Frank Ocean’s Endless is worth the wait

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Following 2012’s Channel Orange, Frank Ocean left fans waiting for 4 years – 4 years filled with countless teasers, cryptic messages posted on Ocean’s Tumblr blog, and speculation by diehard fans. Come August 2016, a teaser was released for a visual album presented by Ocean, titled Endless. Endless featured the singer woodworking and playing instruments on loop, faced in a gritty, whitewashed warehouse. The mysterious project featured a distorted and “industrialized” – for lack of a better term – soundtrack, leaving fans craving full-resolution versions of the album.

Just a day after Endless released, Ocean’s full-length album Blonde released. Blonde immediately received critical acclaim and stands on its own as a beautiful, pop/R&B fusion record, but fans were still left wondering where the cd-quality edition of Endless was. 2 years after the initial release of the visual album, the long-awaited vinyls were shipped out and Ocean fans were treated to the experience they asked for years prior. While the CDQ version of Endless is not available on streaming services, scouring the internet can net one a download.

Endless stands as Ocean’s most experimental record to date, fusing his trademark soulful pop with refreshingly bouncy techno tracks, even delving into smoothly delivered, hard-hitting rap verses. “Mitsubishi Sony” stands out as one of the album’s highlights, transitioning from a catchy, upbeat introduction to a frantic, energetic second half. On the other hand, the intro track “At Your Best You Are Love” presents a slow, heartfelt anthem.

The album’s sound as a whole is spacey and surreal, sliding through different soundscapes and subgenres throughout the tracklisting with strong, memorable highlights throughout. “Alabama” presents echoing, chilling vocals layered over each other, kicking off with additional vocals courtesy of Sampha. “Rushes” gradually builds up into a sublime hook of “Twin peaking, highs and lows, we shaded off alone / bygones we wasted here, riding in my two wheels,” that never fails to give me chills.

Compared to Ocean’s previous work, Endless most definitely requires a more refined ear to be appreciated – with the exception of “Slide On Me,” there are no easy, radio-friendly listens. The record is littered with varying sounds and influences, bordering on uncomfortable at times. This risk-taking is what makes Endless as uniquely rhythmic and enjoyable as it is; it breaks through the pop music status quo and comes out shining.