Beck dares us to wake up from our reveries and feel all of the ‘Colors’ on his brand-new album.
It’s like a breath of fresh air. Arriving just in time, Beck’s brand-new album Colors paints the world, one currently filled with turmoil and confusion, a much-needed vibrant hue. Released through Capitol Records on October 13, 2017, this album is filled with all the typical delightful Beck-isms and a sleek, modernized approach thanks, in part, to a collaboration with prolific pop producer Greg Kurstin (responsible for hits such as Sia’s “Chandelier,” Ellie Goulding’s “Burn,” and Adele’s “Hello”). It’s such a vitalizing album to listen to. In stark contrast with previous effort Morning Phase, Beck is back on the sunny side of things and, with minimal hiccups, Colors is an extremely enjoyable experience.
Right from the start, the title track engulfs you in a fluorescent sensory experience, tons of different sounds and, well… colors flying by at a brisk speed. Beck has the uncanny ability to morph, to switch to and from sounds with virtuosic effortlessness, probably because at nearly 25 years in, all of this is effortless to him. Think back to 2014, when he wore the guise, yet again, of introspective folk-country-rocker; you almost wouldn’t believe you’re listening to the same person with this new effort. Each track has its own tone and carries its own weight, but they all combine to produce a kaleidoscopic effect that feels like musical sunshine. Beck sounds best when he’s unapologetically peppy and upbeat, simultaneously shredding subtly and feverishly along, like in “Seventh Heaven” and the aptly named “I’m So Free.” Concerning the latter, the earnest drive of the guitar (reminiscent of the type of exuberant garage rock that fostered Weezer’s introduction) makes up for the simplistic chorus and the slightly awkward and prosaic nature of Beck’s half-rap. At first listen, it’s like a self-deprecating reference to the type of jaunty weirdness that put him on the scene early in his career. Overall, it feels like a rejuvenated, streamlined companion to “Loser,” juxtaposed in that he feels “so free from you” instead of like a “loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?”
A lot of these tracks’ lyrics read like mantras, and if you repeat them to yourself enough, you can feel a tangible effect begin to happen; these are fantastic mood boosters. Take, for example, the ninth track “Square One”: amid the crisp percussion and piano, Beck sings,
This is life, and it’s alright
taking detours in your mind
You’ll be fine if you try
to keep your eyes on the consolation prize
Another great one comes from stand-out track “Dear Life,” the single that has garnered praise for being very Beatles-esque sonically: Beck croons,
I’m holding on
How long must I wait
until the thrill is gone?
The self-explanatory chorus of “I’m So Free” is not to be forgotten here, either. Lots of these lyrics will be great for screaming out when it comes time to tour. This refreshing sound is perfect for filling up arenas around the world; breezy but full of heart, as well.
The only low points on the album come in the form of closer “Fix Me” and the album version of “Dreams,” previously released in 2015 as a single. The latter track lacks the riffs and background ambiance of the original; it presents as slightly less punchy, with a little less of an attitude (thankfully, the single version is included as a bonus track). The former could easily be a b-side or bonus track from 2002’s Sea Change or from Morning Phase, the second a slightly less melancholy extension of the first. “Fix Me” is by no means a bad song, but it just feels out of place amid the more jubilant tracks here. Perhaps it was a wise decision to leave it until the end.
There is, however, something concurrently modern and old-school about this album that bolsters its own presence in the current pop landscape. The lyrics are a little trite sometimes, as can be the case with pop music, but this is a sonically cohesive collection of songs. Colors seems primed for Top 40 radio play. It will be cathartic and liberating for these songs to be played publicly on the impending tour. The buoyancy of this pop- and dance-rock record will make it a standout among Beck’s discography, for the old Beck heads as well as the newer ones.
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photo © Beck