Sunday, August 29, 2021

Lose Yourself To Love With Jungle’s New Album ‘Loving in Stereo’

Jungle's much anticipated third LP is here, brightening the summer with the group's trademark blend of understated yet upbeat neo-soul. 

Notably, however, it's doing so while delving deeper than ever before, drawing its inspiration from the strongest of all emotions - and celebrating it with an ultimately joyous listening experience.

We are introduced to ‘Loving in Stereo’ via a somewhat melancholy combination of gentle strings and vocal harmonies, in the opening sub-two minute snippet ‘Dry Your Tears’. 

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that this was setting the tone for the rest of the record, but this isn’t Jungle’s first rodeo, and it isn’t long before their normal, more danceable service is resumed. That first track gives way to the single ‘Keep Moving’, which offers what is surely one of the catchiest hooks of 2021 so far, thanks to its own string part. It’s the song that introduces the album’s relentless positivity, conveyed in a way that surely acknowledges the funk and soul of years gone by. As the title suggests, the lyrics are all about forward momentum, moving on without being held back – and they float on a bed of instrumentation reminiscent of early Jamiroquai; specifically, anything between ‘Emergency on Planet Earth’ and ‘Travelling Without Moving’. You could say, then, that it’s acid jazz with a 21st Century twist.

If ‘Keep Moving’ is the past with a hint of the future, ‘All of the Time’ brings us straight into it with a bang. Steady handclaps and choir vocals, the track’s more traditional influences, are joined by soft keyboards and smidges of synthesiser, as well as a shuffling drum beat and a rock solid bassline. You might have to listen more carefully to decipher the lyrics, but nevertheless, Jungle’s layering of voices – and the soaring harmonies this creates – can only be admired as it enhances their sound, causing the music to jump out of the speakers. This is a band who want you to sit up and take note at every opportunity.

There are a few more of those as the album goes on. Rapper Bas features on ‘Romeo’, perhaps the most aggressive song on the record, with its buzzsaw beat. ‘Loving in Stereo’ is, however, somewhat more mellow from this point onwards, although that’s no bad thing, because there’s a lot to be said for a record that instantly puts the listener at ease. There’s an abundance of soft lounge vibes, evident in tracks such as ‘Lifting You’, which oozes optimism from every pore as its narrator fights to save a relationship, backed by another thudding bass part. Other highlights include ‘Bonnie Hill’, with a summery tone to match the sunshine in the lyrics, ‘Truth’ – a rockier interlude, but one that’s still unmistakably Jungle – and the penultimate track, ‘Goodbye My Love’.

Featuring the vocals of Priya Ragu, it bucks the positive trend with its somewhat more despondent lyrics, but Ragu’s voice is truly something to behold. It’s light enough to distract you from the subject matter, and arguably, besides ‘Keep Moving’, it’s the album’s biggest earworm. Being so close to the end, it’s perfectly positioned – the band are leaving their very best until last – and conveys what is surely one of the record’s central themes.

Put simply, this is devotion – in other words, quite literally loving in stereo form. In ‘Goodbye My Love’, there is a heartfelt appeal to a lover: “Did you think it could be your time?/Did you think we could make it right?/If I can’t pretend you’re mine I’ll be down”. Meanwhile, the aforementioned ‘Lifting You’ is even more direct: “Cause I don’t wanna wake up any morning without you/Talk of all our dreams/All the things we’ll do”.

Tracks such as ‘Romeo’ and ‘Truth’, with their somewhat different approaches, provide a smidgeon of escapism for the listener, but it seems ‘Loving in Stereo’ is largely an album of hope. These songs see love as something worth fighting for, even when all the odds are against it – and that, in turn, makes them worth your while too. This is simple, memorable pop brilliance that’ll wriggle inside your head and, with any luck, tug at your romantic side in the process. If you’ve underestimated Jungle before, these grooves, basslines and beats will make sure you turn their records up that little bit louder when you hear them in future.


Mason Hawker


Image: Jungle, Loving in Stereo Official Album Cover (PRESS)


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