Alec Reviews Music: Jake Bugg attempts Americana with ‘Hearts That Strain’

Alec Erickson

There is a longstanding history between the UK and the US when it comes to music. This is evident today in the new album “Hearts That Strain” from British

Album cover for Jake Bugg's Hearts That Strain
Photo Courtesy: iTunes

singer-songwriter Jake Bugg who adopts Americana folk elements into his music. 

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Bugg, born Jake Edwin Charles Kennedy, is from Nottingham, England. This 23-year-old songwriter has not been in the scene for a long time, but he has already made a name for himself. He released his debut self-titled album in 2012. From there, he launched into the mainstream with the help of his more unique style and blend of indie-rock and folk elements. His previous release, “On My One,” was met with mixed reviews. With that in mind, it makes sense for Bugg to branch out and try something new, and that is exactly where his fourth-studio album “Hearts That Strain” comes into play.

“Hearts That Strain” is a 11-track record that clocks in at around 36 minutes in length. From front to back, it is a lot more mellow than some of Bugg’s previous releases but has a much different style to it. You can hear a shift from the British folk music to the American folk stylings of the more contemporary time. While it works in a lot of the more layered tracks, there are moments throughout where certain tracks really struggle to get off the ground.

Musically, you can hear the Nashville effect on everything, from the guitar sound, which featured The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, to the more subtle piano and percussion pieces that feature southern elements. When you listen to the lead track “How Soon the Dawn,” you have a hard time picking out the soul from the rock elements. It doesn’t hurt the song much, but it does give it a confused sense of purpose. This is something a few of the other tracks struggle with too. For example, songs like “This Time” and “Burn Alone” don’t necessarily have a focus. Bugg may not necessarily be a confused musician with what he wants, but there is a lack of focus with the record. 

Lyrically, this is the one area Bugg has always excelled in. Bugg has always been brutally honest. Even the title track of the record gives you a slight chill when listening for the first time because, at its core, it is a real track that connects with people. Moments like that are scattered throughout the record, and the one that really steals the show is the duet with Noah Cyrus called “Waiting.” Bugg may have received a lot of help from other musicians on this record, but you can still hear him come through loud and clear on tracks like “Indigo Blue” and “In the Event of My Demise.” Bugg found a new style that still fits with his vocals and lyrics in a way that is not too far out there. 

Should you listen to it? Maybe

“Hearts That Strain” is a interesting record when you listen to it. Bugg was obviously looking to distance himself from “On My One” and found some comfort in Nashville. This left this record with a non-distinct driving force, and it stumbled in a few places. But, when it picked up, it got going, and there are certainly a few tracks to really enjoy here. This may not be a record for everyone, but it is a something new. 

Collegian reporter Alec Erickson can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on twitter @CTV_Ace.