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Frank Ocean: Channel Orange 

Island Def Jam

By the sound of gorgeously self-actualizing new album Channel Orange, Frank Ocean doesn't mind being the enigmatic outsider in Cali's cliquish, ruffian Odd Future crew. In their stead is an optimized blend of live funk, '70s coke-rock, and air-conditioned Weather Channel jazz. On "Pilot Jones," foamy whorls of reverb and feedback beckon toward the Weeknd's pornographic indie R&B. These songs are endowed with a mastery of pacing and plotting that helps obscure the sometimes unconventional guests: Andre 3000's curious cameo makes one wonder if the waters over in Stankonia are spiked with DMT. But as smart, tough, love-scarred Ocean gives chase to lasting fulfillment, Channel Orange proves both liberated and liberating. (4 out of 5 stars)

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