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Where to start and/or what's essential?
On a random note, I love his appearance in Futurama.
hell get them all, but seriously these two are his best
beautiful little album
guero mexicany weird pop brilliance, odelay for the hits
...One Foot In The Grave (1994), which features Calvin Johnson (from Beat Happening) on vocals, Chris Ballew (from The Presidents of the USA) on guitar, Scott Plouf (from Built To Spill) on drums and other cool dudes on other stuff, and Mutations (1998), which was produced by Nigel Godrich who also did OK Computer. Just brilliant songs start to finish, both albums.
Odelay (1996) and Mellow Gold (1994) are the two that he's best known for, and the sound he is most associated with - the kind of mash up of a whole load of stuff, both really great albums.
Midnite Vultures (1999) is a slick funky Prince inspired record and is also really good.
Sea Change (2002) is also very nice sounding on the ears!
The two after that (Guero and The Information) aren't as good, and though I haven't heard the latest record Modern Guilt, most people say its a return to form.
There is also a compilation of weird, but occasionally brilliant demos and live recordings called Stereopathetic Soulmanure, and there are also loads of less available but available old collections of recordings (A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight, Banjo Story, Fresh Meat and Old Slabs, Golden Feelings) which have the occasional gem on them. He has some great B-sides too, especially from around the Mellow Gold / Odelay era.
Hereby ends my tri-monthly DiS messageboard history of Beck.
the version of Totally Confused on Western Harvest... about 20 minutes ago. My God it is incredibly good. For what it's worth I'd say if you've never listened to Beck before Odelay would probably be a decent starting point, personally I'm a big Mellow Gold fan but wouldn't start there.
Modern Guilt is a great return to form worth getting if only for Chemtrails, danger mouse really seems to bring out the best from Beck on it and it has a nice vintage feel but still remains modern.
however, my opinion of him took a dive when i found out he's a scientologist...
Its poor, very poor.
for noise and beats go Odelay, Guero, The Information, Modern Guilt.
for a bit more downbeat, go Sea Change, Mutations. Can't fail with any of these.