Jake Bugg – Shangri La
by Max Oyer (Health Science), published December 2nd 2013
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Technology has a nasty habit of skewing the organic nature of music – reducing the emotion to nothing more than a beat and turning hard work into child’s play. However, in a world where Auto-Tune and drum machines control the music industry, there are still those who fight back. They are the soldiers who labor away behind the pen, assuring each lyric is perfect down to the last word, the warriors who work their instruments until their fingers bleed and the sounds finally fall into place.
Last year, an English boy barely into adulthood named Jake Bugg tackled the pop-music machine with his self-titled debut album. Barely a year later, he has struck again with his new LP, Shangri La. Bugg is often referred to as a “Little Bob Dylan,” and the comparison is easy to understand. Though more notably in his first album, Bugg’s tracks still share a similar croon, echoing a bluesy acoustic foundation. He sings about the plight of those around him, but also of problems within his own domain, and is more willing to tell a story than repeat a chorus for several minutes.
While his roots are still prominent in Shangri La, Bugg has produced a more personal and unique album this time around. The beginning of the record sets the stage for a rock-heavy affair, with a medley of aggressive songs greeting listeners. Bugg not-so-subtly takes on just about everyone in “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It,” yelling, “They grin but they don’t mean it, they sing but they don’t feel it.” With a much fuller sound, he peels away from the Nashville-esque jams that thrust him into the spotlight.
Still, Bugg cannot resist the blues for long. He soon soothes fans with the slow love-song “Me and You,” which carries the twang missing from the first couple of tracks. He then continues to trade the huge, arena-filling solos for his classic festival ballads, moving into songs indicative of a heavy year of touring. Regardless of the fact that his youth prevents him from purchasing the bottle of whiskey he so clearly needs, Bugg appears to have seen his share of hard times. The song “Messed Up Kids” tells a story of drug dealing and prostitution: “Everywhere I see a sea of empty pockets, beautiful girls with eyes so dark within their sockets.” Despite his triumphs, he still finds reasons to keep his downbeat looks and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.
Few artists explode into the American music scene with such success as Bugg, especially when hailing from another country. Having won the award for “Best New Act” from the Q Awards, and been nominated for many more, he had a lot to prove with his second album. Though his newest release appears relatively shortly after his first, it carries itself as an album that took several years. It is a balanced mix of short songs and longer anthems, allowing fans to pick a few favorite singles or relax with a longer listen. His progression of sound is impeccable, with a willingness to experiment in new territory and the wisdom to remain true to his own.
Recommended Tracks: Messed Up Kids, What Doesn’t Kill You, All Your Reasons