Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland are heading Down Under next May, with a whole new album in tow. To get yourself ready for the gigs of a lifetime, here’s your guide to all of Jungle’s biggest and best tunes.
It wasn’t long ago that Australian fans last caught Jungle’s one-of-a-kind live show – the London neo-soul duo brought it to Naarm/Melbourne and Eora/Sydney last July – but with their crash-hot fourth album Volcano under their belts, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland will return soon to deliver an even bigger, more bewitching production (which they’ll also take to Meanjin/Brisbane).
The tour kicks off in Melbourne on Friday May 17, 2024, followed by the Brisbane show that Sunday (May 19) and Sydney’s on the following Wednesday (May 22). You can read all about the tour itself here, but right now, there’s just one big question on our minds: what songs are Jungle going to play when they return to their second home Down Under?
Thus far, the group have released four studio albums: their self-titled debut landed in July of 2014, followed in 2018 by For Ever, and in 2021 by the Mercury Prize-shortlisted Loving In Stereo. Volcano, too, hit shelves just last Friday (August 11) and has already become one of Jungle’s most essential releases. It’s fair to say they’ve got stacks of material to mine from for their upcoming setlists – but for those a little newer to the catalogue, don’t sweat it: we’ve got you covered.
In this article, we’ll take a boogie through Jungle’s entire catalogue in ten must-hear tracks – two from each of their studio albums, the epic double A-side they dropped before Loving In Stereo, and the one song they’ve done as a featured artist. Let’s dive right in!
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Jungle’s first official single turned heads when it dropped – all the way back in June of 2013 – for its earwormish blend of smoky soul and rhythmic funk. In an interview with NME (via Songfacts), Lloyd-Watson and McFarland explained that each of the 12 tracks on their debut album reflects “a place and time” unique to itself, with Platoon being “this dark Vietnam jungle covered in mist”. And then there’s the downright iconic music video, starring six-year-old breakdancer B-Girl Terra.
Even if you’re totally new to Jungle, you’ve probably heard this absolute banger at least once in the past decade. Gamers will know it well from FIFA 15 and Forza Horizon 2, while in the TV and film world it was featured in Shameless, Ballers, The Flash, Magic Mike XXL and even Love Island. The song itself is a diss at the “grindset” – a reflection on “that fear of spending your life chasing a career you don't really want”, as the duo explained in an NME interview. According to a chat they had with The Sun, too, Busy Earnin’ went through a handful of different iterations, including “a seven-minute psychedelic version that got cut down”.
Released as the lead single to For Ever in May 2018, Happy Man is quintessential Jungle: suave and silky vocals draped over a shimmery, sample-heavy neo-funk rhythm, driven by a beat that should instinctively make you want to bop your head. Thematically, it reads like a more explicit and assertive upgrade to Busy Earnin’, as the duo once told iHeart it tackles “the idea that our generation isn't coping with the expectations that have been placed upon them by society”. They went on to call Happy Man “a wake-up call, to yourself, mostly to stop chasing this mythical 'end-goal' to life, and enjoy the ride a little more”.
This summery bop is best summarised by its music video, where a group of dancers take to a lush open field and, lit by a pastel sky at sunset with not a cloud in sight, bust out a perfectly synchronised routine. It speaks to an innate longing for a sense of serenity – an escape from the mundane everyday to embrace romance, adventure, creativity... It’s the core ethos of Jungle in three minutes and 20 seconds, and although it has been played live since 2019, it’s one of the songs that best summarises everything great about the duo and their music.
The lead single to Loving In Stereo signalled a bold new era for Jungle, defined largely by its refined compositions, more overt lyricisms and broader tonal palette. It takes the halcyon yearning of Heavy, California and makes it tangible – something to strive for instead of just daydream about – as Lloyd-Watson sings on the chorus: “I can hear the alarm / I won't take it much longer / (Keep moving, keep moving) / Ah, you're breaking my heart / Thanks for making me stronger.”
When it first dropped in July of 2021, Romeo was unlike any Jungle song we’d heard before it – thanks in no short part to the fact neither Lloyd-Watson nor McFarland sing on it. Instead, the duo linked up with New York luminary Bas, whose razor-sharp, yet rich and rounded bars add a wealth of colour to the stoney and sweet instrumental. And while its themes may seem a little downbeat for a Jungle tune, it’s worth parsing with this quote from Lloyd-Watson in mind: “When we write music there's hope. Maybe today we'll create something that influences people and changes the way they feel.”
Romeo was the first Jungle song with a featured artist, and it sounded completely unique among the duo’s other hits. Inversely, Don’t Be Afraid is the first (and thus far only) song to have Jungle be that featured artist – it appeared on Diplo’s eponymous 2021 LP, and was a collaborative effort with Damian Lazarus – and yet it sounds unmistakably like Jungle. It’s funky and soulful, heavy on bass guitars and stacked percussion, and even comes with a music video (co-directed, like all of the duo’s visual efforts, by Lloyd-Watson himself) framed around synchronised dance routines. Make no mistake: this is Jungle at their Jungliest.
It’s hard to believe Good Times only came out last May, since it already feels like such a timeless classic. The song of last summer is mellowed out in this double-hit package by Problemz, a much deeper and more swaggering bop. Both songs are carried by their huge, layered vocal harmonies, perfectly tailored for singalongs at Jungle’s life-affirming live shows.
Loving In Stereo was Jungle’s biggest album yet when it dropped in August 2021, but the duo wasted no time knuckling down on its follow-up. Volcano upped the collaborative ante, too, sporting six team efforts (including another joint with Bas) against their prior album’s two. For lead single Candle Flame, they linked up with Erick The Architect, who lends an infectious bounciness and colourful slick to their signature sound. “I think the single is amazing and it’s one of the best things we’ve ever made,” Lloyd-Watson told NME back in March, pointing out how it highlights both the subtle and intense sides of Volcano.
Jungle and Channel Tres are a match made in heaven, with the latter’s thick, resonant tenor giving this track a gripping sensuality. It’s the furthest thing from subtle – everyone involved knew exactly what type of playlists they were making it for – but it does well to reflect the slower, more introspective moments on Volcano; the ethos that not every song needs to be some big, anthemic hit that translates to pop radio. And this is reflective of the album as a whole, with Lloyd-Watson saying in that aforementioned NME chat: “We've always had this soul side and this love for soul music, so it's always been a little bit more song-based. The new record is just an extension of that journey.”
Friday May 17 – Naarm/Melbourne, Festival Hall
Sunday May 19 – Meanjin/Brisbane, Fortitude Music Hall
Wednesday May 22 – Eora/Sydney, Hordern Pavilion