Top 5 Albums of the Week

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Culture Calling's Top 5 albums of the week, an eclectic mix of records from across genres and decades. Come discover weekly albums to bulk out your collection.

Smoke City – Flying Away

As our days grow longer and grass grows greener, we become inclined to change our listening habits as well. Put away the negativity and the aggression, and drift into a familiar serenity. What better place to start than late 90’s chillout?

As if it were designed by a committee to trigger areas in our brain most associated with rest and relaxation. Smoke City’s Flying Away is a comprehensive summer album, drawing on Bossa nova, chill-hop, and ambient electronic to create a cross-cultural sedative.

A musical field somewhere between Heathrow and Galeão, their work sits nicely in the British categories of world music and downtempo, but works far beyond such restrictive stratification.

It is, indeed, it’s own original sound, unique for its multiple languages, darker takes on easy listening, off-kilter sampling, and its sweet, summery folk inflections, sometimes working against the harshness of its Playstation-era electronica.

Top track: With You

Spotify | Apple Music 

Eek-A-Mouse – Wa-Do-Dem

One of the most vocally unique artists to emerge from reggae, or from 80s music in general, Eek-A-Mouse’s truly unique variation of scat singing has been long-sampled in hundreds of tracks across genres, and even 40 years later is humorously novel and effective.

Utilising the entire length of his vocal tract, his highly-melodic scatting throws in staccato glottal stops and nasalisation that goes far beyond conventional scat-singing.

Despite being the main defining feature of this record, and his work in general, he doesn’t solely rely on it, instead using his light, almost squeaky voice to achieve satisfying melodies with a depth of feeling, and often wise and wholesome lyrics.

The main achievement for Eek-A-Mouse is creating good-hearted, sonically pleasing joy, for virtually anyone to enjoy, from ankle-biters to the patients in God’s waiting room.

Top track: Ganja Smuggling

Spotify | Apple Music

Balimaya Project – When The Dust Settles

A superb exercise in modern Afrobeat, the Balimaya Project’s stylistic freedom lends itself to gorgeous, mesmerizing variations in West African music, complete with electric guitar solos, psychedelic elements, and signature polyrhythmic, gloriously filling drums.

Almost modal in places, with solo duties passed around between the band, it is difficult to find a track on this record where they aren’t doing something different every 32 bars.

Bright, sleek, atmospheric, and gloriously open, When The Dust Settles inspires summer dreams everywhere, drawing on contemplative moods and most serene temperaments. Here’s your way in to falling in love with both the djembe and the kora.

Top track: A Prayer For Our Parents

Spotify | Apple Music 

Khruangbin – A LA SALA

It’s almost like they knew. As soon as the weather starts lifting, Khruangbin release a long-awaited record, like a perfectly-timed gift to the warm-weather people.

Don’t expect anything you haven’t seen before, as Khruangbin are again perfectly within their style; soft, low-mixed vocals, smooth, peaceful, heavily echoed guitar work, splashy hip-hop drums, influences drawn from South America to the Sahel to 70’s smooth jazz, a unique, Khruangbin specific blend that is now so deeply associated with them that any approximation of their style feels like a copy.

Self-professed to be without genre, with a Thai bandname and musical sensibilities drawn from all over, Khruangbin keep their winning streak alive. A LA SALA, this time more explicitly acknowledging their Latin influences, contains no bad tracks, venturing slightly more into ambient realms, and picking up with more dance-oriented funk-influenced grooves toward the end.

The biggest highlights, for me, are when they turn into an atmospheric key, with ‘Les Petits Gris’ a most effective ambient rock track, perfect for any close to a summer evening.

Top track: Les Petits Gris

Spotify | Apple Music

Frownland2007 – Four Songs about God

Not so much on this summery theme, but we really wanted to hear this one out.

The unknown, but bound to blow, Frownland2007 (named for the iconic Captain Beefheart track) begins with an unsettling spoken word sample over the moody, overhanging reverb of a solo electric guitar, before settling into a drowning, slightly hip-hop-accented groove to see through their debut EP.

Staggered, slipping drums, heavy, heavy reverb, and near-drunk vocals combine to create a style that I would like to dub ‘Fentanylcore’, or ‘Opiate rock’, as its boozy descents of its composition emulate a progressively emptying headspacxe, soon to be evacuated of all salience.

It’s not an easy listen, but it creates interesting fields of sound in a specific mood of rock that I’d like to hear more of outside of shoegaze or stoner rock conventions.

Top track: How Would U Know