So infused was Nottingham-born Jake Bugg’s 2012 debut record (Clash review) with small-town ennui and perceptive council estate vignettes that his subsequent 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.
Thankfully, Bugg’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.
It’s 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.
‘There’s A Beast And We All Feed It’ immediately kicks things into gear. A scathing rant at “finger pointers” and Twitter rumour mongers, it’s backed by a frantic rockabilly rhythm that continues breathlessly across ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ (video below).
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.
Words: Simon Harper
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Clash’s Pop Issue is out now, with features on Lorde, Boy George, Sam Smith, John Newman, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, Pharrell Williams and much more. Information, and purchase links, here.
Listen to Jake Bugg tracks via Deezer, below…