My relationship with Beck’s music has been pretty casual. I really like and have downloaded a lot of his notable singles (“Loser,” “E-Pro,” “Devil’s Haircut,” “Nausea” & “Blue Moon,” to name a few) and some lesser known ones (“I Just Started Hating Some People Today,” “I’m Down”). Earlier this year, I came across a copy of 2002’s Sea Change at Goodwill and figured I would give it a listen for the $1.40 asking price.
A few days later, I put on Sea Change while I was doing errands and I couldn’t make it through the entire album. Having only been familiar with Beck’s more upbeat work, I was not prepared for–or interested in–twelve sleepy and despondent, albeit critically-praised, tracks. I’ve kept it on my iPod but “Lost Cause” is the only song I liked enough to listen again.
Fast-forward to Colors: the sonic antithesis of its predecessor, 2014’s Morning Phase, and, as a result, Sea Change.
I had been anticipating this album since Beck released “Dreams” as a single in 2015. “Dreams” is such a fun and sleek track that I immediately knew that I would be interested in hearing more songs like it. Rolling Stone praised the track and had said that a new Beck album would be coming soon.
Once again, that was in 2015.
Following that, it seemed to me that Rolling Stone would feature “UNTITLED BECK ALBUM / FOLLOW-UP TO GRAMMY-WINNING MORNING PHASE” in all of their seasonal album previews, leading up to their Fall 2017 teaser, in which RS was finally able to report a title and release date for the album.
Two years of build-up had left me with some lofty expectations and I was pleased (but not surprised) to find that Colors did not disappoint.
While Sea Change is stripped down and minimal, Colors is funky, layered and, well, colorful. Colors is an apt name for such a vibrant, shiny and kaleidoscopic record. It is cohesive without sounding repetitive, it is fun without sounding obvious and it is energized without being exhausting.
Piano-tickling “Dear Life” sounds like a possible out-take from Sgt. Pepper, while “I’m So Free” sounds like Weezer at their So-Cal alt-rock best. At times, the album feels like Beck taking the listener on a journey through his rainbow of genre-mastery, from the EDM-tinged title track to the psychedelic hip-hop of “Wow.”
In some ways, Colors reminds me of another high-energy, dance-infused alt-rock album, Fitz and the Tantrums’ 2013 More Than Just A Dream. Both albums are so overwhelmingly upbeat and catchy that, after listening to them for the first time, I was left thinking, “Boy, if I made TV commercials, I’d be all over this album,” followed by “These songs are going to be in every TV commercial.”
The album closes with “Fix Me,” a somewhat slower track that still maintains the neon warmth of the record. That is, if you don’t count the original “explicit” single mix of “Dreams” that appears at the end of the album as a non-bonus bonus track as the album closer. The clean version appears on the album as “Dreams (Color Mix)” for listeners who are uncomfortable with the phrase “Stop fucking with my dreams.”
At just under forty minutes, Colors is not a brief ride, but it’s so pleasant and multi-faceted that it’s easy to put on repeat and enjoy over and over. In my opinion, it is an excellent soundtrack for this time of year when colors are in abundance and daylight becomes more scarce.