Okay. I’m totally enamored with this guy.
Brit retro folk-rocker Jake Bugg definitely made a stir with his self-titled debut album last year—enough of a stir, in fact, to get him nominated for this year’s coveted Mercury Prize (alongside notables like David Bowie, Laura Marling and Arctic Monkeys). He continues to solidify his niche with this week’s release of Shangri La.
Shunning the EDM club-scene trends of so many of his peers, 19-year-old Bugg has shown himself to be an old soul, looking to the classics for his inspiration. The sound he’s created for himself is a brilliant blend of Dylan-esque folk, Cash rockabilly, and rock influences as diverse as The Beatles, Hendrix and Oasis. But at the end, I love this guy not because of all of his influences, but because the music that comes from it is just plain fun.
Bugg recorded this album far from home, at Rick Rubin’s Shangri La Studio in Malibu (for which the record is named). But the album title, and the studio itself, carries much more meaning than that. Shangri-La Studio is etched in music history for being designed around the specific needs of icons The Band and Bob Dylan, and since then has hosted some of the biggest names in music. In kind, the music Jake Bugg made here definitely tips its hat to the studio’s legacy: from the rock-a-billy of opening track “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It” to the 70s-folk of “Me and You,” from the punk-infused “What Doesn’t Kill You” to the crunched AM-radio vocals on the closer “Simple Treasures,” Bugg covers a lot of musical ground, but somehow it all feels cohesive.
There are going to be some nay-sayers out there who berate Bugg for looking backward, not breaking new ground, copying the greats, blah blah blah. I say they’re missing the point. With both his self-titled record and Shangri La, Jake Bugg has tapped into something that is missing in a lot of music these days: the heart and passion that made us love music in the first place. It may not be “new” from a certain perspective, but it is music that feeds the soul. I don’t love this stuff because it’s pushing the envelope. I love it because it makes me happy. I think you’ll love it, too, for the same reason.