Earl Sweatshirt-Doris (Full Album Stream)

For a release that was highly anticipated around a year or so ago, it has to be said that the buzz for it doesn’t quite seem at the fever pitch many would have expected. Nonetheless, Earl’s talent is undeniable, and the lack of furore surrounding it might allow the LP to be absorbed for the breakout rap album it could very well become.

His Odd Future teammates are along for the ride, with Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator and Domo Genesis appearing alongside frequent OF collaborators Vince Staples and Casey Veggies, whilst Mac Miller and RZA also tag along for the ride. Undoubtedly though, this one’s all about Earl for most listeners, and whilst those features are a nice bonus, there’s a ton of expectation on Earl given the glimpses of ability we’ve been allowed to see thus far. Fingers crossed, this LP holds up and we’ve got another young talent to add to hip-hop’s growing roster. Stream below.

Earl Sweatshirt-Doris

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John Mayer-Paradise Valley (Full Album Stream)

Paper Doll was a great jump-off point for this album, and with its release only a week away, Mayer lets the full LP out for your streaming enjoyment.

His previous album, Born and Raised, was a little disappointing in honesty and certainly didn’t match the quality of the two albums prior to that. The aforementioned single provided more than a glimmer of hope for this one, whilst an appearance from Frank Ocean also offers plenty of promise, and for those of a mushy nature there’s even a collaboration with his on-again off-again female companion Katy Perry. Always a confident move letting your album out a week early, and you can head below to stream the LP on iTunes before your purchasing decision next week.

John Mayer-Paradise Valley

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Frank Ocean-Lost (Video)

Almost exactly 9 months after Channel Orange‘s release, we get only the second visual treat (technically, as the Thinking About You video got pulled) from the album.

Certainly one of the more upbeat tracks on the LP, it also found favour as one of my favourites, hanging in my playlists to this very day. The video plays on the track’s inherent positivity whilst adding a layer of reflectiveness and insight, with the double vision style representing the dichotomy of Frank’s day-to-day life: being Frank Ocean, and being himself. Generally speaking, one frame appears to show music-related scenes whilst the other focuses on landscapes, travels and his personality, with the two occasionally coming together in what are either arbitrary moments of clarity or meaningful instances of heightened emotion. In all cases, the clips are generally coated in a summer vibe that works well with the warmth of the production and the relative fun of the lyricism, whilst the grainy filter style makes the footage seem that little more personal, adding a sense of intimacy to proceedings.

An enjoyable visual accompaniment to an excellent song, here’s to hoping there’s more new Frank Ocean coming soon.

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Tyler, The Creator-Wolf (Full Album Stream)

Wolf lands officially tomorrow, and for those of you who’ve avoided any leaks and such, you can check out the entire 18-track LP here. From a very brief listen to a few of the tracks, there’s a marked maturity in his music, and in keeping with the two previously-released tracks, the dichotomy of Tyler’s chaotic and introspective sides are represented well. The maturity comes in the form of the weighting-it seems as though the album’s highlight tracks (and those said by Tyler to be his favourites) lean more toward the reflective side of his work, and there’s no doubt he’s delivered well on that front in that past.

Features include Pharrell, Frank Ocean, Erykah Badu, Coco O of Quadron, Casey Veggies, Earl Sweatshirt and a handful more of the Odd Future clan. Plenty of promise, and you can preview the LP below before making your purchase decision tomorrow.

Tyler, The Creator-Wolf (Full Album Stream)

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Frank Ocean-Eyes Like Sky

frank ocean
A track that didn’t make the final cut of Channel Orange, this one surfaced earlier and is already garnering unanimous praise from the Frank Ocean fans. Rightfully so too.

The backdrop’s considerably different to almost anything on the LP, with an acoustic style created by the live percussion and soft guitar strums, whilst the relative lack of anything else helps spotlight the stripped-back yet incredibly atmospheric combination of the aforementioned elements. Most of that aura arises from the percussion, which really adds space and grandeur to the soundscape, whilst the guitars help ground that impact slightly, and of course Frank’s vocal and lyrical work is once again perfectly suited to both sides of that. The verses pack in simple storytelling that creates a rich tapestry of mental imagery, largely down to the distinct theme of each verse, whilst the hook makes for a smooth, soft break in between those engaging sections. Sonically, it’s clear to see why this wouldn’t have quite fitted in with the album’s overall sound, and rather it seems closer to his Nostalgia Ultra material; in any case, it’s an excellent track that will certainly impress many.

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Frank Ocean-Pink Matter Remix ft. Big Boi and Andre 3000

pink matter
Seems as though Big Boi is tracking Andre’s features and intends to lace several of his recent guest spots with verses of his own, for remixes that will probably be as close as we’ll get to new Outkast material for the foreseeable future.

This is certainly one of 3 Stacks’ most memorable works in recent times, and as it turns out it’ll probably be one of Big Boi’s too. His contribution is very likeable, and he takes to this gloomy, atmospheric production excellently with a soft, gentle demeanour that doesn’t force him to abandon his rapid fire delivery, and instead enhances it by virtue of adding a different emotional angle to his style. It’s a verse packed with slickness, and certainly one that enhances the track by adding a flash of intensity to the slow, winding track, and hence makes for a timely refresh of a track threatening to finally depart my regular playlists. Good remix and definitely one worth adding to your library. Be sure to grab Big Boi’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors album now if you haven’t already.

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Frank Ocean-Wise Man

Quentin Tarantino: Frank Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn’t a scene for it, I could have thrown it in quickly just to have it, but that’s not why he wrote it and not his intention. So I didn’t want to cheapen his effort. But, the song is fantastic, and when Frank decides to unleash it on the public, they’ll realize it then.

Huge praise from Tarantino, the director of this song’s original destination, Django Unchained. The sharp, piercing guitar plucks give the track a strong backdrop to start, before Frank cuts loose with some emotional vocals that he seems to deliver with a slight Carribean accent. A great set of synths and strings then jump in, adding a quick burst of positivity and depth and enhancing the ‘your mother would be proud of you’ hook, which itself is part of an excellently-written piece that progresses the track from raw, blunt sections to the harmonised and notably more emotionally connected lines. An excellent all-rounder that genuinely feels cinematic at times, and deserving of Tarantino’s praise.

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Frank Ocean-Blue Whale

Whether it’s new or unreleased isn’t clear, or important, but Frank took to his Tumblr yesterday to unexpectedly let this previously-unheard effort go. This one has Frank on a rap/spoken word style throughout, a delivery we’ve heard him utilise in short bursts on several occasions previously, but not at this sort of length.

It’s going to prove divisive, as it won’t really be what most Frank Ocean fans signed up for, but the stream of consciousness style of the lyrics does make this worth a couple of close listens. It’s no songwriting masterpiece, instead being a slightly attitudinal outpouring from Frank and hence there’s a nice personal vibe about it, something the soft and almost homely production does a good job of emphasising. The grainy, unfinished nature of the track is also worth noting for adding to the organic vibe of the track. It isn’t one you’ll recount as a classic, but it’s the insight into his thinking that makes for an interesting departure from his usual storytelling.

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Deciphering Frank Ocean's Pyramids Video

It’s been 3 and a half months since many of us were blown away by Pyramids, and Frank finally drops off some visuals for the single, as well as from the Channel Orange album as a whole.

The video is primarily based around the second half of the track, that which focuses on his unemployed self being involved with a stripper. Many will be disappointed that he didn’t do much with the more grabbing first half of the audio, but this feels much more suited to the aesthetic and creative complexity director Nabil is famed for.

The length of this video and level of detail makes this a review I can’t quite fully contain within the confines up here. If you’re interested in what is only my second ‘Deciphering..’ (here for the first, which was much longer than this!), click below for some accompanying reading that you may or may not agree with-it’s a clip that many will interpret differently. If not, you’ll enjoy the video regardless, and be sure to grab Channel Orange.

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Flying Lotus-Thinkin About You Remix

i knew id never finish it so might as well let u hear it…

There’s not an enormous amount changed from the Frank Ocean original, and that’s just as well given that it’s one of the best R&B songs of recent times. Lotus has essentially sped the track up, given Frank’s vocals a little hint of synthesiser, and thrown in a nice new percussion line to match that increase in tempo. There are some finer touches too, including the odd sample and electronic effect here and there, but the track’s unfinished nature means they don’t quite pop out as they should. Nonetheless, decent for a couple of listens.

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Frank Ocean-Thinkin' Bout You (Live at the MTV VMA's)

It’s been one hell of a year for this guy, and he got a much deserved slot at last night’s VMA’s, which I believe air on our shores tonight for those of you interested.

In honesty, for me it’s only the performances that are worth watching nowadays, and one from Frank makes this even more of a must-watch. The stage setup seems to be going for that campfire under the star-lit sky effect, one which is perfectly suited to this wonderfully tender audio, and certainly fitting for the stripped back version that’s performed here.

Truthfully, the minimal guitar work here doesn’t really work for me as it sounds off-beat most of the time and doesn’t seem to sync with Frank’s vocals for any decent length of time. That leaves Frank to carry the performance with a fantastic performance of the track, capturing the song’s mood and emotion excellently, whilst doing a good job with the many difficult notes in the track. Worth a watch for sure.

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ALT/AIR-Lost (Frank Ocean Cover)

A spectacular cover from Hawaiian duo ALT/AIR, and one that will endear them to pretty much anyone who likes the original version on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange.

The track opens minimally, supporting the delicate vocals with little more than clicks and an atmospheric yet light synth, and it’s a great start to establish the vocal and production talents of the duo. What follows is an explosion of sound, with a screaming electro-infused melody, taking centre stage alongside strong percussion work and several additional elements for a richly-layered and intense blast of sound. From there it’s all alternations with the stripped-back styling of the opening, swapping enough times to end with a real bang and keep the song firmly engrained on your mind. An excellent example of dynamic beatmaking and endearing vocals, and a nice complement to the outstanding original. Stream below, or download here.

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Rita Ora-Swim Good (Frank Ocean Cover)

Just under two weeks away from her debut album’s release, and one of the fastest-rising singers in recent years drops off a pretty strong cover of Frank Ocean’s excellent Swim Good.

Where Frank Ocean’s emotional shifts in the track are relatively subtle, Rita uses the opportunity to flex her vocal capabilities and add a little more passion and power into the delivery. Undoubtedly, many will prefer the style of the original but this clearly has its merits, and at worst works as a good example of Rita’s capabilities.

It’s difficult not to like Ora. Whilst she’s morphing into mainstream darling, there’s no denying she’s got great talent and it makes for a welcome change up against many of her popular peers.

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Frank Ocean-Golden Girl ft. Tyler, The Creator

Even more Frank Ocean! One that didn’t make the iTunes release but is likely to feature on one of the CD releases, Frank grabs Odd Future compatriot Tyler, The Creator for a bonus track from Channel Orange.

A decent track but probably best that its a bonus cut, as it’s nothing beyond OK. It may be because the quality of this version isn’t ideal (either that or all of the vocals have been deliberately distorted), but it seems to lack depth from a production perspective. Whilst the summery, laidback vibe does make a nice change to some of the more sombre material on the album, it’s a little too light and hence doesn’t quite capture the imagination as Frank’s songs usually do, which in turn makes Frank’s vocals feel a little too distant from the beat. Can’t fault his performance again though, as he takes to the more positive, bouncy style well and adds plenty of upbeat qualities himself, whilst ensuring its not as lyrically heavy as much of his work tends to be.

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Yuna-Thinkin Bout You (Frank Ocean Cover)

Big statement time. Yuna is my favourite vocalist in the world right now, without any doubt. I managed to grab both her self-titled album and the Decorate EP, and it’s incredibly replayable music right the way through on both projects with plenty of diversity.

Her voice has a fantastic genuinity, with tons of real feeling thrown in with bundles of skill and lots of versatility. Pretty much all of that is on show here, as she tackles what is still many fans’ favourite Frank Ocean song, so loved for its bare and honest vocals and lyrics, but ensuring her own mark is left on the cover. A live performance in which she provides her own backup, the vocals are typically flawless from start to finish, capturing the raw essence of the original whilst enhancing the delicacy and gentleness of the track.

Let’s avoid making comparisons: this is a wonderful rendition of an exceptional song, and both are excellent examples of vocalists on the top of their game. If you enjoy this half as much as I did, support real talent and grab her stuff on iTunes now.

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Frank Ocean-Bad Religion (Live on Jimmy Kimmel)

Not only has Frank dropped off Channel Orange a week earlier than expected, but he made his television debut yesterday on the ever-popular Jimmy Kimmel show. Backed by The Roots and a full string section, Frank performed the previously-unheard Bad Religion, a track noted by various journalists for featuring the lyrics that originally set off the bisexuality rumours, ‘I could never make him love me‘.

The performance is a very good one, and whilst there’s a little nervousness and introversion at the start, Frank really grows into the track as it rolls on, bringing his vocals to a passionate and emotional climax towards the final third and even managing to get a little crowd involvement with some claps. What’s notable is the look of sheer relief on his face at the end, and it’s difficult not to come away from watching this with a feelgood vibe. Having listened to this song on the album stream made available earlier, it’s clear he certainly does the studio version justice and this is an enjoyable watch that hopefully precedes many more live performances in the coming months.

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Frank Ocean-Channel Orange (Full Album Stream)

Anticipated doesn’t even begin to describe it. Frank’s album has long been the talk of the industry, and with it being officially released next Tuesday, he took to his Tumblr to let loose of an official stream of the album.

I’ve always viewed artists making full LP streams available as a confident move, and for the relatively humble Frank Ocean to drop this off early suggests he’s got full belief in his body of work here. Not only that, but it’s generally clever: many people that illegally download albums do so as a ‘sampler’, so they know whether to go out and buy the CD, and this almost removes that first step.

I’ll drop off a full album review in the coming days, but one very quick playthrough suggests none of us will be disappointed with this, and the classic (too early?) Frank Ocean formula is in full effect. I’d like to avoid any more premature hype and such so I’ll not comment too much on the individual quality of the tracks, and frankly you can do it yourself with the stream available in this very post, and a comments section below should you be so inclined.

The album has been given an early US and UK iTunes release today, ahead of the official CD release next Tuesday. You can pick it up here if you can’t wait for that CD release (or just want both!).

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Frank Ocean-Sweet Life

Frank has kindly liberated another track from the upcoming Channel Orange album (which is now a mere 11 days away), this time showing off his work with Pharrel, who helms the production here.

Pharrell’s recent board work has shown a return to form and this is no different, capturing that quintessential N*E*R*D vibe with soft keys, crashing live percussion and huge verse-to-hook steps, providing the sort of eclectic backdrop that Frank thrives upon. The vocals are an excellent mix of effortless in the verses and passionate on the hook, following the pattern of the production and actually making for one of the more conventionally structured tracks we’ve heard from him. It’s a classy performance that blends soul, alternative and R&B, and added to the strong production, the signs are good heading into that LP.

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Frank Ocean-Channel Orange Artwork and Tracklist

One of the most anticipated projects of the year, and the artwork and tracklist for Frank Ocean’s debut album were revealed late last night.

The artwork is pretty minimal, in keeping with Frank’s generally unfussy nature, and whilst it probably won’t inspire any artistic visions, it will certainly catch the attention of shoppers when sitting on the shelves.

The tracklist contains a few tracks Frank fans will recognise, including the much-loved Thinkin Bout You, the recently-released Pyramids, and a new version of White, his solo effort on the recent Odd Future Tape Vol. 2, that features John Mayer. The other features on the album are both noteworthy, as Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt and the legendary Andre 3000 join up with Frank to offer a helping hand. One notable is how many of the track titles seem to be related to those around them (5, 6 and 7 for example), and I hope that leads to some storytelling theme across the album. Click below to see the full 17-track list.
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Frank Ocean-Pyramids

July 17th sees the release of Frank Ocean’s major label debut LP, Channel Orange, and having recently released a trailer for that project he now liberates a track that most assume will be on the album.

And he’s done it again. This is yet another impossible-to-categorise, incredible slice of music that once again proves Frank is worthy of every slice of hype he gets. At a shade under 10 minutes long the track’s divided into two distinct pieces, and hence the production packs in plenty of diversity via electro-pop synths, R&B pacing and an alternative experimentalism, with the first half being lively and intense, whilst the second half slows things down to a more deliberate pace that acts as a come down from the vibrancy that preceded it. Frank’s vocals are as addictive as ever, with a more empassioned delivery for the first section and a wistful, reflective style for the latter segment, complimenting the diversity of the production with excellent versatility of his own. Another fantastic Frank Ocean track, and Channel Orange can’t come soon enough.

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Jay-Z and Kanye West-No Church In The Wild Video

An engaging and aggressive video for the opening track and one of the highlights from the otherwise-mixed Watch the Throne album. Director Romain Gavras takes strong inspiration from the riots that have taken place all over the world over the last 12 months, giving the video a real world feel whilst making it relatable to many on a national level-inevitably, over here we’ll draw comparisons with the London riots, whilst our Greek readers will do the same and so on (not to be ‘that guy’, but it’s disconcerting that riots are a closely-relatable theme globally).

It’s an intense video that would probably be better suited to a more aggressive track, but nonetheless links up with the audio to give these anarchical scenes a slightly different context, painting the streets as the new ‘wild’, and enhancing the menacing qualities of the production. The dark palette and apocalyptic environments create an ominous aura, adding a gravity and seriousness to the audio, whilst the contrasting addition of lasers and other effects add to the freneticism of the video.

It’s a great video but I’m not convinced it’s the absolutely ideal fit for the audio. That’s not to say it doesn’t work as it certainly does, but a rougher, edgier song would have fully utilised the powerful visuals. Worth a watch for sure though, and credit to Gavras for directing a very detailed video.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 144

Hurry, we forgot to put this out!

Quick! Stop reading this!

(One to catch up on: newcomer Jade Alston’s excellent Searching)

Go go go.
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R&B Fridays: Episode 142

It’s a little late this week, but with good reason as R&B Fridays is on a 2-week hiatus after this episode, due to ‘international commitments’ of the team.

Thankfully, it’s an episode to savour with two brand new contributions from series favourite Frank Ocean, in addition to a couple of other noteworthy artists getting involved. Three to catch up on from the week gone by, with Novel dropping off a bumper 19-track project, Teyana Taylor also getting in the mixtape hunt with her newest effort, and the second episode of our other weekly series, Sh*t You Forgot About. Head below.

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R&B Fridays: Episode 141

That’s right folks, do not adjust your monitors. R&B Friday is actually available on a Friday. As a result, it does mean the material isn’t particularly plentiful this week, but it doesn’t mean the quality isn’t there. In fact, I suspect many R&B Fridays fans will rather enjoy this episode, with 2 Frank Ocean-related tracks and a remix of one of The Weeknd’s best tracks featured.

Four to catch up on from this week, with the video for Usher’s Climax dropping earlier, Labrinth letting loose an all-star remix, an excellent remix of Drake’s Cameras, and the debut of our Sh*t You Forgot About series, featuring tracks from recent years that you may have forgotten about or missed entirely. Click on below for this week’s instalment.
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Frank Ocean-Voodoo

Another official but very short blast from Frank Ocean, as he lets loose of this assumedly unfinished track (unless he’s going for 90-second tracks on his album!).

I hope there is more of the track, as it’s a fantastic little slow jam that reminds everyone just how good this guy is. The guitar-laced production has a real Maxwell vibe about it, and Frank supplies his trademark excellence with the vocals, going so far as to double-layer his vocals for a very striking and effective first half. The second half brings out a softer approach that will absolutely melt listeners, as Frank comes through with his most ‘R&B’ delivery to date in that section, proving he can quite easily adjust to a more ‘textbook’ style where necessary.

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Yasmin-American Wedding Cover

Great new cover from the lovely Yasmin, as she takes on Frank Ocean’s excellent American Wedding.

Making comparisons between the original and the cover is somewhat redunant so I’ll bypass that, and instead praise this for the fresh take on the track that it is. Whilst Yasmin’s singing credentials generally haven’t been questioned, there are still some who are to be convinced, and this will go some way to doing that. There’s a rich, addictive soulfulness to Yasmin’s voice here that’s not been properly explored in her material to date, with the complexities of the track pulling her vocals into areas previously unchartered (at least, to our knowledge), and makes this cover just as much about the showcasing artist as it is about paying homage to a great song.

An enjoyable, unique take on the track and its worth a watch for fans of the original, and/or fans of a little laidback soul material. Yasmin’s Light  single is due for release on 15th Jan too, be sure to grab that one.

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The 5 Defining Moments of 2011: #5

Welcome to our end of year special, and once again we’ve changed the format (here for 2010,and here, here, here and here for 2009). Whilst we enjoyed last year’s Top MC’s round-up, the reasons for change were two-fold: firstly, the sheer dearth of ‘top MC’s’ this year, and secondly the need to incorporate the many other genres that we’re fans of.

To satisfy that requirement, Indi and myself have compiled 5 moments (we use that term loosely, as many/most of them aren’t exact moments) that we feel accurately represent and summarise 2011 from our collective perspective. As expected, we’ve cheated in places by grouping certain things together, but I’m sure you’ll all see its for the greater good. Or, alternatively, you’ll understand that we do it because we feel like it.

As per every year, many of you will agree, many will disagree but frankly we’re glad you have an opinion and would love to hear it. Without further ado, click on to see the moment(s) that kick off our top 5 countdown.

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Frank Ocean-4 Tears

A rare blast of official material from Frank, accompanied by the statement that “i just listened to this a few times for myself. figured maybe some else needed to hear it. it’s called ‘4 tears’.”

It’s only a short effort at just under 2 minutes but is full of the originality and verve that makes Frank’s tracks so irresistably unique. Of course, that’s largely down to his superb command over melodies, and here he injects a raw, emotional style into the simple, open lyricism that makes for a passionate blend, without ever straying far from his naturally laidback nature. An enjoyable burst of music, and Frank Ocean fans will love this.

Frank Ocean-4 Tears

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Frank Ocean-Thinking About You (SBTRKT Remix)

Good and bad sides to this one, from the masked man with a dislike of vowels. The subtlety of change in the verses is excellent, with a slight tempo shift, more reverb and a couple of other small additions that add gentle originality to Frank’s excellent track without being dominating. However, the same can’t be said for the hook, which features an incredibly grating synth that sounds horribly out of place, both in the context of the remix and of the original. I’m sure the techno heads will love the inclusion, but for me it’s a horrible distraction away from the best part of Frank’s vocal performance on the track, and really doesn’t do that original hook any justice.

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