Beck is done reinventing himself; his career has run long enough that it seems he has explored every sound he can explore. His sense of adventurousness now lies in how he easily oscillates from one mode to another, between albums, although in recent releases it hasn’t felt as crafty, rather feeling a bit perfunctory. That’s not to say Morning Phase was bad; that’s also not to say that his latest, Colors, is. The albums have their moments, but both are bogged down by a certain monotony. The former manages to mask it nicely; the latter, not so. Perhaps it’s because it’s Beck’s most overtly pop record in a while, every track shimmering and glittering and drenched in an explosion of, well, colors. The downside is, you get tracks that you feel have been explored before, with songs reminiscent of everyone from Weezer to Foster the People. It’s all up, no down, and while that isn’t a bad thing by itself, across the record you feel Beck could’ve done something more. Could he have, though? Perhaps he wanted something that didn’t really require a lot of introspection? [NB] | 3/5
Yep, another list of my ten favorite songs of the year. And it’s just that: my ten favorites of the year. While there is an attempt to weave what is clearly a very personal list into some narrative defining the past year, it will most likely not work as much as it should. That said, there were a lot of interesting songs in the past twelve months, and some of my favorite acts went back with some new bits, too. People went quiet; people went retro; people went organic. So there’s that. I don’t know about you, but this is my year in music, sorted in alphabetical order, although you’re likely to guess what I’m biased towards… that’s just the whole nature of it, yes? We’ll be on a two-week holiday break, and we’ll be back with new entries on 5 January. Hopefully. And now, the list. [NB]
Early reviews have called Morning Phase the successor to Beck’s 2002 album Sea Change, mostly in part to the similarities in sound: a more downtempo, mellow offering than most of his records. And true enough, both albums share certain qualities: the textures are interesting, the layers make for a lovely unraveling, but the songs don’t make for a one-track, it-goes-on-and-on thing like some records squaring in on a certain sound do. What I like about Morning Phase is how Beck sounds liberated. Perhaps it’s the muted (yet interesting) sound of his last release, 2008’s Modern Guilt. (Perhaps it’s the spinal injury he got around that time.) Now he gets to really sing, and that added oomph – not that he didn’t have that before – makes for a very satisfying record. [NB] | 5/5
“Defriended” by Beck | Also going the non-album single route is Beck, with his first new material since 2008’s deeply affecting Modern Guilt. “Defriended” still sounds like Beck, only a bit more jagged (not that he hasn’t done that, but this is not the same as his other stuff) and, perhaps, desolated. (Another thing connecting this song to my earlier entry: hints of Kraftwerk. Then again they’re arguably everywhere.) The interesting bit is that he won’t be releasing this song in either of the two (yes) studio albums he has in the works. Evidently that five-year gap wasn’t idle.