The word vanilla is sometimes used to refer to something in its simplest form, to suggest something is bland, and/or something is without frills or kink. But there is nothing bland or simple about the vanilla bean ice cream recipe Kasey is sharing over on eating/sf today. Indeed, the use of quality ingredients such as pure vanilla bean means that this focused recipe offers clean, pure flavor that will leave you cleaning the last bits of ice cream out of the bowl. Similarly, in the realm of Beck’s discography, there can be no question that Sea Change would be Beck’s “vanilla” record. Sure there are flourishes of string arrangements, light keyboards, pedal steel, and the occasional twirping/revving electronic noise presumably brought by producer Nigel Godrich (who produced all of Radiohead’s best records), but the real focus of Sea Change is Beck’s songwriting, voice and frequently an acoustic guitar. And by keeping it simple and focusing on straight-forward song-writing and instrumentation, Beck recorded one of his most critically-acclaimed records to date (his best alongside Odelay anyways).
It has been pretty widely noted that Sea Change was inspired by the end of a long-term relationship. And since the record features sincere, plaintive lyrics, this makes sense. Nonetheless, there is no bitterness or anger, as you might expect on a break-up record. Instead, Sea Change is warm and introspective. It gives the sense that Beck unhappily accepted the end of the relationship, but without placing blame or condescension. Thus, this is an album about nurturing a broken heart instead of wallowing in depression. And unlike his other albums, Sea Change is steeped in American country, British folk, and French Baroque pop, and, as a result, musically Sea Change‘s closest relatives are the albums of Willie Nelson, Nick Drake and Serge Gainsbourg. Beck’s vocal delivery is evocative, weary and emotional befitting the lyrics themselves. The album is full of rewarding moments, but a few personal favorites include the tracks “Paper Tiger,” “Lost Cause,” “It’s All In Your Mind,” “Round the Bend,” and “Almost Dead.” You can purchase a vinyl copy over at Amazon.
Head back to eating/sf to read Kasey’s recipe for Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.