Around this time a year ago I was out in London on my first trip to the Old World and finally in the country that gave the world some of my favorite artists of all time. I had a car for a couple of days and I really wanted to get into some of the local scene and so I did my best to find something on the radio but to my luck I had a bit too much trouble flipping through Electro and Hindi music stations that at some point I just quit and connected my iPhone. Nowadays, I’ve gotten what I wanted back then and I have started getting into the music of one of the most talked-about indie musicians out of the UK and one of my favorite artists at this moment, 19-year old Jake Bugg of Nottingham.
His self-titled debut album is an excellent example that simple songs with a lot of heart and minor studio production have a lot more to offer than your typical Top 40 track would. At least in every other sense besides getting you on the dancefloor at the club.
The opening track “Lightning Bolt” blends Rock and Folk, setting the stage for what Bugg will be like. The thumping bass drum brings to mind “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” (Led Zeppelin) while blending Bob Dylan and the Arctic Moneys in vocals and composition for a damn good folk rock tune. “Two Fingers” is easily the best song of the album. An acoustic guitar, a super catchy bass groove, a melody worth a million listens, and Bugg’s triumphant voice overcoming his dark past of domestic abuse.
“Taste It” has a 50’s Rock and Roll feel until the chorus reminds you we’re in the aughts. “Seen It All” is the first true Rock song of the album. It starts with a subtle acoustic riff before breaking into a thumping second part while Bugg cries out “I’ve seen the light but not the kind I would have liked.”
“Simple As This” is a beautiful acoustic track. His use of melody stays true to the title of it, using little more than acoustic guitars, harmonica and minor percussion, resulting in a moment of sweetness that helps it become one of the highlights of the album. The next track features finger-picking acoustic bliss. Bugg paints a sweet picture with “Country Song,” his every word taking you straight into the simple life out in the country, especially with those final words of the song as he says “I want to write you an old country song from the heart, from the strings of this old, rusty guitar.”
“Broken” has a warmer feel than the title and the intro of the song would evoke. It starts simple but it builds into this massive second part with celestial-like harmonies in the background. “Trouble Town” is old-school dark folk rock; it would make Johnny Cash proud. The song sounds like it’d be heard in the background of a badass scene in a good Western film. Foot-stomping, knee-slapping goodness that’s as close as I’ll come to liking a country song. “Ballad of Mr. Jones” is another dark western song as well, but more the Eagles and Bob Seger (it’s got a bit of a “Turn The Page” vibe) than Johnny Cash.
“Slide” takes a page out of Britain’s Rock craze of the 90’s and Bugg churns out an excellent, gloomy Brit-Pop-like record. In “Someone Told Me” Bugg sings “It broke my heart when I knew I could never be with you. Someone love me, but not today. Will you show me a way, how to love.” Just Bugg and his acoustic guitar pouring his heart out about a love that never was. “Note To Self” is a bit different from the rest of the album with its inspiring tone and it sounds like the Beatles around the time of Beatles For Sale.
In “Someplace” he sings “I want to go someplace and find you there,” the chorus reminds me of Zeppelin’s “Thank You” with the organs magnifying Bugg’s despair as he asks the love subject’s love in return. “Fire” seems like it’s centuries old. The production quality is more suitable for Leadbelly and Robert Johnson’s generation than that of Biebs and One Direction’s, with an almost-overwhelming crackling in the background while Bugg belts out the beautiful “Fire.” The riff screams early 50’s Rock and Roll ballad and Bugg’s voice plays the part perfectly singing with longing in every word that comes out.
Buy Jake Bugg on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/jake-bugg/id627511564
Key tracks: “Lightning Bolt,” “Two Fingers,” “Seen It All,” “Simple As This,” “Country Song,” “Trouble Town,” “Someone Told Me,” “Fire”