“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.