What does it sound like?:
So here it is… Beck’s pop album. Having worked with some big name producers in his time (Dust Brothers, Godrich, Rothrock & Schnapf, Danger Mouse & Penfold) here we find Beck hanging out and making music with Greg Kurstin (pop producer ‘due jour’ whose next artistic stop is a certain Mr. L Gallagher). And this record has been a long time coming. Beck’s last album, the Grammy winning ‘Mourning Phase’ was released nearly four years ago. In that time we have had singles (Dreams- June 2015, WOW June 2016) and the promise of a new album, but nothing until now. And was it worth it…
Well, kind of. The first thing I noticed about album opener (and title track) Colors is that it is mixed quite high. The top end of this song is, well, right up there. With all of the high frequencies pushed up high I wouldn’t have been surprised if all of the dogs on my street were barking along. Sonically this is a trend that continues throughout the album (the top end, not the dogs barking), but whilst there is quite a contemporary pop sheen on the tracks, there isn’t a lot to the actual songs. They just don’t stick in the memory as anything other than ‘tap along a bit’ until you get to the singles.
The singles themselves are pretty good. WOW doesn’t really sound like much else Beck or anyone else has made, and ‘Up all night’ is a nice pop record. I can’t tell you if it’s been played anywhere other than 6Music, but I am sure it might have crossed over to Radio 2. Has it been played in the US or elsewhere? Not sure. Album closer ‘Fix Me’ is a slower tune, but with a similar production to the rest of the album. It sounds good, although a little out of place with the pace of the rest of the songs.
On the whole he has made a polished album, with a ‘quality pop producer’ which has a few good songs on it. I reckon that it is probably too polished for most of Beck’s fan base, who probably want Odelay or Guero Part two. Four or five songs aside what we get wouldn’t sound out of place as filler on a Bruno Mars or Scissor Sisters album. It’s that good.
What does it all *mean*?
The question it leaves me asking is “was it worth the risk?” Beck seems to have made a pop album, but what is he going for? Surely a step in such a direction should mean greater sales or chart placements or what-have-you. However, the three singles off of the album have failed to chart in either the UK or US charts, his last top 100 single being 2005 and his highest placing was Loser back in 1994. As an album artist he has certainly put together a set of songs with a theme (from a production point of view), as he always seems to do.
My own personal view is that Beck seems to do two types of albums- downbeat and reflective (Mutations, Sea Change, Mourning Phase) and upbeat and a bit daft (Odelay, Midnite Vultures, Guero, The Information). To be honest I wasn’t overly impressed by either of his last two albums, and Guero was a bit wearing. I think I prefer Beck being a bit weird (like The Information) or rough round the edges (Odelay). I guess that this isn’t either of those approaches but my six year old is dancing along to it, so what the heck do I know?
Goes well with…
Tapping your toes, not really listening.
Might suit people who like…
Crafted (over a four year period) pop.