Album review: Beck – Colors

There has been a definitive shift towards a more pop-friendly sound over the past few years of Beck’s career, and on Colors this seems more apparent than ever. It’s unashamedly bright, much more so than ever before. It’s another step towards convention, in a similar vein to 2008’s Modern Guilt and 2014’s Morning Phase. These were both less commercially successful, but still pretty well received, but how will this year’s release hold up in comparison?

His most successful single came early on in his career; “Loser” was released in 1994 and propelled him into the limelight, alongside the fake MTV stars that he was so openly disgusted by. His odd-ball style was then accepted by the masses, colliding influences from all over the musical spectrum, including rock, folk and hip-hop. Writing and recording Colors has been a long 3 year process, once again working with ex-band mate Greg Kurstin, who played alongside Beck before moving on to writing for the pop elite; most notably Sia and Adele. With the amount of time spent, along with the songwriting help of somebody of such calibre, fans will be expecting big things from “Colors”, but unfortunately the quirky-shimmering pan pipe fun of it’s title track is not the strongest start.

Not every track inspires a smile, but the Beach Boys-tinged track “Seventh Heaven” is especially uplifting. “I’m So Free” that follows is more reminiscent of Beck’s former self, with a grungy tone that leans closer towards Kurt Kobain. The repetitive, unimaginative lyrics are not the album’s finest, but it hits with enough impact to ensure its listen-ability. “Dear Life” channels influences from The Beatles and Elton John, whereas “No Distraction” sounds more like a record from The Police. Its mild, white-washed reggae/ska vibes are overshadowed by more average lyrics, but the vocal melodies are undeniably catchy.

Speaking of catchy, many UK fans will already be familiar with the album highlight “Dreams” from its use on ITV. It has been out for 2 years already, and has been given a lick of paint for the album mix. This track epitomises why he has maintained such a successful career, and is a modern take on Beck-pop. His loose rap influences rear their head again on this album, in a rather ugly way unfortunately. Lines such as ‘its irrelevant/elephant in the room goes boom’, on “Wow” are shockingly bad, lacking finesse and rhythm; possibly on purpose? The instrumental itself is not half bad, but it would sit more comfortably on somebody else’s album. Utilising 808 drum rolls and other contemporary pop techniques could be an inside joke somewhat, poking fun at the current chart toppers, but it may well go over many listeners’ heads.

“Up All Night” and “Square One” are satisfyingly playful – if not a little shallow – but they deserve more than one listen. “Fix Me” on the other hand is one of the project’s more melancholy moments, balancing out the majority of frantic, quirky music. Maybe Beck has not quite joined the dark side yet, but he certainly seems to have changed a lot since his rebellious twenties. Colors does less to challenge, and more to comfort, this could mean that it is likely to sell a lot of copies, but has he began selling his soul too? Come and hear it in one of our demo rooms at your local Richer Sounds today.