There’s part of me which loves when an artist drip feeds little tidbits of a new album over an extended period of time. There’s also a part of me which loves to be completely surprised by what I hear when I first listen to a new album. With John Mayer’s new album, The Search For Everything, I got the best of both worlds.
Mayer’s 7th studio album was released in three parts. Wave One, containing four tracks. Wave Two, containing another four tracks. Finally, the entire album, with four more new tracks accompanying the previously released eight. A unique way of doing things, but justifiable when you think about the short attention span of most listeners these days. Dumping 12 tracks (which I honestly feel is too long for an album) at once can distract listeners from each track, and things are missed – something Mayer has been very vocal about during the lead up to the release. I completely agree, and this is an interesting way to keep anticipation high as well as satisfy thirst for new music.
The Search For Everything is one of Mayer’s strongest showings, sitting right up alongside his debut release, Room For Squares, and fan-favourite album Continuum. We get the full spectrum of Mayer’s abilities on the new release – a mix of acoustic songs, electric blues song, piano ballads and an interesting attempt at a ‘theme’ song. Mayer flexes all his muscles here, falling short in some regards, but ultimately giving us an extremely enjoyable listen.
- Still Feel Like Your Man – The album kicks off with this funky D’Angelo-esque song which begins with a piano and falsetto improvisation before the main groove kicks in. A great piece, showcasing Mayer’s now preferred layer guitar technique. Try not to sing along the chorus of this one – a fantastic little hook.
- Emoji Of A Wave – A terrible name for a song, but a nice acoustic number which centres around Mayer’s earnest and troubled lyrics. Mayer has since admitted this was the most difficult song to record, with plenty of layering heard again. Overall a good song but an awkward choice for second track after such a strong opening.
- Helpless – One of the more bluesy numbers on the album, and more akin to his John Mayer Trio work. I find the chorus vocals to be a little lazy, but the main riff and solo are enough to make up for it. The rhythm section gets a good working here throughout the song which helps move it along nicely.
- Love On The Weekend – I’ve really grown to love this song. It’s a slightly different style to what Mayer has produced over the years, but with enough of his unique touch to let it rest nicely with his more accessible work. It’s a cruisy anthem which focusses on Friday/Saturday/Sunday feelings towards spending time with a lover. Great use of reverb for the main guitar line.
- In The Blood – The highlight of the album, but in my opinion too soon on the album. Nevertheless this song resonated with me the second I heard it. What drew me in straight away was something we have rarely heard from Mayer – singing in the low register. It was a real surprise, and very refreshing. The verse vocal melody line is absolutely genius for this song. I can’t praise just how good this song really is – a wonderful insight into just how good of a songwriter Mayer can be.
- Changing – My least favourite on the album unfortunately, which is a shame after what came before it. The beginning just kills it for me. It’s a lazy intro, and a sloppy melody. It has its moments but most of the time I find myself skipping this one.
- Theme From “The Search For Everything” – This is a cool little acoustic song, with a bit of a country twist. The layer vocal line sounds similar to the Summer Heights High intro which always puts me off. Either way, it’s a good instrumental piece and serves as the segue-way into the second half of the album.
- Moving On and Getting Over – Another great groovy song in a similar style to ‘Still Feel Like Your Man’. More D’Angelo and Prince influences can be heard here, and more of that layered guitar goodness. If this is the direction Mayer wants to go over the next few years then I am on board!
- Never On The Day You Leave – The album ballad. Every album needs a good one, and this does the job nicely. Mostly focussed on the vocals/lyrics but the piano/strings do a suitable job. Every man should read the lyrics to this song as a warning.
- Rosie – In a similar vein to ‘Helpless’, with a more blues influence. The influence of Eric Clapton can be heard mostly through this song, in my opinion. The lyrics are a little bit absurd, but when he’s singing it over that groove, who really cares? I can hear this song being a great live feature.
- Roll It On Home – Possibly left over from the Born and Raised/Paradise Valley era? This is bluegrass/country Mayer that we’ve heard recently. This type of genre doesn’t really resonate with me all that much, but it has some good moments and is a fun sing-a-long.
- You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me – The so-called ‘Toy Story ripoff’. The vocal melody has been ripped straight out of 1970s playbook, but ultimately this song will divide opinion. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either. It’s different, but it’s definitely not what Mayer thinks it is. A piano piece which is supposed to wrap up the events/feelings of the album but feels a little egotistical in some respects. Make up your own mind.
Overall, Mayer delivers a strong record which will have something for everyone to love. The subject matter is pretty clear throughout, which will ensure there are plenty of people who can relate to it. The album is set out almost chronologically which is a subtle twist, and one that I really like.
I’ll be happy if Mayer doesn’t touch songs like ‘In The Blood’ live so that it can stay as perfect as it is, but I’m really excited to hear songs like ‘Helpless’ and ‘Rosie’ with the backing of his star-studded touring line-up (featuring the likes of David Ryan Harris, Pino Palladino, Steve Jordan and Isaiah Sharkey – phew!).
The best of Mayer can be heard on this album, but unfortunately some of his short-comings are also heard too. Nevertheless it’s an album that will keep you discovering nuances about it for years to come.
John Mayer, The Search For Everything. 8.5/10