Beck Hansen won’t ever let us forget him. Even in the two years since his last album, he’s appeared on the companion album for Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and collaborated with Robyn and The Lonely Island on an original song for the Lego Movie sequel. And somehow, his work remains brilliant and authentic.
Hyperspace falls right in between the two poles of Beck’s music. It incorporates the calm, pensive tones of his earlier albums, Morning Phase and Sea Change, with its dreamy, electronic haze. He also pays tribute to the faster, spliced-up, hip-hop-influenced jams he got famous for off of tracks from Midnite Vultures, Odelay, and, of course, the infamous Loser, which turned 25 this year.
Beck’s latest shows us where he’s been over the last quarter of a decade, and that he’s not going to stop making music anytime soon. Hyperspace comes out of a close collaboration with Pharrell Williams, but you almost can’t tell because of how far Hansen has stripped it back. Especially compared to 2017’s Colors, this album seems like a deep breath inward.
Leading off the album are singles “Uneventful Days” and “Saw Lightning,” two of the most upbeat tracks on Hyperspace. While the latter is somewhat forgettable and trades Beck’s usual subversive style for a more standard pop sound, the former sets the tone of the entire album—on a high note. And the music video, featuring Tessa Thompson and Evan Rachel Wood as two characters from classic Beck music videos, is worth a watch with its vintage filters and references to earlier music videos.
“Die Waiting” sounds like it was accidentally left on the floor when Colors was released, but it doesn’t totally stick out on this album. Meanwhile, “Chemical” brings us back to space, layering synth and rap-inspired beats with some of Beck’s signature guitar riffs for a completely transcendent experience.
The back half of the album, ushered in by its title track "Hyperspace," finally lets Beck breathe. The atmospheric synth that teases us in “Hyperlife” and lies just beneath the surface in almost every track is set free with more dreamy tracks like “Stratosphere” and “Dark Places.”
It doesn’t sound like a breakup album, but it does come under a year after Hansen filed for divorce from his wife of 14 years, Marissa Ribisi. Some lyrics in “Dark Places” may hint at the breakup: “Some days I go dark places on my own / Some days I go dark places in my soul.”
Hyperspace does what all good albums should do, and ends on its best tracks. “Star” is the most reminiscent of the original Beck—it has the slight atonal vocals of “Odelay” and the funkadelic vibes of “Sexx Laws” but still flows seamlessly with his newer electronic leanings. It feels like the first old-school Beck song since 2008’s “Modern Guilt.” It fizzes, it snares, it has a bite.
And then, to round it out, Beck throws in a mellow ballad, “Everlasting Nothing.” Well, as much of a ballad as a song can be with a hard kick and what sounds like a symphony of guitars backing Beck’s delicate vocals. The lyrics are despairing, describing a journey of losing friends and questioning reality while sludging through that everlasting nothing. Maybe he’s trying to tell us something about the loneliness of fame, or of divorce. Either way, it sounds good.