Beck, Colors | Album Review
Alternative hipster Beck returns with ‘Colors,’ an effort that ends up being the opposite of his previous album, ‘Morning Phase.’
Finally, a new Beck album, Colors, has arrived! It’s been three years sense we’ve heard from the Scientologist hipster, who shocked the world by winning the Grammy for album of the year for Morning Phase. It was shocking because (1), the competition and (2), it was a more subdued, conservative album from the singer/songwriter. Colors is the complete opposite – not the least bit subdued.
“Colors” kicks off Colors colorfully. It bursts with exuberance, exhibited by the bright production work as well as the vocals by Beck. There’s a lot to take in on the opener; there’s no shortage of sounds or effects. In regards to dynamics, it’s certainly louder than Morning Phase – much louder. Age aside, Beck is ‘turned up’ to the nth degree.
“Seventh Heaven” keeps the momentum rolling. Furthermore, it keeps the tempo cooking and the fun ‘amped’ up to the next-level. How it contrasts colors is there’s a bit more emphasis on the guitars and less on the keyboards and synths. Still, there’s plenty of colorful sounds to take in. Among the pros are Beck’s falsetto and the infectious chorus.
“I’m So Free” slackens the pace, dialing it back to mid-tempo as opposed to up-tempo. The groove is still alive and well, keeping the hipster hipper than ever. The chorus amplifies the guitars (as opposed to the synths), a welcome contrast to the opener. The enthusiasm continues to be lofty for Beck who is clearly in the zone three tracks in. It’s always an interesting choice when a single or teaser doesn’t appear early in the track list. It works out soundly in this case.
“Dear Life” possesses a great sound, with its throwback pop/rock sensibilities. Even so, there’s something refreshing about this sound that prevents it from sounding anachronistic. Vocally, Beck sounds as potent as ever, giving plenty of energy from the jump. Harmonically, the progression keeps things interesting, going beyond the standard tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords. The twist and turns further highlight Beck’s musicianship.
Sandwiched between the four singles is “No Distraction.” Like everything else that graces Colors, the energy and intensity are selling points. The songwriting on this album isn’t particularly deep or transcendent, but the M.O. of Colors seems to be the colorful palette of sounds, as well as Beck’s colorful personality. All in all, boxes continue to be checked off.
“Dreams” is one of the grooviest songs Beck has ever released. The rhythmic guitars, acoustic and electric, bring the production work to life. Beck’s vocals don’t hurt either, bursting with enthusiasm, particularly the chorus where he sings, “She’s making me high / She’s making me high.” After the three-minute mark, there’s an unexpected change of pace. This bridge keeps things interesting, eliminating predictability. This brief switch slackens the pace down, yet has an infectious, funky sound. All in all, “Dreams” is a success, superbly blending pop and alt cues.
While Beck may be far removed from his trendsetter days, he definitely doesn’t sound like he’s middle-aged on “Wow.” Influenced by hip-hop and an urban palette of sounds, “Wow” is fresh, progressive, and appealing to the ear. The sound won’t be for everybody, as some may prefer the quieter, more acoustic-driven sound of Morning Phase to the edgy, hip-hop-electro sound embraced here. Furthermore, “Wow” screams record as opposed to song. Regardless, it’s ear-catching and he solidifies his status as the coolest, middle-aged hipster out there.
“Up All Night”
“Up All Night” is all about the rhythm. On both verses, he sings about the rhythm. On the chorus, he keeps it simple, sans deep, arduous-to-decipher lyrics. Moving beyond the lyrics, the music is chocked-full of energy. As referenced earlier, it’s a clear break from the quiet, acoustic nature of Morning Phase. Beck is overt, rhythmic, and dynamic. The groove cooks – funky to the nth degree – conveying an alt-danceable sentiment. Still, it possesses the quirkiness that makes Beck, Beck.
‘The beat goes on’ on penultimate record, “Square One.” Beck continues to flex his musical muscles without bringing anything innovative or ‘brand-new’ to the table. Perhaps if there weren’t songs in a similar vine as “Square One,” it might stand out more. It’s a respectable, well-rounded number. “Fix Me” closes out Colors (Note: Digital editions add the original version of “Dreams” as an 11th track). It’s much slower than the majority of the album. It also possesses a different character than the rest of the album as well. Nonetheless, respectable.
All in all, Beck delivers another enjoyable, well-rounded album with Colors. The production – the sounds – serve as a selling point. The songs are also solid, even if Colors lacks a surefire classic. This won’t go down as the best album in the discography, but the fact that he can flip the script between albums this far into career is quite impressive.
Gems: “Colors,” “I’m So Free,” “Dear Life,” “Dreams” & “Wow”
Beck • Colors • Capitol • Release: 10.13.17
Photo Credit: Capitol