Pretending To Wake Up is the new album from Co. Monaghan singer songwriter Jim McHugh. For his third album, McHugh lets us hear how he has progressed his rock sound in an organic way, never wavering from his roots in crunchy guitars and anthemic riffs but always developing as a songwriter and raising his game sonically. Working alongside producer Alex Borwick (Parliament Funkadelic, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Niamh O'Regan, Lankum) and session musicians Paul McCabe (bass) Paul Sherry (Eelectric Guitar) and Butch McNeill (Drums), McHugh brings a new dynamic and alluring sound to the rock genre.
Jim’s previous single Should Have Lied released in 2020 was premiered by Hotpress and received national and international radio play. Jim’s last album release ‘My Nuclear Radio’ was critically received and album single My Mandalay featured on the ‘RTÉ RADIO 1 recommends’ playlist in Nov/Dec 2019, and was the ‘LMFM All Out Local Song Choice’ for March 2019. Single Everything’s Cool was Roddie Cleere’s ‘Song of the Week’ on KCLR in August 2018 while Avenue Road and Marjorie were widely played at home and abroad.
The album starts with a bang and in a full force (expected from an artist of McHugh's calibre). Previously released as a single, hard hitting lyrics and a catchy rhytm create a memorable track. The more you listen to it the more you uncover layer after layer and the lyrics get deeper and deeper under your skin. This applies to McHugh's music overall. So diverse that some layers take time to be discovered and the listeners have to build the relationship with the songs.
The distinctive style and the tendency to experiment is evident in Shut Your Mouth, a dancy tune that makes your body move.
Her Love is as close as McHugh will ever get to a love song. Not too romantic yet the powerful lyrics are still there and make you think beyond what you hear. The gentle track turns a loud and fast one in the last thirty seconds or so. Interesting concept that surely catches the attention.
Hey Jimbo, also released as a single, is another example of McHugh's love for different styles and trying different things. This is one of those tracks where the melody stays in your head more than the lyrics yet both play their parts in the song.
Virtual Bomb Drop is a dark, indie rock banger. The darkness is shown not only in the lyrics ( "There’s a guy on the road with a crazy face, holding a machine gun and he’s filled with rage But he’s blessing us all as we crash and race") but also in the arrangement where you can feel the rage and disappointment of what the world has become.
Such A Cow is a surprising track in many ways. At first listen, you cannot believe what you hear. Then you realize an artist has the wonderful freedom of expression and absolutely anything can serve as a source of inspiration.
Jim McHugh already has a reputation for his honest lyrics and the ability of blending various genres, crossing boundaries with ease. Pretending to Wake Up only confirms all this, moves the boundaries further away and shows anything is possible if you've got the talent and the courage to accept new challenges.