December 15, 2012

Playlist Week of 12-15-12

Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

* J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations (Hewitt) Royal Festival Hall, London 4-29-09 (FM CDR)
* Veracini: Sonatas (Holloway/Mortensen/ter Linden) (ECM CD)
* Satie: Oeuvres de Piano (Ciccollini) (d.1-2) (EMI 5CD)
* Andrew Hill: Andrew!!! (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Pax (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Compulsion!!!!! (Blue Note CD)
* Paradoxical Frog (Kris Davis/Ingrid Laubrock/Tyshawn Sorey): Union (Clean Feed CD)
* Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House: Strong Place (Intakt CD)
* P.M. Dawn: Of The Heart, Of The Soul, And Of The Cross…(Gee Street/Island CD)
* DJ Shadow: Midnight In A Perfect World (MoWax CDEP)
* DJ Shadow: Stem (MoWax CDEP)
* Frank Ocean: Nostalgia Ultra (Frank Ocean MP3)†
* Frank Ocean: Channel Orange (Island Def Jam CD)(†/)
* Grateful Dead: Winterland May 30, 1971 (GDP/Rhino 2LP)
* Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Psychedelic Pill (Reprise BD)
* The Band: Stage Fright (Capitol/Mobile Fidelity LP)
* Camel: Breathless (Dream/EMI CD)†
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador CD)†
* Yo La Tengo: Painful (Matador CD)
* Spiritualized: Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (Fat Possum CD)
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/Mobile Fidelity CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (Lava/Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (Lava/Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Fear Of A Blank Planet (Atlantic CD)†
* Porcupine Tree: Nil Recurring (KScope CDEP)†
* Porcupine Tree: The Incident (Roadrunner CD/CDEP)
* Opeth:  Heritage (Roadrunner CD/DVD)†
* Storm Corrosion: Storm Corrosion (Roadrunner BD)
* Lambchop: OH (ohio) (Merge CD)
* Lambchop: Mr. M (Merge CD/2LP)
* Lambchop/Hands Off Cuba: CoLAB (Merge CDEP)
* Hands Off Cuba: Hands Off Cuba (Hands Off Cuba CDEP)
* Jack White: Blunderbuss (Third Man LP)
* Alabama Shakes: Boys & Girls (Rough Trade/ATO LP+7”)
* Wild Nothing: Nocturne (Captured Tracks CD)(†/)



When I interviewed Mary Halvorson a couple of weeks ago, I asked her what she liked to listen to that might surprise people. After hemming and hawing a bit, she revealed she had just gotten the Frank Ocean CD, Channel Orange, which she found “really interesting.”

Intrigued, I decided to pick it up at my weekly jaunt to Grimey’s. I don’t really keep up with hip-hop—not because I don’t like it, but because it’s just not on my radar most of the time. As it turns out, Frank Ocean (nee Christopher Francis Breaux) is the real deal, an R&B songwriting prodigy who cut his teeth ghostwriting hits for the likes of Beyonce and Justin Bieber. His home and studio was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, so he relocated to Los Angeles and eventually affiliated with the loose conglomeration, Odd Future (OFWGKTA). Ocean later gained attention as a solo artist in 2011 with a mixtape, Nostalgia Ultra, which contains the salacious single “Novacane” and the controversial “American Wedding,” an audacious reworking of the Eagles' “Hotel California,” which has, not surprisingly, drawn a cease-a-desist letter from the infamously litigious rock stars. Nostalgia Ultra will likely never be officially released but an MP3 is available at Frank Ocean's website.

Channel Orange, however is something else altogether, something totally fresh and original. Slyly avant-garde and experimental in its construction, it is nevertheless hook-filled pop music that demands repeated listens. Moreover, Ocean has an extremely versatile and expressive voice, at times sounding like classic soul singers Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder—but with a sexy falsetto like Prince with a similar taste for the kinky and explicit. The beats are thoroughly high-tech and up-to-date but what wins me over are the relentlessly gorgeous melodies—even when he’s speak/rapping, there is a mellifluous lilt to his voice goes right to the heart. When the subject matter gets uncomfortable, as on “Super Rich Kids,” “Crack Rock” and the epic, multifaceted “Pyramids,” you’ll find yourself singing along despite your misgivings. The lushly orchestrated music is mostly down-tempo and romantic, with jazzy flourishes amidst the digital samples and ultra-trippy production, the perfect setting for Ocean’s taut, morally ambiguous narratives. This is a record that’s made for headphones, richly cinematic and thoroughly mind-blowing.

Turns out I’m late to the party regarding Channel Orange, seeing as it has topped every critic’s poll for best albums of 2012. Well, it’s clearly well-deserved. Thanks for the tip, Mary! I probably would have remained oblivious. Guess I need to listen to more hip-hop and R&B in 2013—if there's anything else out there as good as this, I want to hear it.


The interview should appear over at SpectrumCulture any time now. I’ll keep you posted.


Sam said...

Ha...I'm -always- late to the party, it seems. I'll need to check this out! In the meanwhile, back to my Braxton, Mingus, and Dead.....

Playlist 2012-12-17:

*Muhal Richard Abrams: Focus One Think All
*Muhal Richard Abrams: Familytalk
*Daniel Barbiero: Not One Nor
*Anthony Braxton: Composition 82 for Four Orchestras (sides 1, 2)
*Anthony Braxton: Orchestra (Paris) 1978 (BL006)
*Anthony Braxton/Ensemble Braxtonia: 2 Compositions (Jarvenpaa) 1988
*Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Moscow) 2008
*Miles Davis: Miles Davis at Fillmore (disc 2)
*Charles Mingus: Mingus Moves
*Charles Mingus: Changes One
*Charles Mingus: Changes Two
*Charles Mingus: Cumbia & Jazz Fusion
*Charles Mingus: Three or Four Shades of Blues
*Paradoxical Frog: 2011-06-10 Vision Festival, NYC (CDR)
*Sam Rivers: A New Conception
*Leo Smith/Peter Kowald/Bobby Naughton: 1981-10-07 Richmond Artists Workshop (CDR)
*Sun Ra: College Tour Vol. 1: The Complete Nothing Is... (disc 2)
*Lily Allen: Alright, Still
*Animal Collective: Here Comes the Indian
*Comets on Fire: Avatar
*Deerhoof: Breakup Song
*Emerson, Lake, and Palmer: Tarkus
*Bill Fay: Time of the Last Persecution
*Bill Fay Group: Tomorrow, Tomorrow, & Tomorrow
*Galactic (selections)
*Gong: Camembert Electrique (side 1)
*Grateful Dead: 1971-11-15 Austin, TX (CDR) “Dark Star”
*Grateful Dead: 1972-05-25 London (CDR) "Dark Star"
*Neutral Milk Hotel: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
*Jim O’Rourke: All Kinds of People... Love Burt Bacharach
*Wayne Shorter: Adam's Apple
*Skeleton Crew: Learn to Talk
*Soft Machine: Fifth
*Sharon Tandy: You Gotta Believe It’s...
*Various artists: Central Avenue Sounds (selections)
*Various artists: Here We All Are, Sitting in a Rainbow: A Colour Sounds Recordings Sampler
*Various artists: WSAM: In our Atmosphere (CDR compilation)
*Who: Magic Bus
*O.V. Wright: Nucleus of Soul

Reading List 2012-12-17:

*Levin, Richard. Looking for an Argument (in progress)
*Mantel, Hilary. Wolf Hall (in progress)
*Proust, Marcel. In Search of Lost Time, vol. IV: Sodom and Gomorrah, transl. Scott-Moncrieff/Kilmartin, rev. Enright (reread/in progress)
*Shattuck, Roger. Proust’s Way (in progress)

Rodger Coleman said...

Sam - I'm really digging the new Deerhoof record. Haven't loved anything really since "Friend Opportunity." BTW, Mary Halvorson is a big fan!

Sam said...

Great! Well, I have enjoyed everything since "Friend" but I definitely think "Breakup Song" is their best record ever! I've been loving it, and they kicked it live in RVA.