Frank Ocean - Blonde

HAVING KEPT AN ASSIDUOUSLY LOW PROFILE since 2012’s Channel Orange, Frank Ocean’s sudden return sparked a press deluge. It was led by the surprise appearance of Endless, a 45-minute ‘visual album’ showing the reclusive soul man building a spiral staircase over freeform ambient noodling. If Ocean’s artistry was the undoubted subtext, the subsequent arrival of the 17-track Blonde fully reaffirms his master craftsman status. More stripped back, oblique and drum-free than its predecessor, driven by rippling guitars (some by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood) and Ocean’s Wonder-like electric keys, his arresting falsetto may reference Trayvon Martin on the woozy Nikes or bid quivering farewell to boyhood on the gospel-charged Godspeed, but love’s battleground remains the locus of his languid incantatory soul-searching. It’s a beguiling, meandering sprawl that rewards total immersion. Listen to Blonde here: