This Friday I got home after a late night, feeling exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep. Right before I got into bed I got a text at 1 AM from my friend saying “Jason, it happened!” I knew what he meant and went onto Frank’s livestream to see that he had finally dropped that album I have been waiting years for. I listened instantly and was mesmerized the entirely time. I was so tired I could not really dive too deep into it and by the time I could Frank had dropped his official follow-up Blonde. So let’s just saying I have been surrounding myself with nothing but Frank Ocean these past few days.
While Endless technically is not the sophomore album we all expected, it was really just an appetizer for what we were going to get with Blonde. That being said, this is one incredible appetizer. The record starts and ends with this robotic voice, breaking the fourth wall, telling us about the Apple device we are using to watch the visual album. This is certainly an interesting way to bookend the album but I certainly do not have an issue with it.
It is not until Frank comes in with a cover of “At Your Best (You Are Love)” which features him hitting an angelic falsetto that sets the bar for the rest of this album impossibly high. The song details a complicated image of love, which is a common theme for the songs here. The strings, which are brought to us by no other than Jonny Greenwood accompany Frank’s voice masterfully and James Blake’s synth work is subtle and effective.
Once this cover ends, the album does shift focus to get an intimate look into the life of Frank Ocean. “Alabama” seems to depict various memories seemingly flying around in Ocean’s mind such as living with four of his cousins in his New Orleans duplex and even an unflattering image of him losing his virginity on an air mattress. All this builds to Ocean and electronic artist Sampha singing the outro which leads to the distorted interlude “Mine.”
“U-N-I-T-Y” is a direct message to his fans as he talks about where he has been the past couple of years. He describes how carefully he has been working on his new record and how he been kept hidden during it all. The song starts out with a rapped verse from Frank, showing just how varied his talents are. He also takes a shot at rapping again on the final track “Higgs” and again demonstrates a surprisingly great flow.
Frank continues getting personal, describing a man he had an affair with on “Comme Des Garçons” and how he was able to move him out of his mother’s house, presumably to live with Frank or on his own. This is followed by “Wither,” a slower song that sees Frank hoping he and his lover will be together long enough to see each other wither a grow old. It is a heartfelt message that uses clever wordplay to deliver its simple message.
This song is also the first of a few songs to be backed by guitarist Alex G who is definitely an upcoming artist people should be watching out for, especially after this. His work on “Slide On Me” is simple but works excellently with Frank’s voice. The same goes for his work on “Rushes” where Frank seems to be feeling negatively on the relationship he rushed into.
“Sideways” is another standout in the tracklist, where Frank seems conflicted about his success wondering if people will hate him or love him once his sophomore album is released. He worries that he is afraid to go up or down with his success and instead is “too sideways.”
While the finished product is admittedly a little messy, with loads of electronic and trap beats playing throughout this record, Frank himself still comes out sounding incredible through it all and his talents as a writer shine bright. The project feels very small for him and I am glad that this was just a teaser to the finished product, but getting to hear Frank making some more unique and polarizing music was a treat for me and I am sure will be for several Frank Ocean fans.
Also, as for the “visual” portion of this album, it matches the minimalism that Frank seems to be going for here. It features several Frank Oceans building a spiral staircase the entire time and adds nothing really to the actual music. Do not watch this expecting something like Lemonade or anything.
If you like Frank Ocean, you have already listened to this, but if you haven’t for some reason I would highly recommend it. Even if you are just into lo-fi, experimental, or electronic music this might peak your interest as well. It definitely is not another Channel Orange which is fine by me, since I did not wait four years to listen to the same album twice.
Best Tracks: At Your Best (You Are Love), Alabama, U-N-I-T-Y, Commes Des Garçons, Wither, Slide On Me, Sideways, Rushes, Rushes To
Worst Track: Mine