Thanks to everyone who has already visited this baby blog, but thanks in particular to those who have commented, emailed, liked etc. And thank you to those who have asked where you can find “Nostalgia Ultra”, the album referred to in our earlier blog here.
Well, at the time of writing, go here to find a nice easy zipped download courtesy of the friendly folks of Get Right Music.
For the law-abiders among you, don’t worry – this is all legal (well, we think so, we don’t yet employ an in-house lawyer here at Pop Lifer) – Frank Ocean himself put this album out for free last year as a result of frustration at his record label’s refusal to promote it.
Lord knows what they were thinking. While “Nostalgia Ultra” isn’t as fully realised, fully rounded and fully beautiful as “Channel Orange”, it’s still one of last year’s five best albums.
What with recent revelations, you might think “Songs For Women” – probably the catchiest song on board – was something of a red herring, but given the general mischief at work in the lyric, you can’t help but wonder if Ocean knew this song was one day going to be greeted wryly. Similarly, on first listen, 50-Cent favourite “Novocane” might sound like typical rap bragging – “Superhuman, even when i’m fucking” could be the abhorrent Chris Brown – until you hear the desperation and melancholy underpinning it: “I can’t feel, can’t feel a thing.”
More typical of Ocean are the slower and more reflective songs. “Strawberry Swing” samples Coldplay and is a gorgeous, shimmering and gentle meditation on childhood, while the brooding, organ-driven”Swim Good” finds Ocean heartbroken and driving out to the sea – maybe never to come back. And on “There Will Be Tears” Ocean reflects on his briefly known and departed grandfather to gorgeous effect. His honesty and vulnerability were there all along.
“We All Try” is the purest pop number, and should by all rights have been a global number one. On it Ocean sings of sin (“I don’t believe my hands are cleanly”) and sadness (“Can’t believe you would let me touch your heart”) but ends on a note of ringing positivity: “I just don’t believe we’re wicked/ I know that we sin, but I do believe we try.” It’s a sort of soul “Everybody Hurts” and gives the clearest indication of just what Ocean would achieve on “Channel Orange”.
And, yes, that is Radiohead you can hear in the background of “Bitches Talkin”.