Calvin Harris's 5th album Funk WAV Bounces Vol 1 boasts a departure from his previous EDM pop-house sound to a rollicking early 80s synth and R&B. The Scottish producer trades in previously polished, towering sonics for a rawer, more mature approach to his tribute to yacht-inspired party grooves. He promised via Twitter earlier this year that his anticipated new record would boast "the greatest artists of our generation." And Funk's superstar roster featuring contemporary superstars like Schoolboy Q, Frank Ocean, Migos and Ariana Grande with classic veterans like Pharrell Williams and Snoop Dogg, Harris absolutely delivered on this sure to be album of Summer '17.
The album's first two tracks are undoubtedly its most melodic and closest to a large-scale banger Harris has more recently been known for. Opener Slide calls back to Harris's disco beginnings, a steady bright beat with synth licks galloping a track that blends beautifully with Frank Ocean's buttery vocals and rapid fire verses from Migos. The track is already a regular feature on radio and Spotify playlists. Be ready for it to be a mainstay at every party, club and sunny day boat ride you visit this year.
The track beautifully blends into Cash Out, and R&B croonfest sporting more liberal use of sunny synth and a clap along backbeat. The lyrics provided by D.R.A.M. encompass the general theme of the record - to "party like the 70s", bringing to mind the reckless abandon of the period's glam and soul before the 80s crash to reality. Now's no time for reality. Throw on the shades, slick back your Clark Kent hair, and give into the groove soaked in champaign good times.
The retro fun continues with Heatwave and Rollin, two G-funk lead singles also released earlier this year with Slide. The tracks featuring the likes of Pharrell, Young Thug, Future and Khalid continue the album's theme of 80s revivalism. The flow of tracks recalibrates the escapist luster of the "me" generation for the contemporary post-hip hop "Twitter" generation, laying to waste all concerns for the current political or economic woes for just feel good groove.
"Prayers" features a heavily autotuned Travis Scott filling out this breather of a track, allowing the listener to sit back and spark up a bit of mellow slow jam. A-Trak's scratching and mixing helps round out the track with some contemporary funk. And followup track "Holiday" gets the party breaking back out with a luxurious G-funk inspired beat with true-to-form Snoop Dogg spitting effortlessly on the track, fitting right at home with the style he helped pioneer with his early 90s breakout album Doggystyle. It also features John Legend in perhaps his sleaziest sounding performance to date. Which is not a bad thing. His voice on top of the sweaty bass slap sounds like a fella with a martini in hand lovingly smacking his boo on her bikini butt at a hotel top pool.
"Skrt On Me" features a Caribbean-tinged track with Nicki Minaj contributing party-down lyrics for the ladies in the house, making the overall feel of the album of an international party traveling from Miami for a stop in Nassau. "Feels" features a classic Pharrell verse that sounds as inspired and loving as his collaboration with Snoop "Beautiful". "Faking It" features new talents Kehlani and Lil Yachty representing the future of pop rap with a song about a the shy boy at the party who needs to stand up and get the girl eyeing him across the floor. And "Hard To Love" with Jessie Reyez, a relative unknown new to the game, features her husky Amy Winehouse inspired voice closing out the record over a light guitar strum that sounds like the waining hours of the party winding down with a pleasant cool croon as cool as the morning-after air.
Overall, Funk WAV Bounces Vol 1 is Harris's most simultaneously adventurous and throwback record embracing the disco style he built his career on while forging ahead with bright raw tones outside of the EDM cannon that still honor the classic funk and soul of predecessors. It's a welcome addition to a catalouge built on making his audiences dance, shake and thirst for good times. Get it now, because you'll be hearing it anyway on all your friends' party playlists all 2017.