For artists releasing their debut album, everything in their life has led up to that point. All the lessons, experiences, relationships and influences come together to create a document that summarises all that has gone before. That’s why it’s no surprise that some of the best debut albums have landed in our laps with a sound and aesthetic that’s so fully fleshed-out, honed and realised. And so it proved with Jungle; their debut, self-titled LP came out in 2014 and sounded like the work of a band who’d been carefully perfecting their craft for years and years. The nods to neo-soul, the falsetto vocals, the urban funk – Jungle had hit on a formula and the world agreed that it worked; they were alchemists.
The trouble with artists like this is that sometimes they have nowhere to go from there. If it takes a lifetime to write your first album, you’ve hardly got any time to write the second, and a decent chunk of the time you do have is spent promoting and touring what you’ve already done. There’s a reason “second album syndrome” exists and Jungle exhibit some of the key signifiers. As well as that lightning-in-a-bottle effect of their first album, ‘For Ever’ comes off the back of both relationship break-ups and an aborted recording trip to California. At this point, you can check all those off your “Follow-up album” bingo card.
This is perhaps a touch harsh since Jungle certainly haven’t disappeared up their own hubris with ‘For Ever.’ It’s a very natural follow-up to their eponymous first effort, and there are some noticeable differences. Those aforementioned break-ups have tinged a handful of the tracks with a yearning sadness and give the impression that Jungle want to dance their troubles away. There’s also ‘Cosurmyne,’ a song built around a wandering piano loop and an old vocal sample that has a retro, fuggy feel to it, and it probably the most atypical thing they’ve ever recorded.
However, for the most part, it’s more of what’s been before. That’s not inherently a bad thing (hey, ‘Jungle’ is a great record), but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’d like a bit more progression after a gap of more than four years. Album stand-outs ‘Heavy, California’ and ‘Happy Man’ would have slotted into the last LP seamlessly and, considered as a whole, ‘For Ever’ feels like an opportunity missed.
Words: Joe Rivers
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