It’s crazy how artists quietly put together careers that start to feel like legacies. Take Beck, who still has the impish charm of the nerd-punk who crashed MTV with “I’m a Loser,” yet somehow is entering his 25th year as a recording artist.
This year’s Colors is Beck’s 13th studio album, released three years after the unlikely Album of the Year Grammy winner Morning Phase. Somehow, this is the first traditional pop album he’s recorded. Or at least as traditional as an oddball like Beck can get.
Our next Montauk Madness matchup pits somebody it’s very cool to like against somebody it’s very uncool to like. Beck, meet John Mayer.
I’m a big fan of both of these guys, so I’ll try to keep the hipness factor out of my vote. I realize that appreciating John Mayer is not great for my street cred, but I think anybody who dismisses his musical chops or his songwriting ability is mistaken. Sure, the guy can be a smug prick and some of his songs veer too close to maudlin, but so many more are spot-on.
While we wait patiently for Beck’s 13th studio album, his first since 2014’s Grammy-winning Morning Phase, let’s enjoy a blast from the past in the form of ‘Peaches & Cream,’ a cut from his 1999 album Midnite Vultures.
Midnite Vultures, released in the midst of Y2K paranoia, before we lost our national innocence on 9/11, is a blissed-out vision of white boy funk on which Beck very effectively channels Prince.
Beck’s 1998 album Mutations remains one of my favorites. It’s a ramshackle, melancholy collection that proved to be a precursor to the lovely, sad-sack classics, Sea Change and Morning Phase, to come in the decades that followed.
Mutations isn’t as polished as those albums but it’s beautifully produced, sustaining an uneasy, almost post-apocalyptic, mood. It’s the soundtrack of the Earth depicted in the first half of WALL-E.
My last new song of the week comes courtesy of Beck, who offers up his first release since the gorgeous, melancholy Morning Phase won a surprise Album of the Year Grammy.
‘Wow’ is a world away from the Beck of Morning Phase and Sea Change, a lot closer to Odelay and Midnite Vultures. The brilliance of Beck is that he seems equally comfortable in both modes. Not many artists can pull off both soulful balladeer and space-age DJ.
I haven’t done an in-depth analysis of Random Weekend selections (though I’d love to) but I have a feeling that Beck is overrepresented.
Yes, he is relatively prolific. I own nine of his albums and 99 of his songs. But I feel like he shows up in the random mix more often than those numbers would suggest.