In this cynical world, Frank Oceans timing in revealing his sexuality seems a bit curious. The Tumblr-page announcement that shook the urban music world came less than two weeks before the release of his sophomore album, Channel Orange, bringing him an avalanche of publicity and making him the most celebrated figure in music at the moment.
It would all seem a bit manufactured if we were talking about a lesser artist. But the 24-year-old Ocean who already had music fans in the know enraptured by his self-released Nostalgia, Ultra last year is so genuine in his artistry that its unthinkable that anything else in his mind could be contrived.
And on the wonderful Channel Orange, Ocean continues to demonstrate that hes among the truest, brightest new talents to come on the scene in a while.
In many ways, Channel Orange picks up where Nostalgia, Ultra left off.
It continues on a similar musical path, filled with luscious, pillowy slow grooves (Thinkin Bout You, Pilot Jones), whirring electro beats (Pyramids) and retro-soul (Sweet Life).
But Channel Orange digs deeper than merely intriguing melodies and beats Ocean, who co-wrote most of the album with the likes of Pharrell Williams, James Ho and others, gets political on Crack Rock and deeply personal on Bad Religion, where hes tormented by a male lover who doesnt return the affection, and cries: If it brings me to my knees, its a bad religion.
Of course, its Oceans same-sex declaration that has garnered him so much attention over the last few weeks. But anyone expecting Channel Orange to be some kind of gay pride statement may be disappointed. On most of the songs hes pining for a woman, and the most overt same-sex love song, Forrest Gump, may be social commentary, but it comes across as just a sweet, whimsical love song which, at its heart, it is.
As headline-grabbing as Oceans recent announcement turned out to be, the enduring story remains his talent, which is showcased brilliantly on Channel Orange.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody
Dont be fooled by the gloomy-looking cover: Listening to Bangles member Susanna Hoffs solo album is a bit like walking through a flower patch on a sunny spring day, circa 1967. The birds are chirping. Everyone you see smiles. Everythings groovy.
Thats only a problem if youre on a sugar-free diet, or crave the wail of a spurned lover. Even when Hoffs sings, ooh, it hurts on Regret, it hurts so good.
Hoffs musical reference point has always been the 1960s, and here this California girl and producer Mitchell Froom dive fully into it. The horns and string arrangements recall heroes like Burt Bacharach and Dusty Springfield without repeating them. Hoffs indulges her love for pure pop and, with co-writer Andrew Brassell, avoids cringe-worthy material like Eternal Flame (admit it even if you bought it).
This is a one-dimensional disc, to be sure. The signature harmonies of the Bangles are missed, as is the grit Matthew Sweet brings to the Sid & Susie collaborations with Hoffs. But if its a walk through the flower patch you want, you could do worse.
David Bauder, AP
Somewhere in the isolated foothills of northern California, there must be something magical in the water. How else to explain the musical culmination of a house-sitting stint that took three college classmates and turned them into Milo Greene, a very new and very good band with a self-titled debut album?
To be clear, there is no man named Milo Greene it was merely a device concocted in the bands early days to make it appear as though they had a manager.
Theyre hardly faking it on this album, Milo Greene, a tapestry of richly reverbed guitar, inventive drum work and something sorely missing amid todays morass of arrange-by-numbers rock music a beautifully delivered concept.
That concept is to present their music absent of the disturbances of a frenetic society that closes in from all sides. They admittedly aimed for a pastoral feel and it shows on wind-swept tracks like What's the Matter and Perfectly Aligned.
Milo Greene, now a five-piece outfit, is often carried here by lush vocals from Marlana Sheetz. She hits each note on Son My Son with perfect pitch, yet with just enough throaty delivery to keep the lyrics alive and seeping with emotion.
Some songs have a jazz cadence, while others are tinged with bluegrass. Each approach carries with it something contemplative about isolation amid bustle.
Milo Greene is about as impressive a debut album you can have for music of this flavor.
Ron Harris, AP