Key Points:

Rating:

* * * *

 Of his eight albums, this is the third Johnson effort to result from the Auckland singer-songwriter's extended OE in the states. And while 2006's lacklustre predecessor Anyone Can Say Goodbye suggested the Santa Monica lifestyle had got the better of it, this finds Johnson in fine fettle.
Actually, in such good form - lyrically, musically and performance-wise - that the dozen songs make this feel like being one of the most fully realised Johnson albums yet.
Yes, he is still sticking to his musical guns. These are mostly songs of piano tinkles, gently strummed guitars and rhythms that shift all the way from the four-on-the-four jangled pop-rock of opener I Got Opinions, Come Home and Looking Out on Monday to the accordion waltz of Say Hello to the Old Town  - and back again.
But it's songs like the latter that make this album so engaging. Old Town isn't some mawkish ode to homesickness but an evocative wander through the memory banks about a past relationship or two. And it's followed by one of the album's highlights, Golden Stairs which burns quietly and gorgeously away on its minimal piano, trumpet and guitar backing beneath Johnson's longing voice.
So does the similarly languid Tennessee Train, its sense of foreign geography rubbing against the personal reminiscent of Don McGlashan and Australia's Paul Kelly.
It's also an album of good humour, as shown by Bulldozer, apparently inspired by an encounter with Sam Hunt ("he said we're using a bulldozer to do a job that a teaspoon could do") with its scratchy reggae rhythms harking back to Johnson's pre-solo years in 80s Auckland band Diatribe. So does Overly Susceptible, its wry lyric neatly counterpointing its sunny disposition.
There might not be dramatic shifts of style  between the 12 songs but they still deliver the sort of album which generates a natural momentum towards its finish.
Especially in the final overs as the lush mandolin-punctuated folk-rock of Even When folds into Tennessee, before the grand surge of I Remember Sunshine leads into the forlorn, strangely hypnotic finale of Highlights.
Johnson might be earning a crust stateside by having Hollywood wallpaper his songs into TV and movie scenes requiring a little more poignancy. And no doubt some of these will be turning up as the credits roll soon enough.  But this smart understated set deserves to be heard as a whole. Downed in one gulp, Johnson's Seven Day Cure turns out to be a real wonder tonic.

Russell Baillie