Born in a musical family, Jake Bugg released his eponymous first album at just 18. It was impressive to say the least. The album even hit number one in the UK. And just 13 months later, he’s released his second album, Shangri La. Working with well-respected musicians like Chad Smith has clearly paid off. Again, Bugg sounds as if he’s always been a seasoned musician. He easily blends a combination of folk, rock, and blues. And best of all, he has a unique voice that sets him apart from other artists.

 

1.  A brief, upbeat, fun introduction sets the tone for Shangri La. “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It” opens the album exactly like Bugg’s first album. While the song is brief, it’s apparent that Bugg hasn’t strayed far from his roots. His distinctly nasal voice remains, and so does his Dylan-inspired folksy rock. It’s enjoyable and lyrically clever. Mentions of Twitter are indicative of Bugg’s youth and his direction. He drives the song along by punctuating the end of phrases with a quick “it.” It’s catchy. (7 pts. out of 10)

 

2.  “Slumville Sunrise” has a bit of everything. It’s clearly rock, but it has a grungier feeling as well. At one point, Bugg even steps away from his customary acoustic guitar, trying his hand at a guitar solo. It’s not anything revolutionary, but it’ll make the girls swoon and it sounds great. The song paints a picture of badassery. In fact, the music video shows Bugg robbing a jewelry store and running away from the owner. It’s a fun, entertaining song, and Bugg should be proud that he can emulate those feelings. (8/10)

 

3.  “What Doesn’t Kill You” sounds like something Jason Statham would listen to while on a high-speed chase in a vintage 1967 Mustang.  Bugg excels at crafting songs that create this atmosphere; his songs embody the feelings of rebellious teenagers and rebellion in general. Bugg has bottled up his own angst and injected it into songwriting. The song opens with the mugging of Bugg’s friend at 2 a.m. “Two guys come up and take him out of sight/All I know is one thing they hit/him hard he doubles up.” The ultimate message of the song is that sometimes the world is just against you. (9/10)

 

4. “Me and You” is refreshing. While the harder fun songs are entertaining, it’s good to have some variety. Bugg returns to the acoustic guitar, accompanying it with laid-back, softer vocals. It’s recognizably similar to Dylan, and it’s quite pleasant. It’s appropriate, as it’s a love song. “All these people want us to fail/I won’t let that happen now/just you believe me/I’ll hide you discreetly.” Again, it offers a break from the noisier songs, and adds some needed variety. (7/10)

 

5.  “Messed Up Kids” highlights the seedy underbelly of London. “They sell their time, they sell their drugs, they sell their body.” However, the song remains upbeat and cheerful. The theme is simple; society gave up on the “messed up kids.” The incongruity of the lyrics and the instrumentation is puzzling. Maybe Bugg was going for some sort of ironic contrast, but I don’t get it. Besides the lost meaning, it’s definitely a good listen. (7/10)

 

6.  “A Song About Love” offers another break from the tougher side of the album. It’s heavily influenced by country. It’s a sweet song, and Bugg avoids the corniness that often accompanies love songs. “I just want to find where you are/I hold you and your eyes fall down/You barely even make a sound.” It’s admirable that Bugg can musically switch between a love song and drug peddlers on the streets of London. It’s even more impressive that he can execute both songs well. (9/10)

 

7. In “All Your Reasons,” Bugg steps into even bluesier territory. The track is strong. The bluesy guitar licks and slower tempo combined with Bugg’s voice are great. It’s different, and it keeps the already diverse album fresh. (8/10)

 

8. “Kingpin” returns to the album’s grungier themes. “I wake up, check my phone/jump in my whip, and off I go/I pay off the police to stay out of my way.” While the subject matter is often dark, Bugg keeps the lyrics fun and entertaining. The song is typical Bugg: an electric guitar, some drums, and, of course, Bugg himself. It’s plain old rock and roll. (7/10)

 

9.  “Kitchen Table” is full of sorrow. A jazzy keyboard adds even more variety while Bugg sings of a breakup. “We just grew out of love/out from the darkness your heartlessness haunting my future.” The song is a cool fusion of a bit of jazz and blues. It’s an excellent medley of genres, and it suits Bugg’s voice well. (8/10)

 

10. “Pine Trees” serves as the album’s ritardando. As the album comes to a close, the song’s pace slows and the lyrics soften. The song is simple. With just an acoustic guitar, Bugg creates a pleasant, somnolent song. (8/10)

 

11. Overall, “Simple Pleasures” is a slow song, but it crescendos to a gradual release. It’s easily the best track on the album. The whining guitars at the apex of the track contrasted with the strumming in the beginning make the song dynamic. The fact that there are so many elements that Bugg incorporates into the song makes it so great. On top of the stellar instrumentation, Bugg shines lyrically. “Maybe it’s all that you’ve done wrong/so just bite your silver tongue that you lied with/ lied to yourself.” (9/10)

 

12.  “Storm Passes Away” offers a great end to a great album. It’s a characteristically cheerful song. The instrumentation is minimal. It resembles the slower songs on the album, as Bugg returns to the softer side of his writing ability. “I’ll live in the rain if you will too/we can ride together/we can ride the weather.” To put it simply, it’s pleasant. A lot of Bugg’s songs feel like high-adrenaline roller coaster rides, and that’s good. But it’s promising to see Bugg’s innocent side. (8/10)

Overall Rating: (8/10)

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