If there ever was an appropriate time to bust out the Mr Krabs meme, it’s now. For on this day, we have been delivered. Frank Ocean has released ‘Endless’, a visual album, on Apple Music. The four-year drought is over!
I didn’t know if I even could do a track-by-track review since this is essentially one big entity (“Oh word, that five second blip called ‘Ambience 001’ was an interlude?”) and if you have your Kleenex and popcorn out for a ‘Lemonade’ experience, you had best stuff them back in your backpack before you play yourself because Frank is not giving you any storyline. The wood shop is back, but this time stuff is actually happening
The album kicks off with Wolfgang Tillmans (yes, the amazing photographer) speaking some sort of Illuminati Apple plug, which had me clutching my definitely-about-to-cry boy chest expecting some sort of 80s leather bar rave album. Nothing of the sort. Frank is going to give you sweet, sweet vocals first in the form of ‘At Your Best (You Are Love)’. Just this weekend as I was hanging up the laundry I caught myself cooing ‘You’re A Positive And Motivating Force Within My Life’, from Aaliyah’s iconic cover of the Isley Brothers song. I had already heard Frank’s version on Tumblr last year but it still gets me and I love that he included it on ‘Endless’. James Blake on the synth and Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood on string orchestration which is not a big deal whatsoever
The next couple of tracks are largely slow burners, with the incomparable Jazmine Sullivan on backing vocals (don’t even get me started on her, I will stan for this flaw-free artist until the Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse have come and immediately turned back again because this world is already ruined). A stint by the stellar Sampha is included and the trappy ‘Comme Des Garçons’ is a stand-out. Is it a tribute to Mama Rei? “Feelings come, feelings go, Comme Des Garçons.” Perhaps a more literal dig to boys who leave you. I’ll be mumbling it everytime I wear some Comme though. Frank slurring “How do I crop your new bitch out my Vine?” on the track ‘U-N-I-T-Y’ is also perhaps the most 2014 thing I’ve ever heard and I’m living/dead
‘In Here Somewhere’ is another gem, with an enthralling beat slithering over muted, drowned lyrics. “When I’m up they gon’ hate, when I’m sideways they gon’ set me straight”, on the great ‘Sideways’ feels like a read to all of you who have literally pelted “Where The Album” balls of paper to his head as he walked down the street these past four years
As the album draws to a close, the song ‘Rushes To’ will get you even more in your feelings. Its melancholic guitar by Alex G is perfectly juxtaposed to follow-up track ‘Higgs’ which swings the pendulum back up with an infectious dance beat. It all ends with Wolfgang Tillmans robo-preaching once more. Sony gets name-checked. So does Samsung (LOL Frank, you’re so shady for this). It’s very Berghain Berlin (I’ve never been to this club and I’d for sure never get in but a bitch has imagination). The end credit visuals roll by and work in perfect, brainwashy unison with Tillmans’s outro. (Please screen-print all of these visuals on T-shirts, Frank)
In conclusion: I’ve only heard ‘Endless’ once properly now, so that’s my weekend sorted decrypting the millions of layers on this release. It’s a murky-water piece of work, pulling you in relentlessly. Frank’s voice stays slaying and I love that he gave ample room to queen Jazmine as well as the seemingly random Wolfgang Tillmans inclusion which is an Easter egg we should have seen coming since one of Frank’s rare sightings was at Tillmans’s exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery in September last year (it’s like Beyoncé sniffing that lemon on Instagram all over again!)
There are rumours that the actual ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ album will also be released this weekend but do we really have the energy for speculation at this point? You can miss me with that, I’ll be here replaying ‘Endless’ with a stifled sob of relief.
Stream ‘Endless’ here