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Preview: Beck 

Noah Bonaparte Pais on the singer coming to House of Blues Oct. 5

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Photo by Peter Hapak

If you're not much into Beck Hansen's 12th LP, Morning Phase (Capitol), wait a few years. It's been the pattern with every release since 1996's definitive Odelay: initial bewilderment turning to creeping acceptance becoming peerless admiration. The price of being ahead of the game is to be perpetually disappointing someone, and Beck has always been a pop pacesetter among pacesetters. Mutations was too sluggish, too organically worldly; Midnite Vultures too freaky and too falsetto; Sea Change too obviously pretty, too serious and too damn depressing; Guero too slight; The Information too manufactured and too self-reverential; Modern Guilt too jaded. Those last three have, over time, become the Beck albums I turn to the most, so my first reading of Morning Phase as a bore — too shiftless, too similar in sound to Sea Change, too "mature" — likely means I'm too stuck in the headspace of his funked-up, thrown-back recent material to properly appreciate it. Before, Beck's use of different producers (Dust Brothers, Nigel Godrich, Danger Mouse) was like changing stylists, but in the five years since Modern Guilt, he's been the one behind the boards for the best solo records from Stephen Malkmus (Mirror Traffic) and Thurston Moore (Demolished Thoughts). Morning Phase is Beck producing Beck, and it has few detours and fewer surprises. It features his best singing in years, and it sounds wonderful: a grand folk railroad, or the saddo from Sea Change having reached the other shore, his slide show on display in a seated, acoustically treated theater. Slowly, I can feel the staid becoming stately, the lack of left turns turning into emotionally honest directness. But I'm not there yet. After the instant gratification of stand-alone 2013 singles "Defriended," "Gimme" and "I Won't Be Long" — the latter of which has a 15-minute extended take featuring Kim Gordon — I just want to be misled. Maybe next time. Tickets $105 (including fees).


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