Like fellow singer/songwriter John Mayer, Jason is picking up the banner of songwriters like Sting and James Taylor, focusing on creating great songs that tell a good story or convey a message, and he does it with attention to style over substance. There’s no “She Hates Me,” ala Puddle of Mud here. Jason’s songwriting style can sometimes be interpreted as being “busy” because of the constant barrage of lyrics, but truly that is the strongest feature of most of the songs off of Rocket. The word play urges the listener to return to the CD to find little clues or phrases that are not deciphered the first few times through. Jason then infuses these lyrics with strong melodies and a tremendous sense of rhythm, owed in part to percussionist Toca Rivera, who is featured frequently on the album.
Rocket begins with an ode to a past love; “You and I Both” reflects on the lessons learned from an ended relationship, and rather than look back in anger, Jason focuses on wishing the other party well. Indeed, a theme of positive outlooks and perspective permeates Rocket, a focus on the here and now rather than on a distressing past. A great example of this comes from “The Remedy,” the album’s first single, where Jason muses, “In the end, it all adds up to nothing,” a phrase re-visited in a number of other songs on the album. The second track, “I’ll Do Anything,” begins with a bouncy reggae-inspired beat that is reminiscent of early work from The Police. Again Jason returns to his “what, me worry?” theme, singing, “If you could be nimble, you’d have it simple like me.”
The influence of Jason’s transplant from Virginia to Southern California is apparent on “Sleep All Day,” a dreamy look at taking the time to just enjoy life for what it is. The sounds of ancestral California bands like Fleetwood Mac and The Mamas and Papas can be found here. And where “Sleep All Day” has a definite relaxed, So-Cal feel to it, “Curbside Profit” is a busy and rampaging semi-autobiographical song that features a flurry of lyrics accompanied by a southern Louisiana inspired banjo. Similarly, the track “Too Much Food” combines Jason’s sing/song rapping with grooving acoustic guitar and tightly orchestrated band.
Waiting For My Rocket to Come is a strong debut and holds the promise of another singer/songwriter who could produce dozens of tunes that relate to and examine the human condition (see also an old friend of mine named Robert Zimmerman, who did that same thing a few years back). Jason, along with contemporaries such as Mayer and Norah Jones, is being marketed as Adult Orientated Rock, but truly his music can hit chords in all different genres. Should the powers that be allow Mraz to continue to grow as a songwriter, he could produce some amazing material. Rocket is a fun album; the musical and lyrical interplay grabs the attention of the listener and doesn’t let go until the final track fades. Buy this album, wait for a lazy Sunday, then play it in your car as you drive an empty highway.
…and good luck keeping up with all the lyrics.
~Joe Del Re
here for Joe's concert review of Jason Mraz at the Cleveland Agora