Album Review: Jake Bugg – On My One

By on Friday, 17th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Jake Bugg album coverI was sadly (but necessarily) disappointed to miss Nottingham wunderkind Jake Bugg in Austin earlier this year at SXSW 2016, where he played the BBC Music showcase at Stubb’s BBQ. But my lingering regret over that fateful evening has been fully assuaged by listening to Bugg’s brilliant new LP ‘On My One’.

Bugg has been lauded over the past several years for his songwriting and musicianship, which are both incredibly advanced given his young age. But what many critics miss, in my opinion, is the power and efficacy of Bugg’s singing voice. The nasal drawl that listeners associate with Bugg after his hits ‘Lightning Bolt’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ is only the tip of the iceberg. I’ve commented on his vocals in reviews of both his previous albums ‘Jake Bugg’ and ‘Shangri-La’, particularly the delicate beauty of ‘A Song About Love’ from the latter LP. But Bugg has raised his game considerably in this latest collection of songs.

The new album opens with a forceful one-two punch in the form of title track ‘On My One’, followed in quick succession by early single ‘Gimme the Love’. Displaying his aforementioned vocal prowess, Bugg knocks our emotions off balance straight away with a heartwrenching delivery of the lyrics “where’s God, where’s God? / he’s even left me on my one”. Then, before we can come up for air, he pummels us with the fast rhythmic pace and high energy guitar riffs of ’Gimme the Love’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/o70e7Nb8SVM[/youtube]

I wondered at first about the wisdom of putting such a powerhouse combination right at the start of the album’s tracklisting, but as it turns out, Bugg has plenty more where that came from. The soaring chorus of ‘Love, Hope and Misery’ might not be one of Bugg’s strongest lyrical moments, but it’s certainly among the album’s strongest melodic lines, and once again his vocals are surprisingly graceful. He does some of his level best singing and storytelling in the shadowy track ‘The Love We’re Hoping For’, where his voice reminds me very much of another singer whose voice I adore, Stornoway‘s Brian Briggs.

‘Put Out the Fire’ is the type of foot-stomping folk rock we’ve come to expect from Jake Bugg, and he shows off his acoustic guitar chops to their best advantage between its rapid fire verses. ‘Never Wanna Dance’, by contrast, is a smooth, groovy affair where Bugg again offers up a velvety vocal tone alongside a lush brass solo in the bridge. The pugilistic ‘Bitter Salt’ ratchets up the emotional tension with an anxious drum beat and strident electric guitars punctuating its darkly menacing verses and driving chorus. Bugg then segues into the muted hip-hop rhythm of ‘Ain’t No Rhyme’ and revisits his own early Americana style in the wailing slide guitar of ‘Living Up Country’.

Bugg’s vocals are once again painfully and beautifully tender in the melancholic ballad ‘All That’, and the album closes quite fittingly with the nitty-gritty blues guitar track ‘Hold On You’. For all its surface variety, ‘On My One’ remains cohesive because of its underlying focus on that blues style. “Blues is my favourite genre,” says Bugg. “Whether it’s soul or hip hop, it all stems from the blues.”

According to the album’s press release, the title ‘On My One’ comes from a colloquialism in Bugg’s native Nottingham: rather than saying “on my own”, they say “on my one”. What is perhaps most impressive about the record is that Bugg wrote, performed and produced most of the 11 tracks himself, remarking that “in a lot of ways [the title] sums up this record because it mainly has been me on my own”. Easily the best album I’ve heard so far this year, ‘On My One’ raises the bar significantly for the remainder of 2016.

9.5/10

Jake Bugg’s third LP ‘On My One’ is out today, the 17th of June, on Virgin EMI. Bugg will play a full summer schedule of festival dates, as well as a UK tour in October. You can find a complete list of his upcoming live shows here. TGTF’s previous coverage of Jake Bugg is back here.

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3 Responses

12:34 pm
17th June 2016

couldn’t agree more☺️

2:20 pm
22nd June 2016

There are some negative reviews out there by some people whom I feel lack any kind of imagination or true love for music.
This is a classic. I think it may even be his best.
It’s taken me in some unexpected directions with one or two tracks, maybe I would have preferred he hadn’t done that… but I am richer for the experience.
Thank you Jake for delivering another great work of art that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
And thank you Carrie Clancy for such an accurate review.

6:04 pm
22nd June 2016

Thanks, Andrew and Ula! It all comes down to a matter of taste, doesn’t it? I liked that he took some risks here and added some variety to his work.

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