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After this summer’s truly exceptional Channel ORANGE, it has been difficult to predict what Frank Ocean’s next musical step forward would look like, as it generally is with an artist who has clearly poured so much of their soul and talent into an album. After reportedly struggling vocally over the summer and canceling the European stretch of his tour with Coldplay, the blogosphere buzzed with rumors that Channel ORANGE would be Frank Ocean’s last release. It should come as no surprise, though, that Frank is back, slipping a new track quietly and unceremoniously onto his Tumblr last night before his FADER show in New York City. As usual, there was no fanfare, no Twitter countdown; he didn’t even supply a title to accompany the track (although sources are saying it is called “Blue Whale”). Just the music.

It might come as a surprise to some that there is no singing on “Blue Whale.” Those accustomed to Ocean’s crooning falsetto might be taken aback by his calm, nonchalant rap flow on this track, but their surprise will surely give way to satisfaction as the song progresses. “Blue Whale” is a discussion of the art of slowing down, re-assessing, and moving forward. Stream the track in its entirety below.

“Relaxing / I ain’t racing no fuckin’ rats / I’m relaxing / and if its wrong to yah / well life goes on brother, that’s one thing about it.”

All too often, and for far too long, musicians’ work has been associated with and affected by the artists’ personal lives; it has become a fact of the industry that fans not only absorb an artist’s music, but that they become acquainted with the artist as a human being as well, for better or for worse. Frank Ocean has been the subject a lot of Internet buzz over the past few weeks, and sadly, until Tuesday, very little of it had anything to do with the music he makes. Sexual orientation has no effect whatsoever on musical ability or songwriting talent; that being said, countless reviews of Frank Ocean’s superb new album, Channel Orange, seem focused solely upon attempting to tie various lyrics to alleged homosexual feelings or actions. That type of review is both useless and ridiculous, in light of the quality and effort so clearly apparent within this project.

Channel Orange would have been the same album whether or not Ocean had chosen to discuss his sexual orientation publicly the week before its release. The experiences he describes in the album had already passed, the lyrics had all been written, the verses recorded. Although we at The Astral Plane were overjoyed to see a respected and revered artist like Ocean publicly come out despite the potential for backlash, the blogosphere’s reactions to this announcement (positive OR negative) play no role whatsoever in the musical entity that is Channel Orange. It is rather useless to spend time either congratulating or criticizing Ocean’s lifestyle, and frankly I’m sick of reading track-by-track reviews of this album that seem intent upon pointing out the number of times per song where Ocean says “he” instead of “she,” as if attempting to decide upon the “gayest” song of the album. It’s exhausting to see so many people attempting to analyze the personal life of an individual they have never met in what should be a review of the music.

The most beautiful aspect of this project, and the thing so many bloggers seem to be missing as they scrutinize Frank Ocean’s sexuality in loose or imagined relation to the lyrics in Channel Orange, is the fact that Ocean has created a multifaceted and comprehensive portrait of love in this album. This is not love as viewed through the eyes of any one individual; instead, it is love as a concept, viewed critically and with trepidation and awe. This album is a 17-track rumination on the many flavors of fondness and affection. Read the track-by-track review after the jump.

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Wish you were at Coachella? While this won’t remedy the fact that I’m not able to see Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog, M83 and many more. It’s still pretty cool that someone finally decided to do live streams from the festival.This year there are live streams from some of the shows at Coachella including this awesome set by Frank Ocean who is backed by one of our favorites, BadBadNotGood. You can watch around 40 minutes of the set below and be sure to check out the live stream page here.

OF Tapes Vol. 2 isn’t set to be released until Tuesday, but this morning we bring you two cuts off the album. One is a track by Frank Ocean, who features on several other songs on the album, but limits his solo presence to this song. The track (called “White“) is extremely minimal and rather brief, but Ocean’s crooning carries it through enjoyably. Listen over at Prefix.

The second leaked track, on the other hand, is over ten minutes long, so brevity is not an issue. It is notably less official, as well, having been pulled from unknown Tumblr blogs around the web. But this song, “Oldie,”  features an excellent appearance from recently-returned Odd Future member Earl Sweatshirt, whose lengthy verse is certainly a welcome addition to the track. Stream the track (via one of the aforementioned random Tumblrs) right here.