Beck, Morning Phase (Capitol)
Undeniably gorgeous at times, thanks in large part to the contributions of his father, strings arranger David Campbell, Beck’s first album in more than seven years and his debut for a new major label loses points for been here, done this—it’s a sequel to Sea Change in 2002—as well as for lacking the emotional core of that disc, which was inspired by a painful breakup. He’s happier now, but he has nothing much to say, even if he’s saying it most seductively.
Rating on the four-star scale: 3 stars.
Broken Bells, After the Disco (Columbia)
The second offering from the surprise supergroup of the Shins’ James Mercer and super-producer Brian Burton/Danger Mouse comes on more slowly that their poppier, more immediate 2010 review, but Burton channels his inner Brian Eno far better than ever—this is music for the chill-out room, not the dance floor, despite many misreading the title—and Mercer’s voice has never been so affecting.
Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.