Beck has traveled light years from being pegged as a reluctant generational spokesperson when “Loser” metamorphosed from a rejected demo to a ubiquitous smash. Instead he wound up crystallizing much of the post-modern ruckus of the ‘90s alternative explosion, but in his own unpredictable manner: Beck’s singular career has been one that’s seen him utilize all manners and eras of music, blurring boundaries and blazing a path into the future while simultaneously foraging through the past.
Surfacing just as alternative rock went mainstream, no small thanks to his 1994 debut Mellow Gold, Beck quickly confounded expectations with subsequent releases including the lo-fi folk of One Foot in the Grave, delivered on the K imprint. But the album that truly cemented Beck’s place in the pantheon was 1996′s multi-platinum Odelay, that touched upon all of his obsessions, providing a cultural keystone for the decade from the indelible hook of “Devil’s Haircut” to the irresistible call and response of the anthemic “Where It’s At.”
From the world-tripping ballads and atmospherics of 1998′s Mutations and the florescent funk of 1999′s Midnite Vultures through the somber reflections of 2002′s Sea Change, 2005′s platinum tour de force Guero and 2006′s sprawling The Information, no Beck record has ever sounded like its predecessor. In the interim since his last album, 2008′s universally acclaimed Danger Mouse-produced Modern Guilt, Beck has eschewed the typical album/tour/repeat cycle of the music business. Instead, he has expanded his creative palette into such multi-media endeavors as a one-time-only live re-imagination of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” utilizing 160+ musicians in a 360-degree audiovisual production and Beck Hansen’s Song Reader, released December 2012 by McSweeney’s as 20 songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music, never before released or recorded, complete with full-color original art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case.
Beck’s relentless creative tide continued unabated throughout 2013 with three standalone singles released digitally and on 12-inch vinyl (“Defriended,” “I Won’t Be Long,” Gimme”), custom-created performances for Doug Aitken’s recent Station to Station series of transient happenings, a run of live shows–touted by reviewers the world over as among the very best of his career–and special Song Reader events in which Beck and eclectic line-ups brought the book to life in unforgettable evenings staged in only a handful of cities including in San Francisco, London, and most recently Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
And now Beck rolls into 2014 with the promise of not one but two new records. First up, and possibly the single most anticipated release of the new year, is Beck’s 12th album, Morning Phase. Likened by some to a companion piece of sorts to Beck’s 2002 masterpiece Sea Change, Morning Phase features many of the same musicians who played on that record–and who also currently accompany Beck live: Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Jason Falkner. Preceded by the sublime first single “Blue Moon” and the stunning “Waking Light” and the recent live debuts of “Morning,” “Unforgiven” and “Wave,” Morning Phase harkens back to the stunning harmonies, classic Californian song craft and staggering emotional impact of that record, while surging forward with infectious optimism.
In 1995, Jenny Lewis formed the indie rock band Rilo Kiley along with her friends Pierre De Reeder, Blake Sennett and Dave Rock (later replaced by Jason Boesel). Beginning with a country sound, Rilo Kiley gravitated toward a downbeat indie rock sound, and with their 2004 album More Adventurous found widespread success. Critics such as Pitchforkmedia attributed this to the “wise” decision to front Lewis on most of the songs (on earlier albums, Sennett contributed about half the vocals). The song “Portions for Foxes” was a hit, and in 2005 the band was picked up by Warner Bros., putting them on a major label for the first time. They opened for Coldplay on their U.S. tour in 2005.
In 2002, Lewis was asked to contribute some female vocals for The Postal Service, whose album Give Up was an international success. Lewis performed in the video for the hit “We Will Become Silhouettes”, and toured with the band in 2003. Lewis also contributed vocals to several tracks on the 2004 Cursive album The Ugly Organ.
In 2004, Conor Oberst invited Lewis to record a solo record for record label Team Love. Described by Lewis as “a kind of soul record,” Rabbit Fur Coat, released in January 2006, features contributions from musicians Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie on a cover of Traveling Wilburys song “Handle With Care”. The Watson Twins provide accompaniment and the album is billed as Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins. Lewis toured with the Watson Twins in support of the album in early 2006.
Jenny Lewis was given an “Esky” for Best Temperature Raiser in Esquire’s 2006 Esky Music Awards in the April issue.