Rhapsody Debuts John Mayer's Battle Studies a Week Early - Album Review

Wednesday, November 11, 2009| by Will Chen

John Mayer's latest, Battle Studies, has a release date of November 17th. However, Rhapsody subscribers were treated to a nice little treat when they debuted the album a week early. I gave it a listen and it's hard to imagine this is the same guy who wrote all those the top 40 pop hits in the early 2000's. This is a much more mature Mayer with the lyrical depth one only achieves by getting some years under their belt and getting their heart broken a few times. The album substitutes much of the bluesy groove and Hendrix inspired riffing of Continuum with a subtle, rootsy, Americana tinged shuffle polished with his smooth pop sensibilities.

On the whole, the album is perhaps more mellow than his most recent body of work placing his recently showcased guitar chops in the back seat in favor of densely arranged and produced tracks which somehow sound both smooth and raw at the same time, quite a feat. That being said, he still gives us some tasteful flashes of his lyrical soloing style such as the intro and outro solos of Perfectly Lonely and the bluesy overdriven wailing in Assassin, . Where the album really shines though is when Mayer really pushes outside his saftey zone such as the soulful yet Beatles-esque Friends, Lovers, or Nothing and the fuzzed out, retro soul tinged cover of the Robert Johnson's (popularized by Cream) classic Crossroads.

On Battle Studies, Mayer doesn't reinvent himself retaining enough of his signature sound to keep his long time fans happy yet calls upon some new influences to keep things sounding fresh. Mayer's voice sounds better than ever substituting the forced breathy timbre of his early career with a very controlled and velvety croon. I was hoping to hear a jazz ballad as the album progressed but he's gotta save something for next time...

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