Monday, August 13, 2012
Frank Ocean's Channel Orange is one of those albums that defines any space and time it's played in. It has an atmospheric soul, and a sense of playfulness and seriousness that reminds me of Joni Mitchell's Hissing of Summer Lawns: long, jazzy, sophisticated pop songs that linger among themselves like people inside a crowded beach-house party, sipping cocktails and relaxing and chatting, but also the whole she-bang layered with a communal understanding that all of it's a big beautiful dream.
Music like this doesn't come along very often, and Ocean seems to know this rarity instinctively. Each song has its own distinct sense of itself, as if every note has its own monogrammed towel, every melody its own golden bracelet. Love songs kick into meditations, meditations turn themselves into flocks of birds. One of the best songs on Orange is a low-down-gorgeous wake-up call called "Crack Rock." Its energy comes from inside a glassy intelligence, like sunlight captured in a mirror. Another great one is called "Sweet Life," a long lush ballad ensconced in a tricky, lacy rap that details the lives of a lost generation while also celebrating the sweet nothingness of it all. "Pyramids" is a Prince- from-1999 centerpiece that has a heavy heart but a whimsical, ecstatic soul.
But it's not one song that seems to be the point: it's an accumulation of words, music, atmospheres, tones, all of that providing a plush escape from the way soul and R&B music has been trapped inside itself for so long.
Ocean has discovered a new planet with this album. Let's call it Oceania. I want to live there.