Anyone who’s been keeping tabs on Calvin Harris and his recent output will know one thing: man’s evolving into something entirely different from what we’re used to. Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 is Calvin Harris all laidback and far from ostentatious, swapping the EDM drops for a gently shimmering collection of sun-flecked hip-hop.
Yes, hip-hop sort of seems the only genre you could lump this in, as it’s certainly not pop or dance or indeed Harris’s own trademark EDM. Instead there are beats that draw influences from funk while employing an all-black cast of features (barring Ariana Grande and Katy Perry). There’s no danger of appropriation here either, as Harris lets the features move front and centre while keeping his sound relatively fresh.
As expected, the singles make much more sense in the context of the album. Sure, Harris may be reinventing himself as a rooftop DJ for the rich and famous, but his deft choices in vocals make sure there’s enough character brought to the fore. Cash Out in particular is a triumph for both the low-key production and the team of ScHoolboy Q, PartyNextDoor, and D.R.A.M. Meanwhile Heatstroke feels like a summer sleeper hit, bringing in Pharrell and Grande in an inventive enough way so that their inclusion doesn’t feel superficial.
Both Rollin‘ and Feels sound more at home in this bigger picture they did as singles (though Katy Perry’s involvement does seem cosmetic here). Calvin Harris has made an enjoyable summer album for sure, but contrary to the title it just never properly bounces. Granted it’s not supposed to as it acts more like a chill mixtape instead of an album of bangers, but it never fizzes above a gentle bobbing on a wave. Like any piece of summer clothing, it’s something to enjoy for the next couple of months and easily forgotten about until Vol. 2 comes along.