English singer/songwriter Jake Bugg has been quite vocal about the problems with today’s music industry; he loathes mainstream artists and isn’t afraid to criticize music veterans like Noel Gallagher and, most recently, the Stone Roses. Bugg’s feud with Gallagher came after the former Oasis singer claimed he was “heartbroken” to learn Bugg hadn’t written all of his own songs on his first two albums, 2011’s Jake Bugg and 2013’s Shangri-La. Bugg’s response to this comes in the form of his third studio album, On My One, released on June 17th, which not-so-subtly hints at the fact that it was (for the most part) written and produced, well, on his own. (The album title is a euphemism for “on my own” that helms from his hometown in Nottingham, UK).
Prior to Friday’s release, fans had already nearly half the album as Bugg previewed five songs in anticipation for its release. The album’s first single and second track, “Gimme the Love” sees him cheekily voice his opinions on the repetition in mainstream music, while simultaneously providing his music label with the viable “single” they asked for. Ironically, “Gimme the Love” has garnered the most popularity out of the first five previewed songs, earning over 1 million views on YouTube.
The rest of the 11-track album is comprised of the moody ballads and Bob Dylan folk music Bugg is known for, but also holds a few surprising risks–most obvious on the Beastie Boys-inspired “Ain’t No Rhyme” where Bugg awkwardly raps about social realism. This could end up being the album’s lone misstep, but it feels like a song that might grow on you in time.
If there’s one thing Bugg never gets wrong, however, it’s delivering soulful ballads with morose lyrics to listen to on a rainy day. From the smooth, blues-y tracks “Love, Hope and Misery” and “Never Want to Dance” to the slightly more depressing (but equally beautiful) “All That” and “The Love We’re Hoping For,” Bugg manages to tell stories about disappointment and unrequited love with a maturity that wasn’t present on his previous albums. He takes a slight turn for the harsh, however, in “Bitter Salt”–another departure from his usual silvery songs about heartbreak–where he details the bitterness that comes with the demise of a relationship.
But it’s when Bugg returns to his country-folk roots that On My One does its best work. With “Hold On You,” “Put Out the Fire (which acts as this album’s “Trouble Town”) and “Livin’ Up Country,” Bugg solidifies the aforementioned Dylan comparisons, each song singling out the best of his blistering vocals.
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Bugg surely ventured off the path that previously earned him so much success, but On My One proves that he isn’t afraid of trying new genres and styles of music. Despite a lack of cohesion, the album allows Bugg to remain in his own category, where chart-toppers and monster hits don’t hold as much weight as authenticity and a willingness to do all the work on your own.
Jake Bugg has just embarked on a worldwide tour. See him in Toronto on September 16 and 17 2016.
4 out of 5 stars
Virgin EMI/Island Records
Must-Listen Tracks: “Gimme the Love”, “Love, Hope and Misery”, “Never Wanna Dance”, “Bitter Salt”