Given the relative success of their first album Is There Anybody Out There?, it’s no surprise that A Great Big World are following a similar framework the second time around. When the Morning Comes aims for a more mature take on their indie pop sound, focusing on set themes and a sound comparable to the likes of their single Already Home, which helps the album feel consistent and thematically connected. At the same time, it leads to the album’s major breaking point.
There’s no denying that they’re good at what they do. Songs like Come On and Kaleidoscope channel their first album effortlessly, portraying their strong indie pop sound and knowledge of what works for them. Hold Each Other plays on their progressive tendencies, mixing indie pop and hip-hop elements for a sincere song about love from both straight and gay perspectives without coming across as pretentious or overdone. The title track’s echoing calls and minimal instrumentation reach for a similar aesthetic to Bastille’s hit single Pompeii, but on a mellow indie pop scale rather than stadium rock, in an unexpected but powerful move.
In terms of lyrics and concept, it’s largely a different story. The fixation with sincere songs about love and overcoming covers the entire album, removing all possibility for quirky indie numbers like Everyone Is Gay and Cheer Up! from their first album; Kaleidoscope uses a bouncy piano and guitar sound to similar effect, but only in sound rather than lyrics. The abundance of serious songs leads to a lack of character, removing those light moments that defined A Great Big World before now. The style of the songs is rarely an issue, even as they attempt to replicate Say Something on One Step Ahead; instead, most fault lies with the concept.
While they succeeded at creating a strong, mature album, they also lost some of their character in the process. The heavy handed approach to love and life feels less effective without the lighter, easier to swallow moments separating them and allowing for space to process and breathe. Had a compromise between the two styles been obtained rather than cutting one side of their image entirely, When the Morning Comes would have found the balance it needed to be a much greater album. Instead, it comes across as an enjoyable, albeit much less endearing venture.