Frank Ocean - Channel Orange | Album Review | By Volume

Understand that I am only as he made me: a faithful servant to all of the noise, all of the lights, all of the flashing in my head. Laura Stevenson - Wheel

Frank Ocean

Channel Orange

Frank Ocean transcends any and all hype by simply not forgetting the tunes on his exceptional debut proper.

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Author: on August 10, 2012
Def Jam
July 10, 2012

“The best song wasn’t the single” he tell us, “the neighborhood is going ape-shit crazy” he exclaims but “why see the world / when you’ve got the beach?” he queries handing out a pillow for us to rest our woes. A feathery-soft hook to accent “Sweet Life” one of Frank Ocean’s many exceptional time-lapses back into 1973 that sounds so pristine you would be forgiven for assuming we were jamming to Inner Visions. That is the world Channel Orange inhabits though, Frank is “top floor /motel suite / twisting my cigars” enjoying a “floor model TV / with the VCR” on the opus-for-the-ages “Pyramids” spinning a yarn so engrossing, so expansive it forms a historically skewed timeline all its own. Where Cleopatra may or may not be a whore, whom the unemployed Frank is kind of boning, but she’s also a queen, who’s kidnapped then pursued by cheetahs – just listen. That ten minute chunk in specific might just be the best portion of this sixty-two minute slab of some of the finest R&B sirloin to be found but rest assured Channel Orange is at least ninety-percent prime cut.

Channel Orange surprisingly enough is an extraordinarily fitting title whether Ocean seeks to accentuate his gilded cascades of 80s synthesizes and greasy bass bleeding through a worn out speaker of his rear-projection big screen — or maybe he’s alluding to the invitingly warm 70’s A.M. melodies that inhabit the record’s entirety. Yet the cover has this inherent sheen an almost chromatic accent possibly hinting towards the record’s modernist ambitions — Channel Orange is a very of-the-moment record on a various number of levels. The 70’s and 80’s R&B adoration, the experimentation with expansive electronic music (Trance, House, Dubstep, DnB), the outwardly inverse sexuality, the hard-nosed realizations of adulthood and the true limitations of wealth–this is a person growing right in front of us for near seventy minutes. As an artist Ocean has already proven his worth penning songs for the likes of Beyonce, Bieber and John Legend; and one could argue his excellent middle-finger raised high at Def Jam in his debut Nostalgia, Ultra (2011) was cause enough for a stir within a collective of shit-kickers (Odd Future). Channel Orange sees Ocean ascend to a higher plane though, where his Ultra-contemporary ambitions frequently pan out into mini masterpieces.

“Too many joy rides in daddy’s jaguar / Too many white lies and white lines” Earl Sweatshirt asserts on “Super Rich Kids” providing an engrossing hook while he and Ocean illustrate a chaotic life of fast cars, quiet Help, loose ends and fake friends. “We’ll both be high / the help don’t stare / They just walk by / they must don’t care” Ocean paints, though his brush is not soft, he works with brash, broad strokes in full Technicolor. “I’m on that ledge /She grabs my arm / She slaps my head /It’s good times, yeah / Sleeve rips off, I slip, I fall” he continues concluding in Ocean closing his eyes to “feel the crash” on the streets below. Heavy shit, sure, but it’s all packaged up in this lush window dressing, this ebb and flow of heavy piano keys and bass drum echoes is befitting of the overly-glamorized lifestyle Ocean depicts. The journey to the top is a blast for certain but nothing competes with the violence of the fall—Channel Orange focuses primarily on these tumbles yet accentuates them with plush synths and blaring horns to exceptional ends. To call Ocean an artist worth watching is a gross understatement and if anything insults the pure gravitas he has created here — Channel Orange is a huge record that requires an enormous heart though if you can be bothered to open up and let him in, fear not Frank will dress things up so pristine you’ll have no choice but to settle down.

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