Our long national nightmare is finally over: Frank Ocean is actually, for real (probably) in the process of dropping the follow-up album to his 2012 tour de force, Channel Orange.
Late on August 18, Ocean released a 45-minute video full of original music via his website, to the joy and relief of his salivating fans. Titled Endless, it features contributions from artists like Jazmine Sullivan, Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, James Blake, and the London Contemporary Orchestra. It’s gorgeous, haunting and strange.
Endless is now streaming on Apple Music, and according to Rolling Stone, Ocean will release the official follow-up to Channel Orange — which will be an entirely separate album from the music in Endless — through Apple Music sometime this weekend.
It’s understandable if that last sentence left you skeptically blinking at your screen, given that the meticulous Ocean has been teasing a second album for at least the past year. Formerly known as Boys Don’t Cry — Rolling Stone confirmed that he’s ditched that title for an as-yet-unknown alternate — the album was most recently expected to come out on August 5.
Instead, what launched on August 5 was a live stream on Ocean’s website — of the same largely empty studio space seen in Endless — that featured the musician experimenting with various sounds, moving wooden boxes before sanding them into submission. Eventually, fans realized he was building a spiral staircase. (If you missed it, don’t worry — that’s the footage Ocean uses in Endless.)
And with Endless, Ocean has reminded everyone why the long wait for his album has been so excruciating. His music is rich, carefully calibrated, and unfailingly thoughtful.
While his original songs — which are currently unavailable separately, since Endless plays as one continuous track — showcase that quality, his approach is maybe best represented by his cover of the Isley Brothers’ 1976 hit "At Your Best (You Are Love)." Ocean’s version is, in effect, a cover of a cover Aaliyah originally did of the song on her debut album in 1994. Though Ocean dropped this cover online in 2015, the version on Endless is fully rendered, complex and lush, weaving in elements from both Aaliyah and the Isley Brothers’ versions through his own smooth filter.
There will be much more to say once Ocean finally releases his full second album. But until then, if you have 45 minutes to spare, you could do a lot worse than falling into his Endless world for a spell.
How to watch Endless: Go to the Apple Music homepage and click on the promotional image for Endless. If you are an Apple Music subscriber, the 45-minute stream will then play.
(Endless is currently unavailable to stream and/or purchase as separate tracks.)
Endless track listing:
1. "Device Control"
4. "Commes Des Garcons"
6. "In Here Somewhere"
8. "Deathwish (ASR)"
9. "Rushes To"
10. "At Your Best (You Are Love)"
12. Ambience 001: "In a Certain Way"
13. Ambience 002: "Honeybaby"
15. "Slide on Me"