Pass the Aux 002: Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
the smooth, soulful, summer soundtrack
Hey, I’m Brandon and welcome to mint\brand – my weekly canvas to be human, explore my brand + music obsessions & share them with you.
In Pass the Aux, I spotlight my favorite ‘head-to-toe’ albums – records I highly recommend savoring from start to end. Each issue finishes with my monthly playlist where I serve you an amuse-bouche of new (& old) heat that I can’t stop listening to.
If you’re like most folks and use Spotify, you’re familiar with their algorithmic curation – in contrast to Apple Music’s human-centric strategy. With Spotify, you’ve got Discover Weekly alongside their countless playlists that encapsulate any occasion you can think of! There’s also a good chance you’ve seen some of these “bizarre, generic artists” as well.
Despite that, I believe the model Spotify’s chosen path – one that optimizes for SEO & streaming volume – drives us further away from savoring albums from start to finish. It just doesn’t seem like a common activity anymore!
In a world where incentives nudge artists to push streams of singles to remain relevant, we risk losing the humble ritual of the head-to-toe album listening experience. And with that, we miss out on appreciating the thoughtful construction and narrative woven into a full studio album release.
Hopefully this newsletter becomes a reminder for you to insert this ritual into your routine :)
Listening notes: Diving into a pool at dusk while it’s still a comfortable 80°F outside; a warm, familiar embrace that never goes out of style
Perfect for: The magic hour when the horizon is the perfect swirl of cotton candy pink, twilight blue, zesty orange & a tinge of lavender
Ahh, Frank Ocean. Chanel. Nikes. Self Control. We All Try. Swim Good. So! Many! Hits!
I first heard this masterpiece at Teach For America’s summer training right before my first year as a Pre-K teacher. All incoming corps members from the Western Region were bunked up at Loyola Marymount’s Playa Vista campus.
It was freshman year all over again – dorm life! Except with recent college grads and mid-career professionals.
And Frank had just dropped.
From dorm to dorm, Frank was everywhere. Everyone was bumping the album. Non-stop.
You could pour a glass of wine to Thinkin Bout You. Melt into the sunset with the casual ease of Sweet Life . Why not light up to Super Rich Kids? It had it all.
Frank’s one-of-a-kind vocal texture makes for such a pleasurable listening experience. Warm, resonant, & full – he hits the high notes while grounding us in raw emotion.
Said another way, his voice consists of the perfect balance of treble and bass that keeps us coming back for more. And if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, goddamn right, we are more than happy to.
One of my favorite examples is on Forrest Gump, where from the jump, his voice shines – elevates you to another place. Once the thumping bass kicks in, you’re left with a most dynamic listening experience that keeps you coming back for more. Yeah, that’s pretty much applicable to the entire album.
Los Angeles Traffic (Interlude)
LA has shaped me in so many ways. One of the stranger idiosyncrasies I’ve found is that I actually don’t hate traffic here that much. I certainly don’t love it, but let me paint you a different picture.
The redeeming quality of Los Angeles Traffic is that when you’re parked on freeway, you can just sit back, throw on your favorite album, and gaze out at the endless gallery of palm trees, usually with a tangerine-burst sunset backdrop. This became the visual accompaniment to many listens of Channel Orange – and other albums that I’ll cover here.
Whether I found myself in San Francisco, New York, or anywhere else in the world – I now had a visual and sonic anchor to LA. Overly romantic & out there? Sure. Do I love the albums more because of it? Hell yeah.
Get with U by Clairo (1:59, 2017) – a moody, contemplative track filled with yearning, a hint of pain, and whispers of this angel’s voice. Pairs very well with your nightcap of choice.
Borderline (Blood Orange Remix) by Tame Impala (7:18, 2020) – what a blessed collab! Kevin Parker’s vocals are as distorted as ever, but Blood Orange’s hearty bass lines anchor the track that’s been on repeat for *checks clock* the last 2 hours.
Sweetness by Sweet Whirl (3:28, 2020) – I’m obsessed with how this song spans the decades. The soulful vocal texture and bouncy keyboard take me to a 70’s Carpenters sound, but the track is punctuated with a dreamy, modern, folk-indie quality. Throw in a splash of jazzy percussion and you’ve got an instant mood-lifter.
Holy Ghost by BØRNS (4:17, 2015) – Garrett’s lovesick lyrics and melodies never miss. Another track with a satisfying bass line to file under your “Driving Along the PCH” playlist. We’ve all got one, I know.
Selection by Lil Tecca, Skrillex & DJ Scheme (1:41, 2020) – in lieu of a full studio follow-up to his 2014 Recess, Skrillex-heads (*raises hand*) have resorted to savoring his production and remixes for Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber, Kelsey Lu, and more. His sound signature is all over this one. Hearty percussion with a crisp, vibrant top-line chime with just enough distortion to make things a little weird.