Single Review – Beck – Up All Night

Beck Hansen is someone we all know as a respected songwriter and accomplished composer and musician; this demonstrated with his first album in six years Morning Phase from 2014. It was a contemplative and graceful record with quaking melodies and beautiful arrangements charging ballads and Neo-Pyschedelic soundscapes. His upcoming tenth studio album Colors couldn’t be more different. He has been releasing singles for this album for almost two years from the first single ‘Dreams’ in 2015 to the latest release ‘Up All Night’; this album has had a marked shift in tone and everything we’ve heard so far has had a lavish Pop treatment and for Beck this signals a venture into unknown territory, but territory he seems at ease in.

‘Up All Night’ will already be embedded firmly into many people’s heads as it featured in the FIFA 17 video game, released a year ago, though this release has been updated slightly. The track features choppy acoustic and piano rhythm sections and jingling lead elements. These are supplemented by big production pieces from pumping beats and staccato strings. The song allows Beck to demonstrate his ability to effortlessly deliver Pop harmonies and fill the limited space of the song with backing vocals to boot. Despite the lavish and rich arrangment and production, Beck retains a confident command of the song and each element that adds to the large sound. Colors is due for a October 13th release and might not be his absolute best, but it will be the most vibrant album he’s ever produced.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Beck – Dear Life

In a career spanning over 30 years, Beck has already explored a kaleidoscope of different styles and genres. With the release of Dear Life, however, the upcoming album Colors points to an album more animated than those of days past. With a jovial piano – which has rightfully been compared to Beatles numbers – to carry the upbeat, sometimes awkward lyric choices, Beck delivers a vivid yet chilled pop delight. The track is somewhere in between the cheeky and thumping Wow, and Morning Phase’s restrained and somewhat solemn embellishments; this more relaxed take on pop fits better with Beck’s earthy vocals and is a truly summery and wholesome accomplishment. 

Eleanor Chivers

Single Review – Beck – Wow

Beck is an artist who can seemingly take on any musical task and after following on from the sombre and wistful melancholy of the Grammy award winning Morning Phase, he has went on to produce a fine piece of Plastic Pop last year with the single ‘Dreams’ and this has been followed by his latest single ‘Wow’. Stating his intention to originally feature Chance the Rapper on the track, ‘Wow’ is a track full of drum and fill samples, modulated vocals, Beck reliving his rapping prowess and nonsense lyrics that make sense in some bizarre way. It is demonstrative of Beck’s huge production talent and the sheer diversity of his musical arsenal, if there was any doubt. The track is said to be from an upcoming album but so far no details have been released.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Beck – Dreams

Beck has made a fairly rapid return from his Grammy Award Winning exploits of his graceful and sweeping album Morning Phase from last year. It saw him combine everything from Classical to Neo-Psychedelic and was an album closest to a one-man effort than you can get in the 21st Century, with Beck even scoring and conducting the orchestral pieces of his last album. But now with his so far untitled thirteenth album and the first single from it titled ‘Dreams’; Beck has decided to turn lasts year’s methods on their head. ‘Dreams’ is a typically infectious pop tune with it’s snappy beat, sing-a-long vocals and falsettos. It still retains that acoustic instrumentation that Beck is so synonymous with, but there’s nothing thought provoking or contemplative about this track. Though it’s pretty random, it’s delivered with absolute ease and Beck has no problem being a pop-star in this track. The funk and rhythms fade into a warped interlude before sliding back into pop formation again. It’s been suggested that this song serves the purpose of an upbeat track for Beck to play at his shows, but who knows where his next album will land on the musical scale. Just expected the unexpected.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Top Ten Albums of 2014!!!

This year has been an excellent yeah full of skilled musicians and many masterful albums. Unlike in 2013 the mediocre has been pushed aside by the sheer mass of talent on display. Everyone from the emerging artists, legendary names and artists fully coming out of their shell to maximise their full potential have all made 2014 a year to remember; so much so that albums from artists such as Black Keys, Broken Bells, Temples, Mac DeMarco, The War on Drugs, Kasabian and more have all failed to crack the top ten when any of their albums would have done so in 2013.

10. Julian Casablancas & The VoidzTyranny

Julian Casablancas is a man who has already sought claim and success with The Strokes over a decade ago and also received recognition for his debut solo album back in 2010 which ultimately culminated with the accomplished ‘Instant Crush’ single in collaboration with Daft Punk. For 2014 he teamed up with the self made Voidz and intended to break down all barriers to experimentation as he combined a multitude of sounds and methods with the only piece of continuity being the fuzzy and murky recordings. Despite some aspects not gelling together; most of the album worked in a refreshing and eye opening fashion. With a little refinement and the odd tweak we could have been talking of Tyranny as number one on this list.

9. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

Full of mystery, intrigue, reflection and honest cynicism. An album that remains slightly lost in the thoughts and feelings of Damon Albarn, but what a place to be lost in. It flows or even trickles along from one song into the next and through peeks some moments of real beauty, but considered beauty that doesn’t require a big ‘Michael Bay’ style conclusion. It requires a considered and thoughtful person to listen to an album from a considered and thoughtful man (oh and one hell of a musician too) For a debut album too? Remember the name…. he’ll go far this one….

8. The Horrors – Luminous

Luminous was a slightly odd turn for The Horrors to take but one you would have imagined was going to come. They stopped and pondered. They looked at Skying and thought they could make it better. They did. The added sense of rhythm and connection with these songs are brilliant along with the revelation that was Faris’ vocal development and added ability. It just about justified the three year wait and despite not having the effortless soars and sweeps of their previous album, nor the varied and innovative nature of the sublime Primary Colours; it is still a wondrous creation as you’d expect from The Horrors, even if it was weirdly familiar.

7. Warpaint – Warpaint

An accomplished piece of expansive art rock. Despite it’s growing and expanding sounds that they produce with ease; this album usually incorporates a captivating central element to it’s songs that filter out a hopeful atmosphere into a murky and lingering gloom that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat as the trepidation never ceases. At times too, it really has a keen sense of rhythm and stylistic individuality. This isn’t an album for the ‘TV Dinner’ type of listener looking for a loud and crashing quick fix, but a perfect example of production discipline and manipulation around a strange yet keen sense of rhythm.

6. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

Wild Beasts produced an album that remained close and intimate as it kept all the bursts, transitions and awesome shifts in sound right by you; not in a distant and fading manner that is far off and out of reach, but something you felt coarse right through you as it bounces and shoots about your head with every synth glow and crisp riff. On top of this, it has an excellent lyrical dimension to it too which focuses it in even further, whether it’s the pulsating art rock, the sweeping electronica or the wistful ballads of Present Tense.

5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Too Bright was bold and remorseless with every track on what was a varied album of fluctuating tones and emotions. Some of the tracks soar high and deliver shivers, crisp and gleaming delivery and dramatics of the soft edged ballads. All of this was done in a consistently slick and stylish fashion whilst not sacrificing any ounce of musical feel or quality which is an ever present throughout the album.

4. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

All hail the Manics! For they are back and better than ever. These are words I’d never imagined uttering again as I witnessed one of the legendary British bands sink slowly into their comfort zone. Leaving their dynamism and lyrical daring safely in the 1990’s. If last year’s Rewind The Film gave us a clue to this album then it still caught me off guard. They deliver their European sound gloriously and in a fluctuating way with each song as it either enthuses and delights the senses or drops you from emotional highs. Lyrically relevant and challenging as they always have been too. They’ll have to clear a space next to the Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell Me Yours  trio as Futurology is about to join them on that mantle.

3. FKA Twigs – LP1

She has been a revelation and a saviour to pop music this year in much that Daft Punk were pop saviours in 2013. FKA Twigs went about it in a very different way though. She’s blended together parts of hip hop, R&B, electronica and pop melody with an understated, yet confident projection through her delicate, at times whispering vocal, but with complete melody throughout. She’s given the growing sophisticated pop genre a direction and a purpose with this innovative and refreshing album with both modern, relevant music and lyrics to go with it. Now the only problem she has is following this up for it will be a great task.

2. Beck – Morning Phase

Beck makes a long awaited return to steal you dangerously from this planet and into the soaring and unfamiliar unknowns. You don’t pass through each song, but it passes through you. From the quaking, roaring and frightful instrumentals to the warm and radiant expansive ballad, down to the comforting acoustic tracks; this album takes you on a journey like no other album has this year. It evokes so many different emotions that you almost feel empty and cold by the end of some tracks. The best vocal and instrumental delivery of any album so far this year.

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has always given off little bits of wonder and innovation but this album is those things through and through. It’s the only thing you can rely on in this album for it is not linear in any way at all. Whether it is her swooning and creepy harmonious tracks, her synth driven visions, her lyrically marvelling and vocally outlandish tracks or those songs with guitars that pick you up by your collar and throw you into a mass of undulation, fusion, blocky fuzz or melodic distortion; it’s always fresh, urgent and unrelenting. In a time when so many pretenders mindlessly recycle and replay well documented sounds of the past; here you have the sound of progress. The sound of modernity. The sound of 2014.

Half Term Report – Top 10 albums of the year so far

For me 2014 has already eclipsed the previous year for musical diversity, creativity and innovation about all aspects of the craft; whether it’s through the production or lyrics, it has been a far better year already. The most obvious evidence is the lack of full marks in 2013 and the two full marks we’ve had already this year. On top of this, the average rating of 2013’s top 10 albums was 8.85 while the first half of 2014 has already produced a score of 9.05 and I’m sure that will rise by the time we get to December. So here are some of the contenders so far.

10. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

Photo:

Despite having a slight knack of becoming a little too bogged down in similar subdued moments, it bats those moments back with some wonderful atmospheric bursts and rhythms that encapsulate so many unexpected hooks. Another change of direction and one of their best yet.

9. Kasabian 48:13

Another marvellous piece of re-imagination after the false start of their last album; 48:13 delivers their vision almost perfectly. It’s bold, in your face and you can’t ignore it. At other times it’s unsettling and thought provoking. Whether it’s driven through eerie electronica or EDM-enthused hard rock, it works. This is even more true live.

8. Damon AlbarnEveryday Robots

Full of mystery, intrigue, reflection and honest cynicism. An album that remains slightly lost in the thoughts and feelings of Damon Albarn, but what a place to be lost in. It flows or even trickles along from one song into the next and through peek some moments of real beauty. For a debut album too? Remember the name…. he’ll go far this one….

7. Warpaint – Warpaint

An accomplished piece of expansive art rock. Despite it’s growing and expanding sounds that they produce with ease; this album usually incorporates a captivating central element to it’s songs that filter out a hopeful atmosphere into a murky and lingering gloom that keeps you perched on the edge of your seat. A perfect example of production discipline and manipulation.

6. Bastard Mountain – Farewell Bastard Mountain

Admittedly this album by the British folk collective was something I wasn’t expecting to blow me away and in reality it didn’t. It did, however immerse me into the raw and natural soundscapes that were produced by more traditional means. An album that is inherently beautiful and a credit to their capable musicianship. As simple as that.

5. The Horrors – Luminous

Luminous was a slightly odd turn for The Horrors to take but one you would have imagined was going to come. They stopped and pondered. They looked at Skying and thought they could make it better. They did. The added sense of rhythm and connection with these songs are brilliant along with the revelation that was Faris’ vocal development and added ability. It just about justified the three year wait and despite not having the effortless soars and sweeps of their previous album, nor the varied and innovative nature of the sublime Primary Colours; it is still a wondrous creation as you’d expect from The Horrors, even if it was weirdly familiar.

4. Wild Beasts – Present Tense

File:Wild Beasts - Present Tense.jpg

Wild Beasts produced an album that remained close and intimate as it kept all the bursts, transitions and awesome shifts in sound right by you. Not in a distant and fading manner that is far off and out of reach, but something you felt coarse right through you as it bounces and shoots about your head with every synth glow and crisp riff. On top of this, it has an excellent lyrical dimension to it too which focuses it in even further.

3. Manic Street Preachers – Futurology

All hail the Manics! For they are back and better than ever. These are words I’d never imagined uttering again as I witnessed one of the legendary British bands sink slowly into their comfort zone. Leaving their dynamism and lyrical daring safely in the 1990’s. If last year’s Rewind The Film gave us a clue to this album then it still caught me off guard. They deliver their European sound gloriously and in a fluctuating way with each song as it either enthuses and delights the senses or drops you from emotional highs. Lyrically relevant and challenging as they always have been too. They’ll have to clear a space next to the Holy Bible, Everything Must Go and This is my Truth Tell Me Yours  trio as Futurology is about to join them on that mantle.

2. Beck – Morning Phase

File:Beck Morning Phase.jpg

Beck makes a long awaited return to steal you dangerously from this planet and into the soaring and unfamiliar unknowns. You don’t pass through each song, but it passes through you. From the bold, roaring and frightful instrumentals to the warm and radiant expansive ballads and down to the comforting acoustic tracks; this album takes you on a journey like no other album has this year. It evokes so many different emotions that you almost feel empty and cold by the end of some tracks. The best vocal and instrumental delivery of any album so far this year.

1. St Vincent – St. Vincent

Annie Clark has always given off little bits of wonder and innovation but this album is those things through and through. It’s the only thing you can rely on in this album for it is not linear in any way at all. Whether it is her swooning and creepy harmonious tracks, her synth driven visions, her lyrically marvelling and vocally outlandish tracks or those songs with guitars that pick you up by your collar and throw you into a mass of undulation, fusion, blocky fuzz or melodic distortion; it’s always fresh, urgent and unrelenting. In a time when so many pretenders mindlessly recycle and replay well documented sounds of the past; here you have the sound of progress. The sound of modernity. The sound of 2014.

 

Beck – Morning Phase Review

History will treat Beck Hansen very kindly and rightly so. He may not have had the perceived idea of commercial success, but more than that, he has the universal respect that his music over the last twenty two years justifies so well. I can still say this with confidence despite not wholeheartedly investing in to his music. You should not expect this to be the stereotypical bland and safe effort from your forty plus rock star since he doesn’t seem like one for stooping to safe and making things for the sales alone. Morning Phase is his first studio album since 2008’s Modern Guilt and so perhaps this is the biggest expectation that there has been for a Beck album since the mid nineties. He has said himself that this, his twelfth studio album is a continuation from the out of focus and ‘Sadcore’ pioneering Sea Change from 2002. How will this fit into 2014?

‘Blue Moon’ was the first single to be unveiled from the album and it begins to live up to the style plied twelve years ago. It opens with the heartbeat-like bass drum with the light acoustic elements trickling down upon it with the deep and heavy piano chords reverbing through it in the background. The light twinges of the lead guitar seeps through the analogue elements and the percussion catches the tone well. The song is recorded with a slight echo with is cut off rather early and almost sounds like it is being fed back into the vocal for a subdued and rotating quality which is much more effective when applied to his vocal. The sad and lonely feel of the song is countered by the optimistic undertones of the music. The atmospheric quality is also completely natural and pure and shows just what you can still achieve with acoustic music. You’d hope that more will follow his example in the future. ‘Waking Light’ see’s him pushing what would seem a tired and worn out genre to new expanses. It opens as a solemn piano ballad with that slow divulging bass line stringing it along. The vocals are oh so subtly and wonderfully manipulated with that isolated echo and in the chorus it is slowly slips back into the floating string section and spliced out percussion into a magnificent soundscape to shut off the world and become completely immersed in. It sends shivers down the spine in an all so effortless and at ease fashion in a sort of new form of the greatest Prog Rock songs. The lead guitar melodies only enhance the experience and set up a multitude of the senses. Masterfully arranged, performed and produced.

‘Wave’ is a fantastical and all powerful song, but again with so much ease and relaxation. The dense string arrangement hits a powerful and simply loud peak as it rises and falls. The vocal delivery and manipulation is easily the best I have heard so far this year and probably last year by a very long distance. Beck’s voice competes with the mighty strings with a heavy mid echo that almost cusps the strings in the palm of his hands. This results in his vocal being just as dense and loud as the strings but just as graceful and even more of an awesome force. Both of the elements are never joined by any others and no more are needed the space is filled and expanded by the strings and the vocals alone. Amazing power created from such a minimal structure. ‘Unforgiven’ picks you up of your feet with the reverbing strings before the modulated as disparate sounds of the piano and the distorted percussion slowly take you away to somewhere else. The vocals again are simply sublime in the way the are presented and beautifully refined and restrained in their delivery and again so full of awe and wonder. ‘Heart is a Drum’ has the sort of acoustic and folk rock quality reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel with the delicate vocal harmonies and soft lapping nature of the track. ‘Country Down’ forges a space rock groove into an acoustic folk song and pulls the atmosphere out from it brilliantly. ‘Blackbird Chain’ and ‘Say Goodbye’ feature more immediate and matter of fact vocals around more late sixties rock pop styles. Each style utilised is perfectly crafted and moulded and so immaculate in it’s delivery and structure. The album is a great and fascinating journey to become totally immersed in and some of the tracks evoke such a powerful and trembling delivery. There is no rapid and high fuelled barnstormer, but for that I am thankful. The mood and tone he has set out has been stuck to efficiently but the various genres are manipulated through this so cunningly. Easily the greatest album of the year so far and will be right up there by December. So much for any upcoming albums to live up to.

Beck – Morning Phase = 10/10