The solstice rolled over and summer’s finally here. Drop-tops are down, weekends are never long enough and bass-driven rhythms are in the air. Based on the pre-release singles, it's the perfect time for Calvin Harris' new album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1.
But I must come clean: I’m not as familiar with Scottish DJ/producer Calvin Harris’ music as I feel I should be. EDM/rap crossovers flow through every grocery store and Planet Fitness imaginable, but outside of “Let’s Go,” Harris’ music has never gripped me any more than the music of Major Lazer or Afrojack.
That said, all of the singles off Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 caught my ear with deep grooves and the distinct sunny feel I expect most Top 40-ready joints released between now and September to sport; Frank Ocean and Migos’ smooth chemistry over shimmering keys and thumping bass on the first single “Slide” was as much a mission statement as I needed to hear—upbeat vocals lounging under a giant, floating sunglasses emoji. Takeoff didn’t get left off this one.
Up until 2017, Harris' discography was mostly made up of the festival-friendly EDM he's known for, but now he's dipping his toes in the same funk revivalism Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have spread across the globe. Harris also has a Rolodex of the hottest vocalists on the planet that he's tapped into for the album: Pharrell, Young Thug, PARTYNEXTDOOR, D.R.A.M., Khalid, Future, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Kehlani, Lil Yachty—just to name a few.
Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 marks the second time this year that the voices of summer are predominantly Black under a white curator’s thumb; we'll see if this effort goes as smoothly.
Will Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 gel like ocean water over beach sand or will the sandcastle fall apart before it’s even been built?
Three Standout Songs (excluding singles "Slide," "Heatstroke," "Rollin" & "Feels")
“Cash Out" ft. ScHoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR & D.R.A.M.
I pushed play and the beach was already in my nostrils. That groove is sun-kissed and undeniable. ScHoolboy Q is in full “Am I Wrong” mode here, flowing in and out of the pocket with bars about weed, women and ‘Cedes. It’s enough to remind me that there was no “Man of the Year” or “Hell Of A Night” on last year’s Blank Face LP.
PARTYNEXTDOOR and Starrah drop a passable chorus, but the stabbing piano keys and handclaps mixed with D.R.A.M.’s vocals in the breakdown are really what help this song soar.
This whole song should’ve gone to the Big Baby.
“Holiday" ft. Snoop Dogg, John Legend & Takeoff
Snoop falls into his Rap Uncle comfort zone while Takeoff continues to show and prove with his elastic flow over these popping synths.
This is what popping bubbly on the beach at sunset must sound like.
For all the shit he gave Migos about their flow, Snoop and Takeoff sound right at home together. Make an EP happen!
“Hard To Love" ft. Jessie Reyez
The album’s closer is a wind-down I wasn’t expecting to hear on a Calvin Harris album. Toronto buzzmaker Jessie Reyez’ sweet vocals over these guitar strums and hand drum polyrhythms confidently sell her somber tale of being hard to love over being easy to leave.
“I love it when your roots go deep so I know you won’t leave” is the ultimate back to reality moment when it’s time to ditch the club and head home to your loved ones (or just tend to yourself after that long night).
Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 is steeped in summer excess. The production is rich but only delivered in one-note; the kind of beats you hear and immediately wonder why Anderson .Paak didn’t get a phone call.
All the vocals—outside of Nicki Minaj continuing her losing streak on “Skrt On Me”—sound great but rarely go beyond surface level observations on sunny days, parties, and feels from across the spectrum.
I desperately wanted to expand on the album, but like laying on the beach and fruity drinks, there's not much to say outside of acknowledging that this album will pair quite well with a hot and sunny day.
At 10 tracks and 37 minutes, Calvin Harris' new album is a breezy, low commitment listen that you’ll no doubt be hearing on your mall’s Spotify playlist for the next decade—and sometimes, that’s enough.