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CD of The Week

Week of 11/25/19

    Beck - Hyperspace (Capitol)

    After teasing out the release of 2016's Colors for years, it feels surprisingly quick that Beck's follow-up record Hyperspace arrives only about two years later. However, looking at his 25+ year career, Beck has been always highly prolific, as Hyperspace is his 14th (!!) studio album. The "hook" this time around is that Beck has collaborated with his fellow genre-hopper Pharrell Williams. Surprisingly, they haven't teamed up sooner, but the pair have actually been working on these tracks on and off for years. Pharrell co-wrote and co-produced the majority of Hyperspace and their combined forces have created a singular sounding record that fits perfectly into Beck's catalog while not sounding exactly like any of his releases.

    The first taste of Hyperspace came earlier this year with "Saw Lighting," which could have easily been on Guero, though its slide guitar intro hearkens way back to "Loser." It's the only song to feature Pharrell, though his credited "mumbles" feel like a placeholder where some real lyrics could've/should've gone.

    However, the rest of Hyperspace finds Beck floating through cosmic ennui and spacy synthesizers as almost an album-length excursion into Bowie's "Space Oddity." The new single "Uneventful Days" has him in a sad stasis and "Stratosphere" (featuring Coldplay's Chris Martin on backing vocals) has Beck singing "In the stratosphere / There's nowhere to go from here / In the stratosphere / Be back home another year."

    "Die Waiting" is one of multiple songs mixing strummed guitars with retro electronic textures (and guest vocals from Sky Ferreira are in there somewhere). Another highlight is "Dark Places," which also captures the Hyperspace vibe, capturing Beck at "two in the morning" singing about how "Some days I go dark places on my own / Some days I go dark places in my soul." Even though these songs were written over time, the darkness that pervades Hyperspace could be partially chalked up to the state of the world or even his recent divorce.

    The record ends with the truly epic "Everlasting Nothing." Beginning with some basic instrumentation and soulful vocals from Beck, the song builds and builds into a beautifully sad elegy, then quietly fades away. Hyperspace could easily be slotted into the "sad Beck" stack alongside Sea Change and the Grammy-winning Morning Phase, but its unique instrumentation and production put Hyperspace in its own orbit.

    **Donate $15 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive a copy of Hyperspace. Click here for details.
    Review by Joey O.

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