Albums / EPs, Reviews

Album Review: Jungle – Jungle

In this age of information and media abundance, getting music noticed as opposed to made has become…

 

In this age of information and media abundance, getting music noticed as opposed to made has become somewhat more of a challenge. This is something that Jungle’s co-founders, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, have understood and since dealt with appropriately. Consistency has been their most powerful asset. Since releasing their debut track and video, ‘Platoon’, featuring then six-year old dancer B-Girl about a year ago; a plan was clearly formed and has been carried through from start to finish in a refreshingly strategic manner.

Having signed with XL and landing a fairly-hard-to-miss sponsorship from Adidas, Jungle probably had the cash at their disposal to make all kinds of rash and terrible decisions in terms of forming their image in the period leading up to the release of their eponymous debut album. Instead, they made the sponsorship work for them by producing four brilliantly shot, styled and choreographed dance videos (‘Platoon’, ‘The Heat’ , ‘Busy Earnin’’ and ‘Time’) which featured Adidas in a completely noticeable, yet undoubtedly tasteful, subtle and effective manner. This gleans an extremely valuable insight into Generation Y’s association with brands and sponsorships, which tends to be a cynical and negative one, and also highlights Jungle’s ability to execute theirs appropriately and successfully. The fact that the four videos featured dancers of varying ages, and that Jungle’s London album launch was an all-ages show, could be another indication of an ability to realise that teenagers and young adults are not the only ones on the internet – and to capitalise on that in the sincerest way possible. The combination of their falsetto synth-funk driven sound and the visuals from the videos proved to be a powerful one, gaining significant hype which translated into viable momentum for them as they began touring and playing live shows.

While videos of them playing live – the most noticeable being ‘Busy Earnin’’ on Jimmy Kimmel and ‘Time’ at Glastonbury – have acted as major contributions to the last powerful surge of hype leading up to the release of the album, they may also have a slight backfire effect. Jungle’s translation of their productions into live performance with a seven-piece band is flawless. However, not only is it flawless, but the infectious groove and tear-jerking energy that the band can achieve live outshines the seemingly bare production of the album. It still has moments of brilliance, with the percussive and bass elements of the production providing serious credibility. But the constant use of falsetto has resulted in an unfortunate same-y feel to the album. The four leading singles are undoubted highlights, and ‘Son of a Gun’ and closer ‘Lemonade Lake’ are stand-outs, too. The interlude ‘Smoking Pixels’ is great on its own but really could have been extended to a full-length instrumental track. The rest of the tracks have the unfortunate tendency of melting into the background.

In an interview with Clash, Lloyd-Watson mentions how he was initially opposed to having a full album of 4/4 beats, but that they realised that their best songs were just simple drumbeats (because if drum patterns are too complicated, then too much space is already taken up in the track). It was felt that, with a simple drum, like on ‘Busy Earnin’’ or ‘Platoon’, all the percussion is allowed to be the groove element. While this thinking holds validity, it feels like something in the mixing or mastering didn’t allow for the energy levels or macro-dynamics of the album to vary enough, resulting in a pleasant listening experience peppered with plenty catchy melodies and groove, but lacking a necessary dose of catharsis.

This cannot, however, detract from the fact that Jungle was one of the most anticipated albums of 2014. The band’s live performance has also set an extraordinary benchmark for a new era of not only funk and soul, but the increasingly powerful movement towards live performances combining live instrumental and electronic production elements. Hopefully the live band is what Lloyd-Watson and McFarland intend to pursue going forward when writing and recording, because it seems obvious that Jungle would thrive with a more ‘live’ recording and sound. If that is the case and they remain consistent with their admirable marketing planning, then the very first signs of a sophomore album are truly something to look forward to.

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