REVISITING Jungle’s Loving In Stereo
On this date last year, British “songwriting and production duo” Jungle released their third studio album, Loving In Stereo. The follow-up to 2018’s For Ever debuted at “#1 on Billboard’s Current Electronic Albums chart while also peaking at #3 on Independent Albums, #4 on Current Rock Albums, and #6 on Current Alternative Albums charts.” It also led to a massive global headlining tour as well as some spots opening for Billie Eilish in the UK. I admittedly had insanely high hopes for Loving In Stereo after falling in love with For Ever, and Jungle smashed those expectations and went even higher than anticipated. After a year, not much has changed in my thought process.
Loving In Stereo took the Jungle formula and added a couple of changes. “Dry Your Tears” serves as a proper intro track instead of just kicking off the album like For Ever’s “Smile” or the self-titled debut’s “The Heat.” Instead of just having an opening song, J&T – Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland – decided to have a cinematic introduction that segues perfectly into the proper “first song,” “Keep Moving.” This was the debut single, and with good reason. The hook is memorable, the instrumental is energetic, and the music video showcases the best of Jungle’s creative approach (watch below).
Following “Keep Moving” is “All Of The Time,” one of the most frenetically energetic Jungle tracks they’ve ever released. The bass line is amazing – something one could say about any Jungle track, honestly – and the drums are astoundingly tight without feeling too robotic. Most of the time, as previously stated, Jungle is funky and vibey. This track is funky and frenetic, and it’s wonderful.
In my first few listens, “Romeo” rubbed me the wrong way. When I wrote my initial review (which will never see the light of day), I said that Bas feels a little out of place. This is, of course, one of the stupidest things I could have said. Bas is excellent, not just in general but particularly on this track, and his performance is an element that enhances Jungle’s deep dive into soulful dance vibes.
“Lifting You” is where it becomes apparent that Jungle can consistently be introspective. On For Ever, “Casio” proved that they could nail introspection, but “Lifting You” shows that they can nail it consistently. Furthermore, it proves that this album’s tracklist was set up to prevent it from becoming stale at any point. It doesn’t linger on one mood or sound too long. As great as For Ever is, the B-side gets a little stale at certain points, and although that is partially still true of Loving In Stereo, it keeps the music flowing in different directions, allowing the listener to be transported without stagnating.
Following “Lifting You” is “Bonnie Hill,” and nothing I could say could adequately convey just how excellent “Bonnie Hill” is. The bass tone, the classic group vocals, the flute and guitar and saxophone solos… It all comes together perfectly to inject the right amount of energy back into the album following the more introspective vibe of “Lifting You.” It ends side A perfectly on the physical record, and it allows “Fire” to pick up right where the band needs it to so as to continue the album. “Fire” is a necessary bridge into the second half of the album, and the drums are some of the best drums Jungle has ever had on a track.
The second half of the album begins with “Fire,” yes, but much the same way the album begins with “Dry Your Tears.” The real meat of the start of side B is contained in “Talk About It.” In the same vein as “All Of The Time,” “Talk About It” proves that Jungle can be more energetic than vibey and still kill it. They have songs that, when performed live, have a little more energy – “Time,” “Heavy, California,” and “Julia” come to mind – but on record, those songs are relatively chill. “Talk About It” proves that Jungle can do whatever they want on record in addition to their live performances. It’s also a track that will absolutely demolish live when Jungle goes on tour this fall (which is something I had written last summer, and would you look at that, they’re going back on tour this fall as well). Side note: I did see Jungle this past fall, and “Talk About It” was flawless when performed live.
That live performance also changed my opinion on “Truth.” This isn’t to gloss over “No Rules,” which is another cool interlude track, but I had originally written last year that “Truth” seemed “out of place and kind of lazy.” I was confused that they were pushing it as a single. I was confused by the praise it was receiving. I was even confused by the inclusion of it on the album. Then I saw it performed live, and everything clicked. Yes, it feels like a completely different band and sounds unlike anything Jungle has done before, but the sound is immaculate. The guitar tone is exquisite. Doubling the bass line on a grand piano adds a sense of playfulness that makes the track what it is. It’s fun, and it gives J&T an opportunity to just have a good time with it. To be fair, many Jungle songs are fun, the main difference here is that “Truth” is fun and relatively simple. Hence the latter portion of that statement.
“What D’You Know About Me?” and “Just Fly, Don’t Worry” are two shorter tracks – one frenetic, one vibey – to prepare the listener for “Goodbye My Love.” “Goodbye My Love” is gorgeous. Everything about it. The production, the instrumentation, and, most importantly, Priya Ragu’s voice. This is one of the best Jungle songs, bar none, and it would have been an amazing way to close the album. It would have been a bit of a downer ending, but it’s just fantastic. This is not to downplay “Can’t Stop The Stars,” because it’s a wonderful closer, but “Goodbye My Love” is a standout track in their catalog.
“Can’t Stop The Stars” is beautiful as well, but in different ways. Those strings are paired with atmospheric synthesizers to create a gorgeous soundscape, the piano-centered instrumental allows the song to feel a bit more old-school, and although the lyrics discuss losing time and youth, it doesn’t feel caught up in the sadness that can come with the realization that you “can’t stop the stars from moving.” It’s different than any other Jungle closer, and it shows how much the band has grown in its near-decade of existence.
Although many of my opinions have changed on individual songs in the year that has passed since I initially reviewed this album, my consensus remains the same. Overall, this is Jungle’s best, most complete album. Full disclosure: I am a huge Jungle fan. This, however, is my most unbiased opinion. Having listened to all three albums multiple times over, Loving In Stereo seems to be a freer expression of where they want to be, and there isn’t as much of a B-side lull as there has been on their previous two albums. It’s absolutely worth your time, and I hope you get a chance to see Jungle live on this fall’s tour (or one of the two dates they are opening for Gorillaz) because it will be life-changing.
Let us know what you think about Loving In Stereo below, and check out some of the music videos above. Give J&T and their whole crew the love they deserve.