Beck

Colors

Capitol

Oct 13, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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If you think you've heard this album before, don't worry, you're not losing your mind. Bits of Beck's brand new Colors have been trickling out for years. "Dreams" landed as a single way back in 2015, followed by "Wow" one year later. "Up All Night" first appeared in a watch commercial more than a year ago. Of all the singles, only "Dear Life" was released as a true lead-in to the album, so you'll be forgiven if much of Colors doesn't feel entirely fresh on your first listen.

It all makes sense once you know that Beck and producer Greg Kurstin have been working on Colors as far back as 2013, and that many of the songs were written while the alt rock icon was touring 2014's Morning Phase. That's probably the weirdest thing about it: Colors could hardly be much further from the downtempo soft rock that won him an unexpected Grammy.

This new record has a rigorously upbeat vibe from top to bottom. "Colors" kicks things off, a glossy, '80s pop joint with a surprising pan pipe solo at its midpoint. "Seventh Heaven" is a more modern, sugary pop number, sounding a lot like it could have fit on one of the records Kurstin recently produced for Tegan and Sara. "Wow," with its catchy chorus and wonderfully nonsensical lyrics, is just as good now as it was when it was topping all those "Best Songs of 2016" lists. Throughout its long gestation, Beck and his team jokingly referred to this album as "Sgt. Thriller"meaning, a mashup of Michael Jackson's biggest and The Beatles' most revered. Those are lofty reference points that only an artist working on Beck's level would have the balls to so casually drop, but you can hear where he's coming from on a track like "Dear Life," which opens with a funky, Lennon-esque piano intro and punctuated by sharp, Harrison-y guitar riffs; or "Fix Me," which sounds kind of like one of Jackson's slow jams, like "You Are Not Alone" or "Man in the Mirror." Even Beck can't totally channel those two landmark LPs, but it's nice to know he occasional builds on universally-known cornerstones in addition to the usual obscurities from deep in the discount vinyl bins.

Colors may not be the sonically adventurous follow-up to Odelay it had once been hyped as, or even a surefire party starter like Midnite Vultures. Still, it's a return to the experimental pop modes that set Beck apart from his contemporaries and kept his career relevant long after the slacker generation had gotten jobs and were raising li'l slackers of their own. As great a songwriter as Beck has proven himself to be on his more straight-forward rock records, he's at his most vibrant when he allows himself to cherry-pick and combine elements from his diverse range of influences. If you've missed Beck the musical collage artist, Colors is the one that should bring you back. (www.beck.com)

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