One for Now, One for Later: Be sure to check out these two new musical offerings

 

JLin – Dark Energy

If cool sounds are what you seek, cool sounds you shall receive on this progressive debut EP from Indiana electronic artist JLin. Upon first listen, I found myself in shock and awe — excitedly applauding JLin’s powerful grabbing-hold-of the electronic music genre with her use of the Chicago-born “footwork” subgenre.

This project radiates with gloss and sexuality, but with a dark and nearly maniacal twist. Using breakingly quick tempos to combine ethereal female vocal samples with ominous and disorienting grooves, “Dark Energy” truly could not have been a better title. JLin produces a hypnotic and immersive sound that is sure to inspire a furthering of the electronic music genre.

­—Recommended if you enjoy Com Truise, Grimes

Frank Ocean 

It was recently announced that this July, R&B artist Frank Ocean will be releasing the follow-up album to his 2012 debut studio project, Channel Orange, titled Boys Don’t Cry. For those who share an eternal infatuation with Channel Orange, myself included, the anticipation could not be higher.

However, many are unfamiliar with Ocean and his iconic position in the music industry. So, why should you give Frank Ocean’s music a listen? And more importantly, why should you understand just who he is?

In 2009, Ocean began his career as he joined the infamous Los Angeles-based hip hop collective, Odd Future — a group which includes the controversial Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. In 2011, Ocean released his first mixtape — Nostalgia, Ultra — a project which demonstrated his smooth R&B talent with a smartness and subtlety which set him apart from the pack. Ocean — along with another rising artist, The Weeknd — became an exciting movement of modern R&B resurgence.

With such a small repertoire of prior material, however, not much could prepare the music industry for the waves that Ocean was about to make — not just musically, but socially as well. Two weeks before the release of Channel Orange, Ocean came out of the closet and identified to the world as bisexual.

On his tumblr webpage, Ocean posted a note which contained two lengthy, poetic paragraphs which tell of a romance at age 19 that he shared with a male friend who apparently reciprocated on some level, but refused Ocean’s ultimate attempt to name their love. Los Angeles Times music writer Gerrick D. Kennedy called it “the glass ceiling moment for music. Especially black music, which has long been in desperate need of a voice like Ocean’s to break the layers of homophobia.”

Pop artists have long celebrated sexuality as fluid and dynamic, but Ocean brought his position and emotions to a new demographic and age of listeners. Black hip-hop artists pioneered the 2000s era of bling-hip-hop with masculinity and heterosexuality. Ocean presented sexuality as something that arises within particular circumstances, defined by shifting desire and individual encounters rather than solidifying as an exact identity.

Those who didn’t care to regard Ocean’s sexuality were then presented with a full-on expression of it, as Ocean then released Channel Orange — an unprecedented R&B masterpiece that threw the emotional locker wide open. However, while addressing his sexual orientation on the beautifully painful track “Bad Religion,” and touching again on it in “Forrest Gump,” it becomes apparent that this is not what the project necessarily revolves around. Rather, the album exemplifies the beauty of emotional expression itself.

In a formulaic era, Ocean’s production is impressively idiosyncratic — with a heaviness on hazy electronics and reverb and packed with idyllic touches. The melodies never quite pan out as you expect them to, Ocean’s vocals convey tremendous feeling, and you will more than once be caught off guard by the intoxicating grooves. Try the track “Pink Matter” with a decent pair of headphones, and thank me after the verse from featured guest André 3000.

Ocean soared into critical acclaim with this beautifully cohesive front-to-back project, as he was nominated for and won numerous awards, including a nomination for Album of the Year and winning Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards.

While 2015 has been an incredible year for music thus far, the excitement only grows as July approaches. We hope to see another masterpiece with Boys Don’t Cry, while I’m struggling to take Channel Orange off of the stereo in the anticipatory meantime.

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