We’re digging through the back catalogue of one of music’s most mercurial modern writers, Beck. The musician has been circling the scene since the mid-90s and has now ascended into a new realm of respect.
With 15 albums in his back pocket, it’s fair to say there isn’t much Beck could hope to achieve that wouldn’t be a repeat. Announcing himself to the world with his song ‘Loser’, for a time, Beck was the only artist for the hip and his songs, as deliberately avant-garde as they were, became a signifier of your musical understanding.
Unlike many other artists, and certainly his contemporaries, Beck has an uncanny ability to transcend genre or musical styling. Never held back by the idea of categorisation or sticking to his lane, Beck has basically changed genre with every single record he’s released.
As a tribute to the great musician, we thought we’d look through his entire 15 album discography and rank his albums from worst to best—though we won’t be including Stray Blues as it isn’t a canonical record.
Let’s revisit the iconic Beck Hansen and every one of his albums.
Beck’s album ranked from worst to best:
14. Hyperspace (2019)
Beck’s latest record may well have sold fairly well considering he’s an artist nearing 30 years in the business, but there was something missing from the album. It was covered in a glossy sheen that smacked of an artist beginning to lose their grip on what they are.
Having spent so much of the previous decade hopping between genre and sound, on this record it felt like Beck had finally lost his way. It’s an indulgent piece that is broadly pop yet seemingly undefined.
13. Golden Feelings (1993)
This is Beck’s deliberate thumb to the nose of the folk movement. A scratching and scary record filled with Hansen trying to make as many statements as he possibly can. Lo-fi and ludicrous, the album is a bonafide attack on the senses and feels as poignantly cutting edge as Beck ever was.
After this album, the musician began to hone his craft and polish everything else to a palpable shine. ‘Heartland Feeling’, a song about the music business’ adoration of faux-folk fodder is the only true anti-folk number on the LP.
12. Colors (2017)
Beck goes synth-pop. As the world turned away from the analogue guitars and drums that had served them so well, the need to pursue a laptop purity was met by Beck with gusto. On Colors, he goes all XX and tries to make shiny pop for the modern age.
All in all, it ranks as one of his less appreciated albums purely because of that spit-shine polish. Of course, there is continued experimentation, which is always welcomed, but it’s hard to not hear this as an album trying to be “down with the kids”.
11. Stereopathetic Soulmanure (1994)
1994 was a busy time for Beck. The musician had already released the EP A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight by the time he released his full-length record din that year. It’s Beck at his most experimental.
Abstract noises cloud every track but there is one standout moment on the album, the amazing ‘Thunder Peel’ which paves the way for Beck’s more commercial and palatable sound.
10. Mellow Gold (1994)
To compound our point on just how prolific Beck was during 1994, the singer’s album featuring perhaps his most famous song ‘Loser’, was one of many records shared during the year. But while his biggest hit may have kicked things off on the record, the album doesn’t follow a straight line from it.
No, once ‘Loser’ has finished, the album continues to diversify and find its way back to the year’s holy grail genre—anti-folk. But unlike his previous two albums prior this record saw Beck hone and craft his experimentations into actual songs.
9. Morning Phase (2014)
After a six-year hiatus, Beck needed to arrive back in the business with a big bang and his 2014 album Morning Phase was his big splashdown. It was a significant moment for Beck as it saw him begin, ever more intently, to polish and over-produce his albums.
Removed from the scratchy experimentation, Beck was now producing big albums for the slick and modern age. The album lacked any real impetus and that was perfectly surmised in the album’s lead track being closer to lounge music than ‘Loser’.
8. Mutations (1998)
The album on which Beck got serious about music and being a highly regarded musician. It saw him turn his back on the sardonic and sarcastic snarls of previous efforts and Beck ascend into the role of a pop star.
Rather than deliberately trying to dissuade and discombobulated his audiences, this album saw Beck become more reflective and open with his music. He touched on personal subjects while still keeping his uncanny “weird and wonderful” moniker.
7. Sea Change (2002)
The record is seen as part of Beck’s acceptance of folk as not only a valuable commodity but a genre he wanted to enjoy with all his intention. It’s another album born out of personal issues as Beck tinged every track on the LP with the break-up of him and his girlfriend.
While the album may not set many Beck fans alight, the LP is fairly middle of the road for the artist, as a whole body of work, it’s hard to ignore not only it’s value to him as a singer but his personal life story.
6. One Foot in the Grave (1994)
Welcome to Beck’s modern America everybody. This was one of the moments in 1994 that Beck proved to be one of the most fascinating and vital artists the USA had to offer. While the world was still mourning the loss of Kurt Cobain and grunge, Beck was creating his own genres between every new song.
On One Foot in the Grave, Beck goes folk and drops some of his most beloved songs including ‘I Get Lonesome’ and ‘Teenage Wastebasket’. The album, thankfully his last of the year, saw Beck begin to truly show the eclecticism which would litter his career and the dorms of college campuses across the land.
5. Odelay (1996)
Arguably considered Beck’s “hip-hop album” the musician managed to grab the essence of ‘Loser’ and Mellow Gold and turn it into a commercial powerhouse. The really interesting point of that notion is that he did so without compromising his vision.
Odelay is equally as strange and wonderful as his other experimental records of the time. It sees Beck adding in more and more genres across every song, with the use of rock guitars, electro experiments and folk accoutrements things got messy. But like so many spaghetti sauce stained children will tell you, sometimes messy is really fun.
4. Guero (2005)
If you found yourself walking through a shop during 2005 and suddenly found yourself bopping to the music with your feet swinging in the air like a mouse in a trap, then chances are you were caught on one Beck’s hooks form Guero.
This is Beck near his peak, not only managing to still bring the eclectic flavours in his kitchen but able to serve it in a comfortable and inviting dining area. A lot of good songs litter the album and with ‘Guero’, ‘Girl’ and ‘E-Pro’ on the tracklisting, you know this is not an album to be missed.
3. Modern Guilt (2008)
2008 saw Beck return to his roots and get all alt-rock. At 33 minutes long, Modern Guilt is Beck’s tightest album and it sees him in imperious form. Not only managing his own experimentation but employing Danger Mouse to come in as producer and keep him to the task.
It stands out as one of Beck’s most ‘straight-down-the-line’ albums. No frills or unnecessary inspirations the album is straight rock and revels in songs like ‘Gamma Ray’ and ‘Modern Guilt’. A classic without even really trying.
2. The Information (2006)
If you needed any further proof that Beck’s preference for music is that he prefers to listen to it all, then The Information was recorded at the exact same time as Guero. Where that album was raw and uncut in places, this album is distinctly polished to a gleam.
It is to the record’s benefit, however, and shows off that behind the mixing desk there aren’t many better than Beck. It’s not only an entertaining listen but an education on what producing a pop record is all about—authenticity.
1. Midnite Vultures (1999)
If there was sone album which Beck can look back on in another 50 years and say that was a fine piece of work then it would have to be Midnite Vultures. The album said farewell to a decade, century and Millenium when it arrived in 1999 and confirmed Beck was an icon.
A funk and electro album to set the world to a new rhythm, Beck provides some strange and stupendous vocals on this multi-layered and multi-faceted record. It was on this album that all of Beck’s early inspirations came together as a wholly brilliant album.