Some bag on Stereopathetic Soulmanure as an inferior Beck release, but I think it’s easily one of his best albums. It’s a little rough in patches, but the eclectic songwriting is usually good and there is even some fairly good guitar playing. Beck is all over the place. From found sounds, to noise rock, to country, to folk, he tries a little of everything. But he manages to pull it off. In fact, Mellow Gold was a big step down from the creativity on display here. Beck hadn’t yet hooked up with hip-hop producers but it’s no real loss with what is found here. Is this juvenile? Yes, of course. But it manages to faithfully capture the sense of looking for something that resonates and finding the process of the search at least as interesting as anything found along the way. This has the feel of bored Southern California kids making their own entertainment — not unlike what Ariel Pink would do a few years later.
A more mature Vijay Iyer offers something the younger Iyer did not. He melds angular, modernist attacks with smooth, easy sensibilities in a way that avoids both stilted transitions and empty new age chamber jazz posturing–sometimes the nagging limitations of his early work. Accelerando features all his strengths and none of his weaknesses. It certainly helps that bassist Stephan Crump provides a very prominent drive to the music. Covering some pop music (“Human Nature”) also reveals a grounded sense of humor. Such little touches evidence the magnanimous spirit imbuing the proceedings. This is music that is as accessible as it is vibrant. It may well be Iyer’s best offering yet.