Today marks the release of Calvin Harris’ fifth studio album, Funk Wav Bounces, Vol 1. Despite saying last September that he was done releasing albums, Calvin is back with one of his most authentic and raw productions in years. The Scottish producer made true on his claim of “10” tracks back in January with this album, featuring a number of huge music superstars including: Frank Ocean, Travis Scott, Kehlani, Future, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Big Sean, John Legend, Khalid, Migos, Schoolboy Q, Ariana Grande, Young Thug, D.R.A.M, Nicki Minaj, Lil Yachty, Jessie Reyez, Partynextdoor, Snoop Dogg.
FWB is a welcome callback to Calvin’s roots in disco and funk á la his debut album, I Created Disco. The first track we get on the album is the single “Slide,” with Frank Ocean and Migos. As the first single from the album, it’s the most easily digestible and serves as a fantastic introduction to the album. The second track we get is a new one from Schoolboy Q, D.R.A.M and PARTYNEXTDOOR, easily one of the funkiest hip hop fusions we’ve ever heard, “Cash Out.”
Each track on the album does a brilliant job of blending modern and classic styles, keeping the simplistic production of the funk era with impeccable songwriting, embellishing simple chord progressions to the point that they feel complex and new. However, if you listen to a lot of the songs, you’ll realize they’re just that: simple chord progressions. Calvin’s ability to trick the ears into over complexifying (it’s a word, shut up) his music is one of his greatest talents, put on full display throughout the album.
Previous singles “Heatstroke” and “Rollin” come one after another following “Cash Out,” then followed by the awaited A-Trak collaboration with Travis Scott, “Prayers.” Scott is autotuned for much of the track, unfortunately, and A-Trak’s scratching isn’t really put on display until the final moments of the track, but it’s a pleasantly bouncy tune that fits well in the middle of the album.
And then we get one of the most unexpected collaborations of the album (as if there haven’t already been so many) with Snoop Dogg and John Legend, as well as Takeoff. By this point, “Holiday” plays like a lot of the previous tracks on the album and the simplicity is actually starting to work against Harris. While it works brilliantly well on its own, a lot of the effect of “Holiday” is lost following sonically similar tracks for the past 20 minutes – maybe that’s why it’s the shortest track on the album?
Finally, we get some respite with our second female vocalist on the album, Nicki Minaj on the track “Skrt On Me.” This one has a more island vibe to it, with some dancehall rhythms and an understated vocal performance from Minaj who does away with her normally hype performance style and keeps it pretty lowkey for most of the track.
“Skrt On Me” is followed up by past single “Feels,” featuring Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean, surely a tour de force of collaborations. Then we get “Faking It” with Kehlani and Lil Yachty, featuring a surprisingly pleasant performance from Yachty without his typical brand of mumble. (Make no mistake, it’s still mumble-esque, but like 90% of his lyrics are actual words, so we give him a pass.) For her part, Kehlani definitely gives one of our favorite vocal performances of the album.
Finally, we get “Hard To Love” with Jessie Reyez, the slowest track on the album. 90% of the beauty of this track comes from Reyez, as Harris once again delivers a (say it with me again) very simple chord progression. Such a track would be even better paired with a more hype track before it, but as it follows “Faking It,” a lot of the chill, cool-down factor of “Hard To Love” is lost as the album simply continues to spiral down in energy.
Overall, we’re willing to say that Funk Wav Bounces, Vol 1 is going to be the album of the summer. You’ll be hearing each and every one of these tracks for months… but you’ll be hearing them as radio singles. Cohesively, the album definitely loses traction about halfway through as the songs definitely blend together and it becomes more about Harris showing off how many vocalists he can get on one track. There’s never really a climax or standout hit like some of Harris’ singles before the album singles, like “Hype” with Dizzee Rascal or even “This Is What You Came For” with Rihanna. Regardless, FWB is destined for many Grammy nods and placement atop plenty of charts in the coming weeks.
Check out Funk Wav Bounces, Vol 1 below.