Lose Yourself Here

Jake Bugg – Hearts That Strain Review

The English singer/songwriter Jake Bugg from Nottingham returns with his 4th studio album, blowing up at just the age of 17 with his self-titled album which earned him a lot of praise and rewards, especially with tunes like “Two Fingers” as well as “Lightning Bolt”. Since then, we’ve seen Bugg mature as he continues to discover his sound, which to some has been a delight and to others a disappointment. Nevertheless, at just 23, he’s opened for acts like Lana Del Ray, Example, Michael Kiwanuka as well as earning a contract with label Mercury.

On his last record, even though at first his label wanted to get him some writers, Bugg decided to take full control of his music by taking charge of the writing process and sound direction, hence the name of ‘On My One’ (2014).  This saw him test out what were hints of hip-hop, whilst continuing with his indie folk-rock sound and expanding his distinctive voice. A lot of critics didn’t quite understand what Bugg wanted to do with the album, giving it harsh and negative comments, but the record should be seen as an important step for the young artist who is still discovering what he wants/likes.  Before the album was under plan, Bugg did consider leaving music and questions whether the album, touring and performing life is for him: “I don’t want to do that forever,” he says. “It’s boring. I don’t know what other plan I have – maybe something will come along. I want to get to the point where I can take a break and come back at the level that I was. That’d be the ideal thing.

 

No less than a year later, Bugg is back in the studio, this time in Nashville joined on the opener of the album by Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach for what is a dreamy, soft and beautiful song accompanied gently by vocals, piano, synth as well as other arrangements in the background.

“Southern Rain” is the track that takes us through a southern/country sound, a reoccurrence throughout the album, clearly showing the effect of being in Nashville whilst also being accompanied by renown musicians who have featured on Elvis’ late classics. Another ballad filled with instruments which complement Bugg’s voice nicely, showing the fruitful collaboration of the musicians to unravel what is an appeasing song which calms and serenades you. “In The Event Of My Demise” carries itself with this dusty-cowboy setting, the second guitar adding the perfect robustness to Bugg’s again smooth, gentle voice, as this troubadour tune stands-out as one of my favorites from the album. “Waiting” is a slow-dance song, joined by Miley Cyrus’ little sister, Noah Cyrus, both combine vocally to make us fall in love with the duo, whilst the wind instruments, especially the saxophone, carry the tune further into our hearts. “Burn Alone” reminds more of Bugg’s old material, carrying a blues/rock tune to it, the second guitar has a mean tone and joined with some bongos as well as keyboard, this turns out to be a well-polished song.

The overall album is delicate, its Nashville-touch deeply felt, the lyrics sticking to similar themes we’ve seen before and the accompanying musicians fit perfectly along with Bugg’s voice which has improved over the years. There is still a slight underwhelming feeling about this album, it’s understandable since Bugg is still discovering his sound, switching over between genres, moods, tones and tunes. The melodies are pretty, like mentioned before you get a sense of his environment at the time of recording but it’s hard to look past what he achieved with his first album, hearing those songs in comparison to now makes the new material a bit harder to swallow. However, this isn’t the case for everyone and in the end, the album is well-put together, Bugg has improved and matured in his performance, only time will tell which direction he’ll take next.

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