For fans only (not the best starting point, or the most convenient)
Expectation: It is sad how quickly the world seems to have forgotten Endless, but at one point this was the most anticipated release of 2016. Released just 2 days before Frank’s more widely-praised Blonde, Endless is a “visual album” exclusive to Apple Music. The weeks leading up to its release were occupied with a black and white video of Frank constructing a staircase, with the music introduced for the final segment of the project; this video and the music together constitute the “visual album”, and that is how Frank envisioned this project would be viewed. However, as the music is quite excellent, I will review it as an ordinary album.
- At Your Best (You Are Love) – Frank explores the highest range his voice is capable of over a an echoing, ethereal string section. The whole song sounds like a passionate performance in a huge but eerily silent venue, with Frank’s voice and the instrumentation reverberating and washing over one another. Frank sings closer and further from the mic to manipulate the vocal tone even further, and somehow the song reaches over 5 minutes while feeling like it could barely have been 2. Just an amazing introduction to the album’s unique sonic palette.
- Alabama – A tragically short but still fantastic song. Frank experiments with overlapping vocals in the same echoing, spacious ambiance as the opening track, and Sampha sounds great on his contribution.
- Mine – Just in case you forgot that Frank is a fantastic rapper, too.
- U-N-I-T-Y – Despite being little more than a song fragment, the track fits so well into the feeling of the album that it fluidly connects the previous tracks to the next without even feeling like an interlude.
- Comme de Garcons – Another song fragment, but a very catchy and creative one.
- Honeybaby (Ambiance 002) – Cool beat.
- Wither – A lovely little ballad with a simple but beautiful message.
- In Here Somewhere – Not so much a song as a collection of fragments, similar to those that constitute their own tracks elsewhere on the album. A nice listen in the context of the album though.
- Slide On Me – One of the most focused tracks on the album, yet unlike almost anything I’ve heard before. Frank sings and raps over a quick, almost frantic hip hop beat while various vocals chime in from the background and an acoustic guitar plays along. Its thoroughly strange but still feels instantly familiar, and transitions perfectly into the next track.
- Sideways – Frank raps over a pretty cool beat, then moves on.
- Florida – Frank does a harmony, then moves on.
- Rushes – The most Blonde-esque track on the album, composed of ringing electric guitar and stacked vocal harmonies with little else. Well, until the drum break at the end, which is awesome in its own right.
- Rushes To – An incredible vocal performance over a soft, slow acoustic guitar. I am still in awe every time I hear this song.
- Higgs – A goofy little intro followed by a brief but crazy electronic outro. Then the “Apple appliance” thing happens, which is kind of fun but not very interesting to me.
Overall: Endless is not a good album to throw on shuffle or pick a random song from. While I don’t think a single track here is filler, only a few tracks are complete enough to stand on their own outside of the album. This should all come as no surprise though, since the album isn’t even (legally) available as individual tracks. Endless is an album that is purely meant to be heard in full; each song fragment perfectly connects to the tracks before and after it, accomplishing what they set out to do and then making way for the next idea. The tone of the album is similar to Blonde, but more wintery and empty. If Blonde is like a private performance, then Endless feels almost voyeuristic, as if Frank has given us a glimpse of the recordings that most artists would never allow anyone to hear but themselves. Fortunately for both Frank and us, it sounds beautiful.