Random Access Memories
Odd Future's square peg has found his voice in exquisite style.
Man of the moment Frank Ocean takes a quixotic approach to releasing records, throwing his lot into last year's free mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra and releasing Pyramids – the sprawling centrepiece of this proper debut album – as another freebie last month, but finally he's ready to enter the commercial fray. And how.
We've been prepared for this. Nostalgia, Ultra was so much more than the standard cluttered mixtape and Ocean's cameos on Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch The Throne were arguably the highpoints of that ego-fest, but even so Channel Orange is a quantum leap forward.
A 17-track opus that never once drags despite largely consisting of slow jams, it gives us a further peek into a complicated man's soul. We'd only got halfway there with that recent Tumblr post, where Ocean stepped out of R&B's strictures to admit a past love for another man.
There's not much fuel for the gossip here – only the softly funky Forrest Gump ("You're on my mind, boy, running on my mind, boy... I won't forget you") comes close – but Ocean delves into his depths for spine-chilling confessional Bad Religion and the itchy get-me-out-of-here of Pilot Jones. And if there's a more gorgeous ballad this year than Thinkin' Bout You – well, bring it on.
Sustained throughout is the tender touch of melancholy, but with a voice like honey, a knack for lyrical adventure and a compelling blend of old-school Fender Rhodes piano and advanced electronica, Ocean still leaves you smiling.