When Jungle first emerged, the outfit’s two central figures J and T were a duo shrouded in mystery. They would often hide among fashionable crowds in photo-shoots and played underground gigs shrouded in darkness. It turned out that Tom McFarland and Joshua Lloyd-Watson were skater friends from Shepherd’s Bush who were once part of a revivalist Britpop band. Now, since gaining an extreme amount of buzz surrounding their earlier releases, they’ve released what could be the album of the summer.
Jungle is an album that’s built around both continually impressive older cuts and new material, which sit side-by-side in a perfect arrangement. ‘Lucky I Got What I Want’ is throbbing and pulsing, and works around a killer bassline, while ‘Platoon’ and ‘The Heat’ – both tracks that gained attention thanks to their accompanying viral videos – are late-night rabble-rousers with more than a tinge of 80s funk. ‘Busy Earnin,’ another of their earlier releases, continues to sound like a full-blooded neo-soul crescendo, even after repeated listens. Current single ‘Time’ features a catchy repeated hook and falsetto vocals not too dissimilar to Prince.
Between the already-released club bangers and classic old material, there was always a danger that some of the new material would be lost among a forest of popular songs. Luckily, Jungle avoids sounding like a compilation of old material with some sub-par extras thrown in. Instead, the LP is filled with hidden gems that are just as strong – if not stronger – than some of their better-known releases. Smooth ballad ‘Crumbler’ continues the 70s disco revival with aplomb, while album closer ‘Lemonade Lake’ sees the band stretching their capabilities and showing that they’re more than just purveyors of catchy, disco-infused dance music. Standout track ‘Accelerate’ contains a monster guitar riff halfway through that acts as a catalyst for its up-tempo climax.
What Jungle do so well is juxtaposing classic, retro soul and funk with house and dance tropes. Their tracks never sound like generic chart-bothering songs or overly-nostalgic throwbacks. Instead, the magic of Jungle lies in their ability to combine the best parts of both worlds into a perfectly blended mixture. Jungle the default sound to a wonderfully hedonistic summer.