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Beck is back for his 14th studio album and he teams up with co-conspirator Pharrell Williams for a relatively relaxed collection of twinkling sci-fistarscapes. John Earls takes stock



1 Hyperlife

2 Uneventful Days

3 Saw Lightning

4 Die Waiting

5 Chemical

6 See Through

7 Hyperspace

8 Stratosphere

9 Dark Places

10 Star

11 Everlasting Nothing

The best Beck albums can generally be divided into the funk showmanship of Odelay and Midnite Vultures or the confessional romantic on Sea Change and Morning Phase. Previous album Colors in 2017 was firmly in the former camp, a return to kicking loose after Beck recovered from the back problems that literally stopped him dancing. It initially appeared that Hyperspace would follow that trend. First single Saw Lightning was as futuristic and frantic as you’d hope from getting Pharrell Williams onboard as co-conspirator.

However, subsequent singles Uneventful Days and Dark Places have seen the pair try a new twist on Beck’s balladeering – he’s as melancholic as Morning Phase, but as the album title suggests, the soundbed is more of a twinkling sci-fistarscape. They’re both sweet, as are other ruminations, such as See Through and Chemical, but they could be by any number of Pharrell’s past collaborators. Just when it looks like Beck is happy to drift along amiably, Hyperspace kicks into life on Side Two. The album had stepped up on Die Waiting, a gorgeous, loose shuffle made with longtime Beck associate Cole M.G.N. It’s matched by Stratosphere, an affecting, poignant slice of prime Beck romanticism. The credits claim Chris Martin sings backing vocals, but good luck in detecting his presence. A more distinctive guest appearance comes from newcomer Terrell Hines, his rap ensuring the title track is as colourful as the vivid album cover. Beck was one of the first to spot the talent of Greg Kurstin, the super-producer back here on See Through. Don’t be surprised if Hines becomes an equally stellar name, if Hyperspace is any judge.

Other than Saw Lightning, the most up-tempo moment comes on Star. Made with Paul Epworth, its cartoon pop is hardly unique for Beck, but anything that evokes Where It’s At and Timebomb is always welcome. The highlight is Everlasting Nothing, Beck and Pharrell relaxing for a moment to let Beck’s unusually rasping downhome growl carry the album out into the stars, finally reaching hyperspace. Like Beck’s best songs, it’s too good to be contained by mere Earth atmosphere.

Quite where Hyperspace fits into Beck’s canon is an interesting point. It lacks the single-minded vision of his outright classics yet, in feeling more relaxed than usual, it has a charm distinct from his other work. It’s his most varied work since 2006’s The Information, a record that’s hardly seen as Beck’s greatest work. But because Beck seems mostly content as he eases into being an elder statesman, it wouldn’t be surprising if Hyperspace proves transitional later on.

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About Long Live Vinyl

Issue 34 of Long Live Vinyl is now on sale! Farewell to 2019! Our massive end-of-year special rounds up the very best of the year in vinyl. First up, we bring you the top 100 new albums of the last 12 months, selected by an expert panel of record shop owners, labels, bands, writers and festival organisers. Once you've filled your Christmas list with that lot, we've picked the top 20 reissues of 2019. You'll find interviews with some of the heroes of the year, too, including Fontaines DC, The Specials, Amyl & The Sniffers, Weyes Blood, Bill Callahan and The Murder Capital. If you're on the lookout for a new turntable, amp, speakers or headphones for Christmas, you'll want to check out our extensive Gear Of The Year awards, and after more than 10,000 of you voted, we name our second annual Record Shop Of The Year. Pick up your copy to find out who's won! In other news, former Led Zeppelin legend Robert Plant sits down for a chat about his new boxset and podcast, while Beck opens up about his latest album, Hyperspace. We also reminisce with The Pop Group over their classic 1979 album Y and tell the story of the label that brought us Love, The Doors and MC5: the one and only Elektra Records. If all that's not enough, you'll find the widest range of vinyl-related news, features and reviews anywhere on the newsstand. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for Vinyl lovers.