Jake Bugg- Shangri La
Release Date: 11/18/2013
Jake Bugg has become one of the premiere English artists recently, and on Shangri-La you get a heavy dose of his folk-rock side. The label folk-rock is what probably makes the ‘Dylan’ label seem so applicable to him as an artist, it’s a genre which Bob Dylan single handedly brought to the forefront, but Bugg has heard that comparison many times by now and is on record as saying that he wasn’t heavily influenced by the man. Even if neither side probably enjoys hearing the comparison as this point, the label does do a good job of displaying Bugg at what he’s best at: being a singer-songwriter who’s well-versed in song form.
The lyrics in his works are good but I’m a believer that this is an area where he’s going to still improve as an artist, as right now his less meaningful songs sound like wasted efforts among their peers. “A Song About Love” seems like a good example of one of these as the song just asks Bugg’s perceived loved one if they want to hear songs about love, before Bugg settles on saying that he just want to learn where she is. There’s worse songs out there surely, but in a genre that boasts it’s story-telling ability the bar for Bugg should be set higher than that, especially since he can reach it. His Beatles’ influence also clearly shows itself at one point on this album, as I wouldn’t allow anyone to tell me that the beginning for “All Your Reasons” wasn’t created with “Don’t Let Me Down” in mind.
Track Picks: “Me and You”, “There’s A Beast And We All Feed It”, “Messed Up Kids”
The Pixies- EP2
Release Date: 01/03/14
The Pixies were probably the most disappointing reunion of last year, as an underwhelming EP1 and a failed attempt to replace Kim Deal with Kim Shattuck has left us with this band which doesn’t sound like what it’s name promises anymore. A lot of the original appeal of the band had to do with their energy and willingness to shock their audience with controversial topics and stances, but EP2 stays pretty tame throughout and doesn’t take advantage of the group’s strengths. I won’t blame any band for reuniting if they’re getting offered good money to play the music that they love, but I think in the long-run these EP releases are only doing damage to the legacy of a band which was set up to leave something great behind. If Deal is already out, then it only makes sense to do the return under a new project: get a new name for the new style of music that you’d like to play.
Track Picks: “Greens and Blues”, “Magdelena”
Tennis- Small Sound
Release Date: 11/05/13
Tennis creates a difficult sound to grade because it has to stay in the back of your mind that their last album Young And Old sounded pretty and melodic on first listen, but didn’t prove to be a lasting sound. The reasons for why that happens are ultimately guesses, but I would point to the lack of sophistication in a group which only contains a married couple (Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley) playing pretty basic rhythms. It’s indie-pop which is guilty of being overly-reliant on studio tricks to produce overlapped choruses, and ultimately I think that Small Sound fits into the same description as the previously mentioned release. It’s fun and nice on the first listen and will fit nicely into any type of ‘what’s new’ playlist, but there’s just not enough to actually learn about the songs to justify playing this EP repeatedly.
Finally, it should be stated that it’s difficult to trust the creative process in a band composed of a married couple. There are some things which they probably don’t feel comfortable saying to each other during recording which artists need to be able to say, and I’d have to guess that the benefit in increased intimateness in the music gets outweighed by this issue.
Track Picks: “Cured of Youth”, “100 Lovers”