Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beck's Journey To A "Sea Change"

With recent news of a new album coming from Beck next month, let’s take a look back at his 2002 release Sea Change, which was a change of pace for the singer at the time. In the early 2000s, Beck was riding high on the success of releases like Odelay (1996) and Midnite Vultures (1998). He had become a favorite of alternative rock fans for his innovative use of electronic sounds & tape loops to underscore his unique songs. In early 2001, Beck & fiancé Leigh Limon split up after a long relationship. The music Beck was preparing for his next record was heavily influenced by this event. He began writing songs that were more introspective & soul-searching than anything he had done before. The resulting album became one of his most heartfelt & powerful releases.

Some of the songs had been played at live shows before Beck brought them to the studio sessions. Working with his band & longtime producer Nigel Godrich, the artist crafted a song cycle that traces the ups & downs of romantic relationships. Beck had started out as a folk singer, and this album is firmly entrenched in that style & sound. Songs like “Lost Cause, Guess I’m Doing Fine & It’s All in Your Mind” have passionate lyrics & a distinctly emotional atmosphere. Other tunes like “The Golden Age” and “Lonesome Tears” have a country-esque flavor. In many ways, this is the Beck album you’ll appreciate even if you’re not really a fan of his other music or albums. This is a work that stands apart.

While the disc was a success, it wasn’t as big a hit as some of his earlier releases. However, it has gained stature with fans & critics over the years, making many best of the decade lists. The album has often been compared to the work of Bob Dylan & British singer-songwriter Nick Drake. For me, the record has always been a favorite. This is an amazing album; Sea Change is about love, loss & the pain of broken relationships, but ultimately has a sense of hope for the future. It’s one of Beck’s finest, most fully realized works. Reports say his new disc, Morning Phase, will be a companion piece to Sea Change, and is very similar in tone & execution. Look for it on February 25. For now, if you haven’t heard Sea Change, I recommend you give it a listen. Here’s a link to the video for “Lost Cause,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iEId2vmb0M.

Trivia notes: Roger Manning & Jason Falkner, former members of the well regarded power pop band Jellyfish, both played on the album. The track, "Ship In a Bottle," was left off the original release, but added to later re-issues of the disc.

Next time: A visit with "Doctor Sleep"

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