure to follow Mr Mayer on social media (particularly Instagram) to marvel at his style, philosophical quotes, and humour – he really is a joy to follow. But for now, thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the journey! You can catch more songs and styles like John Mayer (as well as the latest wildlife and environment news!) on my Alt-J Show – Thursdays 4-6pm, on Xtreme Radio!
*On a side note, I think this song is meant to literally be an emoji… I recall last year reading an article which said John Mayer is “the only artist who could, and has now successfully, used ‘emoji’ in a song title”!