Sea Change & The Dog Days of Summer
Summer ain't my favorite season.
Certainly, I don't ignore it's many blessings: no school, eating outside, hiking, the beach, baseball, and fishing. Still, there's always a sense of tiredness that I feel once the summer wears on to late July. Perhaps some of this "summer weariness" is accounted for by virtue of my working outside during the hot months. Something about manual labor can zap you of the energy and sense of bustle and productivity that is ever so present in the fall and winter in the northeast.
After experiencing a particularly hot week here in Connecticut, I have again been reminded that Beck's landmark 2003 album Sea Change is just right for a season such as this. It fits neatly into the dull pull of the summer.
Perhaps I am drawn to this album during the summer months because I remember listening to it in the midst of my younger days. Sea Change was my companion, driving down those summer nights with the headlights pointed towards Hammonasset State Park, windows down and the AC on low.
Sea Change reminds me of some of Bob Dylan's work. It is, like Oh Mercy, a nighttime album, and like Blood on the Tracks, it is a sad album.
The first tune, "Golden Age", is prefect for sunset, as Beck prods us to "roll the windows down" and "feel the moonlight on your skin". The graceful, acoustic chords featured here tap easily into an introspective and immensely meaningful emotional landscape that mirrors the summer night sky. Beck's voice through the whole album is clear and direct, smooth and easy. It works just as well on a night drive as it does the back porch or on the big white sofa in the air conditioning.
Here, Beck's punk rock meets folkie-collage guy persona from his previous albums is thoroughly shed, revealing a heartbroken man who had been holding graceful, Blood on the Tracks-meets-Joni Mithchell-inspired tunes for some time.
The other songs? "Lonesome Tears", "Lost Cause", "It's all in your Mind" and "Guess I'm Doing Fine" are all absolute Beck classics. Each of these songs are kin in the sense that they explore lonely acoustic territory spliced with tasteful strings that extend the songs heavenward. "Paper Tiger", "Sunday Sun", and "Little One" feel a bit more hazy and account for the albums spacey exhales, like last flashes of evening inspiration. "Round the Bend" and "Already Dead" are stark and dark, and feature string that feel more prominent than the guitar. These are the pitch black tunes of the album. Sea Change closes with the dirge-ish "I gave up" tune "Side of the Road", Beck's own "Buckets of Rain" a la Dylan.
Taken together, Sea Change is indeed a classic, and has held up to this day as Beck's finest offering. It's prefect for the dog days of summer, and for the late summer as well. Something about it anticipates fall, just like those first clear nights in late August.