The second album is always regarded as the trickiest for an artist to overcome, but the third album can often be the last-chance saloon for many. For Johannes Mayer, aka. The Late Call, it could be a very crucial album, indeed. After achieving moderate success with his previous two records, 2008’s Leaving Notes and 2010’s You Already Have A Home, Mayer will be hoping that The Late Call’s third album, entitled Pale Morning Light, is the one that really makes a mark on the mainstream charts.
While The Late Call’s first two albums were perfectly pleasant to listen to, neither received a great deal of airplay or recognition. It probably hasn’t helped that Mayer is repeatedly compared to Coldplay’s Chris Martin; however, the similarities are unquestionably present. Not only does the Stockholm singer-songwriter’s vocals sound remarkably similar to Martin, but – in some ways – The Late Call are like a sedated version of Coldplay. Yet, despite the perceived negatives of such a comparison, Pale Morning Light shows there is more to The Late Call than meets the eye.
The album opens with the beautiful Wandering Through An Empty Field, which demonstrates the strength of Mayer’s voice over solitary piano keys and a flickering acoustic guitar. While the comparisons with Coldplay are evident in the opener, it is the Coldplay of Parachutes and Rush Of Blood To The Head – when Martin and co. were at their peak. No Easy Way Out changes the pace of the album quickly with a driving acoustic guitar and strings building towards an infectious chorus, as Mayer sings: “I’m going to have to start all over again/ it wouldn’t be the first time in my life/ but there is no easy way out.”
Mayer sounds more comfortable on Pale Morning Light than he has done previously on either Leaving Notes or You Already Have A Home and it comes across in the confident and ambitious songwriting. Heavy Heart is a much more thoughtful affair, largely based around a continuous and perfunctory beat as Mayer’s soft, raw vocal dances over the top. Nothing Ever Does It is another standout from the album, with its delicate acoustics and heartfelt lyrics, while closer Everything In Its Place is a mellow and poignant finish to the album.
There is much to love about The Late Call’s third LP and it doesn’t take long to realise that Pale Morning Light is Mayer’s most accomplished piece of work. In fact, it is difficult to pick out any one song as failing to match the quality of the overall album or its tranquil atmosphere. The fact is, Mayer is a talented songwriter and while occasionally his work verges on the mawkish, he pours so much emotion into his music that it’s hard not to get caught up in it all. Every song is meticulously crafted, with melodies akin to Norwegian duo Kings Of Convenience and an enchanting lyrical narrative running throughout.
However, there is no getting away from the lack of variation on the album and it is something that prevents what is a very good record, from being an excellent one. Mayer can clearly pen songs with an alluring depth, but he resorts to the acoustic guitar far too often. So much so, that by the end of the album its effect is almost nullified. But despite this one nagging flaw, Pale Morning Light is a strong offering. And if Mayer can experiment and take a few more risks next time around, then look forward to hearing a lot more from The Late Call.