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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

44.1 kHz Archive

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It has always seemed to me that Beck is at his best when he is defying expectations, zagging when everyone expects him to zig. Some of his greatest musical moments are a product of his uncanny impulse to move counter to whatever beat he established on his previous recording — as he does most notably on Mutations and Sea Change. And then there are his contributions to tribute albums for artists like Gram Parsons, Mississippi John Hurt, Hank Williams, and Daniel Johnston, which often sound nothing like what we expect Beck to sound like and reveal how deeply connected he is to folk and blues traditions.

Guero, Beck's latest release, continues his tradition of zagging instead of zigging. He's ditched the in-your-face forlorn melancholy of Sea Change and returned to what many consider a more classic Beck sound. The results, however, sound like he is simply going through the motions. There is nothing here that thrills with its audacity, beauty, beat or lyrics. Instead, we are given a solid batch of songs that for any other artist would be a crowning achievement, but for Beck is just mediocre.

Echoes of his earlier work are sprinkled throughout Guero. "E-Pro" opens the disc with a snarling guitar line that comes straight out of Odelay's "Devil's Haircut." The drowsy, folk-tinged "Broken Drum" would sound right at home on either Mutations or Sea Change, while "Farewell Ride" draws on Beck's understanding and appreciation of the blues. "Qué Onda Guero," one of the album's more interesting songs, is a goofy mish-mash of Latin beats and the sounds of the barrio. Beck's quirky lyrics and Spanish singing, combined with random voices heard throughout, create a surreal atmosphere that would be right at home in the Mirador Motel scenes from Touch of Evil. But in the end it fails to take off, leaving the listener with a vague sense that there is something great struggling to burst free from the confines of the song.

And yet, despite the presence of ghosts from Beck's previous work, this isn't an attempt to reproduce any of his other albums. If anything, Guero seeks to combine the ironic playfulness of Odelay with the weary, more mature outlook of Sea Change. The problem is that Beck hasn't found the right combination yet. The lyrics' darker tone clashes with the rhythms, dragging them down to a sluggish pace. At the same time, the jauntiness the music aims for often obscures the song's lyrical thrust. I have complete confidence that Beck will eventually hit upon the winning formula, and when he does we will look back on Guero as an important step towards something greater.

by Lee Templeton

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