Album Review: Jake Bugg – ‘Shangri La’

In August 2013, Jake Bugg travelled across the pond to Malibu, California to record his second studio album with legendary producer Rick Rubin. By the end of September, he had made enough songs to complete an entire album ready for release and named it Shangri La, after the studio it was recorded in. After the success of his debut album and subsequent sell-out tours, it is exciting to inform you that Jake Bugg does not disappoint with these new songs.

Opening track ‘There’s A Beast And We All Feed It’ is a fast-paced, upbeat song that launches us into the album and gives a taste of what is to come, even if it is under two minutes long. The blues and rock n roll elements present in this song were perhaps influenced by Bugg’s time spent in the southern states of America this summer, where he immersed himself in the history of these iconic genres of music. So much so, it would be easy to mistake Bugg’s hometown as not being Nottingham, but rather a southern American outpost.

‘Slumville Sunrise’ is such a catchy song, and the chorus is irresistible. The lyrics take us back to the autobiographical elements of his first album, and coupled with Shane Meadows’ seven minute short film, we are reminded of Bugg’s Nottingham roots, something that he is clearly determined not to let go. Unlike his debut album however, “Slumville Sunrise” shows us a much rockier sound.

After hearing the two minute explosion of a completely new sound that is ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, it’s hard to believe you’re listening to the same artist who gave us the sing-a-long ‘Two Fingers’ and mellow, acoustic ‘Country Song’. The electric guitar riff is something we’ve never heard before from Bugg so it is exciting to hear, and although this is a great song, which highlights his ability to explore new styles, I am not sure whether it is suited to his voice as well as his other songs are.

‘Me and You’ is a melodic, pleasant tune that shows off Bugg’s vocal abilities in the form of a ballad, where he offers to protect someone from this “cruel world”. Continuing the comparison with his debut, if you are looking for something to remind you of the old Jake Bugg, this is your best bet so far.

‘Messed Up Kids’ features an upbeat guitar strum which creates a cheery sound. This contrasts the slightly depressing, albeit poetic lyrics. Bugg sings of “a washed-out Saturday, a sky of pastel shades, under breeze-block palisades”, bringing us back to the sad lyrics of ‘Seen It All’ on the previous album. As he said himself on the beginning of the video for ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’, it is difficult, almost impossible, to escape the realities of drugs, violence and the struggles of poverty, no matter where you are in the world.

A dose of heartfelt romance is provided with ‘A Song About Love’, where Bugg’s honest emotions seem to pour out of this melancholy song.  ‘Simple Pleasures’ is another favourite of mine, and combines a big chorus with quiet, subdued verses to produce an emotive song that takes the listener to the relaxed sound you would associate with a California recording session.

After recovering from the initial shock of the apparent change in direction of Bugg’s music, I quickly warmed to this album. His personality, experiences and purpose still ring clear throughout to create a fantastic collection of twelve songs that are definitely worth a listen.

Rhiannon Folan

…Rhiannon is listening to Jake Bugg – ‘Slumville Sunrise’…


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One Comment
  • John
    2 December 2013 at 20:30
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    I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, and really like both of Jake Bugg’s albums. There is absolutely nothing old fashioned about Jake Bugg’s music, but it has a “classic folk-rock vibe” that really appeals to me. In addition, there is a depth and substance to his work that is beyond his years. One song you didn’t mention was “All Your Reasons”. I really like that song.

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