Jungle’s ruse as a mystery group – who appeared out of nowhere in late 2013 with slick funk-pop singles ‘Platoon’ and ‘The Heat’ – didn’t last long after their 2014 self-titled debut propelled them to fame. ‘Jungle’ was certified Gold in the UK with a Mercury Music Prize nomination to boot. “T” and “J”, as the duo were secretly referred to initially, were soon revealed as childhood London friends Tom McFarland and Joshua Lloyd-Watson set on spinning more disco balls within the world of pop.
An escape to California after their early triumph helped breed ‘For Ever’ (2018), a more introspective record, born of dual heartbreak on both producers’ parts, that retained their stomping soul, funk and disco blueprints but snapped synapses with buzzier electronics. Album three, then, is ‘Jungle’ meets ‘For Ever’ – but with the tempo jacked up and positive vibes aplenty.
There could be no better way to introduce the hopeful core of ‘Loving In Stereo’ than with first singles ‘Keep Moving’ and ‘Talk About It’. The latter, co-written with UK producer-of-the-moment InFlo (who’s worked with Little Simz and Michael Kiwanuka), pairs a stoic bassline with frenetic beats and stabbing disco strings. The former is unquestionably the album’s highlight: a disco banger that implores us to “keep moving” when barriers crop up. Even the fact that “you’re breaking my heart” is transformed into a reason for gratitude – “thanks for making me stronger” – amid strutting drums, hand claps and a soaring choir.
The recently told NME that they’ve moved beyond the comfort of their previous 120BPM laid-back floor-fillers, and indeed there are slower jams here designed to lull you, rather than stomp to. ‘Goodbye My Love’, featuring rising Tamil-Swiss singer Priya Ragu, is a retro lounge lament on rightfully letting failed love go. Similarly tranquil tracks ‘Just Fly Don’t Worry’ and ‘Dry Your Tears’, though, do little to emote or add depth to the record, feeling superfluous on a sometimes bloated 13-track album. Yet ‘Fire’ and ‘What D’You Know About Me?’, which echo a ‘70s TV caper soundtrack and a SAULT off-cut respectively, do well to keep Jungle’s new-found tempo propelling further into the record, replete with siren synths, chants and relentless breakbeats.
‘Loving In Stereo’ might not quite satiate as fully after the delicious hooks of its lead singles, but in elevating Jungle’s pulse overall, McFarland and Lloyd-Watson have captured what feels like a natural and necessary progression – and a fun, danceable one at that.
Release date: August 16
Record label: Caiola Records