In a sentence:
It took Jungle a long four years to make, but ‘For Ever’ is little more than a holding pattern after the success of their debut.
Here’s a familiar narrative: artist releases a refreshing, ready to live, ‘the world is your oyster’ debut album to mainstream success and critical acclaim. Artist experiences a taste of The High Life. Artist realises The High Life is shallow, perhaps goes through a break-up or two. Artist releases mature follow-up record, calling attention to the grand illusion of capitalism / love / fame (take your pick).
Everyone can quickly pick up the broad gist of For Ever, Jungle’s follow up to their infinitely catchy, glossy, Mercury-nominated, self-titled neo-soul debut. The originally anonymous producer duo, J and T, post-relocating to Los Angeles, becoming disenfranchised, and both experiencing the end of long-term relationships, have decided to focus on expressing genuine emotion, rather than the general conceptual vibe of an East Coast party. “The first record was based more on an aesthetic of sound. This time it’s about real emotion”. That’s what they say, anyway. Not that you could necessarily tell without a lyric booklet by your side.
For Ever shines in the same places that its predecessor did. Perfectly passable neo-soul tunes, with production so perfectly rounded that the moments in which the funky bass parts sync up with the just-that-pitch-perfect-right selected snare sound feel like sex in your ears (see ‘Heavy, California’ for reference). Some catchy beats to enjoy while you sip your first cider on a rooftop terrace with your tracksuit-clad friends. Some perfectly inoffensive falsetto vocals you can somewhat decipher if you focus.
No one can fault the production or the instrumental ability of the project for technical incompetence. However, while the shimmer and gloss works amazing for Soundtrack of the Summer, it does less so for honest-to-God emotional resonance. It’s the sound of a band trying both to evoke some proper emotional response, other than “yeah, I can modestly shimmy to this”, but also not wanting to lose mainstream appeal. Which is not necessarily an offence in itself, it’s just a little too tonally mismanaged and too one-note.
Besides the stand outs (that the band can clearly tell apart themselves, based on single choices), most of the back catalogue is upsettingly unremarkable, and even more upsettingly, so perfectly passable. While the aforementioned ‘Heavy, California’ sees the band repeating what they did best on their previous release, almost to a fault, and ‘House In LA’ is the one darker moment on the album where the music and arrangement perfectly match the lyrical material, displaying Jungle’s capacity for actually writing more emotionally heavy material, songs like ‘Mama Oh No’ or ‘Give Over’ fail to be anything more than what sounds like discarded B-sides from Jungle, even after multiple listens.
For Ever is a perfectly competent follow up to a debut that was successful beyond the expectations of anybody involved with it. Its problems come from failing to be anything more, despite having taken Jungle a long four years to make. And besides the obvious highlight of ‘House In LA’, the record overall fails to convey that “real emotion” that’s supposedly the big difference between the two records. Blast it at a decent volume at your cool, musically capable friend get-together, and it won’t make you re-think your life at 3am. (6/10) (Ellie Wolf)
Listen to For Ever by Jungle here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Ellie Wolf, For Ever, Josh Lloyd-Watson, Jungle, review, Tom McFarland, XL
Currently studying Mathematics and Music at Leeds University. Generally a fan of all things musical, cultural, and pretentious. Values aesthetic way too much.
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