Jason Mraz is a folk/coffeehouse artist from San Diego. He rose to prominence in the early 2000’s college scene and pioneered the hip-hop infused brand of singer-songwriter music which would later be expounded upon by the likes of Ed Sheeran and James Bay.
His debut record, Waiting for My Rocket to Come and its follow up, Mr. A-Z brought him incredible fame and success and after a couple of well received live albums, he was very obviously on the precipice of a career defining project, which Mraz delivered in 2008 with We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. Not only did this album not disappoint, but it remains his best selling album to date, certified triple platinum and peaking at number three on the billboard chart. He followed up four years later with the platinum album, Love is a Four Letter Word, and again with 2015’s Yes! Today, he is certainly in the post-prime stage of his career, but his influence can’t be ignored, and his recent singles were quite impressive, leaving me excited for this year’s release, Know. Once again, he doesn’t disappoint.
On this record, Jason is very clearly aiming simply to have fun, a luxury which he enjoys at this stage in his career, and indulges in quite a bit on this project. Tracks like “Makin’ It Up,” and his best pre-album single, “Have It All,” find him in his much more laid back form, dancing over fast tempos with clever turns of phrase, and goofy jokes.
He even branches out with the reggae-inspired “Might as Well Dance,” which see’s a bouncing rhythm adorned with interesting organ work, a surprisingly engaging guitar solo, groovy bass, and lyrics which, while generally shallow, should pull a few chuckles from long-time fans. With a chorus refrain of “we got nothin to loose, might as well take off our pants,” the song serves as nice wallpaper for summer cookouts, which seems to be its ultimate goal.
Listeners are also given the treat of hearing Jason return to his earliest coffeehouse roots on tracks like “No Plans,” or the opener, “Let’s See What the Night Can Do,” both tremendously enjoyable, with Mraz’ heartfelt vocal performance and endearing lyrics leading the way over simplistic instrumentals and a few very well placed choral swells. He’s generally at his best here, though this doesn’t ring true for the final track, “Love is Still the Answer.”
On this closer, the tawdry lyricism weighs like a cinder block on a relatively inoffensive instrumental, accented by a few very well timed violins. Similarly, it’s the generally uninspired writing on “Unlonely,” which plays wet blanket to yet another solid track, this time one which is quite danceable and fun, making this offense all the more irritating.
However, it’s “More than Friends,” which stands as the least redeemable song on the entire project. The lyrics are barely ankle deep, the track is mostly boring, and Megan Trainor’s feature only serves to further water down whatever uniqueness this track had. The mercifully short three minutes is easily the lowest point in the 40 minute runtime.
Thankfully, this is offset by the simply striking beauty of “Sleeping to Dream.” This is a fairly old track, appearing as early as 2004 on live releases, but this version is much more mature. The vocal performance is soft and sweet, the lyrics are clever, and the slide guitar work of Drew Taubenfeld gently flavors an excellent instrumental track. It’s good to hear this song finally find a home on a studio project where it can serve as a reminder as to what a talent Jason Mraz truly is as a songwriter.
This album certainly isn’t all hits, but that doesn’t matter. The misses aren’t nearly egregious enough to be unenjoyable for longtime fans, and when he’s on, he’s on. Know. Doesn’t quite hit the bar set by Mraz’ early work, but he knows his audience, and this album serves as one more present to longtime fans.
Who could ask for more?