funk music

Loving in Stereo: Album Review

Despite the past year with artists being unable to tour or play live music for quite some time, many have released new music. There were plenty of new albums I was stoked for and enjoyed last year. This year was much of the same when we didn’t know the status of events (but even still, as concerts and festivals returned). Lorde recently released her much anticipated third album. girl in red dropped her debut album in the spring. Then of course there’s still Adele’s new album which I’ve been anticipating for 2 years now. Will we ever get it? Time will tell.

Another album that recently dropped was British indie funk band Jungle’s third album, Loving in Stereo. From the moment Jungle released the first single from the album, “Keep Moving”, back in March, I knew their latest album would be another great one. Loving in Stereo was released on August 13th and it has everything you already loved about Jungle plus more.

The new album brings the same funk focused music of Jungle while bridging the gap into other genres as well. There are certain instances when I don’t like when a band or artist’s sound evolves because it completely strays from their original sound. In this case though, the evolution of Jungle’s sound is perfect. The album crosses into rap, reggae, and indie pop music while still bringing that funk sound that makes Jungle so unique. It also features collabs with rapper Bas and musician Priya Ragu. Much like Jungle’s first two albums, Loving in Stereo will keep you dancing from start to finish with bops like “Keep Moving”, “Talk About It”, “Truth”, and “All of the Time”. If you’re looking for more of that classic Jungle vibey funk sound though, you’ll want to listen to “Lifting You”, “Bonnie Hill”, or “Can’t Stop the Stars”. The album has already been charting on various album lists across the world including Billboard, OCC (UK), and ARIA (Australia) among others.

Jungle will be embarking on a tour across Europe and North America this fall in support of the album. The tour includes several U.S. dates this October. Some of the dates have already sold out. Unfortunately due to work obligations, I won’t be able to catch any of Jungle’s tour dates this fall so I’m hoping they’ll play the festival circuit next year and I’ll get to see them perform once again. This new album is so far an unexpected favorite of 2021 for me and I think the group’s best to date. I’m expecting good things for Jungle in the near future so check out Loving in Stereo as soon as possible.

Coachella Band Preview: Janelle Monáe

Another week in Mexico and another week wishing I was in Southern California instead. Don’t get me wrong I love being in a warm climate in the winter, I just wish there was less humidity here. California has that kind of weather and they have it year round. We’re a little under 2 months away from Coachella now. The clock keeps ticking. The weeks become less. The planning intensifies and the time to listen to this year’s performers decreases. This week I’m previewing a female powerhouse who will be playing her second Coachella.

Janelle Monáe Robinson better known to the world as just Janelle Monáe hails from Atlanta, Georgia. She was discovered in Atlanta when she was 18 by rapper, songwriter, and producer Big Boi of Outkast fame. Monáe was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas though. Upon connecting with Big Boi, she was signed to Bad Boy records in 2006 after Big Boi’s friend and fellow artist and producer Sean Combs (Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy) decided to take a chance on her. She initially released her first EP prior to her signing with Bad Boy, but her debut was then re-released with a slightly different title Metropolis: The Chase Suite (Special Edition). The record included two bonus tracks as well. It was received so well that Monáe earned a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for her single “Many Moons”.

Janelle Monáe’s debut album The ArchAndroid was released on May 18, 2010. Since her initial idea with Metropolis was to create a concept album that was to be released in 4 parts, The ArchAndroid contains parts 2 and 3 from the concept. The album debuted at number 17 on the Billboard 200 and earned Monáe another Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album.

She released her sophomore album The Electric Lady in September 2013. The album continued with the same sci-fi theme as its predecessors. The album debuted at number 5 on the Billboard Top 200. It was just prior to her album released that Monáe played at her first Coachella in 2013.

In 2015, Janelle Monáe created her own independent label Wondaland Arts Society (now known as Wondaland Records) in conjunction with Epic Records. Along with 4 other artists signed to her new label, the EP The Eephus was created. Monáe contributed to the EP with the song “Yoga”. She also collaborated with Nile Rodgers & Chic that year on the song “Pressure Off”. 2016 brought Monáe a new type of entertainment exposure when she appeared in Academy Award nominated films Moonlight and Hidden Figures. Prior to her film debuts, she voiced the character Dr. Monae in Rio 2.

Janelle Monáe released her third studio album Dirty Computer on April 27, 2018. It included the release of what was referred to as an “emotion picture”, which was a visual representation of the songs and story of the album. It debuted at number 6 on the Billboard Top 200 and has since received 2 Grammy nominations for Album of the Year and for Best Music Video for the song “Pynk”. Over the last year Janelle Monáe has toured and played the festival circuit in promotion of her latest release, which makes sense of her slated Coachella 2019 performance.

I would define her music as experimental. It’s experimental in the sense that it combines a variety of genres. It obviously infuses R&B, hip-hop, and pop, but also incorporates elements of soul, funk, and new wave. It’s musically advanced and brilliant, especially the concepts behind her music.

Honestly, I knew about Janelle Monáe as an actress before I knew about her as a music artist. Once I started seeing her name on festival lineups in 2018, I realized her talents went beyond film. I was introduced to her music this past fall, when a friend of mine told me to watch the Dirty Computer video. I did. I was impressed and I enjoyed several of the songs. There was also a lot of hype surrounding her from several of my co-worker friends who caught her performing at festivals or in concert last summer. Despite my exposure to her music, I can’t even say I’m a huge fan yet. I like her music, but I haven’t been listening to her constantly. I’ve just heard great things about her live performances, which is why I think her performance at Coachella this year is one that can’t be missed.

Janelle Monáe plays Friday. She’s billed as a top performer. To me, there’s no reason why she wouldn’t be playing the Main Stage right before Childish Gambino or overlapping his set and headlining the Outdoor Stage. Even though this will be her second Coachella performance as a solo artist, it’s not her second appearance. She joined Outkast on stage during their headlining set in 2014 and Grimes in 2016. I think she’s grown in popularity over the last year as well, which means her set will most likely be crowded. I’ll say it again…you don’t want to miss this set. Here’s a few songs you’ll probably hear during it:

  1. Make Me Feel
  2. Pynk
  3. Tightrope
  4. I Like That
  5. Django Jane
  6. Q.U.E.E.N.
  7. Yoga
  8. I Got the Juice
  9. Electric Lady
  10. Dirty Computer

Coachella Band Preview: Jungle

63 days remain until the first weekend of Coachella 2015 which means the prep time for listening to bands is slowly dwindling. That also means so is the time to preview some of the bands playing. Another act playing the festival this year is Jungle, a relatively new band (formed in 2013) I heard of about a month or two before the lineup came out. I downloaded a pretty catchy song called “Time” by these guys after hearing them on some sort of indie playlist/website. Then when I saw they were playing Coachella I decided to check out more of their music. I wasn’t disappointed, but I didn’t really know too much about this band until I started doing some research on them for the blog.

Jungle, formed in 2013, was founded by two childhood best friends Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson (known as J and T). Both are from London, England. Their sound though is what sets them apart from other bands that fit on the indie spectrum. In fact, I doubt there are many, if not any other bands playing Coachella that are similar in music style to Jungle. When I decided to listen to more of their music my first impression was that they sounded like a group straight out of the 70’s, but with a modern vibe. Think indie funk. Never did I think I would be into music that sounded like something you’d hear on Soul Train, but their music works. I love it.

Another reason to love this band is that they focus on their music as an art form. They put effort to express their music in a certain way through their music videos. From simply using eye contact to form a connection with the audience, to dancing on roller blades, to using an insanely talented 6 year old break dancer, their videos present certain messages that go beyond a normal music video. Their music in general also features plenty of non-traditional instruments and sounds that adds to the artistic nature of this band.

In the coming months until the festival I plan on listening to Jungle frequently. I’m in the process of securing their self-titled debut album as part of my Coachella preparations. I can’t wait to see what they offer at a live set which I plan on attending at the festival. If you’re heading to Coachella this year or just looking for some new bands to get into, I recommend listening to Jungle. They’re definitely something different, but like I said it just works.

Song recommendations:

1. “Time”

2. “The Heat”

3. “Burnin’ Easy”