Beck’s thirteenth studio album, seemingly perpetually in the wings, is set for a late-spring release…we think

by matt Scanlon

After growing up in Los Angeles, dropping out of high school, and journeying through an early music education that included busking in city transit stations and subsidizing non-paying gigs with jobs like loading trucks and operating a leaf blower, Beck Hansen (born Bek David Campbell) found his first inspiration as a folk musician, dovetailing among delta and country blues and more traditional folk styles. In 1993, Bong Load Custom Records released a 12″ vinyl disc containing his first single, “Loser,” a 500-count pressing Beck was not thrilled with. Loyola Marymount University radio station, KXLU, was the first to play it avidly, and the song quickly—and to the then-23-year-old artist’s astonishment—went viral, resulting in a label bidding war won by Geffen Records.

The years since have seen Beck enduring as one of the most fascinating and multi-genre artists of his generation, known for a sonically experimental and lo-fi style. His studio albums include Mellow Gold (1993), Odelay (1996), Sea Change (2002), Modern Guilt (2008), and Morning Phase (2014), the last earning him an Album of the Year Grammy.

Years of delays have marked Beck’s thirteenth studio disc; the last teaser date that came and went was last fall. There have been hints, though—new singles like “Wow,” “Dreams,” “and “Up All Night” finding him exploring yet another and thoroughly surprising avenue—meta pop party mode. Given that the new album was produced by Greg Kurstin (who helped shape the sound of Sia and Tegan and Sara), we suspect irony dipped in sarcasm might be partly at work in the song selections. “Wow” is at once glittery and spare electro-synth, walking paced and echoing in lovely, empty spaces, while “Dreams” and “Up All Night” are basic, almost mockingly simple fiesta fare. One wonders, listening to the latter pair particularly, if the same artist responsible for Morning Phase’s haunting, complex, orchestra-infused wonder is making fun of us…just a little.

Our best guess for a release date now is late spring—though it may be that these on-sale duck and weaves might be a part of a broader piece of performance art, one in which we at least get to play a part.