Saturday, January 31, 2009

January 31: Beck, "Sea Change"

Artist: Beck
Album: Sea Change
Year: 2002
Label: Geffen/Interscope

Beck falls into one of the most unique musical groupings; artists who are able to put out numerous amazing albums, none of which sound anything like the others. In 2002, Beck stripped away nearly every instrument and released the somber, soul revealing Sea Change.

Unless you experience it for yourself, you cannot grasp just how gorgeous the textures and vocals are on Sea Change. Beck's voice becomes a true instrument and glides perfectly with the musical background, the lyrics moving like chords and notes, seamlessly completing the sonic picture. Even when the music and lyrics are more open and meager, the mood remains full and captivating. The album is perfect for countless situations, from stormy nights to breakups, or just listening while you relax away the day.

The mood on Sea Change is absolutely fantastic, yet it is very sparse and grim. The songs are downbeat and melancholy, yet the album remains fascinating and sublime throughout. Stripping things down to the most basic elements, Beck sets aside his signature "random sounds" and presents a dozen beautiful songs with little more than a guitar, drums, and bass. Here and there, he scatters lulling keyboards or tender string arrangements, but overall, it is the most straightforward instrumentation that Beck has ever used.

Also gone on Sea Change are Beck's usual chipper-sarcastic vocals are nowhere to be found. Instead, the singing is very slow, low, and gloomy. Many times throughout the album, Beck's vocals finally give a clear glimpse of his country music roots. Somehow, Beck has created what may be the finest "breakup" album ever recorded; and yet it is not bitter, and it can be enjoyed at anytime. With Sea Change, Beck has found a perfect formula to make the listener truly feel as if he is sitting next to you, singing to you and you alone. Sincere, clear lyrics of love, loss, and introspection, combined with the lush musical formations make Sea Change one of the most universally accessible records of the last twenty years, perhaps ever.

While Beck is perhaps best known for his quirky "spoken-word-over-odd-music" singles like "Devil's Haircut," and "Loser," one would be remiss to write him off from these songs. The rest of his recorded catalog shows that Beck seemingly has no boundaries in his musical talent or exploration. Beck is truly an uncommon talent because whatever direction he chooses to go, he does so with great musical success. With his 2002 release, Sea Change, Beck makes it clear that his songwriting skills are equal to his musical imagination. The record is a masterful working of musical formations and is one of the most unheralded, yet outstanding albums of the last decade. This record is an absolute "must have" for anyone with ears.

Standout tracks: "Guess I'm Doing Fine," "Lonesome Tears," and "Side Of The Road."

1 comment:

CasCbus said...

100% Agree!! This album is fantastic from start to finish! I think he outdid himself in terms of the music he wrote for this record. You are right in that although the main message in they lyrics & theme of the album is misery, you can listen to it at anytime. One of my fav songs is also "The Golden Age".