If you’re looking for Jake Bugg he’s probably in Copenhagen, the lights of London or in the sunny city of Malibu. Problem is: “Shangri La” is stuck in Clifton. The second attempt from the 19-year-old has suffered from the dreaded “sophomore curse” that has plagued musicians for decades. All that is to be expected from an album cranked out in minimal time.
“Shangri La” is terribly underwhelming. He has branded himself as the singer that will redeem listeners from the floods of disposable musicians from shows X-Factor and The Voice. It can be easy to hate the young singer. People probably prefer to hate things than to actually enjoy anything. But on his debut album, Bugg actually felt like a kid that was simultaneously naive but relatable.
When the news was announced that Bugg would be working with the ever-magical producer Rick Rubin, it sounded like it was a well-made match that would make a happy marriage. What could have been a Dylan-goes-electric moment instead gives fans more of the same, but it is difficult to believe that Bugg is still the same boy he was a year ago. With the first single “What Doesn’t Kill You” there is a slight-sense that it is a Arctic Monkeys’ rip-off, but there’s an understanding of a little boy trying to find himself in deep water.
The Shangri La studio (the album’s namesake) in Malibu is an awfully far distance from Nottingham. What’s given is a confusion of feelings. There are moments like “Slumville Sunrise” that gives a jolt of electricity to the tracks, but then the album meanders through 60’s folk ballads (“Me and You”). It’s both one thing and another with absolutely no coherency. Bugg is no longer hanging around the council estate of Clifton. Without honesty there’s the chance that he may become like the phonies he hates and there’s nothing appetizing about that.
“Shangri La” can enjoyable enough to sit through, but is he the musician the world has been waiting for? Probably not, but it might not hurt to sit tight and wait.