This time last year when it was the release of their 'Jukebox' album, I was saying that it was perhaps time for JLS to return to their more soulful, R&B led roots on their next album, something that seemed to confirm itself when 'Do You Feel What I Feel?', the third single from that album, became their first to miss the UK top 10 despite their continuing success up to that point.
Now on to their fourth album in as many years since they first came to our attention on 'The X Factor' and thankfully that's what has happened. What Oritse, Aston, Marvin and JB lack in the current worldwide hype and sales that One Direction and The Wanted have experienced over the last year (but in America particularly) I feel they are bound to make up for with the release of 'Evolution'.
They've chosen to step away from the feel good synths and anthemic choruses that defined 2010's 'Outta This World' and last year's 'Jukebox' and indeed the resulting album - boasting a roll call of America's biggest R&B/hip hop producers such as Rodney 'Darkchild' Jerkins and Bangladesh - is their most experimental body of work to date. Opening track 'Dessert' has a distorted hip hop sample at its base and is (lyrically anyway) pure filth but it's slinky and seductive and is carried off with sufficient swagger, as is the current Neptunes-esque single 'Hottest Girl in the World' and the very funky, late 80's sounding 'Have Your Way'.
The dance-y feel to their more uptempo numbers is still present here and there midway into the album - in particular on 'All the Way', 'Troublemaker' (not to be confused with Olly Murs' upcoming single of the same name) and 'Give Me Life', but it's a lot more maturer and classier than say, 'The Club is Alive'. But for the most part the modern take on an 90's R&B feel is the most omnipresent sound throughout, particularly on the brilliant 'I Like It' and the mid-tempo offering 'Hold Me Down' which in my opinion is just begging to be a single.
It's their shortest album yet at 10 tracks long (unless you count the four bonus tracks on the deluxe 2CD edition, of which I felt 'Single No More' and 'Homeless Heart' were the strongest offerings) but with a greater focus on quality over quantity I'm confident JLS may yet still have America conquered in the next year with what I think is their best album so far. Who said slow and steady couldn't win the race?