[1] Frank Ocean, ‘Ivy’


The best song wasn’t the single. Takes me back to those blurred boundaries I dithered around back at No.20, because, essentially, I was just seeding this. I could’ve called this 2016 Top 20 Tracks, but singles are magical and if ‘Ivy’ can get Pitchfork’s Best New Music (i.e. be picked out of an album for promo) then that’s basically a single, isn’t it? These days. These new-fangled days.

Now I’m kicking myself for not making Joanna Newsom’s ‘Good Intentions Paving Co.’ the best single of 2010. Or ever.

‘Ivy’ is the best track, single, song of the year because Frank Ocean’s a storyteller with his heart out front, the guitar sounds like Ultra Vivid Scene, there’s no beat, there’s a tale that pulls you into its subversion of guilt and regret, he uses his range to hammer home shifting feeling from the “GOOD!” that desperately affirms everything’s OK to the screaming “dreaming” and the plaintive “me too” in between. He’s an extraordinary performer who makes the assumption you’re in his world – and you are, you’re invested in it.

I mean, take this: as soon as Ocean sings, “I thought that I was dreaming…”, Junior 2 snores. She’s in his hands from the first second (or taking the piss). “I’ve heard it,” she says. “He has a cute voice. It’s very impressive that he’s telling a story.” We talk about Rostam Batmanglij, who’s involved somewhere – the girls are big Vampire Weekend fans. Junior’s worried Frank and Rostam’s diaries won’t coincide enough for them to do it on tour. “They’ll have to bring someone else on.”

“I like the screaming now,” says Junior 3. She then does the “dreaming” screaming until told to shut up.

As we wrap up, as the final scream warps itself away, Junior 2 has a question. It’s a big one. “What’s he going to do now?”

Whittle a nest of tables, probably.

[10] Frank Ocean, ‘Pyramids’

Frank Ocean

Would you believe it? Even when he was plain old for all we know heterosexual Frank Ocean, he was making records to prop you up and take notice. I know! ‘Pyramids’ seems like an age ago – possibly a side effect of it spanning millennia in a blood-twisting Heinleinian odyssey through Cleopatra’s personal development – but everyone was rupturing their own spleens in excitement at how damned amazing it was. And is. Ocean sings with total commitment and that peculiar connection he has whatever the subject, as centuries pass and slow jamz turn to beetling grooves. It’s a bold achievement from a bold man, and beams in here as an earthly representative of album of the year Channel Orange – we could’ve had Sweet Life, Thinkin Bout You, Forrest Gump, Bad Religion, even that glorious cover, but this is your handy Frank Ocean grab bag megamix.

“I prefer Wiley.” Thanks kid.