Each week, Sunday School takes a second look at a classic album worth revisiting years after its release. EMMIE staff handpick releases that shaped a genre, defined a generation or deserve recognition despite being left in the distance. Keep up with Sunday School for your weekly dose of dusted-off classics and throwbacks that merit a second spin.
Sea Change, Beck
Release Date: September 24, 2002
Good For: Long walks, rainy days and listening to with your cat(s)
Standout Tracks: “The Golden Age,” “Guess I’m Doing Fine,” “Lost Cause”
Beck has been making music since 1988, so it’s only natural that one of his 12 studio albums was lost in the fray of early-2000s madness. The album’s title is taken exactly from its nature: a broad transformation, and departure, from Beck’s previously experimental style to the melodic ballads that won him a Grammy in 2015. He seemed ahead of his time when he released it amidst the likes of Nelly, Avril Lavigne, Eminem and Linkin Park; instead of pursuing the same upbeat hip-hop tracks like “Loser” and “Where It’s At” that gained him commercial success thus far, he showed the world a personal side that he’d always sought to hide.
He begins this journey with an artfully relaxed and euphoric-feeling exploration of both dreamy acoustic and funky orchestral melodies. “The Golden Age” is the beautiful opening that seems to set the stage for the funky knockout track “Paper Tiger,” which sounds awesome both with and without Beck’s voice. “Guess I’m Doing Fine” and “Lonesome Tears” are both tracks that many of us will find relatable and bitter, bringing us back to the “Why me?!” phase of a relationship that’s come to an unfortunate and unpredictable end. We get more of the defeated, exasperated, and lyrically poignant Beck than the playful and light-hearted Beck as the album progresses.
He gives us a sense that his despair is lifting with crooning, bittersweet tracks, “End of the Day,” “It’s All in Your Mind” and “Round the Bend.” After reflecting on his experiences with both unflinchingly honest tracks “Already Dead” and “Sunday Sun,” he graces us with an ironic quip in his standout track “Little One,” stating that “in a sea change, nothing is safe,” and he ends the album with a deeply sorrowful airing of regret and wasted effort in “Side of the Road.”
Beck is unafraid to completely change his sound, and Sea Change shows this with an emotionally exploratory journey of a failed relationship from start to finish that left me both exhausted and alight with curiosity; it was incredibly difficult to choose the standout tracks from this bitterly nostalgic experience many of us have shared. Explore this album if you are feeling the need to tap into some deeper emotions about how human-to-human relationships start, and, sometimes inevitably, end. You will not be disappointed.