52 in 52
Sea Change, Beck Hansen
No one likes a sad clown. Hell, most people don't like a happy clown. What about a clown who doesn't wear make-up and is a folk-rapper that creates pseudo-gibberish metaphors while dancing the most tweaked-out whitebread James Brown impersonation you've ever seen?
Now kill his puppy.
"Sea Change" is, without a doubt, the most accessible, cohesive and surprisingly maudlin feather in the musical cap of the world's least crazy Scientologist (how the fuck did that happen?), Becktavius Oglethorpe Hansen*. Remarkably understated, save for occasional string accompaniment and the genius guiding hand of Nigel Godrich, the album finds Hansen at the lowest of lows. His nine year relationship with a typical LA chick ("No, it's cool, Beck. Imma just go to this Whiskey Biscuit* show by myself. You keep recording sounds of robots humping washing machines.") was freshly eviscerated, and he found himself writing raw, heartfelt music- music completely opposite his ecstacy-laced funkternative milieu. Blah blah blah, multisyllabic words...
The one thing I'll say for this album, and this whole "52 in 52 weeks" project in general, is that its fiercely personal to me. Every single one of these entries isn't just an album. It's not just music. It's a moment in my life. A pin in my roadmap. This album is 100% a testament to the adage that you don't find good music. Good music finds you. I loved, loved, loved "Midnite Vultures" (more on that later). One day, something happened relatively similar to what happened to Becktavius. I went into work, and this album was playing. Call it fate, call it luck, call it karma.
Oh shit, I haven't said anything about the album, have I? It's weird to say an album of Beck's music is just his voice, and an acoustic guitar, and OH YEAH SOMETIMES THERES A FULL FUCKING STRING SECTION ACCOMPANYING HIM. It's weird, but I said it, because, well, fuck it- he did it. This album is a warm blanket on a shitty, rainy, hungover Sunday afternoon. Well, at least it was for me a lot. It's sad. It's depressing. Songs like "Guess I'm Doing Fine" ("It's only lies that I'm livin'/It's only tears that I'm cryin'/It's only you that I'm losing/Guess I'm doin' fine") and "Lost Cause" ("There's a place where you are going/You ain't never been before/No one left to watch your back now/No one standing at your door/That's what you thought love was for") don't leave too much to the imagination, but where it really shines is in the accompaniment. Take "Little One" for example. The song starts off as sparse arrangement- vocals and guitar. By the end of the song, you've got a full band with cellos, violins, and Beatlesque percussion, changing the tone from self-pity into anxious anticipation before simply walking out of your mind's eye's front door.
Every time I listen to this album (truth be told, probably once each September)- it takes me back to the place I was when I first heard it eleven years ago. I'm a stupid kid who worked in a record store with a broken heart all over again. I'd like to think I've learned a lot since then, but that's just a lost cause.
*Not Beck's real name. At all.
*FUCK WHISKEY BISCUIT