Perhaps, perhaps, we’re being too hard on John Mayer. Perhaps we all need to remind ourselves that, ultimately, John really does what he feels like doing, which explains his many diversions over his career – although those diversions appealed to the beard-stroking music geek in all of us, never mind whether his excursions towards all-out blues or three-quarters-hearted Americana were successful or not. That perhaps also explains the curious decision to release his latest album, The Search for Everything, in three sets of four. After the first two thirds of the album were dropped in the past couple of months, sparking glee among his not-quite-dormant fans, we have the full album, and, well, it does prove that he does what he wants to do. Unfortunately, that decision to release the album in batches has dulled the whole thing’s impact. Sure, it’s not really a remarkable album – those beard-strokers will see this as a return to bland territory, or blander territory, with actual orchestral flourishes – but knowing that already means listening is not as fun. That, and I have found that listening to John’s albums the first time can be rewarding in its own way. At least he shuffled the album around: “Moving On and Getting On” remains as sublime whether it’s the eighth track in the whole record or it’s the first track in that first tranche of releases. [NB] | 3/5
Now, Wave Two – four more tracks from John Mayer’s The Search for Everything; the next release will be of the whole album’s, so the wait, as it turns out, was not as long as we thought. When he released Wave One I pondered what the point of breaking up the album was. I still don’t, and so I still can’t help but think I’m missing the album’s full force as I listen to it in four song blocks rather than as, I assume, twelve songs. Even listening to the two releases together gets me nothing. It is still John exploring everything he’s done before, resulting in a pleasant yet unsatisfyingly incoherent record – like he’s doing a recital. But “Helpless” gets close to the Continuum-like heights I pondered last time, because it is the closest we have to a record from that album. It’s a good, bluesy delight that breaks up the surprising monotony – only for all of it to come crashing back down with Americana-esque “Roll It On Home”. But maybe that’s sequencing. [NB] | 3/5
This is Wave One, meaning, John Mayer seemingly has decided to play the post-streaming game. This is the first four tracks he’s releasing from his upcoming album The Search for Everything, providing this blog with a dilemma: do we review the first four tracks first, or do we wait for everything else to drop? We decided to play the post-streaming game, too. It’s been four years since he released Paradise Valley, in which John continued to explore Americana. For these songs it seems he’s returned, somewhat, to his pop-rock sound. Well, of course not entirely: there’s a meander here that was more a trademark of his later stuff, but so far nothing that captures Continuum-like heights. But the songs, well, they’re good enough, but you tend to wonder: why release four songs at a time? Maybe it’s my orientation towards studio albums, but I was left not sure where all this is headed. It’s an unfinished project, and you want more – and, at least until the second set of songs, that is not a good thing. [NB] | 4/5
This is the second installment of The Five Songs I Can’t Live Without, where we ask people (of interest) about, well, the five songs they can’t live without. This one had some extraordinary timing going for it: the day we considering inviting Wish 107.5 DJ Princess Leigh is the very day she was doing her last show on the station. (In case you’re wondering, she’s the one enthusing about the NBA season when we live-blogged the station two years ago.) Yes, the station plays classic hits most of the time, but you’d see her enthuse about local indie acts too, especially if you follow her on Twitter. A perfect fit, we thought, so we asked her as she wrapped up her last show – and now we the five songs (the former?) Princess Leigh can’t live without.
“Bliss” by Alice Peacock | Despite my frustration with K-Lite limiting its programming to fifteen years of popular music, it’s been digging up some gems from the days when I still listened to Magic 89.9. Well, they haven’t played this yet, although I’m sure they have, or they will, sooner or later. This got relatively high rotation on the Magic back in 2002, and I assume it’s because John Mayer – then riding high in his Room for Square days – provided backing vocals. (The DJs introduced this song as “Alice Peacock featuring John Mayer”. I don’t know if that’s the case on the album.) I like this song: it starts off well, and then reaches a crescendo of warmth that pays off wonderfully by song’s end. And then I heard nothing from her. Alice has released three albums since her self-titled sophomore release where this song came from, but – understandably – there was virtually none of it on our airwaves, which makes this a bit of a quirky oddity, an arguable one-hit wonder, and a good one, at that. [NB]