Legendary indie-rocker falls short with new album
The Santa Clara
October 19, 2017
How do you follow up perfection? Slacker-rock king Beck has been asking himself that question for the past three years as he’s pieced together his new release, “Colors.”
In 2015, he took home the Grammy award for Album of the Year with “Morning Phase,” beating out music titans such as Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Pharrell Williams. The album was nothing short of gorgeous.
Littered with five-part harmonies and remarkable instrumentation, it was a surging, emotional piece. Even then, the win was a shock as this folksy, acoustic album overcame the obstacles of a digitized pop industry. “Morning Phase” set a precedence for him.
There is no way to properly follow up a masterpiece— Beck knows this. No single album of his stays in-step with the others. As a musician, he isn’t afraid to bend genre and explore the unexplored. His artistic laterality is evidenced by his complete change of tone from album to album. His warm, lilting 1998 release “Mutations” was answered the following year with his hedonistic, psych-funk mishmash “Midnite Vultures.”
Being no stranger to reinvention, Beck departs heavily from his previous release with “Colors.” This album is, as the title suggests, vivid and bright. Pop-heavy, the album is a sunny, danceable cavalcade of melodies from start to finish.
He even enlisted the help of Greg Kurstin, a producer known for his work with artists including P!nk, Sia, Kendrick Lamar, Sky Ferreira, Foo Fighters and many more. But Beck’s greatest strength in dynamic artistry also becomes his downfall.
The jump into the unfamiliar territory of pop feels like Beck’s biggest challenge yet with this album. His personal reinvention as a pop musician is noble but far from a success. The pop industry is very hit-or-miss and “Colors” is quite the miss.
According to the “Exclaim! Music” Beck himself says that with music, “You just have to be either lucky and have good timing, or you have to be adept at intuiting something that’s just in the culture, the temperature of the culture.”
Unfortunately, it feels like he can’t follow his own advice. This record just falls short of being a smash hit, and totally avoids Beck’s usual appeal to the Alternative crowd. In trying to be something wholly new, Beck ends up in no man’s land.
The album kicks off with the title track “Colors.” It is a pulsing whirlwind of synths and drums. Invigorating and exciting, the song sets a nice direction for the album. Lyrically, the song isn’t worth much note. The first verse starts off with “I’ll find you and go right through walls we made / I see you, I need you every day / It’s nothing, it’s your life / I don’t know why, I can’t get what I want / I keep, I keep trying.” The lyricism is far from daring. Hardly diverging from the typical pop inspirations of love and rebellion, this song is inconsequential.
With the following track, “Seventh Heaven,” Beck does little to build on the mood set by the first song. With a similar rhythm and overall energy, the song just feels like a continuation of “Colors.” Nevertheless, the song is catchy and light.
The third song, “I’m So Free,” sets some high expectations for itself. For one, there is the hope that it will be in some way similar to legendary rocker Lou Reed’s 1972 hit of the same name. This assumption isn’t some free-associative yarn. In fact, Beck’s mother was a dancer for The Velvet Underground for some time and Beck has even claimed to be influenced by the group. The track also has backing vocals provided by alt-rock group Feist. Admittedly, this song is my favorite of all the tracks, but it still falls short of noteworthiness.
Then the drone of these one-trick tracks drags on for some time until “Dreams.” This track was released back in 2015 in anticipation of this new album, and did an excellent job as a single. Any listeners who fell in love with this track as a standalone are bound to be disappointed once it rolls around while listening to the album in its entirety.
The anticipation for it, built up by its five preceding songs, is the only true emotion this album will give to the expectant listener. The song leaves the listener empty. It’s right here where the format of the album shines through. Each song is a mirror of the last, making the record feel directionless and far from dynamic.
Unfortunately, Beck does little on this album to demand the listener’s attention. Repetitive and rudimentary, this album is far from enjoyable. Granted, it is fun and upbeat, but “Colors” is far from challenging or captivating. At best, this record is perfect for ambient party music, but little to nothing else.
We miss you, Beck. Here’s to your next reinvention.
Contact Noah Sonnenburg at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.