The defining query concerning any new Beck album is which Beck he’ll be. Will it’s the unhappy, contemplative Beck of mopey masterpieces like Sea Change and the Grammy-winning Morning Part? Or will the party-starter behind Odelay poke his head out, armed with nonsensical phrases and looped beats? The lengthy, lengthy runway towards Colours—whose authentic launch date was scheduled a full yr in the past—has pointed in a pair totally different instructions, although each of them extra towards the “Occasion Beck” camp: “Goals,” which got here out method again in 2015, bumps alongside in simple rock mode, catchy however finally form of weightless. “Wow,” which surfaced 18 months in the past, takes the get together in way more intriguing instructions: Constructed round a keening, new age-y synth and fats synth bass, it’s a bizarre new basic, sneakily creative and massively catchy.
It may be telling that Beck almost left “Wow” off of Colours, however was satisfied by his label—and his youngsters—to incorporate it. It’s probably the most purely satisfying observe on the report, nodding again to his “Loser” days whereas additionally feeling trendy, with hints of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean in its DNA. (The next lyric will nearly certainly be quoted in lots of Colours critiques for its overwhelming Beck-ishness: “Standing on the garden doing jiu jitsu / Lady in a bikini with a Lamborghini shih tzu.”) “Wow” can also be considered one of solely two tracks not produced and co-written by superproducer Greg Kurstin, a former member of Beck’s touring band who’s gone on to co-write and produce large information for the likes of Sia, Kelly Clarkson, and Adele. Kurstin is partially chargeable for “Chandelier,” “Stronger,” and “Hiya,” so his bona fides are sturdy.
Nevertheless it’s not like Kurstin brings a selected sound to the artists he works with. He’s extra prone to coax out a songwriter’s finest than to place his personal stamp on issues. That’s an odd place for a performer like Beck, whose albums have been deeply related to the individuals he’s chosen to work with: The Mud Brothers on Odelay, Nigel Godrich on Sea Change and Mutations. Colours feels most just like 2008’s unjustly missed, barely undercooked Modern Guilt, produced by Danger Mouse. Both find Beck flitting between the desire to make a simple rock record and the itch for something more fun and funky.
The results on Colors can be hit or miss depending on how much personality Beck and Kurstin push to the fore. Both “Seventh Heaven” and “No Distraction” almost feel like they’re trying to take as many of Beck’s quirks out of the equation as possible. “I’m So Free,” on the other hand, gets slinky and weird, with Beck going from falsetto to half-rap, undercut by a snarling guitar and hip-hop beats. “Square One” pulls almost the same trick, with fantastically funky results; it’s a cousin to the Beck that made “Debra,” now all grown up.
Colors closes with a nod to those of us most enamored of sad-mode Beck. “Fix Me” is a gorgeously melancholy mood piece that would’ve fit nicely on Morning Phase. Beck wrote and produced the track himself, adding an acoustic strum to its synth wash and simple backbeat. It’s telling that it’s the polar opposite of the album’s other great song, “Wow”—one’s silly, the other contemplative. They’re proof, in a way, that Beck is at his best when he’s navigating the margins rather than playing to the middle. Colors is solid—Beck doesn’t make bad records, whatever mode he’s in—and it flirts with greatness, but he’s at his best when he decides to either get loose or get serious, less so when he drives straight down the center.
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