This is really the last week before interesting projects are going to start dropping in rapid succession once again, so forgive me for reviewing a 4-song EP this week – the picking are very slim and the story behind its release is quite interesting indeed. Ubiquitous singer-songwriter and impressive guitarist John Mayer is back for the first time since 2013’s Paradise Valley, continuing to do what he does best although he hasn’t had a truly large hit in close to a decade. As artists continue to find new ways to alter the conventions of releasing music, Mayer has announced that he will release 4 new songs every month of the year, giving us many albums’ worth of material by the year’s end. While that much Mayer might sound incredibly unnecessary to a few people, there are a number of things to enjoy about this EP, especially concerning the frequent reminders at just how fantastic he is with his guitar. There’s not much new here, but the veteran artist knows which buttons to press.
The overall sound of the EP is very laid-back, a style that has always fit with his famous vocal delivery that is easily identifiable and defining by now. He strips back the percussion and lets the guitar take over as the driving force of the majority of these tracks – as it should. The tracks begin to sound more like they came from early on in his career as a result, generating some very melodic and bluesy sounds. Despite the running themes, the four tracks are actually quite different and showcase aspects of the many approaches to his music he’s taken over the years. Of course, some of these styles (like the bluesier aspects of the opening track) have always worked better for him than others — saccharine and introspective pop song “Changing” is as dull as his other songs in the same category, for example. “Love On The Weekend” takes more of a folk route, and the album closes out with a sentimental ballad.
Intro “Moving On And Getting Over” is fantastic – an upbeat and incredibly catchy song filled to the brim with pure musicianship. The ever-changing guitar scales and melodies that run throughout the entire track are its true centerpiece, as Mayer’s voice is layered in octaves singing a breezy and pleasant melody that accompanies the carefree, freeform guitar well. The guitar work across the entire EP is an extremely strong suit – even “Changing” is picked up by a guitar solo that comes out of left field and energizes the percussion section along with it, displaying a sound that we really don’t hear in many places in this genre anymore and is deeply missed. The harmonies featured on most tracks are nice, built especially for his soothing voice which offers a calming presence. It makes elements of a very simple, stripped back song like “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” work very well.
The lyrics on the project are cheesy and formulaic in typical Mayer fashion. He has always thought he is way deeper than he ever actually ends up being, and is decidedly a much more talented musician than a lyricist. If you were as annoyed as I was at the inescapability of a song like “Waiting On The World To Change”, maybe skip “Changing”. While the project opens very strong, there’s not much about the other three tracks that manage to stand out very much. They are all passable songs with underlying pop sensibilities. While “You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me” possesses a sweet and simple melody that is actually quite well written, Mayer is just the type of guy to think a song like that should be accompanied by prominent whistling. “Love On The Weekend” was the single released beforehand, and its adherence to a basic folk guitar strumming structure and attempt at a brief and catchy piano line for the hook, plus the lyrics that were probably written in an hour, makes it sound like it came off of an assembly line.
Mayer’s release strategy is an interesting one indeed, and the rest of the year will show if it is a smart career move to release an overabundance of music slowly over a long period of time. Depending how the next few installments in the series go, the interest in 12 Mayer EPs will adjust accordingly. Hopefully he embraces his blues roots and guitar-playing ability rather than his pop songwriting.
Best Track: Moving On And Getting Over
Worst Track: Changing