"My heart's too big for you to understand me," concludes Mary Lambert on "Monochromatic," one of many self-reflective moments on her debut, Heart on My Sleeve. The Seattle native's earnest songwriting exudes a warm directness that makes her an appealing new pop voice. But the downside of that lyric is also true: Lambert errs anthemic, producing life-affirming pop rock and sorrowful balladry while keeping her life out of focus. In this way, the LP is a likable, yet incomplete, opening statement.
Lambert's voice resonates in the same intimate way as her career-making turns on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" and her own hit "Secrets," while conveying heartbreak on "Wounded Animal" and romance on the title track with equal emotion. The LP has questionable moments, like a piano ballad cover of "Jessie's Girl" and the heavy-handed poem "Dear One," but her congeniality helps sell them. "Chasing the Moon," the best track, finds Lambert "telling secrets in the backseat confessional" with a companion. It's full of magnetic personal details that the rest of the album lacks. Clearly, Lambert has talent, but on Heart she's merely scratching the surface.
This story originally appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of Billboard.