Here is a look at new music out this week.
Frank Ocean "channel ORANGE"
Frank Ocean’s new album, “channel ORANGE,” does all of the right things to accentuate the singer’s smooth R&B style. Ocean first came to the public’s attention after being featured on releases by the brash rap collective known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. But Ocean is far from a rapper. His voice has been an oddity on the albums, as he’s often the calm amid the chaos.
Ocean uses the same approach on “channel ORANGE” to favorable results. During the release’s early songs, he could be accused of being a little too calm. Don’t think of it that way. Instead, consider the early part of the album as a slow build leading up to the payoff, much like that of a thriller-genre movie. Here, the payoff is “Super Rich Kids,” which coyly borrows the piano part of “Bennie And The Jets” and mixes it with Ocean singing his own lyrics and a few lyrics from the Mary J. Blige hit “Real Love.” Both are interesting choices to sample, but Ocean pulls it off making the songs seem so right together.
The arrangements get even more complicated on the 10-minute track “Pyramids.” Ocean sounds effortless in his delivery over an uptempo dance beat for its first half before slowing things down for the song’s final act. His voice lends itself well to such dynamic music. Other songs on “channel ORANGE” don’t require as much work. Ocean sings about a “domesticated paradise” on “Sweet Life.” This song was meant for Ocean’s relaxed delivery and goes hand-in-hand with “Super Rich Kids” in keeping with a class warfare theme.
Other songs stray slightly from the path, but the song writing of Ocean and others including Pharrell Williams keeps things in perspective while not being boxed in by an overall theme. “channel ORANGE” just misses being as good as Ocean’s 2011 mix tape, “nostalgia, ULTRA.” But it still is a great album that has Ocean improving on his lyrics while not going outside the boundaries of his smooth vocal style.
Baroness "Yellow & Green"
“Yellow & Green,” the new double album from Baroness, has the Georgia metal band slightly turning away from their heavy sound in exchange for something more melodic. The change has the band sounding more complete as musicians instead of a bunch of guys snarling over crunching guitar riffs.
The “Yellow” portion of the album sets the stage for the band’s new sound. The first disc also includes the best songs in the “Yellow & Green” collection with “Sea Lungs” and “Take My Bones Away.” The latter is a melodic metal song that dips into prog rock. The “Green” portion of the album is a little more plodding. This probably could of have been a real good collection of 12 or so songs instead of a somewhat drawn-out double album. But you still have to appreciate Baroness taking a chance by changing their sound. It might turn off some fans, but this is the best the band has sounded in its almost nine years of existence.
Jimmy Cliff "Rebirth"
You can’t get much more of a no-brainer when it comes to the title of Jimmy Cliff’s latest album, “Rebirth.” The reggae legend is back with his first studio album in more than seven years. Helping the process as producer is Tim Armstrong of the punk band Rancid. The two previously worked together on Cliff’s eight-song EP that was released last year. That effort included covers of The Clash’s “The Guns of Brixton” and Rancid’s “Ruby Soho.” Both of those tracks appear on “Rebirth,” so unfortunately we don’t get an entirely new album from Cliff. Also part of “Rebirth” is “One More.” The track is well-polished while retaining Cliff’s classic sound. Again, it’s probably not the totally new song long-time fans were clamoring for because Cliff has been playing “One More” during live shows for the past couple of years. The more recently conceived songs save this album. Armstrong has Cliff sounding refreshed on “Bang” and “Rebel, Rebel.” If anything, “Rebirth” is one of the more solid-sounding Cliff albums, thanks to better production skills.
Also out this week: The Alchemist, “Russian Roulette”; Boys Like Girls, “Crazy World”; Citizen Cope, “One Lovely Day”; Com Truise, “In Decay”; The Drowning Men, “All of the Unknown”; The Fixx, “Beautiful Friction”; Gatekeeper, “Exo”; Jon Dee Graham. “Garage Sale”; HELLYEAH, “Band of Brothers”; Missy Higgins, “The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle”; Susanna Hoffs, “Someday”; Cosmo Jarvis, “Think Bigger”; JEFF the Brotherhood, “Hypnotic Nights”; Jimbo Mathus, “Blue Light”; Matisyahu, “Spark Seeker”; Nas, “Life Is Good”; Old Crow Medicine Show, “Carry Me Back”; Phillip Phillips, “American Idol Season 11 Highlights”; Pierce the Veil, “Collide With the Sky”; Saving Abel, “Bringing Down the Giant”; Soul Asylum, “Delayed Reaction.”
Out July 24: Anywhere, “Anywhere”; Eric Copeland, “Limbo”; Eternal Summers, “Correct Behavior”; The Gaslight Anthem, “Handwritten”; Heena Klan, “Chasing Paper”; Love and Theft, “Love and Theft”; Mozella, “The Brian Holland Sessions”; Passion Pit, “Gossamer”; Reverend Horton Heat, “25 to Life”; Slipknot, “Antennas to Hell”; Slug Guts, “Playin’ in Time With the Deadbeat”; Summer Camp, “Always.”