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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.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – V


Their first release in five years, and their first since the pandemic, V’s album cover features a face-masked infant in a near death experience with a tiger. The sweet irony. Covid has darkened their sound, in some minor ways eschewing the bubblegum-pop meets Tame Impala vibe of Sex & Food, and made their drowsiness even drowsier.

Staring through the basin of a whiskey glass instead of ahard seltzer, Unknown Mortal Orchestra too take influence from UK dance, with a jungle-influenced beat on ‘Guilty Pleasures’ and a dnb-style beat on ‘The Garden’. Otherwise, it’s a mellow affair, produced in their signature style and recognisable to long-suffering fans, with a couple of relatively uplifting tracks (namely the singles of course) but V is the album to match the post-Covid malaise, gorgeous in its balance of levity and gravity.

Spotify | Apple Music

Mansur Brown – Heiwa


Criminally underrated London jazz multi-instrumentalist Mansur Brown has been happily flying under your radar for years, hitting licks over a number of subgenres with sublime ecstasy. Sounding like a classical guitarist from decades gone by, his work on Heiwa is influenced by the music of North Africa and Japan as well as his usual hip-hop and jazz style, blending the inspirations coherently into a novel mixture of international funk.

The glistening effect on the guitars and strings gives the record an ethereal nature, like an amped-up guided meditation or a beach-side drive on mescaline. Its trippy qualities are articulately counterbalanced by a precise groove, with parts easily danceable and determinate riffs that display an adoration for both melody and funk. The standout track here is ‘Sweet’, criminally short for a track that hypnotises and sends ones mind wandering. Have it on loop for the full effect. This review comes with a strong recommendation to check out the rest of his work, especially if you love the sprawling subgenres of London’s new jazz scene.

Spotify | Apple Music | Bandcamp

Camp Lo – Uptown Saturday Night

Profile Records

Not your typical 90s hip-hop album, more directly influenced by 70s funk and soul; an album cover an homage to Marvin Gaye’s After the Dance, era-appropriate jazz-rap beats that aren’t ashamed to overshare the original samples melodies and instruments, and a highly rhythmic flow that went onto greatly influence 2000s underground rap.

In many places it just sounds like Camp Lo are spitting over jazz. The duo’s distinctive jazzy style made waves in hip-hop, even leading to Will Smith recruiting the two for his Big Willie Style record, and the albums producer Ski going onto work for Jay Z and numerous other big names in rap. A group whose lyrical rhythm becomes its own instrument, while underpinned by highly melodic soul samples, the record becomes a great exercise in polyrhythm, resulting in an endlessly listenable album. Popular in its day, making the charts for its single 'Luchini AKA This Is It', and fresh now as then, Uptown Saturday Night is absolutely timeless.

Spotify | Apple Music

The Style Council – Café Bleu


While the 80s was full underway, and the obsession with synthesised sound was only growing more intense, former The Jam frontman Paul Weller and his new group The Style Council were brave enough to release a largely acoustic, lowkey jazz record. Influenced by their contemporaries such as Everything But The Girl (of whose Tracy Thorn features on this album), they ditched the synths and 808s for bossa nova guitars, sexy saxophones, and Blue Note drums, and complex computerised production techniques dropped in favour of solo piano pieces and smoky jazz club soundtracks. Until you get to track number 8 and it all comes back, in all its dated glory.

Let’s not focus on track number 8 and after. ‘Here’s the One that Got Away’ might be a fun groove and ‘Strength of Your Nature’ might be a fantastically crafted Talking Heads clone, but the undisputable coolness of Café Bleu comes from the records A-side. ‘The Paris Match’ with the aforementioned Tracy Thorn should be a work that Paul Weller is most proud of, yet he almost forgot about the track until a family friend texted him saying that me and my girlfriend had spent our whole summer listening to it, much to his delight. That one track is the great typification of everything Paul Weller was trying to do in the immediate years after the dissolution of The Jam; to encapsulate a new type of cool. An excellent record, even with a rather unfortunate B-side.

Spotify | Apple Music

Bobby Caldwell – What You Won’t Do For Love


Since his passing last week, the flowers came out for Mr. Caldwell. Questlove dubbed him an ‘honorary Brother’, commemorating his deep love, understanding, and production of ‘Black music’, to the point where many fans, upon his death, were shocked to discover he was in fact a white man.

This was a running thread throughout his career, especially in the famed story where, in opening for Natalie Cole on her opening show of a U.S. tour, he was, in his words, “the only cracker there”. Caldwell walked out, and “you could hear a pin drop”. Of course, as soon as he started playing, he had them all in his pocket.

This is somewhat of a red-herring when there is so much to talk about on this timeless record; the title tracks enduring brilliance and listenability, the deeply poetic and groovy ‘Down for the Third Time’, the fact he unusually designed its album cover himself, the infinite samplability of the intro of ‘My Flame’.

However, reflecting on his legacy, he was an artist that many Black people grew up listening to, making music that almost only Black people made, while white artists mainly focused on rock and pop, and is thus deeply embedded in the Black musical consciousness, finding himself across the work of artists like J Dilla and Biggie Smalls. All while being the only cracker in the scene. What is remembered is his love and appreciated for Black music, and his deep respect for his fellow artists, which is probably the most important thing. RIP Bobby Caldwell.

Spotify | Apple Music