Growing Into Heavier Things
John Mayer’s next album is a complex listen, perhaps appropriate considering its title: Heavier Things. Mayer’s hip words and smart puns are still present, but he seems to have matured in his subject matter. Compared to his breakthrough album Room For Squares, mostly about puppy love found and lost (and found again), Heavier Things deals with concepts of divorce, depression, life cycles, and parent-child relationships. The album seems very consciously and purposefully written, though he may not have known where he would end up sonically.On Room For Squares, Mayer perfectly fit the mold of a love-contemplating balladeer with a comfortably smooth, un-refined voice. Now the solo man-with-guitar image has changed into something else with quite a bit more effects and processing involved. Keyboards, horns, etc. have entered the mix and created a sound that ranges widely depending on the quality of your speakers. My recommendation: don’t listen to it on bad computer speakers or a tinny stereo, get a good sound system or a pair of headphones. It’s unfortunate that the mixing doesn’t always show the well-blended, deeply layered work; on small speakers it’s full of cheap cheesy effects, overbearing what would otherwise have been another good acoustic album.
The genre is hard to pinpoint…it’s not exactly pop, but no longer singer/songwriter either. It seems he’s trying to extend himself into that magic middle ground between traditional acoustic musicianship and that “something new” that other greats have accomplished (Dave Matthews Band comes to mind). Whether he has achieved it or not, only time and the test of the album’s playability will tell. I can tell you this though…it grows on you like puppy love.