UK Crooner Borrows Swag From Timberlake, Bass From Dubstep

Jamie Woon

It’s refreshing to see, in the aftermath of massive James Blake hype (and subsequent backlash), the emergence of someone like Jamie Woon. Though several artists have skillfully combined dubstep with pop music in the past (Blake, along with artists like the xx and Katy B, number among the most notable), on Mirrorwriting, Woon introduces a nostalgic spin on the genre, blending smooth UK garage drums and sculpted atmospherics with daring, early-millennium mainstream pop hooks.

Make no mistake: When critics say that Woon’s songs are poppy, they aren’t talking about barely-hummable Blake ballad poppy; they’re talking wailing, unabashed boy-band melodies. Woon’s voice does, after all, bear a certain resemblance to ‘N Sync alumnus Justin Timberlake. And like JT’s mid-Aughties pop opus Future Sex / Love Sounds, Mirrorwriting incorporates silky vocals and relentlessly catchy melodies into exceptionally well-produced electronic music.

Standout single “Night Air,” produced by electro giant Burial, pairs Woon’s refined croon with crisp two-step drums and a deep, serpentine post-dubstep bass crawl. Similarly meticulous production can be found on “Middle,” which contorts Woon’s voice into a sleek, airy background sample. The track also boasts one of the album’s most indelible melodies: Woon wails that he “can’t get enough of your love” with all the conviction of any ’90s R&B star.

R&B vibes are further explored on the smoky “Spiral,” which bears the kind of echoey acoustic guitar chords one might expect of an early TLC record. Elsewhere, tracks like “Lady Luck” and “Street” keep in line with old-school UK electronic sounds while still retaining the nighttime dubstep sheen of the rest of the album.

By straddling the line between underground electronic and ultra-polished mainstream songwriting, Mirrorwriting successfully taps into the distinct appeal of both. It’s a fascinating pursuit, and also one heralding one of this year’s artists to watch. (8/10)