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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beck -- Sea Change

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10/10

Some albums are just depressing. If you are up, these albums can drag you down, and if you are already down, they can pull you further. "Misery Wallows," I like to call them...as in, I just coined that term as I was typing that sentence, and I liked it. More rarely, there are albums that come from a place of depression, but are as uplifting and comforting as an old friend.
Beck recorded Sea Change shortly after discovering his girlfriend of nearly a decade was having an affair, and their subsequent breakup. He hesitated to put his feelings on display to the public in song, but eventually realized that the emotions he was feeling were universal. That's what makes Sea Change not just another "I'm depressed" album. By focusing on the more all-inclusive aspects of his feelings, Beck seems like a friend facing tough times--never a mopey, self-centered drag. Beck also waited just long enough after hitting bottom to record Sea Change. As the album progresses, there are more and more signs of hope to be found, particularly on "Sunday Sun," though the melancholy shades of the album are never abandoned.
Obviously, with this kind of lyrical theme, Sea Change isn't going to be a party record musically. The focus is mostly on acoustic instruments and strings, though the production still features plenty of unexpexted touches. "Guess I'm Doing Fine," showcases some particularly nice 70's folk-style electric guitar.

Beck's voice sounds deeper and more resonant than ever, and despite the scaled back arrangements, the music is still inventive, enjoyable, and full. As a testament to the enjoyability of this album, I just listened to it four times straight (the session with headphones was by far the best), starting in a particularly good mood, and 208-minutes later, I am still in a good mood. I needed Sea Change shortly after its release when I wasn't doing so hot myself, but it is just as good a friend in sunny weather.

A NOTE TO BECK: Plenty of reviews for Sea Change back in 2002 compared the album to the works of Nick Drake. I had never heard of Drake before that time, but after reading his name so consistently next to the name of an album I loved, I checked him out and loved him, as well. Thanks, Beck! You've not only given me years of listening enjoyment, you've also turned me on to other great artists. Also, your "Sunday Sun" is a great rebuff to Drake's own "Saturday Sun." I wish he could have seen the light at the end of the dark tunnels of life, as well.

2002 Universal Distribution
1. The Golden Age 4:36
2. Paper Tiger 4:35
3. Guess I'm Doing Fine 4:49
4. Lonesome Tears 5:37
5. Lost Cause 3:47
6. End of the Day 5:03
7. It's All in Your Mind 3:05
8. Round the Bend 5:15
9. Already Dead 2:58
10. Sunday Sun 4:44
11. Little One 4:26
12. Side of the Road 3:23

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