By: Max James Hill, Courtney Miller, and Justin Stevens
Blonde by Frank Ocean
Don’t believe anyone who tells you Channel Orange is better than Blonde. Where the former was bombastic and groovy, Frank Ocean’s latest is quiet and melancholy, more of a bedroom record than a dancehall one.
As it turns out, it’s a good look for Ocean. Blonde’s subtle charm and layered musicality reveal themselves on multiple listens. It’s the most experimental album the singer has ever released, but it’s also the most nakedly emotional, trading the upfront politicality of records like Lemonade and To Pimp a Butterfly for smaller, more intimate stories of love and loss. Standout tracks like “Ivy” and “Solo” show a side of Ocean that we’ve rarely seen, and recall some of the best moments from his previous records, like “Novacane” and “Bad Religion.”
Blonde may not have been the album that fans anticipated, but in a way it’s the one we needed: a beautiful and understated masterpiece in miniature. It was worth the wait. –MJH
The Name by SonReal
The latest album from artist SonReal is nothing short of a stimulating ride for the senses. At just five songs with a 15-minute runtime, the Vernon native makes the most of his time on the mic with an EP that’s short, sweet, and delightfully entertaining.
The Name starts guns blazing with “Can I Get a Witness,” a jovial diddy that hypnotizes with an addictive singalong chorus. Jazzy tracks “No Warm Up” and “Hot Air Balloon” dabble in a CeeLo Green-esque style, but still remain distinctive.
The album is not without its hang-ups, though. SonReal loses gas midway through with a love song that neither dazzles nor bores. It also concludes with “Soho,” a stylistically jarring track that doesn’t belong — even as bonus track.
But at $4.99, it’s definitely worth the purchase and the listen. –JS
Home of the Strange by Young the Giant
Young the Giant’s alt-indie rock is back for another round on their third album Home of the Strange. “Amerika” is a strong opener, simultaneously showcasing the talent we’ve come to love and stating that there are still many great things to come from this band.
My favourite track is “Something to Believe In.” Sameer Gadhia’s vocal range is elegantly showcased in an anthem about the struggle of finding anything to become invested in. In combination with the poignant guitar harmonics, it’s everything you want in a song: talent, rhythm, and meaning.
“Silvertongue” is a close second because it’s a little different than their usual style — a little less rock and a little more R&B — but is amazing nevertheless. And if you want something a little sultrier that builds back to an uptempo track, “Elsewhere” is your song.
Overall, Young the Giant has a beautifully crafted tune for any mood, and turning Home of the Strange up anywhere is a good call. –CM