Capitol Records · November 22, 2019
The next step in his musical journey released with The Neptune’s co-op’d Hyperspace. Canonically, Hyperspace picks up where the self-described “trial-and-error” formed Colors left off and delves into some of the same themes. Beck continues to lament on past relationships — most prominently, his recent divorce from wife Marissa Ribisi. Each song is steeped in wishes for love and promises to wait for a non-descript significant other.
Hyperspace is also soaked in a cyberpunk/outrun aesthetic from the cover to each track. The cover features Beck standing in front of a red 90’s hatchback with a distinctly lo-fi filter and the albums title in katakana. This aesthetic bleeds into the track with synths and trappy beats provided by the more well-known half of the duo The Neptunes, Pharrell Williams.
The product is an interesting blend between Beck’s twangy indie pop and Pharrell’s more futuristic style. Its success is definitely varied. Songs like “Saw Lightning” are more fun, resembling what a folk future bounty hunter would listen to. However, the feeling of most other tracks are just shallowly dark and sanitized.
Over its forty minute runtime, Beck does not end up making any objectively bad tracks, at worst just generic ones. Synthesizers, 808s, and FL Studio can revolutionize and add never before seen levels of creativity to stale genres. Tracks can become more gritty, dark, futuristic, or beautiful. However, the use of these methods in Beck’s music is the equivalent of deep cleaning a mortar and pestle, all the “flavor” from the analog roots of indie and alternative is wiped away and replaced by not-always-fitting trap drums.
Ill-fitting production is not always a sign of the apocalypse, see Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt’s latest releases for perfect clashing. However, again, for Beck it does not always end up working. “Star” comes off as more fitting for a rap verse than an alternative ballad. Despite its more detracting qualities, Beck’s Hyperspace finds itself at home with the artist’s cult fans.
Disregarding the critical lens of journalism, Hyperspace is a perfectly listenable album with a couple songs that could definitely fall into popular music playlists across the genres of pop, alternative, rock, and (more tame) experimental. However, it still comes off as a glaringly shallow attempt at the aesthetic of cyberpunk or outrun. Such rich aesthetics deserve a much more well thought and fleshed out attempts.
Listen to Hyperspace: