As the missing link between James Blake and Justin Timberlake, Londoner Jamie Woon inevitably became one of the post-dubstep scene’s breakout stars. But with his second album, Making Time, arriving four years after his first, the 32-year-old now has to reassert his place in the pecking order of after-hours singer-songwriters.
It isn’t immediately clear why the record took so long, with producer Lexx (Wild Beasts, Gwilym Gold) largely stripping back the ghostly synth vibes that defined debut Mirrorwriting in favour of a simple acoustic-led style apparently inspired by D’Angelo’s seminal Voodoo.
On paper, Making Time sounds like a slightly underwhelming change in direction. But although there are moments when Jamie Woon appears to be drifting into generic R&B balladeer territory – the plodding “Lament” could easily be mistaken for a Sam Smith dirge – he’s still retained some of the individuality that initially made him stand out from the crowd.
A collaboration with New York troubadour Willy Mason, “Celebration” is a curious blend of wintry folk and spacious electro-soul; the album’s most expansive number, “Thunder,” ends with a series of pleading come-ons and emphatic beats in which Woon appears to be warming up for a Michael Jackson impression; while the dreamy “Movement” and woozy closer “Dedicate” are both welcome nods to his first studio effort.
Admittedly, “Sharpness,” the sensual slow jam first played by Pharrell on his Beats 1 radio show (and the album’s highlight) does make you wish that Rhye’s Robin Hannibal could have taken the production reins on more than one track.
But although Making Time isn’t quite the sonic leap that you’d expect from such a lengthy wait, it’s still a subtly rewarding affair which should see Jamie Woon rejoin Blake and co. at the top of the late-night crowd.
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