Beck’s latest album “Colors” is inventive yet familiar

This cover image released by Capitol Records shows "Colors," the latest release by Beck. (Capitol Records via AP)

Beck is eclectic, weird, highly-experimental and revered for exactly these reasons. Since his release of “Mellow Yellow” in 1994, to much critical acclaim, Beck has spanned the gamut of musical genres—sometimes putting into question what even qualifies as music in his earlier, trying years.

Nevertheless, Beck’s quirky and idiosyncratic style has drawn a massive following. His mainstream appeal was solidified in 2015 when “Morning Phase” took home Album of the Year at the Grammy’s. The release of Beck’s 13th studio album this past week is a mother’s warm embrace for Beck fans who have been teased with singles and unfulfilled promises for the past two years.

Fear not, your patience has been rewarded. While “Colors” marks yet another distinct direction in Beck’s long and illustrious career, it feels like a logical successor to “Morning Phase” and its slower more pensive pop-folk style, an album which many had critiqued for lacking the inventiveness they came to expect from the genre-bending multi-instrumentalist. “Colors” is an upbeat party-starting kind of record tied together in a cohesive manner with bright electropop and chrome-plated funk beats.

“Dreams,” the first single released off the album way back in June 2015, exemplifies the quick and punchy alt-rock/pop blend that Beck’s newest material has come to embrace. Like most songs on the record, it’s easy on the ears in an ultra-palatable but still really fun way. Beck walks a fine line with this kind of stuff because it is so close to being a cheap parody of modern pop. However, part of the brilliance he displays here is the ability to tinker with concepts and elements that are present, but not typically explored, in radio-brand pop.

Not everything is so easily classifiable on “Colors,” however. Take “Wow” for example. In what is by far the most oddball song on the album, Beck boldly layers a kaleidoscope of pitchy slide-whistle tones over a bass-heavy beat. This is certainly uncharted territory for a guy who rose to fame within various subgenres of rock, but it is a welcomed piece of artistic experimentation.

For all of its serious musical complexity, “Wow” is also a hilarious stoner jam. The lyrics are outrageous in their disconnect from reality, but are also incredibly powerful in their message. Rhyming “Standing on the lawn doing jujitsu” and “Girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini Shih Tzu,” he first evokes imagery of a Napoleon Dynamite-esce character who lives life according to his own rules. Then, in the following line, he quickly juxtaposes that idea with a pointed comment on consumer society, referring to the abundance of wealthy models in coastal areas who drive luxury cars and carry around expensive miniature dogs in designer handbags.

From an artist who’s well-known for his thematic nihilism, consistently writing on topics such as death, depression and the frivolity of life, “Colors” is not void of these more earnest sentiments. The ironically titled “I’m So Free” is a work of art in that respect. It is dripping with poetic elements of imagery, metaphor and wordplay. It’s not an exaggeration to say the lyricism in this track could stand alone as a written work of equally impressive stature.

In this latest release, Beck manages to open himself and his music up to a wider audience while still maintaining the support of his earliest fans. “Colors” is inventive yet familiar, old yet new and overall, an important milestone in the career of such a prolific artist.

4.5/5 stars


Mitchell Clark is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at mitchell.clark@uconn.edu.