By RUSSELL BAILLIE



(Herald rating: * * * *)



Mayer sold more than three millon copies of his 2001 breakthrough debut Room for Squares and in the process staked a position somewhere between MTV poster boy and becoming the American answer to the likes of David Gray — a sensitive, romantic singer-songwriter with pop chops and a voice the nice side of raspy.



As the title — and the switch from the shiny acoustic to the battered electric on the respective covers — might indicate, he has toughened up a little between albums. And Heavier Songs sounds like his music is thinking beyond the coffee-house gigs and the fiddly, jazzy, folk-rock of his debut.

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There are spots (like New Deep) where his self-conscious lyrics can get in the way. But it's hard not to be enchanted by the sheer pop breeziness of Bigger Than My Body, the soul-styled Come Back to Bed, the Coldplay-ish Something's Missing, the Gray-like Split Screen Sadness and the gently swinging, swooning Daughters. It's one fine, if edge-free, album that shows mainstream appeal and being a singer-songwriter of substance aren't mutually exclusive.


Label: Columbia