Album review: Jake Bugg’s ‘Hearts That Strain’

The unlikely combination of influences from American folk music to British rock ‘n’ roll is the condensed musical identity of 23-year-old Jake Bugg. The young British musician not only seems to have been born in the wrong place, but also in the wrong generation. He sings of heartbreak and hard times in his East Midlands accent, and he can strum a guitar like Johnny Cash. His musical influences include The Beatles, Oasis, Jimi Hendrix and Scottish artist Donovan. Not only does Bugg converge musical influences from both sides of the pond, but he also brings older styles of folk and rock ‘n’ roll to this generation.

On Sept. 1, Bugg released his new album Hearts That Strain. The album is riddled with heartbreak and nostalgia, but there are elements of Bugg’s usual upbeat folk groove. In the music video for the track “How Soon the Dawn,” Bugg talks about liking songs that have an element of darkness in them and in contrast, dark songs that have joy in them. This contrast is noticeable in most of the tracks on the album, giving it a bittersweet tone in its entirety.

Hearts That Strain seems to fully embrace a polished Americana sound that Bugg has explored in the past. The album also seems less energetic and youthful than Bugg’s past albums, as if Bugg has more life experiences. He has also begun to depart from his usual stoic-faced teen boy image, shocking fans by actually smiling in his most recent music video.

All in all, he sounds more laid back and comfortable in his own musical expression and persona. Upon first listen, the first track of the album, “How Soon the Dawn,” instantly reminded me of “The Girl from Ipanema” with its sensual and relaxed drumbeat. Other tracks on the album, though, are clearly influenced by artists like The Beatles and Johnny Cash.

Bugg brings past eras of music to the present with his Americana-esque fusion of American and British influences alike. Hearts That Strain is an extension of various themes of heartbreak and lust that his millennial fan base can relate to.

Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Grace Harper at

Stephanie Wood

Stephanie Wood is the Marketing Manager and Assistant Arts Editor. She is majoring in marketing, minoring in creative writing and pursuing three certificates: operations and information management, socially responsible enterprise and technology, arts and media.

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