It’s somehow fitting that Marc Broussard’s fifth proper studio album plays out as a survey of the singer’s uneven and often frustrating output to date. Marc Broussard finds the powerhouse vocalist in typically fine voice, doing his damnedest to elevate a set of middling-quality songs that rarely settle into a style that does him any kind of favors. With each new album, Broussard’s “Maybe this time?” potential becomes harder to hang one’s hopes on, and his jumping between record labels that recognize his talent but clearly have no clue what to do with him means that he has yet to release an album that boasts a particularly distinct style or the ferocious energy of his live shows, and Marc Broussard continues that trend.
Opener “Bleeding Heart” is one of the better original songs Broussard has recorded lately, playing out as a subversion of blues conventions in that the woman Broussard dresses down over the course of the song is chastised not for her infidelity, but for being too compassionate and empathetic at her own expense. Broussard’s delivery is a blustery tour de force. It’s a shame that it has to be, since producer Jamie Kenney layers on so much Stomp-inspired percussion and so many in-the-red guitar riffs that Broussard can barely be heard during the song’s refrain. As great as Broussard’s performance is, “Bleeding Heart” sounds outright awful.
Kinney’s production choices don’t necessarily improve over the course of the album. With its funk riff and strident references to going to Vegas to “Make love/In a heart shaped hot tub,” “Only Everything (Appletree)” reimagines some of Maroon 5’s harder-rocking tracks with a less anemic singer. “Let It All Out” apes the sleepy, pop-leaning version of blues that John Mayer usually peddles, and Broussard is simply too strong and too soulful of a singer to stoop to such a pedestrian level. The bar-band rock of “Eye on the Prize” isn’t much better, though it at least gives Broussard an opportunity to belt a song. But it’s yet another song that’s entirely too busy and overcooked in its production: It couldn’t be less surprising that “Let Me Do It Over” closes the album with a full-on gospel choir.
If the production distracts from Broussard’s performances, it also pulls focus from the songs themselves, which isn’t such a bad thing. “Lucky” is a chintzy, vintage-styled R&B love song, turning on such easy platitudes like “When I took one look at you/I knew that you were meant for me,” while “Our Big Mistake” uses a reversal that isn’t the least bit clever as its central conceit: “Saying goodbye was our big mistake.” Other than “Bleeding Heart,” only “Yes Man,” which uses an unconventional structure and makes terrific use of syncopation to emphasize key phrases, really gives Broussard the chance to perform a song that’s actually worthy of his remarkable voice. The rest of the time, Marc Broussard continues to leave the singer’s vast potential untapped.