Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Bedstuy Betty Reviews Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra
It’s increasingly rare that one finds a song, let alone an EP that possesses a cinematic feel coupled with stellar production, and innovative lyrics that provides a fully satisfactory experience. Most would scoff that such an occurrence is impossible. Well non-believers, your search is over; Nostalgia, Ultra by Odd Future’s Frank Ocean is exactly that and more. While most have come to expect from the group, their standard version of horror core in a vein similar to that of Eminem, Ocean’s mixtape is akin to a breath of fresh air. However, don’t romanticize him too strongly. His lyrics still belie a crassness that’s in good standing with the group’s general archetype.
The EP starts off with the interlude “Street Fighter” which is essentially the sounds of someone going through the motions of switching between cassette tapes (remember that, kids?). The first actual song is “Strawberry Swing”, which is sampled from a Coldplay track of the same title. It speaks on a remembrance of simpler times, the nostalgia almost tangible as you drift away into the prettiness of this track, only to be brought back to reality by a harsh alarm clock towards the end. The next track “Novacane” has a slight early 2000’s R&B swing to it as Ocean croons about his craving for a girl with dentistry aspirations as she pays for her tuition “doing porn in the valley”. He doesn’t appear to be put off by it though as he wishes to be with her constantly, equating her love to the numbing effects of the track title.
Ocean reveals another facet to his soul with the song “We All Try”, a simply evocative piece where he speaks on his beliefs with the resounding assurance that we all try to be better people despite our faults. Very similar in vibe to any one of Marvin’s socially conscious classics, I wouldn’t readily admit to this but it moved me to tears. A following track “Lovecrimes” reverts back to the familiar direction of this EP, as Ocean sings about a certain girl that drives him insane while a scene from Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” plays out underneath both the melody and the lyrics. While one would think of this as disconcerting, the juxtaposition is oddly perfect. Other notable tracks include “Songs for Women”, “There Will Be Tears”, “American Wedding”, and “Nature Feels” where Ocean samples from artists such as Mr. Hudson, The Eagles, and MGMT.
Most of the content in Nostalgia, Ultra exhibits a surrealistic edge as well as a realistic depiction of how we play our life out in our heads. For a new artist, Ocean is a great indicator how good pop music could be in this generation, and it appears that folks are ravenous for it. Despite conflict with Ocean, Def Jam will be re-releasing the EP on iTunes on July 26 with “Novacane” as its first single. There are also reports that Nas has recruited him for a project. Guess I’ll be waiting around with the rest of the world for that to drop, hopefully sooner than later.