Jake Bugg

On My One

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Moving from producer Rick Rubin to Jacknife Lee -- a trajectory pioneered by Weezer nearly a decade earlier -- Jake Bugg seems to be searching for a new voice on On My One. No longer the new-millennial Dylan of his 2012 eponymous debut, Bugg also abandons the Rubin-endorsed classicism of 2013's Shangri La, choosing a muddled middle ground between plaintive introspection and bustling electronic arrangements ripe for crossover play. At the very least, this heretofore unheard infatuation with electronica and R&B loops suggests Bugg is a man indeed born in the '90s, something that seemed somewhat inconceivable on his prior records. If there's a slight whiff of desperation in the dense Madchester percolation of "Gimme the Love," it's trumped by the bizarre "Ain't No Rhyme," where Bugg strips away the irony from Beck and delivers a full-fledged old-school rap. This is easily the strangest moment here but there are other oddities -- the slowly simmering "Never Wanna Dance," where Bugg gives James Blunt a run for his money; Bugg leaning on his penchant for literalism on the steady-rolling country-rock of "Livin' Up Country;" the big crawling plastic soul of "Love, Hope and Misery" -- that seem even weirder when paired with a bunch of by-the-books troubadour tunes. On the whole, the produced numbers are better than the unadorned cuts: Bugg's nasal twang gets buried underneath the gloss and the hooks are pushed to the forefront. Still, the whole thing adds up to a bit of a mess, not in the least because Bugg's schtick was his authenticity: what does it mean if he's at his best when he's being phony?

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