In 2011, Active Child debuted with You Are All I See, a synthetic, dreamy pop album. While it was a solid album, it was the vocals of Pat Grossi that really sold the album, making use of his falsetto skills more often than not and taking what was a decent album to a higher level. At the same time, there was something about the feeling behind the music of the songs that felt like it needed more, regardless of the minimal production.
Mercy, the follow-up album, doesn’t suffer in the same way You Are All I See did. While the synthetic style of the debut left it all feeling a little heartless, this feels less mechanical and a little more natural. There are still elements of the first album, with synths and natural instruments being used together and Grossi utilising his falsetto vocals constantly. The way they’re used makes it easier to listen to, and the songs with a heavy focus on natural instruments see the most benefit.
1999 in particular reaps these benefits, with the heavy focus on bass and piano making for the perfect mid-tempo opener to set the mood of the album. Never Far Away featuring the use of a harp in the chorus helps give it a unique identity on the album, on top of being one of the only songs that truly feels bright or positive rather than sad or foreboding.
Even while moving between the album’s pop moment on Never Far Away to songs like the entirely synthetic Stranger and the closing piano ballad Too Late, the album remains consistent. With the only track feeling remotely unnecessary being the instrumental interlude Midnight Swim, there isn’t much that goes wrong with the album. The one issue it has that the first album also suffered from is that Grossi’s voice once again feels like it’s carrying the songs more than it should be, which may be why Midnight Swim felt so unnecessary, but it’s not as noticeable or unwelcome on Mercy as it was on his first album.
There’s definitely been some improvement in the four year period between full length albums. The production of the album is much more solid, it’s easier to listen to as a singular piece, and it’s genuinely more enjoyable. It’s not a major game changer for the genre or Grossi himself, but even after one listen it’s obvious that Mercy is a step up for Active Child.