Feeling Pleasantly Lost in the Horizon: Jake Bugg’s Shangri La

by Charissa Lock                       

Mr. Bugg (Jake Bugg) has released his sophomore album that boasts a scoop more of maturity in themes and in composition, a trollop more of talent and a consistent spread of the unique sound and feelings expressed in his music.  Whether it’s the addition of Rick Rubin producing the newest release or Bugg growing up a bit since 2011 (which you tend to do from 17 to 19) this album is an evolutionary upgrade from his former.  In some cases, the first album hits audiences with the freshness in sound, or rejuvenation of familiarity (Bob Dylan and miscellaneous 60’s British folk rock).  With this album you now are able to gather a sense of where his talent lies. The internal and external push accentuating the chord progression, melody flow, and overall sense of accomplishment.

As rebellious-gone-lovey-dovey-sensitivity Jake Bugg was, this eases up on both aspects.  Not to say they’ve disappeared, we still have anti-police angst and moments of female longing, but presently is wrapped in transitions and guitar solos that lessens the lyric impact.  The in-your-face offerings the first album delivered, which certainly made a name for itself, have been transformed into a slower build-up into a more impactful chorus or bridge that has a deeper delivery than the former.  Your introduction begins with the socially conscious “There’s A Beast and We All Feed it,” a smart take on social media in which the beast (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) houses more negatives than positives, but nevertheless is continuously fed with more information.  This tune is quite thought-provoking and thankfully done in a more personal way rather than preachy.

Shangri La [Island-Def Jam] (Out Now, get it here!) is Oasis meets Bob Dylan in a delicious Jake Bugg twist keeping things gritty and raw with deeper intonations and a drawing to pop melodies.  There is a wide variety of guitar centered tracks, a softer acoustic folky sound (“Me and You”) easily gliding into plugged-in rockabilly (“Kingpin”).  This range of differentiation is a pleasantry allowing your ears to venture to multiple scenarios.  One minute the angsty storyline of “What Doesn’t Kill You” shoots you back to a grungy rock world where smashing beer bottles is just another Friday night.  In the next you’re cast away on the ideaology of love songs (ironically “A Song about Love”), rising and dipping along with Bugg’s vocal melodies.

The beauty of Shangri La is in the acoustic delicacies and his softer vocals, which comes as a shock to me as I remember falling in love with the dirty and raw rebel sound in “Two Fingers” last December.  It’s quite a delight to be enveloped in the heartfelt warmth and honest storytelling Bugg ventures to with minimal instruments allowing his vocals to relax your senses and take you with him on the journey.  Of course the track that tinkers with my ears happens to be the folkiest of them all.  “Storm Passes Away” starts off with just acoustic and Bugg in a slow build-up, cue drums and higher range of vocals, cue a blast of folk goodness and incredibly delicious intonations among my personal foot stomping and singing along.  It would be quite lovely to witness this live in a small venue with a spotlight on Bugg, to soak in the marvelous Roger Miller-esque melodies.

No sophomore album slump for this lad, Shangri La is a pleasant, if not a step above his number one record holding former album on UK Billboard charts.  As an entirety it is fresh, yet familiar with melodies being pulled from the past and modern pop rock style forbidding this album to sound like something you found in your dad’s basement.


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