BECK Col­ors Capi­tol Records

Calgary Herald - - YOU -

Singer-song­writer Beck has never been very good at hid­ing how he’s feel­ing. If you made it through the de­feated melan­choly of Sea Change with­out want­ing to hurl your­self off a cliff, con­grats. A very dif­fer­ent Beck comes across on Col­ors, a hook-driven bub­bly CD he made with in-de­mand pro­ducer Greg Kurstin. Beck might be known more for his finely tuned downer rock, but he’s mostly angst-free here. One song is even ti­tled I’m So Free.

The 10-track Col­ors is Beck’s most ac­ces­si­ble, ra­dio-friendly of­fer­ing in years but, this be­ing Beck, it’s bril­liantly lay­ered, with plenty of in­ter­est­ing things hap­pen­ing un­der the hood.

Beck hasn’t been this overtly poppy since Mid­nite Vul­tures in 1999, but that was harsh-sound­ing and more than a lit­tle nutty in com­par­i­son. Col­ors is smooth and warm and light.

The su­per Up All Night is a sweet song about older lovers — or maybe happy dads tak­ing care of ba­bies — in the quiet hours when “night is crawl­ing up to the day.”

Per­haps the most un­con­ven­tional song is Wow, a trippy, cow­boy-dance hip-hop tune that swipes the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and adds it to lyrics seem­ingly in­spired by some weed. (“Wow/ It’s like right now/ It’s like wow.”) It should not make sense. But this is Beck, and he some­how makes it so.

KELLY CLARK­SON Mean­ing of Life

At­lantic Records What’s that great sound on Kelly Clark­son’s new al­bum? It’s proud, it’s sexy, it’s funny.

Oh, yes, that’s the sound of free­dom.

On Mean­ing of Life, her first al­bum since leav­ing long­time home Sony, the for­mer Amer­i­can Idol win­ner seems lib­er­ated, more soul­ful and less poppy.

“Thought I could never leave?” she sings on the ter­rific I Don’t Think About You, which is a breakup song that could eas­ily ap­ply to her for­mer em­ploy­ers.

Her last al­bum, 2015’s Piece by Piece, was al­most mourn­ful in con­trast to the 14-track Mean­ing of Life, which is brim­ming with hu­mour, sass and light. “I’m hot­ter than your mama’s sup­per, boy,” she teases in Whole Lotta Woman, a bluesy, foot-stom­per that bor­rows the horn sec­tion from Earth, Wind & Fire and might steam up your mir­rors. “Hold on tight lit­tle coun­try boy/ I ain’t no girl/ I’m a boss with or­ders.”

From the boot-stomp­ing Love So Soft to the con­cen­trated emo­tion in Move You and the bluesy Cruel, Clark­son’s voice hasn’t sounded bet­ter, soar­ing into Christina Aguil­era ter­ri­tory with its sub­tlety, twists and stamina.

There’s sim­ply no filler on her eighth stu­dio al­bum, her first with At­lantic Records. It opens with a song frag­ment in which Clark­son begs for some down time, “a minute just for me.” Once that’s over, it’s just Clark­son un­leashed.

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