MUSIC REVIEWS: Beck and Death Vessel

Modern Guilt
Interscope Records

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With producer Danger Mouse at the helm, it’s no surprise that Beck’s latest album Modern Guilt is an eclectic piece of work. The quirky singer/songwriter is getting older (almost 40!) and the passage of time seems to be weighing heavily on his mind. The tune “Orphans” mentions a possible visit from his “maker.” But, when he’s not contemplating his own mortality, Beck also takes on socially conscious themes like the environment (Gamma Ray) while also indulging his more playful psychedelic side. The sonically airy track “Chemtrails” has its roots in the sparseness of Nick Drake’s music but it also adds a rock sound to create a modern fever dream of a song that acts as the centerpiece for what is overall, an extremely solid album.

Amy Wagner

Death Vessel
Nothing Is Precious Enough For Us
Sub Pop

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Another confounding album from a band of paradoxes.

Not only does frontman Joel Thibodeau sing in a soprano register considered average for most women, his voice has a gentle, diaphanous tone that can make his delivery off-putting, even when surrounded by stunning instrumentation. And the impeccably charming, banjo-and-harmonica country innocence is hardly what one would expect from a Brooklyn-based indie band named Death Vessel. But most perplexing is the contrast between the disjointed nonsense of Thibodeau’s lyrics and the palpable conviction with which he sings them.

When most of the lines’ logic falls somewhere around, “Clouds of vampire bat wool leave me deaf to your rosaries” (from opener “Block My Eye”), they tend to sound better when mixed down in songs like “Obadiah In Oblivion,” or when the syllables are broken up as in “Peninsula,” arguably the highlight of a record that may leave you wondering: avant-garde or just a gimmick?

Dorit Finkel

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