If anything took 2011’s music scene by storm, it was undeniably Odd Future.
Frank Ocean is OFWGKTA’s emotional relief. Unlike Tyler, the Creator and Earl, Frank Ocean is based on R&B, social commentary, nostalgic homages and tenderness. This is the album if Bastard is too abrasive or unsuitable for your taste.
Nostalgia, Ultra is just perfect. It’s a mix-tape that does everything within its format’s limitations and does it humbly with immense confidence, creativity and talent. Jumping between remixes of classic pop songs (Coldplay’s Strawberry Swing, The Eagles’ Hotel California, MGMT’s Electric Feel, to name a few) and original tracks that feel fueled by past generation’s creations all while creating something very brand new entirely.
What sets Nostalgia, Ultra apart from getting legitimately labelled as “hipster propaganda” is how sincere Ocean’s skill of reminiscence and lack of pretension he has, as an artist. Throughout the album, Ocean places many half-minute tracks of a cassette being paused and rewinded and labels them under classic video game titles (Street Fighter, Soul Caliber). He doesn’t do this to impress or attract a certain crowd, he does it so the continuity of the album actually sounds like a cassette and frankly, he does it just for fun.
Aside from this album’s superb technical ability, Ocean should be recognized as a damn good lyricist. His single (not to mention, one of my favorite tracks of the year), Novacane, tells this cool, transgressive story about meeting this porn star/dentist at a concert and getting high in an unexpected way. Ocean tells this story all while sounding cute, vulnerable, sexy, smart and even funny. This is how the whole album plays: filled with a very honest personality and delivered with great storytelling skills. His best songs are his best written: tracks like We All Try, Ocean’s personal statement that’s delivered with style and poignance, and Lovecrimes, which puts a spin on classic sayings like “Murder, She Wrote” in a delivery Animal Collective would be familiar with. This is not to say that certain songs are composed better than others; Nostalgia, Ultra is a consistent work of clever, thoughtful and worthwhile music that aims to achieve its own maximum potential.
In the current hip-hop based scene, one overloaded with self-righteousness and disturbingly abundant amounts of boasting and insults, being humble as an artist or a person can be like finding a feminist eating at a Hooters; almost impossible. Nostalgia, Ultra may not only be one of the best releases of 2011, but also the debut of the hardest-working and most under-rated guy in the industry right now.
This album is my dad. (10/10)