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Beck

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This is typically when Beck would hit you with a change-up — dim the lights, warm the milk, and go quietly into the darkness to follow the party-rock high jinks of Guero with an album more in keeping with his introspective side. And Nigel Godrich did produce Beck's two most understated records, Mutations and Sea Change. But The Information, an album Beck and Godrich started working on three years ago, does something truly unexpected. It repeats the "Odelay-style casserole of all things Beck" approach he took to Guero, from a leadoff track that works the folk-rap beat like "Son of Loser" to the melancholy psychedelic majesty of "Soldier Jane" and "Dark Star," the latter of which has strings that sound like someone throwing "Kashmir" off the Tallahatchie Bridge. If anything, this album pushes the beat even harder than Guero, and not just in obvious places like "1000BPM" or "Cellphone's Dead" (a bass-popping triumph that could be this year's "Where It's At"). Even the midtempo folk-rocking stuff has a spring in its step. And the lyrics are brilliant, as usual, as rock's most consistent surrealist plumbs the heart of darkness with a lampshade on his head.

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