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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.

Gary Wilson - Mary Had Brown Hair

Stones Throw

From one of the darlings of the underground, Gary Wilson’s first release in 27 years after being rediscovered in the early 2000s sounds as if no time had passed whatsoever since the 70s. The weird little synths and drum machines, the strange voice effect, the dated mixing, it all sounds like it could’ve been released a few decades prior. Wilson, whose wildly influential work inspired other underground acts like Ariel Pink, had to be hunted down after falling into obscurity; he was working at an adult video store whilst occasionally performing with a jazz act, and was reportedly elated to hear that his music found fans once more. Hardly needing to be tempted into recording a new album, Mary Had Brown Hair is his re-entry back into the world of music, and spawned some of his most popular songs to date.

‘Debbie Debbie’ is one of those tracks that is hard to love, but that you eventually come round to, possibly because the arrangement is quite endearing in its jankiness, but also because under the cover of fun reveals a tender yearning. “It’s gotta be me!”, Gary sings in a strained and weedy voice, coming across equal parts pathetic and sincere. The abrupt key change before the chorus completely throws you off, and, much like the rest of the album, comes across weird and unsettling. His styles are strange, but his influence on underground music probably means that he’s your favourite weird artists favourite weird artist.

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The Beach Boys - SMiLE Sessions

Capitol Records

Unreleased for forty years, Brian Wilson’s SMiLE project, his magnum opus, remained shelved for many reasons; bandmember Mike Love’s opposition to the weird lyrics, difficulty with working with his segments, and Brian’s sharply declining mental health, all played a part, and the simplified and much-disliked Smiley Smile was released in its stead. Whilst Smiley Smile found acclaimed long after its release, SMiLE was nowhere to be seen. Until the early 2000s where engineers approached him for tapes, and attempted to string the original 1960s sessions into an album akin to his re-recording of the original album released in 2003, titled Brian Wilson’s SMiLE. While Brian prefers his version, and went onto win a Grammy for it, SMiLE sessions is special for containing recordings unheard for decades.

His original takes of the now-classic Surf’s Up are spine-shiveringly excellent to the point where it is difficult to name a more artful Beach Boys track. The album flows too well for a session album, where the engineers took great care in making disparate segments connect together as the creator intended. Going into this, don’t expect a ‘Summer, Cars and Girls’ record; this is post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, all on enough acid to kill a dog and keeping it going with their creative bag. As such, this album sounds wildly ahead of its time.

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Gil Scott-Heron - Moving Target


The singer-poet behind the world-famous The Revolution Will Not be Televised has scores of albums to his name, but the oft-forgotten Moving Target stands tall in his collection. Released one year after Reflections, Heron doesn’t make any attempt in softening his strong political statements, and if anything makes them stronger. His main musical strength later in his career is not coming across preachy, with the primary focus on making cohesive, funky tracks, overlined with hard-hitting commentary that reads more like poetry than a thinkpiece, as political tracks so often are. ‘Washington DC’ is a prime example of that, coming though with a groove that could stand alone as an instrumental but instead he brings forth indictments of America’s capital, its segregation and its aesthetic contrast with Americas race and class inequalities. ‘Black History/The World’ is perhaps the most impressive, with the first half a spoken-word poem on colonialism and Westernised historiography, and the second half bursting into some of the funkiest stuff you’ve heard, scored with a powerful, optimistic message from his spell-binding voice: “Got to believe we can change the world”.

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Blue Iverson – Hotep


Comprised of Dean Blunt, Jeff Gitelman, Jennah Bell and Akua, this supergroup of sorts only has this album to their name; Hotep, a low-key anthology of musical sketches, with an album cover featuring a rendered Lauryn Hill, is a mysterious cult classic from the 2010s that simultaneously feels like both offcuts and a well-considered concept album. Only 20 minutes in length, the album meanders through different musical spaces though throughout is driven by a flickering lead guitar, uniting the styles of soul, disco rock, hip-hop, ambient, and experimental.

Dean Blunt, who heads the project, is known for is unconventional genre blending, with an express desire to sound underproduced and unfinished. Some of the drums on Hotep are unquantized, some ambient sections last longer than they should, some of it feels unmastered, some of the mixing is misplaced, but, in refusing to give us a sleek product, it makes us reflect on our own unrefined personalities and souls, our own unfinished businesses. The unrefined style of Blunt suits the project, that oscillates between disco-inspired beats and heart-wrenching slow-jams, hip-hop and joyous synths to morose guitar segments, reflecting the complexities and idiosyncrasies within ourselves. Blue Iverson’s only project is the best kind of small treat; one that leaves you wanting more.

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Ata Kak – Obaa Sima

Awesome Tapes from Africa

Speaking of unrefined, this strange project from Ghana went completely unrecognised and unknown upon its release and for twenty five years after. Like Gary Wilson, Ata Kak had to be hunted down, with this tape as the only piece of evidence. Brian Shimkowitz, the man behind Awesome Tapes from Africa, eventually found the artist, real name Yaw Atta-Owusu, who had taught himself how to produce and play while living in Germany and Canada, inventing this bewildering blend of high-life, dancehall, reggae, and rap. There is nothing else quite like it, not just because it was so unknown to ever leave an impact or influence anyone at the time of its release, but because Ata Kak struck gold with this musical innovation. Not many would agree; many I’ve showed this to hate it for its childish production, or for its poorly-mixed yappy vocals, or for otherwise unspecified reasons, but I say it is because they are unknowingly scared of something so unique and unrecognisable. There are few records which inspire as much curiosity as this. 

‘Daa Nyinaa’ is a stunning track; an easily danceable beat with a gorgeous vocal melody, with the synths in the right places, it could easily find itself on the radio if it were produced by a major label. But thank God it is not, for its endearing charm comes from how it sounds as if it were recorded from a tape lost in the desert for two decades, which isn’t too far from the truth. His rapping is almost exhausting, going at such a pace with impressive movements in pitch and tone, possibly aided by the language he is singing and rapping in, Twi, itself being a tonal language. Upon its rediscovery, Ata Kak was delighted people still love his music, though has not yet blessed us with a follow-up release. All in due time we hope.

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