Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, the cofounders of British songwriting and production duo Jungle, met when they were just kids back in West London’s Shepherd’s Bush. They began making music together back in early 2013. Their gold-certified self-titled debut album and Mercury Prize nominee came out soon afterward in 2014. Jungle’s subsequent 2018 release was also a hit and reached the top ten on the UK Albums chart. Together the two records have amassed nearly a billion streams worldwide.
While much of the new album was created and recorded during the lockdown in England, the presumption was that it would be released after Freedom Day when people could go out and enjoy life without restrictions. Lloyd-Jones has said that their goal was to do something positive that lifted people up. The album is hopeful, and its lyrics deal with new beginnings.
Sadly, COVID has not cooperated even though the situation has improved enough for Jungle to schedule live performances in England and the United States. How the album will be received is yet to be determined. However, many people are ready to explode, move their bodies, find new partners, and maybe even love. Presumably, they will find much to enjoy on the new record. Life may be a strain, but living goes on. Let’s dance!
Jungle have stretched their musical muscles on Loving in Stereo. The British producers specialize in creating space for people to creatively move and groove to artistic backdrops with creative visual elements and muscular electronic instrumentation. Their rhythms bounce back in forth in loops and layers of reverberation on tracks such as “Talk About It”, “Truth”, and “What D’You Know About Me”. They invite listeners to trip over their own two feet in the best sense of the term.
Choreographed dance moves get even more complicated on “Keep Moving”, “Fire”, and “Bonnie Hill” as they take unexpected turns: a flute solo here, a police siren in the background morphing into a horn there. The individual cuts blend in the same way that a DJ keeps the flow going. Changing records just opens new possibilities rather than shuts out what came before.
On the more soulful tracks, such as “Dry Your Eyes”, “All of the Time” and “Lifting You”, the rhythms snake through a psychedelic tangle of sounds. These are tunes for the head as much as the body and offer a grander perspective on the dignity of human feelings, like putting a still life in a gilded frame. Overall, the songs on the new album are short. Most are under three minutes. However, one can easily imagine extended versions of each as they lend themselves to being set on repeat on repeat on repeat. It’s time to open the disco.
Loving in Stereo presents Jungle’s first two collaborations with guest artists: rapper Bas on the old-school hip-hop groove “Romeo” and Priya Ragu sultrily crooning the R&B tinged “Goodbye My Love”. These tracks reveal how much Jungle have extended their musical range while keeping the dance grooves steady. The featured vocalists add fresh flavors to the mix.
The world may not be a safer place than it was predicted to be when England’s lockdown ended. But Jungle, like many of us, have bent their stiff upper lips into a smile so that their bodies can move freely again. They are more positive than apprehensive about the present and the future. When they sing anthemically about “No Rules”, it’s an expression of artistic and individual freedom more than a call for anarchy. Their political stance is a call for love and as the title of the album suggests, this takes more than one to accomplish.