Beck has a hit and miss track record. Some of his albums were an intrinsic part of my soundtrack in those heady late 90s, Sea Change is a great change of pace, Mutations worked as a melancholy Tropicalia, but other releases are prosaic, disposable.
“It is a bit random, what ends up getting released and what stays in the can,” Beck, who is known by his first name, said in his ambling So-Cal drawl. “Some of it’s embarrassing, and some of it’s better than you thought. Some of it should be burned.”
He compared his unreleased songs to planes on a runway, some still waiting to take off and some that never will, and marveled at the many unexplored destinations where his muse might have led him. “There’s so many directions things could have gone,” he said.
The paths taken and not taken have brought him to another valedictory point in his mercurial career. On Tuesday, his 38th birthday, Beck will release “Modern Guilt,” his eighth major-label studio album. It is his first collaboration with Danger Mouse, the D.J. and producer who is half of the funk-rock group Gnarls Barkley, and his final release under the recording deal that began with Beck’s 1994 breakthrough, “Mellow Gold, ”which featured the ubiquitous novelty song “Loser.”
Chan Marshall aka Cat Power sings some backup vocals. Worth a second glance at least.