Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yes! by Jason Mraz - Album Review

I've been a fan of Mr. A-Z ever since his tongue-twisting song "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" hit the airwaves in the Philippines. My older brother and I saved up enough money to buy his CD, and soon enough I had a thick printout of lyrics to all of his songs, so I can sing the anytime and anywhere I wanted. He's one of the artists whom I can see supporting until the end of time, based on his track record of churning out well-written, timeless songs that latch onto your heart like "Lucky", "I'm Yours" and "I Won't Give Up". Imagine my delight when I first watched him live - I think my friend Dette had to pinch me and pick up my jaw from the floor several times in order to convince me that I wasn't dreaming. Jason sounds so much better live, not because he sounds horrible in his studio recordings, but because you can feel his warmth and sincerity radiate throughout the entire concert venue. There is just an authenticity he brings with his guitar and soothing vocals that makes him so dang likable as a musician, one can't help but to feel like he's either singing to you or with you. Which is why, ever since I've lived here in the USA, I've tried to catch all of his shows because it really is worth it. I was thisclose to buying tickets to his upcoming concert, but due to a misunderstanding of the terms by Ticketmaster I was unable to and I am currently waiting (not in vain, I hope) for the prices to drop to near-normal in re-seller sites.

With Toca in 2011
Norfolk, VA concert in 2013
Speaking of which, my former roomies and I drove all the way to Norfolk, VA (for 3 hours!) to watch him, and we were lucky enough to snag tickets near the front row. It was an acoustic set, and he had this great all-women band as his opening act; later on they went to play songs together. Imagine my surprise when he announced that he might be touring with them soon. The L.A. based rock-folk band, called Raining Jane, has been together since forever. (Mona, Jason's awesome drummer/sidekick from his previous tour and a member of Raining Jane, along with Caroline from The Corrs inspire me to be better with my djembe skills). Their established group dynamic probably rubbed off on Jason, because his songs from their new album, Yes!, makes one feel like they're wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket, similar to how strong, time-tested friendship should feel. Thank goodness they did not go through with making it just a side project, and that they were confident enough to launch it as a full-blown album! I'm so happy for them and for the added exposure to their group, but of course I'm crossing my fingers that this won't be their last collaboration. Ok, now on to the songs! (I'm no longer putting this album on shuffle, because they're meant to be listened to in the order that they appear on the album. You'll soon understand why.)

1. Rise: An instrumental prologue to the next song. It feels like the musical counterpart of the sun slowly rising in the wee hours of the morning.

2. Love Someone: In the same rank as I'm Yours and I Won't Give up, this song is just lovely all around. I won't be surprised if this will be (hopefully not over) used in weddings/engagements in the near future. It is very mellow and a little less syrupy. I always sigh (in a good way) when I listen to this song. With lyrics like:

"When you love someone
Your heartbeat beats so loud
When you love someone
Your feet can't feel the ground

Shining stars all seem
To congregate around your face
When you love someone
It comes back to you"

you'll probably sigh too, am I right? ;)

3. Hello, You Beautiful Thing: Sunny and bright all over, this will make you smile at your reflection in the morning. Because yes, you are a beautiful thing :)

4. Long Drive: Recommended when you're on a long drive with your significant other. Butterflies in your stomach, guaranteed. This makes you remember how fleeting life is, and how we should cherish each precious moment with our loved ones. I love how it starts off slow but not dragging, then the tempo rises like when you're revving the engine (equivalent to when you look over to your SO and in that moment you just appreciate so much his/her presence in your life), then slows down again. They actually made a short movie/music video composed of this song and the two previous songs, which centers on a couple's life together. Watch it below:

5. Everywhere: I don't know how Jason Mraz makes a stalker-ish song into something tender, but he does it with such finesse it's a little scary. Hahaha. Maybe it's because the feeling seems mutual.

6. Best Friend: A lovely, earnest ballad dedicated to best friends/lovers. It might sound cheesy at first listen, but soon enough you'll find yourself thinking of your loved one while singing along.

"Thank you for all of your trust
Thank you for not giving upThank you for holding my handI've always known where you stand"

7. Quiet: Another love song, this time with a softer and smoother sound.

"Heartbeats rise, heartbeats fall
Will you be my constant through it all?

I will hold your hand and watch the world spin idly around this life we're in
Oh yeah everything goes quiet when it's you I'm with"

8. Out Of My Hands: With a laid-back reggae vibe, this song reminds us that nothing is perfect, even relationships (although of course at the end of the day, it's still up to the two of you to work things out. After all, real love is not merely about having feelings but is a constant decision).

9. It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday: Originally performed by G.C. Cameron in the film "Cooley High" and popularized in 1991 by Boyz II Men, Jason and Raining Jane's cover seems lighter and more sweet than sad, but nonetheless they are still able to convey how deeply we get affected by people leaving. Through all of these renditions, this song never fails to remind us to make the most out of every moment with people that we love the most.

10. 3 Things: Highly recommended for when you feel down, it is full of positive vibes all around. It's a singing how-to without feeling preachy - the ukulele-infused melody definitely helps a lot in not letting it sound campy.

"Things are looking up
I know above the clouds the sun is shining
Things are looking up
Love is still the answer I'm relying on
Three little things"

11. You Can Rely On Me: Rather self-explanatory :) 

12. Back To The Earth: Here's a little bit of trivia for you: Jason has farming in his blood - his song "Frank D Fixer" from his previous album was written as a tribute to his grandfather Frank Mraz, who had a small farm in his backyard and who also fixed farming equipment for a living. And after years of dreaming/singing about it, Jason now operates an organic avocado farm in San Diego, and sells his produce to a local Chipotle. This song, beyond the upbeat melody, the cute do-do-do start and the infectious end (where everyone claps along and sings in a cappella) is a statement on the importance of sustainable agriculture (and you can start by having your own backyard garden!). I have yet to check if I inherited my father's green thumb, but when I do get the space I'll start off with a herb garden :) Click here to read more about MESA (Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture), an organization that Mr. Mraz supports.

13. A World With You: The song starts off slow, with a guitar rift borrowed from Norwegian Wood by the Beatles. Accompanied by Becky's sitar, Mona's drums, Mai's cello and Chaska's piano, the seemingly simple lyrics blend into a sumptuous song sung between lovers. It's one of his best, hidden songs and I'm sure it will be loved by fans all around the world.

14. Shine: This mesmerizing, ethereal song is the perfect ending to an uplifting album. Thank you for shining your light on us through this album, Jason Mraz and Raining Jane, and may we always remember to shine our light on others as well. And of course, thank you to our great God for blessing these wonderful musicians with their multitude of talents and for guiding them into collaborating on this album. May this inspire you to say a resounding "YES!" to life as well.