Published May 25, 2021
By MJ APFEL
On May 7, British singer Rag‘n’Bone Man released his sophomore LP “Life by Misadventure,” which fails as an interesting blues, country or pop album — whatever you want to call it — with its generic sound and surface-level songwriting.
The 15-track smorgasbord of emotion lacks cohesion as Rag‘n’Bone seems to throw a collection of copy-and-pasted ballads at the listener, with only a few of them sticking out as particularly interesting. He covers themes of heartbreak, addiction and the desire to leave home, but most songs don’t provide any meaningful commentary or insight into the singer’s experiences.
“Fireflies” is among the many songs indistinguishable from the kind of royalty-free country frequent in pickup truck commercials. The instrumentals are uninspired and repetitive, and the lyricsm is nothing memorable. “Fireflies” leaves listeners in the dark as the project’s opener.
The blues singer transitions smoothly into “Breath in Me,” where once again the instrumentals sound less like a product of professional production and more like a four-beat Garageband loop that he decided was good enough to repeat for the track’s entirety. This two-minute track manages to feel like an eternity, as Rag‘n’Bone sings with a monotonous cadence.
“Fall in Love Again” marks an exciting change in the album’s mood as the singer picks up a faster-paced tempo with a greater exhibition of his vocal range, but the song ultimately falls victim to its repetitive and uninteresting piano and drum tracks. The lyricism is unimpressive, setting a bad trend for the rest of the album.
“Talking to Myself” likely contains the best vocals by Rag‘n’Bone thus far, and P!nk creates an interesting duality with Rag‘n’Bone’s voice on “Anywhere From Here. Unfortunately, these vocal performances are held back by repetitive and boring piano leads and lackluster background vocals.
The album begins to gather its bearings with “Alone,” which smoothly combines both the slower and more energetic tones of the album, including upbeat, dynamic drums and a smooth bassline. The blues artist shows off his range with this track, hitting the highs and lows with a passion unique to this project. “Crossfire” marks an upward trend in the album’s enjoyability, demonstrating Rag‘n’Bone’s lighter side, and it’s followed by one of the strongest songs, “All You Ever Wanted,” which has a solid vocal performance and groovy guitar track.
The LP begins to lose its momentum on “Changing of the Guard,” a song littered with out-of-place synths, and conversely, “Somewhere Along the Way” is held back by its hollowness and cookie-cutter instrumentals. Next “Time Will Only Tell” presents the listener with a guitar hook and chorus that sounds out of tune, yet the verse does redeem some of the track with its pure catchiness.
In both “Lightyears” and “Party’s Over,” Rag‘n’Bone’s delivery never seems to catch up with the increased tempo of the tracks, which is unfortunate due to the instrumentals of these tracks being some of the most beautiful of the entire album.
“Old Habits” finds a perfect blend of acoustic guitar, piano and background vocals, creating a beautiful atmosphere lacking in most of the project. The combination of simple yet creative instrumentation is enjoyable, and Rag ‘n’ Bone uses the opportunity to open up to the listener about his previous struggles with addiction. The album’s final track, “Anywhere Away from Here,” ends the project on a high note, exhibiting the soulful and gripping performances which made him famous on previous singles such as “Human.” It’s a shame that this balance wasn’t maintained throughout.
Rag‘n’Bone’s undeniable vocal talent and passion for his music is scattered throughout “Life by Misadventure,” but his skills are ultimately shadowed by shaky production, repetitive instrumentalism and unfocused lyricism.