This summer, John Mayer, the guy whose debut album Room For Squares turns 20 tomorrow, is getting ready to release a new album called Sob Rock. On Twitter, Mayer has described his new LP’s genre as “I miss you rock” and “relaxed fit” rock. It’s pretty clear from the whole presentation that he’s specifically going for the same vibe as the Sharper Image rock of the mid-’80s, the stuff that’s recently been showing up in our Number Ones column: Dire Straits, Cutting Crew, Mr. Mister, maybe Bruce Hornsby, possibly Ricard Marx. Mayer is nailing that whole aesthetic, but he’s not the only person who’s been digging into that stuff lately. And so the paradoxical effect is that Mayer’s new song sounds a whole lot like the War On Drugs.
Today, Mayer released the new single “Last Train Home.” It’s got backing vocals from the young country star Maren Morris. (When Morris sang at the Grammys earlier this year, Mayer played guitar and made guitar-faces for her.) The song’s also got keyboards from legendary ’80s session guy Greg Phillinganes, who used to be Michael Jackson’s musical director and who sometimes tours with Toto. Toto percussionist Lenny Castro is in there, too. Mayer co-produced the song with Don Was. A lot of talented people put a lot of work into making “Last Train Home” sound as ’80s as possible. They succeeded.
“Last Train Home” is pillowy and pleasant synth-rock, and its breezy adult-contempo vibe hits exactly as intended. The song is a bit more obviously commercial than anything that the War On Drugs have done, but it lives in that same blurry ’80s-kid dreamspace. Below, check out the video, which even looks like something you’d see on circa-’86 VH1.
Sob Rock is out 7/16.