Beck hasn’t put out a new record since 2008’s Modern Guilt. And sure, that’s a long wait for fans eager for new music, but the ever-inventive songwriter has been far from dormant: From his diverse production work and Record Club video series, to last year’s sheet music album, Song Reader, Beck’s remained as creative and productive as ever.
And this summer, he resurfaced in a big way, playing a run of acoustic shows in New York and at the Newport Folk Festival and (finally!) dropping a few new singles on his own record label, Fonograf. Now, Beck has released his third new single, “Gimme.”
With “Gimme,” Beck completes a trilogy of stand-alone songs that, when heard all together, seem tonally and musically linked.
In June, there’s was wobbly and chopped electronic beats of “Defriended”
And, in July, the sparkling, dreamy pop of “I Won’t Be Long.”
And now there’s “Gimme,” a short percussive-driven track featuring heavily-filtered, robotic-sounding vocals and essentially indecipherable except the titular words “gimme.” And with plenty of sonic noises filling out the corners of the mix the weirdest one he’s put out.
None of these tracks will appear on Beck’s forthcoming, so far unannounced full-length album (and possibly two albums) due sometime before the end of the year. And while these three songs may — or may not — serve as an indication of what’s to come, with a musician like Beck, it’s always fun following him no matter what direction turns.
Amid the rumble of traffic, crowded streets, and general persistent din of big city life, it can be challenging to find a moment of calm in New York. So it seemed like a peculiar choice when the enigmatic singer-songwriter Bill Callahan said he was interested in playing in a community garden for a Field Recording video WNYC’s Soundcheck co-produced with NPR Music. You could easily envision Callahan’s plaintive music and deep, detached voice getting lost in that noisy clutter.
But in fact, the lush 6th & B Community Garden in the East Village was just the spot for Callahan’s intimate and eerily transfixing performance. Recording previously as Smog, and now simply under his own name, Callahan writes dark, frequently anguished songs inflected with a bleak sense of doom. And yet, there’s actually a surprisingly warm, pastoral quality to his words, and a comforting voice in his sly delivery.
Surrounded by a rich canopy of greenery, ornamented flower beds, and even a small pond full of turtles, Callahan quietly finger-picked “Small Plane,” a song from his new record Dream River (out Sept. 17). And while sounds from just outside the garden’s tall gates trickled in, all those distractions of the city just outside the gates melted away.
There’s no denying there’s a spiritual quality to the music of Anna von Hausswolff. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that the Swedish singer and musician plays the pipe organ, an instrument that fills cavernous church sanctuaries and holy spaces with rich layers of sound. But it’s also her songs on this year’s superb record Ceremony, that take on an otherworldly transcendence mixing moody orchestrations with engrossing, almost poppy melodies.
So when Soundcheck had the opportunity to film von Hausswolff in New York City, as a co-production with NPR Music’s Field Recordings series it was only natural to seek out a pipe organ in a church that could accommodate. Filmed and recorded inside the spacious and regal Christ Church — a United Methodist church on Park Avenue — von Hausswolff’s rendition of “Funeral For My Future Children” is outright stunning.
Amidst the ornate decorations and glowing candles, the stained glass windows, and simply the sound of the of organ as it swelled and enveloped the entire room, von Hausswolff’s performance showcased the nuanced beauty of her voice and the epic power of the instrument.