Runaway with Jungle Green by Jungle Green
By Carly Tagen-Dye
Music and mayhem doesn’t get more eclectic than Chicago’s own Jungle Green. Originally a solo act formed by frontman Andrew Smith in 2017, the supergroup now features multi-instrumentalists Adam Miller, Adam Obermeir, Emma Collins, Vivian McCall, and Alex Heaney...and is truly anything goes. With shows full of audience interaction and extreme clarinet solos, things tend to lean toward the absurd and unpredictable. Their anticipated debut, Runaway with Jungle Green, encapsulates that attitude with ease.
If this record sounds like a lost 60’s gem, dug up from the archives of Capitol Records, don’t be surprised. Produced by Jonathan Rado, the mastermind behind albums from Foxygen, the Lemon Twigs, and Weyes Blood, Runaway with Jungle Green brings forth a vintage vision, as well as songs that seem to stray from the conventional. There’s a bit of jazz and ska thrown in track like “All My Life.” Smith’s lo-fi vocals often feel like you’re listening to a skewed cassette tape, staying true to the DIY method of some of his earlier EP’s. “Loving All The Time,” with its galloping guitar and beat, moves toward cowboy rock while obscure orchestrations overtake “Baby, I Wanna See You Every Night.” You truly don’t know what you’re going to get.
The 60’s/70’s influence is an unmistakable part of Jungle Green’s repertoire. Their simple, yet striking love ballads, which perfectly encapsulate the innocence of past decades, are another. “Please Run Away with Me,” which hands the reins over to singer/clarinet player Emma Collins, contains the atmosphere and attitude of groups like the Chiffons or the Ronettes. “Now That I’m With You” rings true to the Brian Wilson method moping, talking about the speaker’s “heart in two,” yet newfound hope with another relationship. Every song speaks to the feelings that love brings, whether we want them to or not: the pain of heartbreak, the optimism of the hopeless romantic...it’s human, and it hits.
The most rewarding aspect of this record, however, is how this band bounces off of each other. The comaredie that works so well in Jungle Green’s live shows holds its own offstage as well. “I’m in Love with You” is an eclectic ensemble piece, the keyboard and basslines carrying the track to its end. “Calling My Name,” an Eric Carmen-esque piano ballad, goes miles above in highlighting Smith’s abilities as a songwriter, but is truly completed by the rest of the band’s careful crooning. As the record closes with “Happiness,” a gritty goodbye about learning to forgive, it becomes clear what this band is all about: making something that will last, and doing so together.
Runaway with Jungle Green is a sweet, sharp, and sentimental debut. Peppered with personality and charisma, it is power pop and rock, jazz and jam, and yet, something completely undefinable as well. The integrity of this band, however, is what helps this record to truly shine. It rings clear in every note, making each song stand on its own. Jungle Green’s ability to both break your heart and make you fall in love, however, will linger for a long time after.