Just over a year after the hugely successful release of his eponymous debut album, Jake Bugg is back with his second studio album Shangri La.
From the outset of the album it is clear that Shangri La is a world away from the Clifton council estate of Bugg’s childhood. In a literal sense, the record is actually named after producer Rick Rubin’s studio in Malibu, where the album was recorded.
Opener ‘There’s a Beast and We All Feed It’ is a brief but strong intro to the album and emits a clear rock and roll vibe that continues through the album. The frantic guitars are carried across to singles ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’. The latter sounds familiar to the recent releases from Arctic Monkeys, perhaps due to Pete Thomas’ drumming (he recently worked on the Arctic Monkeys album AM). With contribution from Red Hot Chili Pepper’s drummer, Chad Smith, it seems hanging with experienced musicians is rubbing off on Jake Bugg; the track is one of the catchiest and tightest on the album.
Fourth track ‘Me and You’ is very much a soft acoustic love song but with an injection of country feel. Lyrics such as ‘all of these people want us to fail’ have caused speculation that this song refers to Bugg’s short relationship with model Cara Delevingne. ‘Messed Up Kids’ tells the story of drug dealing Johnny and homeless Jenny. Although Bugg stated when recording Shangri La there wouldn’t be songs about shady characters and council estates, it’s comforting to hear Bugg writing about what he knows; this certainly bears a resemblance to a song a young Noel Gallagher would have written.
‘A Song About Love’ sees Bugg trying to pull off a ballad, and whilst the lyrics of the track are beautiful, Bugg’s voice seems a little lost. ‘Kingpin’, with its bluesy riff and howling vocals is a nod to the 60’s and definitely a track that would sound fantastic live. ‘Pine Trees’ and closer ‘Storm Passes Away’ is just Bugg and his acoustic guitar – arguably when he is at his best. The latter has a definitely country twang to it that’s familiar from the first album. ‘Simple Pleasures’ adds a new dimension to the album that we haven’t heard from Jake Bugg before. Slow starting and building its way to a roaring chorus, it’s good to hear him explore within the remit of his musicality; though it never does quite reach that climax that the listener is hoping to hear.
Shangri La shows Bugg has definitely grown musically and utilised the experience of the many well-known musicians he has been lucky enough to work with. With less tales of the Clifton estate, Shangri La is fairly remarkable in its maturity for a young man who is still in his teens. The development of this young musician is really something worth watching.
Shangri La was released 18/11/2013 on Virgin EMI.