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Monday, July 16, 2012

Frank Ocean: Channel Orange review +


Frank Ocean's debut Channel Orange reviewed by Sound Verite and others at Reviler.

Odd Future's soul crooner Frank Ocean released the breakout modern soul record of 2011 with his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. Nostalgia, Ultra's gorgeous melodies showed the promise of a new paradigm by creating a R&B record that reached for the outer limits. Since then, the singer-songwriter has penned tracks for Beyonce, John Legend and made appearances on Kanye West & Jay-Z's Watch the Throne, as well as various music with his Odd Future crew. He has emerged as a voice of a changing generation whose vulnerabilities are on full display. Along with the The Weeknd's Abel Tesaye, they have changed what “R&B” means as they take different paths down the same lane. While Tesaye seduced with his drugged out references, Frank Ocean wins with the charm of a clean cut, golden church kid. On his debut full release Channel Orange, Ocean's voice commands center-stage with clever production assistance from Om Mas Keith formerly of Sa Ra Creative. Ocean takes us in a personal journey of his emotions and struggle to find himself with attention to every detail. That focus is powerful, but sometimes gets caught up in its own artiness.

Opening with the killer ballad “Thinking of You”, a simple refrain that is executed to perfection “I'm thinking 'bout you (Ooh no, no, no), I've been thinking 'bout you (You know, know , know), I've been thinking 'bout you, Do you think about me still? Do ya, do ya”. The feel good summer vibe of “Sweet Life” imagines a prime Stevie Wonder with co-production from Pharrell Williams. “Super Rich Kids” pokes and jabs at rich kids with a cameo from Earl The Sweatshirt over Elton John's classic “Bennie and the Jets”. Ocean also explores the darker demons on “Pilot Jones” and “Crack Rock” where he offers another bleak view into the epidemic's effect. On his epic 9 minute 2 songs in 1 track “Pyramids”, Ocean's passion for watching strippers over a Micheal Jackson style mid-tempo jam that after the five minute mark the track shifts gears into a lush, seductive slow jam.

The emotional centerpiece is the grand indictment “Bad Religion” where he questions religious truth, and who can tell someone whom they should love. Drenched in beautiful gospel inspired strings and piano he seeks counsel from a taxi driver. “He said “Allahu Akbar I told him don't curse me, but boy you need prayer, I guess it couldn't hurt me. If it brings me to my knees its a bad religion”. Outkast fans are going to go crazy over the subdued space funk of “Pink Matter” with an assist from Andre 3000. Along with some of the skits and having John Mayer on his record there's many confusing moments like “Fertilizer”, “Forrest Gump”, “Pilot Jones” and “Monks”. There's also a bonus track “Golden Girl” featuring Tyler The Creator that's surprisingly listenable.

Frank Ocean has made a quite a powerful statement, colored in so many shades of pop music's kaleidoscope. Whether as keeper of the flame of a Wonder or Prince or as playful with the experimental cadences of Kayne West and Fiona Apple. It seems he was inspired to deliver a great record full of bold confessions, joy, personal tragedy, dark views of city life and beautiful conceptual narratives. Ocean's falsetto is rich, nuanced and full of drama. With standout tracks like “Thinking Of You”, “Pyramids”, “Bad Religion”, “Sweet Life” and “Pink Matter” Frank Ocean has arrived as this year's Bon Iver.

See the full Four Takes reviews of Frank Ocean's Channel Orange at Reviler.

Frank Ocean -"Pyramids"-mp3

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