The Singles Party: Beck, ‘I Won’t Be Long’

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This week’s selection comes to us from the fruitful mind of Pop-Break’s assignment editor Lauren Stern. The indie alternative world has been buzzing about this track, so The Singles Party crew tackles and wonders if Beck is still ‘where it’s at’ when it comes to alt music.

Jason Kundrath: For a change this week, I’m not marinating on this track at all. I literally just finished listening to it – 10 seconds before I began typing this sentence. Allow me to share my initial impressions.

As someone who has lost serious interest in Beck for about a decade, the sound of this track got me excited. Don’t get me wrong: “I Won’t Be Long” doesn’t mine any familiar territory. This is no “return to form.” Rather, this is exciting because it seems more rooted in the “now” than anything he’s done for a long time. In fact, this track – with its dreamy, head-nodding vibe – wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist with chillwave stars Washed Out. Sure, it’s kinda strange in spots with some slightly campy electronic percussion and an odd bridge. But whereas Beck used to be able to claim such weird flourishes as something of a signature, the playing field is more crowded than ever with artists delivering every level of quirk imaginable. Thankfully, this tune is cool enough to warrant more than a few listens. I may even be tempted to check out the forthcoming full-length.Verdict: Add to the playlist.

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Nick Porcaro: The best thing I can say about Mr. Beck Hansen’s latest single is that it’s inoffensive. The bass groove is pleasant. The reverb is warm and welcoming. The vocal hook just sort of breezes by. But these same qualities are what makes “I Won’t Be Long” completely inconsequential. Only the cathartic bridge section—with Hansen wailing “Oh so silently we go” only to be drowned out by arpeggiating chord progressions, followed by occasionally dissonant, consistently abrasive guitar squeals—is worth praising. There are some interesting little arrangement choices throughout, but the core songwriting just doesn’t cut it. Verdict: one and done

Kelly Gonsalves: You know Beck. You’ve heard his drowsy Radiohead voice, his offbeat yet jarringly fascinating sound, the discordant clash of relatively unfiltered instruments coming together for the perfect experimental masterpiece, or at least the atmosphere of somebody clearly trying to accomplish that. In other words, the musical epitome of every college-aged prick’s priggishly “different” taste in music, which is clearly much better than yours. Though, to be more fair, it’s the kind of music that you know is good music, even if you don’t personally like it. But while Beck as an artist wins my general praise but certainly none of my affection, “I Won’t Be Long” doesn’t particularly elicit either. The funky bass line sets a cool if not monotonous backdrop to the song but overall falls a little flat, boiling it down to perhaps some good background music at most. It’s nothing that could stand on its own two feet, anyhow. The screeching guitar toward the beginning of the outro definitely gave me shivers—the good kind—but it came and went much too fast to save the song from its nearly overwhelming blandness. It has enough disc squibbles and frizzies and weird, echoey instrumentation coming in all at once to make the psychedelic indie lover happy, but for the down-to-earth young’n who would rather pop punk than pills, I could probably survive the rest of my life without hearing this one again. Verdict: One and done

Beck performing live at The Governors Ball Music Festival in 2012. Photo: Giuliano Messina
Beck performing live at The Governors Ball Music Festival in 2012. Photo: Giuliano Messina

Lauren Stern: “I Won’t Be Long” threw me off a little bit at first. I expected big loud synthesizers, lots of drums, generally just a really goofy melody underneath Beck’s monotone vocals and I got airy vocals on top of a very serene and peaceful melody. I practically fell in love with this track though, mostly because it’s just so damn tranquilizing. I feel like I just woke up for a nap or a good night’s sleep and I’m refreshed and ready to take on the day. I hope Beck sticks with more of these shoegaze elements on at least one of his new albums coming out. He sure as hell can pull it off, but then again, Beck can play through a paper bag and it would still be perfection. Verdict: Add to Playlist

Bill Bodkin: Wow, I was not expecting that. I’m so used to a more loud, bass heavy, groove-filled tune from Beck and this hazy and lazy almost, as mentioned earlier, chill wave single is what we get? Craziness. But then again, maybe I shouldn’t be shocked. Beck is a true innovator, an alternative artist in the truest sense of the word. The dude can genre shank it up like nobody’s business and he does it with such craftsmanship. On “I Won’t Be Long” he adopts this kind of ethereal and dreamy atmosphere and puts it his own unique Beck-ian touches to it. I can’t recommend this enough to someone looking for a tune that’s completely outside the box and engrossing. Verdict: Add to Playlist.

Jason Stives: Sometimes songs just need the bare bones to hook you and while “I Won’t Be Long” doesn’t feel ambitious considering Beck’s often chameleon esque output its the simplicity that makes it stand out. The rather retro tinged production value mixed with a simple two chord groove creates a great hook early on. One could argue the dreamy nature of the track drags and may even emit a nocturnal feel but it’s cool, laid back, and a head nodder against Beck’s echoing monotone voice and the squeaking sonic guitar work that slowly fades out the track. Any more of a track like this may make Beck’s next record tiring quickly but for now it’s a track made for altered states that keeps the mind at ease. Verdict: Add to Playlist

Final Verdict: By the narrowest of margins Beck gets a thumbs up for the crew.

Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.