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Alternative & Indie - Released February 25, 2014 | Capitol Records (CAP)

Hi-Res Distinctions 4 étoiles Rock and Folk - Hi-Res Audio - Grammy Awards
Often pigeonholed as being prolific to a fault, Beck took an extended break from recording after the 2008 release of Modern Guilt. He kept himself busy, producing acclaimed albums for Charlotte Gainsbourg, Thurston Moore, and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, blowing off steam via his mischievous Record Club (an online series where he and his friends covered classic albums), and then easing back to original songwriting through the ambitious Song Reader project, a folio containing sheet music for 20 unrecorded songs. He also suffered a spinal injury in 2008, a fact not publicized until he was ready to release Morning Phase, his first album in six years, early in 2014. As Morning Phase is a slow, shimmering album deliberately in the vein of classic singer/songwriter LPs, it's easy to think of it as a pained, confessional sequel to Sea Change, the 2002 record written and recorded in the wake of a painful romantic breakup. Beck didn't shy away from these comparisons, calling it a "companion piece" to his acclaimed 2002 LP, and as "Morning" glimmers into view, sounding for all the world like "Golden Age," it almost seems as if Beck covered himself as part of the Record Club. Morning Phase soon develops its own distinct gait, one that's a little more relaxed than its cousin. Crucially, Beck has swapped sorrow for mere melancholy, a shift in attitude that makes this 2014 album sweeter than its predecessor, a distinction sometimes distinguished by moments where words, traditionally the sadness signifiers for sensitive troubadours, are washed away by cascading waves of candy-colored sound. Underneath this warm, enveloping aural blanket lie some sturdily constructed compositions -- the haunting "Heart Is a Drum," bringing to mind memories of Nick Drake; the loping country-rock "Say Goodbye" and its sister "Country Down"; "Blue Moon," where the skies part like the breaking dawn -- but the abiding impression left from this album is one of comfort, not despair, which makes Morning Phase distinctly different than its companion Sea Change. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released March 16, 2005 | Interscope

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Ever since his thrilling 1994 debut with Mellow Gold, each new Beck album was a genuine pop cultural event, since it was never clear which direction he would follow. Kicking off his career as equal parts noise-prankster, indie folkster, alt-rocker, and ironic rapper, he's gone to extremes, veering between garishly ironic party music to brooding heartbroken Baroque pop, and this unpredictability is a large part of his charm, since each album was distinct from the one before. That remains true with Guero, his eighth album (sixth if you don't count 1994's Stereopathetic Soul Manure and One Foot in the Grave, which some don't), but the surprising thing here is that it sounds for all the world like a good, straight-ahead, garden-variety Beck album, which is something he'd never delivered prior to this 2005 release. In many ways, Guero is deliberately designed as a classicist Beck album, a return to the sound and aesthetic of his 1996 masterwork, Odelay. After all, he's reteamed with the producing team of the Dust Brothers, who are widely credited for the dense, sample-collage sound of Odelay, and the light, bright Guero stands in stark contrast to the lush melancholy of 2002's Sea Change while simultaneously bearing a knowing kinship to the sound that brought him his greatest critical and commercial success in the mid-'90s. This has all the trappings of being a cold, calculating maneuver, but the album never plays as crass. Instead, it sounds as if Beck, now a husband and father in his mid-thirties, is revisiting his older aesthetic and sensibility from a new perspective. The sound has remained essentially the same -- it's still a kaleidoscopic jumble of pop, hip-hop, and indie rock, with some Brazilian and electro touches thrown in -- but Beck is a hell of a lot calmer, never indulging in the lyrical or musical flights of fancy or the absurdism that made Mellow Gold and Odelay such giddy listens. He now operates with the skill and precision of a craftsman, never dumping too many ideas into one song, paring his words down to their essentials, mixing the record for a wider audience than just his friends. Consequently, Guero never is as surprising or enthralling as Odelay, but Beck is also not trying to be as wild and funny as he was a decade ago. He's shifted away from exaggerated wackiness -- which is good, since it wouldn't wear as well on a 34 year old as it would on a man a decade younger -- and concentrated on the record-making, winding up with a thoroughly enjoyable LP that sounds warm and familiar upon the first play and gets stronger with each spin. No, it's not a knockout, the way his first few records were, but it's a successful mature variation on Odelay, one that proves that Beck's sensibility will continue to reap rewards for him as he enters his second decade of recording. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Wow

Alternative & Indie - Released October 21, 2016 | Capitol Records (CAP)

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