In 2001, Fairfield native John Mayer’s first studio Room for Squares was met with critical acclaim. Selling upwards of three millions copies to date, the album received a Grammy in 2002 and earned Mayer a lasting niche in the rock-pop genre.

There was something intrinsically special about Squares – it was simple, acoustic, with hum-along hooks and heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics. It was Mayer’s ode to confusion, growing up, not knowing the answers and searching for the right questions. It was accessible. And musically, it was more sophisticated than the pre-packaged pop invading the airwaves at the time.

Mayer’s second studio album, Heavier Things, is just as accessible on the surface, but lacks Square’s undeniable spark. The album, produced by Jack Joseph Puig, who has worked with the likes of Sheryl Crow, the Black Crowes and Hole, makes quite a departure from Mayer’s previous album.

Based primarily around Mayer’s uniquely honed electric sound, with songs reminiscent of Sting and The Police, Things could have been a great album. There are certainly enough thoughtful lyrics and rich vocals.

However, it lacks those extended guitar solos that make Mayer such a jazz-guitar phenomenon live, he just doesn’t show that on this album. Too often the songs are over-produced, with too much soundboard and not enough sincerity.

Still, this album is in fact Heavier. With darker, deeper lyrics, it ultimately asks more on the part of the listener, requiring them to prod beneath the surface. In songs like “Homelife” – an Asian-influenced song, with an unusual focus on the rhythm section – Mayer proclaims his desire for all things domestic. But under these simple, unassuming lyrics the song is about much more than that; it’s about being true to himself, and ultimately, his distaste towards all things fake.

That’s the decisive tone of Things: without some creative listening the songs lose their maturity, since it is ultimately Mayer’s lyrics, not guitar playing, which make this album creatively rich.

The album still has its stand-out’s. “Bigger Than my Body”, the first single off of the album, is perhaps the song most reminiscent of a Square’s tune. Its infectious melody makes it the “No Such Thing” on Heavier Things – radio ready and sure to be the album’s most popular single.

Mayer also excels on more instrumental tunes like the slow and sexy “Come Back to Bed”, a jazz-influenced ballad, and “Daughters” one of the only tracks in which old and new Mayer meet in an acoustic/electric blend that works beautifully.

The strong new tracks are rounded off by the previously unreleased favorite “Something’s Missing”.

The most experimental, lyrically rich song on the album is “Clarity”, the opening track in which Mayer contemplates whether his current relationship will last. “By the time I recognize this moment/This moment will be gone/But I will bend the light pretending/That somehow it lingered”. The track even includes a full horn section accompanying Mayer’s mix of smooth tenor and falsetto.

With a mellow beat, slick hook and simple lyrics, this song is the epitome of the new mature John Mayer. With a few more songs like this, a good album could have been stellar.

In the end, Mayer has made a quality album. He’s ventured from his comfort zone, looked to his influences and roots, and combined them with the seemingly soft rock-pop that helped him soar to the top of the charts.

Most of the time he succeeds at the fusion, and sometimes not, but in the end the songs that really click still have that special spark that makes Mayer so special as a songwriter.

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