Saturday, Jul 26, 2014 11:10 am est

Jake Bugg’s ‘Shangri La’ shows no sophomore slump

Posted on November 19, 2013 | by Mackenzie Brady


Removed from the English Midlands and now stationed in glamorous Malibu, Calif., Jake Bugg has cleaned up his sound while still maintaining his street cred. With Rick Rubin as his producer and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith as his drummer, Bugg’s sophomore album “Shangri La” is an impressive step up from his self-titled debut, which released just over a year ago.

With what has often been called an “authentic” sound by critics, Bugg continues to draw inspiration from the 1960s, mixing the work of Johnny Cash, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. On “La,” Bugg pushes himself to ensure a lasting career.

Deemed one of the great songwriters of his time at a mere 19 years of age, Bugg’s raspy Dylan-esque voice elevates him above the generic coffee shop singer-songwriter stereotype. Unwilling to confine himself to one style, Bugg steps up his electric guitar game with the gritty songs “What Doesn’t Kill You” and “Slumville Sunrise,” which sound like early Arctic Monkeys B-sides. He follows those tunes with the folksy love song “Me and You” which sounds like it could be an Avett Brothers single.

The song “Messed Up Kids” begs for stadium play, yet “Pine Trees” sounds suited more to a 100-person venue. Bugg’s only misstep is “Kitchen Table” — with a Latin beat, it feels entirely out of place and is nowhere near the same standard set by the rest of the album. “La” closes with “Storm Passes Away,” a 1950s country western-style song reminiscent of Cash.

It would be easy for Bugg to slip into 1960s tribute artist status, refusing to give up on peace and love. But instead of coming across as a cheap contemporary knockoff, Bugg emerges as a disciple — someone who has studied these artists, knows what made them great and recreates their iconic sounds for a generation obsessed with synths and autotune.

Bugg has created an album that can resonate across generations — suited for baby boomer throwbacks as well as millennial shoutouts. With “Shangri La,” Bugg proves he may be able to make a name for himself among the legends he admires. Rest assured, this is only the beginning.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 19 print edition. Mackenzie Brady is a contributing writer. Email her at


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Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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