Being more daring than what it may seem, this work did well with exploring new synthetic sounds and never being satisfied with staying put sonically while delivering excitement and personality through the hidden gem of the harmonic progressions, however the lack of forefront engagement or strong melodic motives despite the attempt to be tuneful made the work settle on simply being nice glorified background music.

A seasoned musician with a knack for appealing to all kinds of listeners who always look for something new, Beck Hansen delivers with an album that certainly has the ability to surprise and captivate. Although it may not seem so with a passive listen, this work is more on the daring side, always exploring new synthetic sounds within an understandable form and never being satisfied with staying put and becoming obvious. It’s no surprise that an adaptable musician like this made timbre the overall focal point, with the music’s highest priority always being to sound distinctive and engaging enough to carry the groove. On the surface, it started out as being the only engaging aspect about the music. Over the course of the album, though, I realized it wasn’t the only element in play as to why I was having fun listening to it. I was a little disappointed in the lack of overall forefront engagement, as I believe Beck did not always put his best foot forward in terms of priorities for each song, but I have to concede that the harmonic language was mostly quite excellent and was the hidden gem of the work. The harmonic progressions came to be the holder of excitement, direction, and personality throughout, slightly eclipsing the instrumental experimentation that at times fell a little flat or mundane. The harmonies set the tone in a subtle way at the beginning and broke through with its simplistic quality in the song “I’m So Free”. Harmony continued to play a strong and successful role in each song, although never truly delivering any incredibly nourishing moments. The stage was set for this work to really stand out and gain huge appreciation with its cool creativity, but it sadly couldn’t achieve that lofty level due to Beck’s one obvious downfall: he could hardly write a single melodic motive that could stand on its own. Perhaps it was the consequence of being too caught up in finding and blending with a neat sound, but I believe it’s more attributed to not having a great ear or sense of direction for melody. The lines were quite present and provided a nice way to latch onto otherwise spacy and exploratory music. That is ultimately what was needed at a base level, so nothing was really done in vain. However, the melodies rarely had life of their own and were too complacent so as to simply be there and not draw attention away from the experimentation going on. That’s just not a good tactic to use, and is the reason why Beck is not as loved as he could be at this stage in his career. In the attempt to create a worthy piece of music, though, he succeeds quite easily. This is a work from a musician who has enough intelligence and courage to trust himself to turn a musical idea into a song that most people can enjoy. Aside from the song “Wow”, which was the definition of a failed experiment on multiple levels, each song here has a safe, likeable quality to it that individuals and crowds can enjoy quite easily, even if it’s just for background music.

Melodic Intrigue: 33/50
Harmonic Creativity: 39/50
Timbral Effectiveness: 38/50
Intangible Influence: 24/30

Final Score: 134/180

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