ALBUM REVIEW: Beck – Colors

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Beck’s much anticipated 13th album follows the lush and melancholic Morning Phase and though Colors is equally lush, it’s an album built on widescreen technicolor, bold sonic brushstrokes and a saturated pop aesthetic.

On first listen it feels like the quirks and eccentricities that made Beck so iconic are absent on this album but dig below the pop-laminated surface and you’ll find an equally audacious approach to song-craft.

Beck dials in funk, hip hop and psychedelia, exquisitely blending rock guitars and low slung beats in a clever collision of synthetic and organic musicality. ‘No Distraction’ is a standout with its clipped funk and snaking vocal melodies. Like many of these songs he operates in areas of structural cliche – build-ups and anthemic choruses – but it’s all done with an auteur’s ear and sleight of hand that belies the complexities at play.

Old school Beck fans will enjoy the collage-constructed ‘Wow’ but the overwhelming focus of Colors is Beck’s continuing exploration of the frontiers of pop music, like a 21st century Steely Dan.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Beck @ State Theatre, Sydney (14/11/12)

by Chris Familton

It is always a pleasure to visit the ornate surroundings of Sydney’s State Theatre with its outlandish detailing and proclivity for gold and chandeliers. It creates a certain mood and atmosphere and definitely lends a sense of occasion to whichever band is gracing its stage. UK’s Dark Horses had the opening honours and, with quite a different sound to Beck, they played a set of dark and dramatic rock music that took in moody psychedelia, some minor krautrock influence on songs like Boxing Day and the occasional gothic overtone. It all worked pleasantly well but often felt too measured in both song and presentation. Singer Lisa Elle showed she possesses an undeniably strong voice, especially when she shifted gears from deadpan to displaying some fragility and emotion but those moments were few and far between.

The stage for Beck looked distinctly bare with only one keyboard and a few racks of guitar pedals and as the lanky one appeared he cut a solitary figure in leather jacket, wide hat and playing some back porch slide guitar, but then the audience’s ears latched onto that familiar set of notes that kickstarted his career, the curtains parted to reveal his full band and a lighting rig and we were treated to Loser, the first of many, many highlights.

The first half of the set saw a mixture of early tracks like One Foot in the Grave, his mid period hits such as Devil’s Haircut, Girl and Que’ Onda Guero and a great cover of Dylan’s Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat. The style pendulum swung wildly as one would expect with funk, soul, hip hop, new wave and rock all fighting for a place on the setlist yet Beck himself was a picture of slacker calm (gone are the dance moves), offering the occasional hilarious anecdote about playing Bondi Beach in the late 90s and discovering a lost 80s guitar solo in the bowels of the State Theatre before effortlessly dispatching another highlight from his now burgeoning back catalogue.

One of the best moments came with a retreat to some acoustic, countrified songs, particularly a trio from his excellent Sea Change album. The Golden Age had a gorgeous drifting quality and highlighted what an exceptional singer Beck is when he plays the traditional song card.

As we headed towards the two hour mark Beck and band upped the party vibe with a stellar run of songs – The New Pollution, Nausea, Gamma Ray and a show-stopping Where It’s At that brought the audience to their feet and toward the stage, able to scratch that dancing itch that had been bugging them in their seats for much of the night.

At roughly thirty songs the night was a real sonic survey of the man’s brilliant songwriting cache and showed that he has excelled at pretty much every stylistic corner he has explored. He seemed relaxed and enjoying the chance to stretch out, untethered from festival stage times and as a result it felt like one of those special shows that those in attendance will rave about to friends in years to come.

this review was first published on FasterLouder

NEWS: Harvest Festival 2012 first line-up announced

The Harvest Festival is back for its second year after proving to be the perfect middle ground between the likes of Splendour In The Grass and Laneway Festival in 2011. With such a stellar list of bands in its debut year (Portishead, Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, The National, Mogwai etc) it was always going to be a hard act to follow but the initial announcement today of some of the bands that will be appearing shows that 2012 is looking pretty impressive.

  • Beck
  • Sigur Rós
  • Grizzly Bear
  • Liars
  • Fuck Buttons
  • The War on Drugs
  • Beirut
  • Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane
  • Ben Folds Five
  • Santigold
  • Cake
  • The Dandy Warhols
  • The Black Angels
  • Chromatics
  • Ozomatli
  • Dark Dark Dark

 

 

VIDEO: BECK’S Record Club | Guns In The Sky (INXS)

Beck has convened the 4th session in his Record Club that features a revolving line-up of guest musicians. This one features Liars, Annie Clark and Daniel Hart from St. Vincent, Sergio Dias from the legendary Brazilian band Os Mutantes, as well as RC veteran Brian Lebarton, just back from the Charlotte Gainsbourg tour. The record covered this time was 1987 blockbuster ‘Kick’ by INXS. The record was chosen by fellow Aussie, Angus from the Liars. It was recorded in a little over 12 hours on March 3rd, 2010.

In the words of Beck…

It was an intense, hilarious, daunting and completely fun undertaking. Thanks to everybody for being there and putting so much into it. Many classic moments, inspired performances and occasional anarchy.

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OPINION: FAVOURITE SONGS OF 2008

1.  The catchiest album of the year gave us the single She Doesn’t Belong To Me

2.  The ever elegant Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds produced the slo mo wordy swagger of More News From Nowhere

3. Bon Iver was the shooting star of 2008 and this was one of the most beautiful songs of the year… Skinny Love….

4. M38 delivered a convincing and ecstatic take on the best things the 80’s gave us.  Kim & Jessie was also one of the best music vids of 08…

5. Okkervil River delivered the great Stax sounding Starry Stairs and Sydney’s own Jack Ladder did the song justice when they asked him to cover it…

6. The Drones were Australia’s most invigorating band of the year with another killer record and the lead single The Minotaur

7. This year saw the resurrection of sorts of Beck with a good album and in particular the rolling drums and psych feel of Chemtrails. This mashup fan video works quite well too…

8. The man with the punk approach and the key to the cabinet of melodies was Jay Reatard and Always Wanting More and it’s fantastic video summed up his sound perfectly…

9. Silver Jews created the best lyrical album of the year with Dave Berman’s quirky observations which was displayed on Strange Victory, Strange Defeat

10. The Felice Brothers were a new milenium take on Dylan and The Band but they did it so well.  A fantastic record and a great single in Frankie’s Gun