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Mayer's 'Wave Two' is diverse but disappointing



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John Mayer performs at the Made in America festival in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/MCT) Luis Sinco and Luis Sinco

In late January, John Mayer mounted his mainstream comeback : "Wave One," the first four-song release on his seventh studio album, “The Search for Everything.”

Now he’s back with "Wave Two," featuring four fresh, piping-hot songs for us to sink our teeth into. This shameless marketing gimmick not only allows Mayer to hang in the iTunes Top 10 with the likes of the “La La Land” soundtrack, but also allows me to keep sharing takes about my favorite artist with you, the good readers of the Indiana Daily Student. Mayer also released his North American summer tour dates with the second installment, making it a double blessing.

So without further ado, let’s get into tracks five through eight of “The Search for Everything.”

“Emoji of a Wave”

Twenty-first century, meet the Beach Boys. Literally. I’ve been excited for this song since learning of its absurdly wonderful name, and it didn’t disappoint. After Mayer composed this Beach Boys-style song, he ran into actual Beach Boy Al Jardine and his son Matt who, per Mayer’s request, went on to perform backing harmonies on this track. Continuing the album’s themes of love and loss, “Emoji of a Wave” is a musical punch-to-the-gut that you want to take over and over. It fills the listener with a longing Mayer hasn’t conjured since “Continuum’s” “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” At the bridge, it opens up into a symphony that still catches in my chest every time I hear it. This song is more than “just a wave” as the lyrics suggest. It’s the wave, and it makes the second installment.

“Helpless”

The least impressive song from "Wave Two," “Helpless” still scores points for its fun, 70s disco beat. It’s also one of the few songs from “The Search for Everything” to be recorded live in studio with bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Steve Jordan of the famous John Mayer Trio, who previously collaborated with Mayer on “Continuum” and “Try!” Mayer told Rolling Stone that he envisions playing this song to open up a concert.

“Roll it on Home”

Any student who’s stayed out until 3 a.m. last call at Kilroy’s will be able to relate to this country-style anthem. An obvious relic of Mayer’s earlier “Paradise Valley” phase. “Roll it on Home” paints the picture of a bar Mayer used to frequent while living in Montana, and of a sorry, lovesick patron who has so long overstayed his welcome that “tomorrow’s already yesterday.” The track transports you to a certain time and place, and while it might not be a favorite for those who prefer Mayer’s earlier works, pre-“Born and Raised,” you have to appreciate the musicality. Searching for an authentic pickup-band sound, Mayer intentionally retained small imperfections in the recording, such that the end result feels like “a worn-in pair of jeans,” as he told Rolling Stone. Plus, I audibly chuckled the first time I heard the line “The last ten texts were with your ex/And all of ‘em were sent by you.”

“Still Feel Like Your Man”

“Still Feel Like Your Man,” the single from "Wave Two", offers another autobiographical glimpse into Mayer’s life, presumably following his breakup with Katy Perry in 2014. The lyrics “I still keep your shampoo in my shower/In case you wanna wash your hair/‘Cause as long as it is there I still feel like your man” are sad, true and endearing. Who wouldn’t do anything they could to hang on to lost love, even if it’s as innocuous as keeping an old pink bottle of L’Oreal Professional in your shower? Yes, I checked, that’s actually the shampoo Katy Perry uses.Hair care products aside, this song is like none I’ve ever heard before. Case in point: Mayer described it to Rolling Stone as “ancient Japanese R&B.” Whatever the hell that means, I’m all in on “Still Feel Like Your Man.” It’s soulful and funky, the musical cousin to "Wave One" standout “Moving On and Getting Over.”

Final Thoughts

"Wave Two" is a 50/50 release. I can’t stop listening to two songs, “Emoji of a Wave” and “Still Feel Like Your Man” — they are the best songs on the album to date. The other two, “Helpless” and “Roll It on Home” are solid, but not propulsive — they don’t incline the audience toward repeated listens. Eight songs in, “The Search for Everything” has already proven to be the most diverse album of Mayer’s career. The last Wave, in which Mayer will release the final six tracks, will prove whether or not it’s the greatest.

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