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Beck releases ranked

2 rules. No bootlegs and no remix albums. I’m allowing EPs that feature remixes as long as they have other original tracks on them (so Beck.com is allowed on here but Guerolito isn’t). Edit: moved Midnite Vultures up a few pegs after a relisten and rewrote the descriptor
Golden Feelings

Music tends to have a lot of distinct personalities and defining traits that fit certain listeners. What I mean is that you can listen to something and think “oh yeah, this music is definitely for metal heads, or depressed people, or people who want a good laugh, etc”. Golden Feelings is music for crackheads. There ain’t no other way about it, this is a fucking nightmare of a record. It really makes you feel like a dumpster diving hobo, snorting ground up Advil mixed with chilli seeds underneath a freeway. Noisy, out of tune, bizarre, rambling, confusing, slightly funny. It’s got it all. There are some solid tracks here, but they’re buried beneath mountains of utter chaos. Still, I appreciate its originality. For the hardcore only though

Standouts: The Fucked Up Blues, Schmoozer, Heartland Feeling, Gettin’ Home, Mutherfukka
Skips: Special People, Magic Stationwagon, Bad Energy, Will I Be Ignored by the Lord?, Bogus Soul

Beck has been a lot of things. Avant folk madman, slacker generation spokesperson, funk meister, etc. But he’s never been boring, and that’s Hyperspace’s major issue. It’s so drab that barely a fart can escape the Blackhole of boredom that makes up this listless and forgettable excursion into synthpop. Beck’s voice really isn’t suited to this kind of music (doesn’t help he’s layered with Autotune), and Pharrell’s glossy and sickeningly perfect production doesn’t help matters. On top of that, most of the songs are just soooo boring (if not just downright awful). And that’s the worst thing your music can be! Thankfully, the album takes an upturn in the second half with a string of solid tunes from the lovely Stratosphere to the gospel tinged Everlasting Nothing. But that doesn’t make up for the borderline horrific first half.

Standouts: Stratosphere, Dark Places, Star, Everlasting Nothing
Skips: Uneventful Days, Saw Lightning, Die Waiting, Hyperspace
15 Beck
A Western Harvest Field by Moonlight

Arguably the most obscure thing he’s ever officially released, this EP sees Beck moving in a move concise direction after the insanity of ‘Golden Feelings’. Don’t get me wrong, It’s still weird and the three versions of ‘Feelin’ Like a Piece of Shit’ help confirm that, but here Beck strips away some of the more punishing aspects of his work and begins to step towards the broader sound he’d experiment with on Soulmanure. Opener ‘Totally Confused’, a semi duet with Petra and Rachel Haden of ‘that dog’ fame sets a brilliant tone before the EP begins its descent into madness. There’s some lovely songs here, but again they’re sadly stapled between some rather difficult recordings. Another hardcore fan only treat, but still a good listen.

Standouts: Totally Confused, Gettin’ Home, Lampshade
Skips: Blackfire Choked Our Death, Styrofoam Chicken (Quality Time)
14 Beck
Beck.com B-Sides

Does this really count? A rare, online-purchase only EP full of remixes and Midnite Vultures era b-sides. I believe it does. Anyway, this is kind of a forgettable release if you’re not into remixes, which are the real meat and potatoes here. The Latin spin on ‘Mixed Bizness’ is nice and all but the six minute hard gabber version is the real star draw, alongside the lovely and lengthy ‘Midnite Vultures’, which was left off the album of the same name. Then there’s also some junk like the embarrassing ‘Dirty Dirty’ and the joke-that-goes-on-too-long ‘Zatyricon’. It’s hardly a spectacular release but the standouts are worth the listen at the very least

Standouts: Arabian Nights, Midnite Vultures, Salt in the Wound, Mixed Bizness (Hardmixn)
Skips: Dirty Dirty, Zatyricon
Stereopathetic Soulmanure

A lengthy, ramshackle hodgepodge of beautiful country, noise experiments, live gigs and deranged skits. Stands as a halfway point between Beck’s psychotic anti-folk experiments and his genre hopping sensibilities found on Mellow Gold onwards. The fairly high quality, solid songwriting and great sense of carefree fun more than make up for the odd dud here and there, though there’s plenty of annoying moments that serve to hamper the experience every now and then, including several aggravating skits, Street performances, . Worth a listen purely for the Johnny Cash covered ‘Rowboat’ alone, as long as you can handle some annoying skits, weird field recordings and a 16 minute monolith of noise and tape experiments

Standouts: Pink Noise, Rowboat, The Spirit Moves Me, Crystal Clear (Beer), Puttin’ It Down, Ozzy, Satan Gave Me a Taco, Modesto
Skips: Total Soul Future (Eat It), Aphid Manure Heist
The Information

Recorded over the span of 3 years, The Information is the most chilled out rock record Beck has made (as in one that isn’t folk or country). The LP doesn’t really bare its fangs much, but that’s not a bad thing. With Nigel Godrich back behind the board, Beck explores funky blues (‘Nausea’) and extended prog rock (‘The Horrible Fanfare’) while keeping things simple with rich basslines and moody rhythms to keep things going. While the album suffers from a dreary and lengthy second half, packed with slow and rather uneventful (or sometimes just flat out bad) songs, the opening flurry of awesome singles and catchy beats help save the album from mediocrity.

Standouts: Think I’m In Love, Cellphone’s Dead, Strange Apparition, Nausea, New Round, Dark Star, No Complaints
Skip: 1000bpm, Motorcade
One Foot In The Grave

Made up mostly of simple acoustic tracks, One Foot is an unusually tame album for early Beck. Released during his most prolific time as a musician, a year which saw him release THREE albums, One Foot acts as a softer cooldown after the chaos of Soulmanure and Mellow Gold. Supported by Beat Happening frontman Calvin Johnson, Beck moseys through 16 short and to-the-point cuts, with only a few traces of his at the time trademark experimentation. It’s a quaint and occasionally beautiful album and one that doesn’t set out to do anything groundbreaking. Just one man and a guitar, and sometimes a bass and drums and harmonica. It’s still stands as a great slice of folk/blues with the odd stabs of weirdness chucked in for good measure.

Standouts: Sleeping Bag, See Water, Hollow Log, Forcefield, Asshole
Skips: Ziplock Bag
Mellow Gold

With ‘Loser’, Beck found himself going from doing improvised songs at small coffee houses to playing in front of a paying audience and with a newly minted record deal. Its impact is legendary; and it’s a song just as synonymous with the 90s as Smells Like Teen Spirit, Creep or Wonderwall. The album it leads off aint too shabby either. Polishing his spastic brand of folk into a more digestible; but no less experimental brand, Mellow Gold both sports catchy hooks, tight beats and some truly grimy and gnarly sounds and experiments. From the hip-hop/psych rock blended ‘Fuckin’ with My Head’, the trippy and lush ‘Blackhole’ and the smarmy ‘Nitemare Hippy Girl’, Mellow Gold nearly always hits, only stumbling once or twice. It helped make him a household name after all, no matter how abrasive and odd its content could be

Standouts: Loser, Pay No Mind (Snoozer), Fuckin’ With My Head, Soul Suckin’ Jerk, Beercan, Muthafucker, Blackhole
Skips: Sweet Sunshine
Stray Blues: A Collection Of B-Sides

Does this also even count? A Japan only b-sides compilation? Yeah, sure. It’s my list, I can do what I want. Stray Blues is a bit thin on content, barely missing the 30 minute mark, but the music is pretty damn bitchin’, so I’m not complaining. While there are some missing gems like ‘Inferno’, ‘Thunderpeel’ or ‘Diamonds in the Sleaze’, the (still rather limited) selection of tracks including the heartbreaking combo of ‘Brother’ and ‘Feather in Your Cap’ and the vibrant ‘Electric Music and the Summer People’ is still fantastic listening and well worth seeking out. Just skip ‘Lemonade’.

Standouts: Totally Confused, Halo of Gold, Brother, Electric Music and the Summer People, Feather in Your Cap
Skips: Lemonade

Shedding the heartfelt and damaged image he’d built with ‘Sea Change’, Beck dove straight back into the mad collage of Alt rock, hip hop, funk, folk and a shitload of samples with ‘Guero’. While Beck was critical of the album later, believing it to tread too much old ground, Guero is still a fantastic listen, crammed with catchy singles, beefy production and killer instrumentation. Returning to the chaotic mix of styles he invoked on Odelay, Beck dishes out Latin, rap, electronica, blues and hard rock all into one tasty package. While it may have been a bit of a rehash of Odelay, Guero manages to stand outside of the shadow of its older brother and work as a great, cohesive record without the baggage associated with it.

Standouts: E-Pro, Girl, Missing, Earthquake Weather, Hell Yes, Broken Drum, Farewell Ride, Emergency Exit
Skips: Black Tambourine, Scarecrow
Midnite Vultures

Birthed from a desire to make music that was fun to play live, Beck closed off the decade with his funkiest and most playful music yet. ‘Midnite Vultures’ isn’t necessarily a pure funk record, with its divergences into 60s psych, electro and even Arabian classical, but the grooves are thick and the energy is palpable as Beck and his band pummel through a set of sweaty, glistening and bizarre sex jams with layers of horns, thick rhythms and a shed full of synthesisers. It’s fresh, groovy, fun and infectious.

Standouts: Sexxlaws, Nicotine and Gravy, Mixed Bizness, Peaches and Cream, Broken Train, Milk and Honey, Pressure Zone, Debra
Skips: Get Real Paid
Modern Guilt

With a deliberating spinal injury limiting his touring and putting him in constant pain, Beck spent most of ‘Modern Guilt’’s production whistling the melodies of the songs. Maybe it was the possibly life changing injury, maybe it was a conscientious decision, but Modern Guilt is far more direct and consistent than his previous two albums. Taking cues from 60s psychedelia, surf and garage rock, ‘Modern Guilt’ rumbles and burns with a type of energy that many artists can only hope to achieve. While it lacks any big singles (‘Gamma Ray’, maybe), ‘Modern Guilt’ remains effortlessly catchy and enjoyable despite its short length. Maybe it’s his most overlooked and underappreciated album, who knows? My money is on number 4 though

Standouts: Gamma Ray, Chemtrails, Modern Guilt, Walls, Replica, Profanity Prayers, Volcano
Skips: Youthless
Morning Phase

Record of the year? Hmmm, maybe. Great album regardless? Absolutely. ‘Morning Phase’ tends to get some slack from Beck fans, and music listeners in general. Be it the album’s rather unadventurous sound or the drama surrounding its Grammy win, but regardless, ‘Morning Phase’ is a gentle, soothing and downright beautiful record. While ‘Sea Change’; this LP’s spiritual predecessor was a heartfelt breakup record, ‘Morning Phase’ instead tackles the gripping subject of… mornings. Without the intense emotional baggage of ‘Sea Change’, this record stands as a soft and wonderfully lush meditation on the beauty of the world; with tracks like ‘Say Goodbye’, ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Waking Light’ having a type of effortless beauty that always manages to reassure and calm. It’s lovely, really.

Standouts: Morning, Say Goodbye, Blue Moon, Wave, Don’t Let It Go, Country Down, Waking Light
Skips: Unforgiven

Oh, Colors. I could never hate you. The Beck fanbase may think you’re a hunk of pandering, sellout junk but I say fuck the naysayers. Colors is loud, catchy and a shitload of fun. I may be disrespecting the Beck Bible by putting this above Guero, or Midnite Vultures or whatever; but I’ve had more fun with Colors than I’ve had with those two albums combined. This is beck’s big dumb pop album. Aside from being ridiculously (over?)produced, Beck lights up the dance floor with absurdly catchy and fun tracks like ‘Dreams’, ‘Up All Night’ and ‘Colors’, while taking a jab at synth-pop (‘Seventh Heaven’) and some funky piano dance while he’s at it (‘Square One’, ‘Dear Life’). It’s just so much fun, and it’s so catchy and it’s so consistent and it’s so good, except for ‘Wow’, which is arguably the worst thing ever recorded by human beings.

Standouts: Colors, Seventh Heaven, Dear Life, No Distraction, Dreams, Up All Night, Square One
Skips: Wow

If ‘Mellow Gold’ got him noticed, ‘Odelay’ firmly planted him on the map. Building on the wide range of genres he’d been experimenting with on previous releases, Beck and the Dust Brothers create a mad collage of hip hop beats, country loops, punk, jazz, noise and lounge to create a mind blowing collection of effortlessly catchy and enjoyable tracks. From the hard rocking opener ‘Devil’s Haircut’, the punk rap of ‘Novacaine’, the lounge-country mixup of ‘Jack-Ass’, the mishmash of styles that is ‘Where It’s At’ to the low-key and understated finale ‘Ramshackle’, Odelay grabs and never lets up. Best of all, it proved he wasn’t just some one hit wonder. He was Beck, here to stay. It’s his most beloved album for a reason.

Standouts: Devil’s Haircut, Hotwax, Lord Only Knows, The New Pollution, Novacaine, Where It’s At, Sissyneck, Ramshackle
Skips: Readymade

Taking a more subtle approach following the sample collage of ‘Odelay’, ‘Mutations’ was recorded quickly (in the span of 12 days) and consisted mainly of tracks Beck had lying around through the years. While there’s still traces of some genre bending weirdness, mainly in the aptly titled ‘Tropicalia’ and the droning raga folk of ‘Nobody’s Fault But My Own’, Mutations is a mainly straight forward and cozy collection of folk rock and country with some stabs at Van-Dyke-Parks-esq ragtime and waltzes. It’s understated, dreamy and pretty damn brilliant, with narying a dodgy track in sight, only helping cement Beck’s status as a musical chameleon in the public eye.

Standouts: Cold Brains, Nobody’s Fault But My Own, We Live Again, Tropicalia, Bottle o’ Blues, O Maria, Static
Skips: all good, but prob Dead Memories
Sea Change

Beck has always been a weird motherfucker. Granted there had been some moments of normalcy in his discography up to ‘Sea Change’, but they were often scored with a winking, tongue and cheek tone. Then Beck’s fiancé left him and all those pretences melted away. ‘Sea Change’ hurts. Hard. It’s a heartbreaking record, layered with lush acoustics and cinematic string parts to underscore the suffering in Beck’s voice. For once, the cryptic and surreal lyrics vanish, leaving only bleak and relatable tales of broken love, regret, despair and self loathing. Aside from being just a fucking gorgeous album, ‘Sea Change’ works so well because of how earnest it is. Beck would never touch such raw emotions again in his career, as such, the album is wonderfully unique in its own regard. It’s pain. It’s soothing. It’s weary. It’s Sea Change.

Standouts: All of them
Skips: zilch
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