Beck is back, and his latest incarnation is delving deep into the world of synthesizers and vocoders. His 14th album, Hyperspace, is out November 22nd and is by far his most collaborative project to date. Over 11 tracks, we hear co-writing and co-production from artists such as Pharrell Williams, Greg Kurstin, Cole M.G.N., and Paul Epworth. It also features guest vocals from the likes of Chris Martin, Terrell Hines, and Sky Ferreira. With such a powerhouse lineup of writers and features, Hyperspace covers a variety of genres and sounds with a sonic backbone of synthesizers keeping it all in tune with itself. For both long-time Beck fans and those just discovering his music, this new album has something to offer everyone.
Through all of his latest endeavours, the fact that Beck has found any time to write and record an LP is astounding. Since the release of 2017’s Grammy Award-winning album Colors, he has been putting out singles, collaborating with other artists, and frequently performing live shows. After joining U2 as a special guest on their “Joshua Tree 2017” tour, Beck found himself contributing to film soundtracks. Filmgoers were able to hear songs such as “Tarantula” from Music Inspired by ROMA, and “Super Cool” (featuring Robyn and The Lonely Island) from The LEGO Movie 2.
Additionally, he stepped into the studio to help Cage the Elephant on their latest album; even making a featured appearance on their single “Night Running.” Spending time with the band led to a full-on co-headlining tour with Cage the Elephant this past summer. Between being on the road or in the studio with other musicians, it is hard to believe he had any time to write and record a full-length album. Although, all this work with other musicians may have been the catalyst for there being so many collaborations on Hyperspace.
Thankfully, despite all this world’s “Dark Places,” we also have a lot of good music:
Beck has never been one to stick to a single sound or genre over the course of an album, and Hyperspace is no exception. Through a frequent use of vocal vocoders and synthesizers reminiscent of an elementary school educational VHS your teacher would play when they couldn’t be bothered to come up with a lesson plan, Beck still found ways to weave in different vocal techniques, percussion, and influences to draw from.
With singles dating back to April 2019, Beck gave us plenty of time to get immersed into his new sound. Oddly enough, the first of four songs released was a bit of a red herring; the song that finds itself most out of place in the track list. Instead of the heavy use of soft-synthesizers, “Saw Lightning” revisits a classic Beck sound with a catchy slide guitar matched with pseudo-rap vocals akin to the Loser days.
The singles that followed gave more of an accurate tell on how Hyperspace would eventually sound. “Uneventful Days,” “Hyperlife,” and “Dark Places” present the style and resonance that encapsulates the album’s overall sound. A heaping spoonful of soft-synth, a touch of vocal vocoders, just a pinch of dreamy guitars, and there you have it. Throw in some catchy melodies and feature vocals, and you get what is essentially the broad strokes of Hyperspace.
Check out the video for “Uneventful Days” here:
The most stand out track on the album comes at the very end with the closer “Everlasting Nothing.” After an entire record of trying out a host of vocal techniques, we hear Beck channelling his inner Chris Cornell and it works so, so well. There is passion and depth in his voice that makes it hard to believe it is the same person that sang “Debra” 20 years ago. The song culminates in a thunderous finale that could only fit at the end of the album; truly a highlight of the listening experience.
In the end, is it his best record? That is hard to say. With an artist such as Beck that is constantly shifting genre, sound, and style, it is difficult to rank any one of his albums. What can be said about Hyperspace is that, while he falls into a bit of a stylistic plateau, the sounds he does achieve are looking forward instead of backwards. The way he (along with his list of co-producers) uses production and vocal techniques finds fresh ways to innovate a sound that has been used many times over decades past. If you are looking for classic Beck, you will still be satisfied with songs like “Saw Lightning” and “Everlasting Nothing.” If you are hoping for some new unsuspecting Beck, this album has got you covered there too.
Beck allegedly made this song after he “Saw Lightning.”
Hyperspace Track Listing:
02. Uneventful Days
03. Saw Lightning
04. Die Waiting
06. See Through
09. Dark Places
11. Everlasting Nothing
Run Time: 39:16
Release Date: November 22, 2019
Record Label: Capitol Records