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Beck Colors Inside the Lines

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Colors

Beck
Produced by Beck and Greg Kurstin
2017

Just as Beck was riding quietly into the horizon, 2014’s Morning Phase won the Grammy for album of the year, much to Kanye West’s chagrin. Mr. West can only hope for the same relevance 30 years into his own career.

Save for one track, Beck’s follow up Colors, is a complete 180 from that last record. Instead of (once again) mining his masterpiece Sea Change for tone, Beck does what he does best; something brand new. Colors is Beck in pure pop dance mode. While he’s played with contemporary beats and sounds throughout his career, he’s never produced something so radio friendly. Not even 1999’s irreverent Midnite Vultures.

Beck going pop is good or bad depending on what kind of fan you are. Some people still haven’t forgiven Dylan for going electric. But Beck has littered his catalog with such varied sounds that anything this side of Opera could hardly be a surprise. Although I can imagine a track like Up All Night sounding a little too Pharrell for some. Me? I say shut up and dance.

While I’m tempted to compare these tracks to the best of Beck’s catalog, I wonder if that’s missing the point. In truth, Square One could be a cool Earth Wind and Fire joint, and a song like No Distraction could put Sting back on the map. Spoon would be proud to have I’m So Free in their repertoire. Even a song like Wow (an early single released last year) sounds like something Kanye might conjure up, if he ever returned Beck’s phone-calls.

If I had any complaints, it would be that there’s not enough air on the record. Kinda like when you’re listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and wish Anthony would shut up thirty seconds to let the band shine through. There’s so much interesting musicality on this album that gets buried behind vocals, which is why that flute break in the title track is such a relief.

Who knows what’s next for Beck? I sure don’t. And that’s a good thing.

See what other critics have to say:
Rolling Stone
Spin
Pitchfork

Brooklyn's own MC Krispy E has an opinion about most things you can put in your ear, eye, and mouth holes.

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GANG STARR “ONE OF THE BEST YET”

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Straight out the gate we’re taken down memory lane with an intro reminding us of what Gang Starr was and still is about! The intro brought great comfort to my ears in letting me know that their main ingredients of boom bap and rhymes weren’t going to be forgotten. True to my hypothesis, the bar continued to rise and rise throughout the album.

The unmistakable cuts, clever samples and monotone flows are in full display. Exactly how you would expect to hear a Gang Starr album! The repeat again and again factor is naturally achieved from beginning to end. Thank god for technological advancements or there would be an abundance of damaged records, tapes and CD’s out there due to overuse! It was as if the album was recorded with elements of the past with intentions of the future!

With that notion in mind, DJ Premier and Guru enlisted the services of some of their familiar collaborators and recruited some worthy new friends to join the movement. The likes of M.O.P, Q-Tip, Group Home, Royce da 5’9″, Jeru The Damaja, J.Cole, Ne-Yo, Nitty Scott, Talib Kweli, Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx make up the ensemble of talent that merged perfectly in this tremendous gift to Hip-Hop.

It was as if the album was recorded with elements of the past with intentions of the future!

The cameos of his son Keith Casim Elam on the album and in the music videos (Family & Loyalty/Bad Name) brings this project full circle. His father would have been proud of the family representation and the Gang Starr extended family showing out on every opportunity in “One Of The Best Yet”.

 

At this point we can only hope that Premier has an extra stash of Guru vocals hidden somewhere that he’ll bless us with in the near future. It’s been quite evident from the reception of the Hip-Hop community that Gang Starr has done it again and will always be welcome fruit to our musical appetites!

HB aka The World Traveler is fully committed to exploring and sharing with you what the world has to offer in travel and music. Get on board and enjoy the ride!

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That Dog Bites Back

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I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest I was the only person working for a huge insurance company in 1997 with a poster of That Dog on my cubicle. They hypnotized me at Mercury Lounge and I walked home in a happy haze to my $78 a month Chinatown apartment. Different times, indeed.

That Dog broke up after releasing Retreat from the Sun, a perfect concoction of power-pop sweet & sour that holds up 20 years later. While they reunited in 2011,  the new record finds them one Haden sister short, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this partially crowd-funded affair. Certainly Anna Waronker was still at the helm, with Rachel Haden on bass, and Tony Maxwell stepping away from a TV exec gig to record and tour this new record. I still had mixed feelings going in.

Fear not, Old LP is super on-brand and contains some excellent songs, as well as those honeyed harmonies we’ve come to expect. Tight and poppy and full of energy, Old LP is a return to form, albeit with some added maturity. What I didn’t expect was the emotional weight of the title track, an ode to the great Charlie Haden, who died in 2014.

Catch That Dog at Warsaw in Brooklyn tonight where they’ll be playing with string accompaniment.

 

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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Janita’s New Song “Bliss I Once Had This”

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Fresh from her residency at NYC’s Mercury Lounge, ECR Music Group recording artist Janita releases the new single “Bliss I Once Had This” on October 18, and we have the premiere.

The guitar-forward track, which you can hear below, is a notable change from Janita’s last record, Didn’t You, My Dear?, also produced and recorded by label owner and musician Blake Morgan.

Janita describes the song as “a declaration of joyful defiance in darkening times.” The track taps into the moment when empathy meets apathy, when we’re as likely to question “Who am I to feel happy now?” as we are to throw up our hands and say “Never mind.”

Janita and Blake share guitar duties on the track, rounded out by Miles East on drums and percussion and Justin Goldner on bass.

Janita’s last show this year is in her hometown of Helsinki at the legendary Tavastia-klubi on November 10.

Using a host of pen names, Eric Curran has been blogging in one form or another for well over 10 years. He's a partner at One Track Mine, and also runs the blog Jealous Foodies.

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