Mraz Breezes Through LP4

Courtesy of Atlantic Records

Starting to feel that ache for the idyllic, sunshiny perfection of happy summer days? Luckily, Jason Mraz has delivered the audio equivalent of summer bliss with his lemonade-sweet musings about life and love. The king of carefree is back, and his newest album, “Love Is a Four Letter Word,” drips with the mellow, uber-optimistic vibe that fans love.

This album is Mraz’s fourth studio release and follows his 2008 album, which boasted the Grammy-nominated single, “I’m Yours.” This wildly charming reggae-lite anthem, which still frequently graces the radio waves (most recently in the form of a remix featuring Lil Wayne and Jah Cure), was clearly an inspiration for the this latest album, which layers a subtle world-music texture over the classically blissed-out folk pop sound of Mr. A-Z.

This journey through Mellowville opens with “The Freedom Song,” an up-tempo treat backed by strong brass and drum riffs that give the track a fun, jazzy feel. The only song on the album which Mraz didn’t write himself, this opener is a cover of a song written and performed by the obscure band Luc & the Lovingtons.

Starting with the second track, “Living in the Moment,” things get decidedly more chill as the laid-back musical stylings of Mraz shine through. Opening with whistling, this track practically oozes sunshine with its upbeat strumming and a clippy, hihat-happy drum beat. As the title suggests, this track explores the mantra of living in the moment. “Living in the moment / Living our life / Easy and breezy” sums up the sentiments of the song, which include letting go of past pains and embracing the empowering present. This song is a breezy, feel-good anthem which sets the pace at a pleasantly low gear.

Those of a cynical persuasion should steer clear of this latest Mraz creation, as he lays on the whimsy extra thick in his lyricism. The corniness reaches a dangerous high in songs such as “Everything Is Sound.” Here, Mraz waxes poetic: “Let’s sing to be happy, to feel things, to communicate, be heard / We sing out to protest, and to project, and to harmonize with birds.” If that isn’t sap-tastic enough, the chorus features more than one “La la la la,” a “Hallelujah” and the proclamation that “We’re all connected now.” Mraz’s hippie side bleeds blatantly tie-dye here, and again in “Frank D. Fixer,” his heartfelt but hokey tribute to his grandfather, the down-tempo “The World as I See It,” and “5/6” (named for its time signature) which has a lovely jazz vibe but delves awkwardly into child psychology, to name a few. That being said, he backs these moments with such strong musicianship and charisma that it’s worth letting it slide.

There are a few standout songs on the album which showcase Mraz’s killer songwriting chops and his affinity for creating a deliciously bohemian sound. “93 Million Miles” is a reassuring song about home that artfully tugs at the heartstrings. Another is the timpani-driven “Hidden Track” (or “I’m Coming Over”) which is a sweet confession of lingering love for an old flame and features Mraz’s to-die-for falsetto. A clear standout is “I Won’t Give Up,” the first released single (which peaked at #8 on the Billboard’s Hot 100). It is a simply beautiful ballad, backed by the honeyed tones of Mraz’s guitar and voice.

“Love” isn’t an earth-shattering listen, but Mraz nails the infectiously kick-back, easy and breezy vibe as only he can. While it’s true the love platitudes are laid on a bit thick at times, when it comes down to it, this album is all about sharing the love, which Mraz – with all of his hammock-strung charm –  does wonderfully.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5