Time was ripe in 2017 for Beck to deliver a "fun" album, the kind of elastic, eclectic pop that was his calling card back in the '90s. The last time Beck truly cut loose was maybe 2006's The Information, which was lighter than either the coiled 2008 LP Modern Guilt or the slow, sepia-toned Morning Phase, which took home the Album of the Year Grammy in 2015. For all of its bustling beats and hooks, The Information carried a paranoiac undertone suiting the age of Total Information Awareness, a subtle political commentary that's utterly absent on the bright, shiny Colors. Recorded in conjunction with Greg Kurstin -- a producer best known for his work with Adele but he is also a member of the stylish retro-pop outfit the Bird and the Bee and has previously toured with Beck -- Colors celebrates its surface, eschewing the very notion that there can be something more to a good time than a party. Given the album's unusually long gestation period -- the recording began in 2013, with the first single "Dreams" arriving in 2015 and the album coming two years later -- perhaps it's a surprise that Colors isn't especially deep but, if that's so, it's also a surprise that the album doesn't seem particularly labored either. Certainly, Colors is busy, bustling with shifting textures and rhythms -- elements that are pushed to the forefront, with Beck's voice being another piece in the tapestry. This isn't to say Colors doesn't serve up hooks or melodies: in fact, that's all that it does, circling through exuberant dance-rock, new wave ballads, mock hip-hop, and candied pop. Unlike earlier Beck albums, Colors doesn't feel like a Whitman's Sampler, as he and Kurstin worked overtime to make sure this all sounds sleek and unified. While that might mean Colors doesn't offer the depth and intrigue of most Beck albums, it does mean it's a fun confection. It's a record that's designed to be nothing but a good time, and that indeed is all that it is.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine