Album Review: Jungle – Jungle

Mystery-shrouded duo Jungle is gearing up to release their debut album next week via XL Recordings, and this week they’ve streamed the whole record online for the whole world to hear. Jungle, a duo that we once knew so little about, is finally coming out of the shadows and getting to grasps with their increasing popularity.

The record kicks off with early hit single The Heat, which encompasses police siren-laden funk beats and 70s soul voices courtesy of frontmen J and T. With sprawling synth lines and bass melodies, The Heat immediately showcases everything Jungle does best. It’s followed up by the beachside beats and watery keys of Accelerate, which showcases more classic Jungle, particularly in the synth moments and in the random guitar stabs throughout the verses. It’s far more downbeat than The Heat, with more personal lyrics taking the foreground (“everything just happened at once” / “who do you think you are?”). A sweet guitar solo takes the spotlight later on, before a drawn-out synth-led outro suddenly brings the song to an end. Recent single Busy Earnin’ follows this up, with what is most likely the biggest moment on the record so far. Massive horns and waspy synth lines make way for falsetto vocals and a slap bass in the background. The signature horns melody is repeated throughout, accompanied by J & T’s soulful vocals and a funky breakdown. The song may be about the negative aspects of money making, but the music sounds ridiculously victorious.

Debut single Platoon follows, contrasting from Busy Earnin’ in its heavy RnB influences, with added guitar stabs and wobbly bass underpinning the lyrics “I’ll knock you down, when I’m clean”. A gradual build-up makes way for a big finale which features a cacophony of background sounds, including the signature sirens, as well as various other percussion instruments. Platoon makes way for the downbeat ballad Drops, before summer single Time brings the album back to pace. Featuring another catchy chorus, Time sounds like a 70s version of Jamiroquai in its vocal delivery, with a funky bassline accompanying the party-like proceedings. Its music video, which features two elderly men having a dance-off in an old gym hall, fits in with the song so well that it may entice people into learning the dance for themselves. This song is a timeless classic, only showcasing exactly what Jungle do best. The 2-minute long instrumental live opener, Smoking Pixels, then brings its own sinister mood to the record, with an eerie whistled-melody being paired with occasional guitar riffs and a cabasa. The song, which could’ve been better off as the album opener, is almost a jungle in itself with the variety of sounds on display. It’s a nice breather from the rest of the funk-heavy album, as Julia demonstrates next. Opening with a grand synth intro, Julia follows a similar format to Busy Earnin’ and The Heat, with lovelorn lyrics and grooving beats making way for a big chorus of “Julia, I don’t know a thing about you / soon enough, you’ll be all I ever need”. Julia is an uplifting anthem, possibly a contender for the next single. If that’s the case, Jungle may have a Top 10 hit on their hands.

Crumbler proceeds to slow the pace down a bit, with a downtempo bassline making way for a catchy chorus. Crumbler, alongside Accelerate, is the perfect soundtrack for a poolside beach bar in the tropics, with its Caribbean beats and 80s guitar lines. Son Of a Gun follows, keeping the pace slightly slower with a moody piano line and watery synth effects. The party elements from earlier on are now been and gone, with the happy mood being replaced by a moodier tone and more personal lyrics. Lucky I Got What I Want goes on to demonstrate this further, using a more electronic instrumental basis and finger snapping to soundtrack lyrics about theft, luck and loneliness. As the chorus slightly perks up proceedings with high-pitched synths and slight falsetto, there seems to still be a sense of positivity in the album, which is soon gone when the verse returns. In and amongst the hustle and bustle of Jungle, Lucky I Got What I Want is a beautifully crafted piece of work which shows that Jungle are not just one trick pony party starters. Lemonade Lake closes the album on a positive-yet-melancholy note, using swirly synth jabs, elevator music-esque piano lines and a repeated chant of “I miss you” to create a perfect mood. The vocals are layered in effects, with the chorus stripping J & T free of any additional sounds, something which is seldom seen on Jungle. As Lemonade Lake finishes up, we can see that Jungle have not only made the record of the summer, but the record of the year.

No longer is Jungle the “mysterious” group behind dance-focussed music videos and anonymity, with this record surely the catalyst for a further surge in popularity the world over. From the super funk of The Heat, Busy Earnin’ and Time to the melancholy of Drops, Lucky I Got What I Want and Lemonade Lake, Jungle have made an album which is perfect for all occasions. The likes of Accelerate and Crumbler add a real relaxed feel to the record, with Julia being one of the standout tracks on the album. The future is very, very exciting for Jungle.