This is a new feature and, as is the case with most things, we’re probably not the first to do it. The Download Guide (name still under review) is a simple system to evaluate albums on a song-by-song basis and thus help you in the ongoing mission to fill your iTunes with all killer and little to no filler.
Some background. Given the fact that albums are losing value to self-made playlists by the minute and our shuffle culture values single songs over all else, the Download Guide seems like the natural progression in music criticism. Is it a sad reflection on the state of the music business? Definitely, and nobody loves full-length albums more than we do, but the truth is that as a medium they are less relevant now than they’ve ever been. And hey, it’s not like people haven’t been skipping straight to their favorite songs since the days of vinyl. Again, this isn’t exactly a review but a way to help you navigate your way through the a la carte world of MP3s. We hope you find it helpful.
Read the track-by-track breakdown and get an MP3 of our favorite track after the jump:
Songs are on a grade school, plus/minus system: A, B, C etc.
- Orphans – Solid intro. Mid-tempo psychedelia with Brian Wilson vocals. And, as a general rule of thumb, I think you should always download the opening track. Final grade: B+
- Gamma Ray – Oooh, this is nice. Surfer guitar riff over peppery drums? Sold. Final grade: A-
- Chemtrails – A wide-open mind fuck. This song has been gracing the interwebs for a while now and if you’re a fan of Beck’s more freaky Mutations or Sea Change stuff then this is for you. If you’re more a fan of his Odelay, Midnight Vultures stuff then stay away. Final grade: B
- Modern Guilt – Bouncy little ditty on first listen until you realize he’s “stranded with nothing” and “under lock and key.” At this point I’m starting to realize how great Danger Mouse’s drum beats are. Final grade: A-
- Youthless – This is one of those mumblerap songs with beeps and boops that Beck’s had a penchant for since Guero. Pretty forgettable all in all. Final Grade: C-
- Walls – Clocking in at a mere 2:20 this one almost has a middle eastern feel to it with moaning strings and background vocals. It’s interesting but not all that enjoyable. Final grade: C+
- Replica – This reminds me of the Thom Yorke album but way catchier. Full of fuzzy, off kilter drums and strings and horns swooping in and out. It might not be the most instantly catchy track on the album but it’s the most textured and easy to lose yourself in. Final grade: A
Beck – Replica
- Soul Of A Man – Bluesy and, dare I say, this is what a Jack White record would sound like if Beck produced it. Sadly, that idea’s probably more interesting than the song turns out to be and this track is like another throw away off Guero or The Information. Final grade: C
- Profanity Prayers – A marching drum beat sets the tone for a crooked guitar riff on a track that’s like Timebomb‘s more refined cousin. It’s fun, but if Beck and Danger Mouse had decided to turn it up a bit this track could have been insane. Come on, why play it so safe here guys? Final grade: B
- Volcano – Slow burner that wouldn’t sound out of place on Sea Change with its lush strings and echoey vocals. A nice way to finish but nothing more. Final grade: B-
So there you have it. Our track-by-track grades of Modern Guilt. We hope you take the time to pick up the whole album, but we’re realistic and realize that that just won’t happen in every case. Hopefully this will go a little way in steering you in the right direction.