When word got out that Jake Bugg would be releasing his second album in as many years, critics were quick to jump on the now 19-year-old musician, calling Bugg a victim of sophomore slump without having heard a single track. Bugg, often branded as the next Bob Dylan, had tremendous success with his first album, topping charts all over Europe and racking up awards every way he turned. Would he be able to keep it up?
Looking for an updated sound while keeping the authenticity Bugg was hailed for on his first EP, the English singer-songwriter teamed up with Rick Rubin for Shangri La.
Shangri La kicks off in signature Jake Bugg style with the pop culture critique “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It,” before heading into the first we get of the new Bugg, “Slumville Sunrise.” The blues influenced, electric guitar ridden tune showcases the musician’s guitar prowess, all while providing a now outsider’s perspective to life on the wrong side of the tracks.
Shades of classic Jake can be found in the beautiful acoustic melodies found on “Me and You,” “A Song About Love,” and “Pine Trees.”
Bugg wrote much of the album while spending time in Nashville, which is evident in the standout song “Kingpin.” The song offers blues riffs while making commentary on life in the spotlight, with lyrics like “when you’re the kingpin / all the eyes are on your crown.”
While lyrically strong, the only song that leaves something to be desired musically comes near the end of the record in the form of “Kitchen Table." After around the two minute mark of the almost five minute song, you’re left itching for something new.
The album comes to a close with the '60s folk sounding “Storm Passes Away.” Close your eyes and you’ll feel like you’re listening to some classic Dylan, without being a straight copy.
Shangri La was a bit of a risk. The themes are not entirely different from those of the first album, but the outside influence Bugg took in during his travels on the road and time spent in California recording the record can be found all throughout, particularly in regards to heavy electric guitar riffs, some bordering into punk territory, that are found on several of the tracks on the album. If there is one thing Bugg need not worry about, it’s anyone attaching the term ‘sophomore slump’ to this beauty of a record.
You can hear Jake Bugg on Sound Waves from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. on WFIT 89.5 FM.