Arts Reviewing, Music Review

The Best Record You Never Got to Buy (And Never Will)

I know what you’re thinking: “buy?”

If we’re all being honest here, the concept of “buying” music is either 1) a luxury we don’t have (a few new CD’s or another payment towards rent/tuition/credit cards) or 2) don’t really want, considering there’s so many ways to trick the system into getting music free.

I’m not really here to debate the merits of illegal downloading – I’m mostly here to talk about the one record that I would definitely have bought if that was the only way I could stand to ever enjoy it, and/or would 100% definitely buy in the future if it was ever released – even if I had to pay an absurd amount of £££ on some oddly colored, limited edition out of 50, only available somewhere obscure like Japan or the Czech Republic, vinyl to get it. It’s that good.

The record, or rather mixtape, in question is Frank Ocean’s 2011 nostalgia,ULTRA, and its outlandish sampling of popular songs by popular bands (The Eagles, MGMT, Coldplay, etc.) has ensured it will never ever evereverever get released commercially. Thankfully, you can still enjoy it online!

The fact of the matter is, a lot of these sampled tracks are surprising improvements over the original versions. Ocean’s silky smooth vocals work well over ethereal tracks like Coldplay’s “Strawberry Swing” and MGMT’s “Electric Feel” – especially the latter track, reworked as “Nature Feels,” a sexy, sensual song about “makin’ love underneath the cherry trees” that vastly surpasses MGMT’s original spacey, druggy (and admittedly, a little contrived) track.

Ocean’s take on The Eagles’ immortal “Hotel California” might seem a little blasphemous to diehard lovers of classic rock, and will definitely rub more than a few listeners the wrong way. Here, Ocean’s broken-hearted lyrics about an ill-fated “American Wedding” pay homage to the original’s own disgruntled/fated-by-beauty lyrics in a way that’s particularly relevant to modern society’s rush wedding culture (here’s looking at you Britney Spears, Kim K and whatever your short-term spouses’ names were).

There are plenty Ocean originals worth checking out on nostalgia,ULTRA as well – look out for “Dust,” an almost soothing, less angsty expression of Drake level emotivism over a pounding drum beat. “We All Try” sees Ocean in similarly moody territory, this time waxing philosophical about religion, human nature, abortion, and—perhaps most salient given the singer’s recent coming-out via Tumblr post—gay marriage. If you still need convincing that “nostalgia” is a worthy listen, also note that his staple songs “Novacane” and “Swim Good” originated on this mixtape.

Really, you’re cheating yourself if all you’ve heard from Frank Ocean is Channel: Orange.

The same legal reasons that keep nostalgiaULTRA from being released probably keep us from linking you to it or embedding the album here – what do I know, I’m a writer, not a lawyer. But hypothetically, the internet is a pretty big place and Google is a pretty magical tool for finding whatever you want 

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