Having already garnered praise in his native United Kingdom, 19-year-old Jake Bugg is ready to take on the States with the release of his eponymously titled debut album. The record features 14 tracks, ranging from bluesy rock ‘n’ roll to acoustic folk, and indicates that the young artist is wise and talented beyond his years.
The album opens with a rousing guitar riff on “Lightning Bolt,” and it showcases Bugg’s vocal versatility with an impressive range of notes. The young artist’s lyrical talent is also apparent on subsequent tracks like “Broken” and “Ballad of Mr. Jones.”
While Bugg’s style has drawn comparisons to artists like Bob Dylan for his use of the acoustic guitar and his distinctive voice, he uses his experiences to distinguish himself from former musical icons. Songs like “Two Fingers” and “Seen It All” recount troubling tales of growing up in a less-than-pristine neighborhood. His music exudes an air of melancholic determination in rising above unfavorable circumstances.
A strong theme of wanderlust permeates many of his songs, which express a desire to escape to somewhere new and unknown that likely mirrors Bugg’s real feelings toward his hometown. Young music fans will recognize Bugg as a voice that speaks for the trials of youth in all its isolation. But Bugg’s outlook is not negative — the album offers the hope of reaching a better place.
However, the album lacks balance between mid- and lo-tempo songs and starts to drag soon after its halfway point. Melodies begin to blend into one another, and Bugg’s charming drawl soon becomes repetitive and tiresome. While that’s not to say the songs themselves aren’t excellently produced and polished, the album as a whole could do with more variation in tone and pacing.
Regardless of its shortfalls, it’s hard to ignore the talent and potential demonstrated on “Jake Bugg.” The young Bugg can be sure to look forward to a long and fruitful career ahead of him.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 10 print edition. Alexandria Ethridge is music editor. Email her at [email protected]