Frank Ocean - Endless : CASSETTE

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During the four years that passed between album-length recordings from Frank Ocean, the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter surfaced on releases by Beyoncé, Kanye West, and James Blake. Through the processing of reports and speculation throughout the time, and knowing Ocean's unease with the pop machine, the follow-up to Channel Orange appeared to be imminent, or maybe mythical, or somewhere within the two poles. On the first day of August 2016, The New York Times published "Frank Ocean's Long-Awaited 'Boys Don't Cry' Is Due on Friday," yet the article's opening sentence was less certain, stating that the wait "may nearly be over." Nothing was clear. Later in the month, within the space of two days, Ocean released a pair of recordings, neither of which was titled Boys Don't Cry. This was the first and inferior one, the prelude to the proper Channel Orange follow-up. Termed a visual album, upon its release it could be heard only as one 46-minute piece accompanied by black-and-white imagery of Ocean, or a team of Oceans, constructing a staircase in a warehouse. The sound is introduced and concluded with sections of Wolfgang Tillmans' "Device Control," a composition that obscures the distinction between sound art and dance track. Its lucidity, crispness, and energy are at odds with the murky, slightly submerged-sounding suite of predominantly fresh material. The Ocean sequence begins like a This Mortal Coil-gone-quiet-storm project, with a fragile and spectral cover of the Isley Brothers' "(At Your Best) You Are Love" held aloft by strings orchestrated by Jonny Greenwood and piano and synthesizer by Om'Mas Keith and Blake. From there, the set is fragmentary -- the original tracks average two minutes in length and tend to melt into one another. It all snakes along, albeit slowly, akin to a fogged-out lazy river ride with an adjacent big screen projecting a flickering series of memories that veer from ballerific to frantic-romantic. Ocean, whose voice is joined most frequently by a (still underutilized) Jazmine Sullivan, alternates between offhanded raps and singing that ranges from plainly observational to almost exorcistic. The tender everyday stuff, like when Ocean consoles his lover after a lost game of basketball, tends to be as affecting as the comparatively intense moments. This offers more of the detailed scenes only Ocean can script, as well as some stray sly quotables. Ultimately, it's a smartly ordered patchwork of mostly secondary material.
A1 At Your Best (You Are Love)
A2 Alabama
A3 Mine
A4 Unity
A5 A Certain Way
A6 Comme des garçons
A7 Xenons
A8 Honeybaby
A9 Wither
A10 Hublots
A11 In Here Somewhere
Part 2
C1 Slide on Me
C2 Sideways
C3 Florida
C4 Impietas / Deathwish (ASR)
C5 Rushes
C6 Rushes To
C7 Higgs
C8 Mitsubishi Sony