October 10, 2010

Beck Modern Guilt
psychedelic-pop, alternative-rock

Upon its release in 2008, it was so nice to have another album by my favourite artist that I could unreservedly say was just all-around great. I definitely enjoyed Sea Change, Guero Beck - Modern Guiltand The Information, but there were always little nitpicky things I wanted to change about them – overlong runtimes, occasional filler tracks, poor sequencing and the like. Not so on Modern Guilt. This is Beck’s most consistent, well-structured, infectious and replayable album since his 1990s prime, and boy have I gotten a lot of mileage out of it. “Replayable” is the keyword, there – Beck, along with producer Danger Mouse, whose contributions are invaluable, is so to-the-point and economical in the way he delivers Modern Guilt’s gauzy retro-pop that it’s often hard to resist restarting it right after it concludes. Through sticking to conventional song structures, focusing on melody and concise lyricism and keeping his artistic indulgences firmly in check, he manages to completely avoid any misguided errors of excess for the duration of the album. The songs rate amongst his career’s best, too – whether it’s the blissful psychedelia of “Orphans” and “Chemtrails”, the chugging guitar lines of “Gamma Ray”, the blasting energy of “Profanity Prayers”, the jaunty strut of “Modern Guilt” or the mellow, contemplative drift of “Volcano”, Modern Guilt delivers again and again. After a few minor stumbles (but, I must say, no falls), it was the shot in the arm Beck’s career had been waiting for.




August 16, 2010

Air10,000 Hz Legend
electronic, ambient, experimental-pop

10,000 Hz Legend is Air’s “rock album”, so to speak, augmenting the French duo’s electronic music with guitars, foot-tappy melodies, prominent vocalists and an absence of the group’s trademark, floaty “loungetronica” for about 90% of the album. With its surreal lyrics and more hard-edged electronic effects, it could be said that the album is weirder than Moon Safari, but it arguably has more mainstream appeal – the aptly-titled “Radio #1” works well as a sing-along single and the charismatic guest appearances by Beck, Jason Falkner and Buffalo Daughter help several the songs to avoid sounding faceless. The humour present in tracks like “How Does it Make You Feel” and “Wonder Milky Bitch” are a welcome delight, never detouring into novelty but instead injecting the songs with a touch of humanity that’s sorely lacking from albums both before and since. Air - 10 000 Hz LegendThe couple of ambient tracks play out with a new twist, too – the Egyptian-sounding themes of “Radian” are like nothing else the group have created yet, and closing track “Caramel Prisoner” is like wading through syrup (or floating in space, I still haven’t decided). With many regarding it as something of a sophomore slump, my love of 10,000Hz Legend makes me feel a bit like the solitary flag-waver in an otherwise empty parade. I’ll keep on waving my flag, though – albums with this much personality are worth it.