Twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter Jake Bugg’s schizophrenic third record finds him restlessly crossing genres and busily buffing up the production, in the process losing sight of what made him special. Bugg still knows his way around a song, and shines on the spare, thoughtful tracks, squeezing real emotion out of his nasal vocals. “On My One,” a disconsolate, raw-boned blues with a nod to Hank Williams, is a genuine highlight of his short career to date. The acoustic ballad “All That” effectively displays a softer side of his persona, but he’s much too limited a singer to pull off “Never Wanna Dance,” a glossy attempt at soulful pop. Bugg’s on firmer ground swinging through country rock, but out of his depth taking stabs at Beastie Boys-inspired rap (woeful “Ain’t No Rhyme”) and dance rock (derivative “Gimme the Love”). Co-producer Jacknife Lee overcooks tracks, alternately adding too much sugar and bluster (“Bitter Salt”). Throughout, it seems Bugg’s ambition has clouded his creative judgment.
ESSENTIAL “On My One”
Jake Bugg performs at Royale Boston Sept. 28.Ken Capobianco can be reached at email@example.com.