Jake Bugg: Shangri La album – Island Records
Jake Bugg’s second album takes its title from the studio in which it was made with the most famous producer in the world, Rick Rubin. This along with his success and global travels felt so far removed from his past and threatened to detach him from the basic essence that successfully connected with the British public.
But our 19 year-old troubadour’s down-to-earth authenticity has ensured the survival of his pragmatism, and while ‘Shangri La’ is worlds away from the Clifton estate of his childhood (literally – it’s named after producer Rick Rubin’s Malibu studio in which it was recorded), it’s an impressive and suitably exciting reflection of his current lifestyle. And here he’s with his sophomore album already and, on the back of the acclaim he achieved on his first album, the speedy release of ‘Shangri-La’ is a promising sign that Bugg is bursting with ideas and has no plans of sitting back on top of his one Mercury nomination.
Shangri La is an album that connects emotionally. These are slices of real life beyond the hometown borders. It’s the next logical step in the Jake Bugg journey: seeing the world and singing about his experiences.
That folk-rockabilly approach noticed in his first album sure got Bugg noticed on his self-titled debut. This one, recorded under the guidance of Rubin, is a big step forward even better than his debut album. One can notice elements of folk, rock ‘n’ roll, country, and punk. All the songs include his creative lyrical phrasing, with more confidence. He’s an artist who knows what he wants out of his music.
Rick Rubin oversees an expanding sonic palette and a tougher sound; the punk-fired “What Doesn’t Kill You” and grungy country rock of “All Your Reasons” push up against MacDougal Street serenades like “Pine Trees,” an alienated epistle that could’ve been cut in a winter cabin.
‘There’s A Beast And We All Feed It’ immediately kicks things into gear. A scathing rant at “finger pointers” and Twitter rumor mongers, it’s backed by a frantic rockabilly rhythm that continues breathlessly across ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’.
It’s in the more sensitive moments, however, that Bugg’s expressive qualities truly shine. The sweet, star-crossed ‘Me And You’ is lovely, while the haunting sustained note held in the chorus of ‘A Song About Love’ is the album’s first goosebumps moment.
The acoustic ‘Pine Trees’ and pastoral closer ‘Storm Passes Away’ are testimony to Jake’s writing sessions in Nashville, and his slight country vocal twangs are genuinely affective.
Rubin knows all about emotional intensity and, just as with Johnny Cash’s seminal ‘American Recordings’, on ‘Shangri La’ he has captured everything cleanly and sparsely to really let Jake’s storytelling shine. The resulting exposure makes for a mature and remarkable album, and the continued development of Jake Bugg something especially worth watching.