Van Hunt is probably one of the hardest artists to categorize right now. The cover of his sophomore album, On the Jungle Floor, finds him with a scruffy beard and a velvet suit, a rather fitting ensemble for this eclectic album. He comes from the Prince/Lenny Kravitz/Andre 3000 school of music, blurring genre lines with a wink and a smile, and On the Jungle Floor combines funk, rock and soul into vibrant — if at times uneven — compositions.
And it takes quite a few listens to get the vibe. The breathy Prince vocals and ’70s feel works most of the time, coming together most confidently on “Hot Stage Lights” and the Neptunes-flavored “Being a Girl.” But at times the retro vibe can be a bit too much. It’s off-putting on “Ride, Ride, Ride,” which sounds reminiscent of circa-’90s Kravitz. Ultimately the tracks that work best lean toward the soulful: the dramatic “Mean Sleep,” featuring Nikka Costa, and the contemplative “Daredevil, Baby.” These tracks sound more original than the too-derivative rock stuff.
On the Jungle Floor has plenty of great songs, and Van Hunt deftly combines genres and influences. The songs are well written and thoughtful, but it’s hard to get a sense of Van Hunt’s identity when his influences are so evident.