Tag Archives: alternative

nostalgia, ULTRA. mixtape by Frank Ocean

In light of recent events surrounding hip-hop and R&B artist Frank Ocean, I was inspired to check out his 2011 mixtape, nostalgia, ULTRA.  A member of the alternative rap collective Odd Future, Frank Ocean possesses a nice voice that adds some tenderness and emotion to the otherwise hard, gritty stylings of Odd Future (this being said–I haven’t listened to much of their music).  Having heard Tyler the Creator and witnessing his music video for “Yonkers,” I decided I am hesitant (and terrified) to listen further.  Outside of Odd Future, Frank Ocean made a few appearances on Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Watch the Throne,” adding some great choral melodies on his tracks.  Ocean recently posted an open letter on Tumblr describing his first life-changing love, which happened to be with another man.  Many wonder how this will impact the climate of the often regarded homophobic nature of the hip-hop community.  In any case, Frank Ocean’s debut studio album was recently released early on iTunes and I wanted to get a gauge by which to compare his new material (some context outside of his recent “coming out.”)

Overall, I was very impressed with ‘nostalgia, ULTRA.’  The record feels like more than a mixtape, from the production value to the quality of the lyrics and melodies.  I think that Frank Ocean’s real strength lies in his storytelling ability.  I absolutely love his spin on ‘Strawberry Swing,’ primarily for the story and the message of the song.  Taking music from alternative music giants like Coldplay and MGMT shows his appreciation for and understanding of various genres.  For this reason I was reminded of Kid Cudi or B.o.B, paired with the delivery style of a more soulful Drake.

For the most part ‘nostalgia, ULTRA.’ is a cohesive, complete experience.  I feel that one or two of the tracks were noticeably less strong than the rest (i.e. ‘Songs For Women’).  Less strong, however, does not mean these songs aren’t worth listening to or filler for the album.  My biggest gripe with the mixtape are the brief intermission tracks named for various old-school video games.  They do not really add anything to the record, and I don’t really understand their significance.

When it comes down to it, this is a catchy and well-constructed mixtape that proves Frank Ocean is a talented artist.  I think that his coming out as a bisexual or homosexual man was a positive, brave move (especially in the world of hip-hop), and I think bringing this to the public’s attention will attract new fans and bring support to the release of ‘channel ORANGE.’  I am going to wrap up this post with the most meaningful track off his new album: ‘Bad Religion.’

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Crooked Still

Like most people, I enjoy listening to various genres of music. Alternative, folk, indie, pop, rock, hip hop… If it’s pleasant to the ear and I consider the product to be completed with tact and care, I’ll almost always give it a chance. However, there are a few genres that I have trouble connecting with. Perhaps I simply haven’t given these areas of music enough attention to fully appreciate them. While some types of music continue to suffer from this lack of understanding (e.g. country and heavy metal), one in particular has crept its way into my heart through the vessel of an unbelievably talented group of musicians.

I suppose Crooked Still would most fittingly be labeled an alternative bluegrass band. Aoife O’Donovan provides the lead vocals, and I must say her voice is stunning. The band as a unit is one of the most technically proficient I have ever witnessed live. Each and every individual is ready to improvise a masterful solo on a moments notice, with the other members providing strong support. I think it’s so amazing that fiddler Brittany Haas, banjo player Gregory Liszt, or cellist Tristan Clarridge have the ability to take over a song and put the crowd into a frenzy.

Perhaps you are like me and aren’t sure if an alternative bluegrass band is for you? Put your doubts aside and look no further than Crooked Still!

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