Frank Ocean's 'Channel Orange': A Track-by-Track Preview

Frank Ocean's 'Channel Orange': A Track-by-Track Preview
Last night (June 28), in a small, sound-absorbing, pot-lit studio, a group of journalists and media types convened to hear Frank Ocean's Channel Orange. Ocean, who sat in on the whole thing, was an hour late, so we all waited patiently; some chatted quietly, others schmoozed with Odd Future manager Chris Clancy, offering nuggets of insightful gold like "this must be quite a project." Meanwhile, beside a mixing board the size of a car, studio execs discussed pros and cons of pressing the album on orange vinyl.

When Ocean showed up, he was nothing if not polite, apologizing for being late, shaking hands with everyone in attendance, pretending to remember everyone he'd met just once at some media event. "The album is called Channel Orange," he began. "It's gonna take about an hour of your life. I'm super proud of it. That's all I got for you." With that, he sat in front of the mixing board, and Channel Orange began.

1. "Start"

The intro track is just a few seconds long, all shimmering synths and 8-bit videogame sound effects. Its "channel-surfing" sound effects introduce a theme that will run throughout the album, especially the interludes, as though you're clicking the buttons of a TV remote to venture forward.

2. "Thinkin' Bout You"

The first single has been given a makeover, with bigger, lush strings, both acoustic and digitized, and deeper drums that emphasize the space in which Ocean's voice hangs.

3. "Fertilizer"

A funked-up, showtune-esque interlude about 30 seconds in length, and darling in its exuberance.

4. "Sierra Leone"

Not entirely dissimilar to "Thinkin' Bout You," "Sierra Leone" is a wall of washed-out, breathy synths and thudding drums, punctuated by woozy strings and tinkling chimes. Think Marvin Gaye if he'd been into reverb.

5. "Sweet Life"

This sultry piece is introduced by a melodic bass line and jazzy Wurlizter keyboard. Shuffling drums and thick vocal harmonies build to an all-out crescendo including a brass ensemble. The trick of building up instrumental parts until they all coalesce in a grand crescendo is one Ocean employs a few times on Channel Orange.