Jake Bugg-Shangri La
For young musicians, being named “the next Bob Dylan” is almost always the kiss of death. Few artists can ever hope to match half of what Dylan has achieved in his decades in the music industry.
In early 2013, Jake Bugg released his debut eponymous album, earning praise from critics and his music, especially “Lighting Bolt” and “Two Fingers” received a decent amount of radio play for a 19-year-old from England.
The same critics who raved about the young artists compared him to Dylan. His gravelly voice and folk-influenced music are the dead giveaways to the comparison and Bugg has also seemed to pick up Dylan’s work ethic, already putting out two albums in less than a year.
Shangri La, produced by Rick Rubin (think Yeezus, The Carpenter), is overproduced and at some points, boring. Though it is a good album, it is just not as good as his debut and Bugg does not stray far from his musical comfort zone.
“Me and You” showcases Bugg’s distinctive vocals in a love song that serves as a definite highlight in the otherwise monotonous album. Similarly, Rubin allows Bugg’s voice to shine on “Messed Up Kids,” which almost sounds like a track from Jake Bugg.
On other tracks, Bugg sounds like his fellow Brits, Oasis, especially in “What Doesn’t Kill You.”
On “Simple Pleasures” and parts of “Kitchen Table,” Bugg adopts a sound similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who frequent Rubin’s studio. In fact, RHCP’s Chad Smith plays the drums on Shangri La. Although Rubin’s experience definitely enhances Bugg in that aspect, it is still hard to argue that Rubin was the right fit for producing the album.
This is especially evident when listening to “All Your Reasons” and “Kingpin.” The tracks are boring and seem to go on forever. For example, “Storm Passes Away” sounds more similar to Jake Bugg and the 60’s folk-revival sound breaks up the preceding rock-influenced tracks. The song ends the album on a different note than the rest of the album; confusing listeners and making them wonder what Rubin was thinking.
Regardless, Bugg’s reedy voice exudes the heartfelt authenticity that he has become known for. His natural talent and maturation remain at the center of his music, something that even a producing wizard like Rick Rubin could not recreate.