Talk about your shitty days at work. At least I’m all done for the day. Having said that, this afternoons set of 30 x 30 second sprints is primarily aimed at burning off that residual stress. My motivation is the ‘Sea Change‘ album by Beck.
Beck has always been known for his ever-changing moods – particularly since they often arrived one after another on one album, sometimes within one song – yet the shift between the neon glitz of previous albums and this lush, somber offering is startling, and not just because it finds him in full-on singer/songwriter mode, abandoning all of the postmodern pranksterism of its predecessor.
Basically, this album is Beck’s ‘Blood On the Tracks‘ meaning, of course, that this probably wasn’t the best choice for a speed run workout but, hey, what’ya gonna do?
What’s startling about ‘Sea Change‘ is how it brings everything that’s run beneath the surface of Beck’s music to the forefront, as if he’s unafraid to not just reveal emotions, but to elliptically examine them in this wonderfully melancholy song cycle. If, on most albums prior to this, Beck’s music was a sonic kaleidoscope – each song shifting familiar and forgotten sounds into colorful, unpredictable combinations – this discards genre-hopping in favor of focus, and the concentration pays off gloriously, resulting in not just his best album, but one of the greatest late-night, brokenhearted albums in pop. In fact, Rolling Stone magazine ranked this album at #17 on it’s list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 2000’s.
This, as many reviews and promotional interviews have noted, is indeed a breakup album (don’t worry Kelly, everything…is…just…fine), but it’s not a bitter listen; it has a wearily beautiful sound, a comforting, consoling sadness. His words are often evocative, but not nearly as evocative as the music itself, which is rooted equally in country-rock (not alt-country), early-’70s singer/songwriterism, and baroque British psychedelia.
With producer Nigel Godrich, Beck has created a warm, enveloping sound, with his acoustic guitar supported by grand string arrangements, eerie harmonies, and gentle keyboards among other subtler touches that give this record a richness that unveils more with each listen. Surely, some may bemoan the absence of the careening, free-form experimentalism of ‘Odelay‘, but Beck’s gifts as a songwriter, singer, and musician have never been as brilliant as they are here.
As ‘Sea Change‘ is playing, it feels as if Beck singing to you alone, revealing painful, intimate secrets that mirror your own so, in a way, it’s a rather comforting listen this afternoon given all the Corporate Bullshit I had to deal with today. Weird though, given that this also comes at a time when my heart rate is soaring like a jack rabbit on crack up and down Thunder Bay Rd. but, again, what’ya gonna do?
Even sadder is that the speed run never even happened. No sir. Total suck job. My energy and motivation leached away in the heat quickly, like so many toxic chemicals through clear cut top soil. Perhaps it was a bit too soon after yesterday’s epic 120k ride through gale force headwinds and subsequent brick run.
That’s okay, as I said…this was more of a mellow listen so mellow it was with a few easy jogging and walking intervals (5.8k worth) back along the Friendship Trail and then at home afterwards while cutting the lawn in the back yard
Tomorrow’s a new day.