Frank Ocean
Endless


3.8
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
April 30th, 2018 | 60 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Stay at your best, baby

The first time I reviewed Endless, back in 2016, my main complaint was with the strangeness of the album's release, as an unbroken soundtrack to a film of Frank Ocean slowly building a staircase that fans were left to divide into songs by themselves. I didn't know I was reviewing an unofficial release that would be remastered and released over two years later – hell, I didn't even know I was reviewing the first of two Frank albums that week. The sting of disappointment that we got an experimental/ambient R&B soundtrack instead of the long-awaited Boys Don't Cry, which of course was coming right down the pipeline, clouded a lot of the feelings behind the words. Still, I had some legitimate concerns – the wet paper tunnel sound of the production, the German scientist techno track which opened and closed the album, the lack of fullness and richness that channel ORANGE demonstrated even in its simplest moments, that sincerity and clarity of purpose that made Frank Ocean a name to take note of since "Pyramids" dropped. Even though that bad taste faded with the sweet honey of Blonde just a few days later, it was mostly replaced by a feeling of Endless as forgettable, a throwaway, at best a game-winning chess move by Frank which freed him of his Def Jam contract to reap all of Blonde's rewards.

The biggest thing about Endless 2018 is that it makes damn sure we know this album is no throwaway. Whether the re-release was always intended or it happened as something of a reclamation project for these forgotten songs, the new Endless is slick, shiny and much-improved. You might immediately notice the "Device Control" bookends are gone, beginning the album with the serenely swelling strings of Jonny Greenwood rather than the dulcet tones of Wolfgang Tillman rumbling about Apple appliances. Song endings and transitions are strengthened and extended, with "Mitsubishi Sony" tapering off into a glitchy, oscillating beat that closes the album on a whisper of James Blake doing trap. With song delineations finally clear, the aimless middle stretch of the album becomes formless in a purposeful way, with a succession of bite-sized jams showcasing every side of Frank Ocean. The Sampha-assisted depressive pop of "Alabama" / "Mine" gives way to the sun-dappled R&B of "Comme Des Garcons", then to the harmonically gorgeous electronica of "Impietas / Deathwish (ASR)". Most importantly of all, folks, the sound – no longer an album of songs playing down the end of a really damp hallway, this Endless is gorgeously replete, voices and sounds swimming around your headphones in a clear demonstration of Frank's love for the sound of sound. All the straight winners have cemented their positions even further, notably the ambient classical of "At Your Best (You Are Love)" and the woozy bar-for-bar of "UNITY" (feat. Frank's funniest flex on record, 'how do I crop your new bitch out my vine?'). Meanwhile, quieter moments lost in the blur like the mournful "Wither", as good as a sister piece to The Life of Pablo's "Frank's Track", and vocal harmony workout "Rushes" join them to stand out as career-best material.

I don't mean to drown the album entirely in praise. For all it's been fleshed out and unfurled and legitimised, this is still a fragmented, frustrating release with musical alexithymia, unable to stay in one place long enough for many coherent ideas to form. The question also lingers whether removing the original's blemishes was entirely a good move. Yes, I get down to the extended ending of "Mitsubishi Sony" and yes, I'll take this new production any day. But I honestly find myself missing the silly, didactic German voice welcoming me into Frank Ocean's weirdest and most impenetrable release, setting up the feelings of depersonalisation and dissociation which define the whole record. Stripped of its techno-freak electronica bookends, Endless is in a strange place between accessible and bizarre, a more digestible version of an album designed to be a tough swallow. Somewhere between experimental EP, hip-hop mixtape and Blonde b-sides album, there sits Endless, a confounding and brilliant release from a confounding and brilliant artist.



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user ratings (84)
Chart.
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2018


40725 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

tbh I learned the word 'alexithymia' from the Sopranos the other night

Underflow
April 30th 2018


4322 Comments


Didn't even know this was coming out

Toad
April 30th 2018


1985 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

have always liked this one more than blonde

great review

neekafat
April 30th 2018


12905 Comments


This is probably better than Blonde, will check

Green Baron
April 30th 2018


24321 Comments


"tbh I learned the word 'alexithymia' from the Sopranos the other night"

not the Anberlin song?

Digging: mewithoutYou - [Untitled]

luci
April 30th 2018


10118 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

tried to add this but redirected me to the 2016 page. glad we wiped that, frank did us wrong with that first rip. this is ambient pop excellence

Clumseee
April 30th 2018


1175 Comments


Rushes is god-tier Frank.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2018


40725 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

@toad cheers dude. your new avatar is some good shit



not the Anberlin song?




well I got the word from there, but not what it means lmao



Rushes is god-tier Frank.




correct opinion

BlushfulHippocrene
Contributing Reviewer
April 30th 2018


2609 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm not huge on the conclusion here, feels like it disentangles what is an otherwise perfect review -- the argument itself is super interesting, but what comes after "the question also lingers..." I find not all that convincingly delivered. Would have liked a bit more flesh to it maybe. Otherwise, Jesus Christ, dude, everytime I read something from you you've gotten better; I wasn't even a big fan of your reviews -- what, two years ago? -- and now you're easily one of my favourite writers on this site.

Incredible album, can't believe it's been two years since the original.

Digging: Pictureplane - Degenerate

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2018


40725 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

thanks blushmane, totally understand where you're coming from. I was just finding it a little too neatly finished/positive for my rating so I thought the criticism was worth bringing up at the end. disentangling isn't always a bad thing for a review imo!

rabidfish
April 30th 2018


4189 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

i think this is on par with Blonde.



Meaning: 2 good songs and a bunch of unfinished blobs that could not be any less interesting to listen to.

Digging: Black Kray - Ice Cream & Mac 10s

guitarded_chuck
April 30th 2018


16400 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

do you ever go outside

rabidfish
April 30th 2018


4189 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

the air hurts my skin and most people are usually turned off by my gigantic egg-shaped head so no.



This still boring.

Clumseee
April 30th 2018


1175 Comments


This black cover is coooooooler than the white cover.

plane
Emeritus
April 30th 2018


7300 Comments


I agree: the vinyl remaster and presentation goes a long way in changing the narrative on this album. Parts of the album felt like I was listening to them for the first time. I like that you went back to cover this release. Great review.

Winesburgohio
Contributing Reviewer
April 30th 2018


2368 Comments


terrible review, just abysmal, unbefitting of a staffers prestige and responsibilities, alexithymia isn't even a fuckin word

Digging: Zuli - Terminal

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2018


40725 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

thanks plane! I think Florida and Deathwish benefited the most, they sound like entirely new songs



EDIT: Dr. Melfi disagrees you Wire-loving philistine @wines

henryChinaski
April 30th 2018


4107 Comments


Oh cool, had no idea this was coming out.

wojodta
April 30th 2018


89 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Is the physical copy not available to order? Can't find this anywhere.

granitenotebook
April 30th 2018


779 Comments


good review
"Is the physical copy not available to order? Can't find this anywhere." yeah it's not anymore afaik



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