The leaf blower was invented in the late 1950s, at a time when sales of newfangled products for domestic use were flourishing. Despite being a handy device, it is somewhat inaccurately named: point it at a pile of dirt, pebbles, garbage, and leaves, and you will notice that it will get rid of many things that are patently not leaves.
Alternative rock was invented in the early 1990s, at a time when sales of angsty music were flourishing. Despite being a handy category, it is somewhat inaccurately named: it quickly became so mainstream that it’s not really “alternative”, and it encompasses many artists who are patently not “rock”.
It’s appropriate, then, that just a few years before becoming one of the leading figures in “alternative rock”, Beck Hansen was employed as a leaf blower in Los Angeles.
Like a recently blown pile of leaves, Beck’s music is a wonderfully chaotic mish-mash of material. Pick through any of his songs and you’re likely to find many interesting sonic bits and pieces, samples and influences from every corner of music history.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. Beck’s lazy vocal delivery. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Part of what makes Beck great is that he reminded the rock world that you don’t need to yell or be overly dramatic to get emotion across.
2. The lyrics. Apparently, this song (and the entire “Sea Change” album) was written in the wake of the collapse of a significant relationship in Beck’s life. The fatigue and resignation in Beck’s words certainly support that theory.
3. Despite the backstory, it doesn’t come off as depressed. Not to me, at least. Yes, it’s a sad song…but something about the playful guitar part and its occasional major chords makes it feel a bit hopeful.
Recommended listening activity:
Calling in sick and shuffling around in your slippers all day.