Frank Ocean’s very name is now a media buzz-word for long, drawn out release promises. It’s been almost five years since Ocean’s award winning and ground-breaking ‘Channel Orange’ rocketed the singer/songwriter from New Orleans into the limelight. Since and before his rise to international fame, Ocean has been heavily involved with ghost-writing. His resume includes artists such as John Legend and Justin Bieber, to name but a few. This is really unsurprising; Ocean is a master lyrist with incredible, late nineties D’Angelo-esque vocals. Since 2012 there has been a steadily mounting buzz surrounding Ocean’s second studio album ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ which has as not, of yet surfaced.
However, what fans did get a few weeks ago, was a glimpse at another possible project after a looped stream of an empty room with work benches featured on Ocean’s website. Sure enough, we didn’t get ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, instead we got ‘Endless’, an audio/visual album which is, as of yet, only available for streaming through Apple Music. However, as reported earlier today, an Apple spokesperson told Pitchfork to “keep an eye out this weekend for more from Frank”suggesting that ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ will be released swiftly in the next few days.
Until then, how does ‘Endless’ hold up as a stand-alone release? In short very well. For starters, it is extremely minimal in terms of its sound. Many of the tracks include very little variation in terms of instrumentation. As you’d probably expect, Ocean’s vocals take centre stage in ‘Endless’, which is exactly where they should be. Much more than ‘Channel Orange’ or ‘nostalgia, ULTRA’ (his 2011 mixtape) there is an emphasis on the warping of Ocean’s voice for great and haunting effect. In fact, the whole of ‘Endless’, including its video is strangely haunting. The tempo is kept, for the most part, extremely low and the echoing vocals and synth instrumentation seem to ring out around the large empty studio where Ocean is set to work building a set of stairs. A particular highlight is the minimal guitar track ‘Wither’ which allows Ocean’s voice to ring out across the black and white interior of the video. ‘Comme de Garcon’s’ is a track that the Independent expressed could “Probably the first one that could quite happily sit on ‘Channel Orange’.” as it includes much more of a R&B flavour than the rest of the album. Isley Brother’s cover ‘At Your Best’ (You Are Love)’ is equally moving, and in keeping with Ocean’s preoccupation with romance and its pitfalls.
The video itself is heavily hung with symbolism; the name ‘Endless’, the almost-looping of the video itself and the act of building a spiral stair case all allude to a type of infinity, or at the very least, an extremely long journey. And sure enough, it’s been a long road for Frank Ocean. He could never be accused of rushing his craft, or releasing anything that he wasn’t completely satisfied with.
Those looking for a return to a ‘Channel Orange’ sound will not find it here. Not yet anyway. As we move through the weekend, it may be that the long awaited ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ may indeed surface. Until then. ‘Endless’ is more than return to form for Frank Ocean, and will most certainly keep his fans happy and nicely warmed up for his comeback.
This Frank Ocean article was written by Zoe Anderson, a GIGsoup contributor