Published Nov 19, 2019After a couple of decades of exploratory mutations, Beck has entered the crowd-pleasing phase of his career. His fantastic live shows are all-out parties, and his albums are pleasant if a little predictable: 2014's Morning Phase was a retread of his folksy classic Sea Change, while 2017's Colors was full of radio-friendly pop bangers that would probably sound great in a Target commercial.
And now here's Hyperspace, an album written and produced largely alongside hit-maker Pharrell Williams. But despite the record's slick pop sound and star-studded contributor list — Sky Ferreira and Coldplay's Chris Martin both get vocal credits — it's a relatively subdued affair. There aren't any clear bids for radio ubiquity, and the vibe often resembles the toe-tapping melancholy of 2008's Modern Guilt.
In lieu of titanic choruses, Hyperspace highlights sublime synth-scapes: "Uneventful Days" adds a splash of Auto-Tune to Beck's vocals amidst twinkling arpeggiators and stuttering drum machines, while title cut "Hyperspace" juxtaposes acoustic plucking with sci-fi keyboard swells. Aching mid-tempo ballads "Stratosphere" and "Everlasting Nothing" sound like a synth-filled reimagining of Sea Change.
It certainly isn't the 49-year-old songwriter's most urgent or radically inventive work. Rather, it's a beautifully understated album with subtleties that reveal themselves on repeat listens. Hyperspace isn't quite what fans would expect from a team-up between Beck and the guy who wrote "Happy," and it's better for it. (Capitol)