Beck returns with acoustic-led new single Thinking About You

Beck, in a promo still taken to accompany the release of his standalone single, Thinking About You

Beck has released a surprise single titled Thinking About You, an intimate ballad performed on acoustic guitar, with the Grammy-winning indie slacker idol joined in the studio by Blake Mills, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, and Roger Manning.

This is minimalist Beck; Beck as balladeer. The Beck of Thinking About You is the Beck of albums such as 2002’s Sea Change and its companion piece, Morning Phase, and it was recorded in the same room as Sea Change, which saw Beck decamp to Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles to track everything live.

This sounds like a very similar setup. You'll hear additional guitar and mandolin from Mills, a player who has a formidable CV as a session ace, working with the likes of Eric Clapton before going solo. Meldal-Johnsen is on bass guitar, with Roger Manning on keys. Beck is on acoustic and vocals, and if the accompanying press shot [above] is to be believed, it was presumably using an Martin 000 for the session.

He does, of course, have a Martin D-16BH signature guitar to his name but perhaps that would overpower the song, even if the limited edition custom build has a slimmer body depth than the other dreadnoughts in the Martin catalogue. Incidentally, these are not that expensive as limited edition artist models go. 

You could pick a D-16BH for just over two grand – not cheap, but as high-end acoustic guitars go, limited to 99 units worldwide, it could be worse.

Thinking About You has some gourmet acoustic tones that sound like the mic is being pushed hard. Again, it maintains the lo-fi production aesthetic that defined much of Beck’s back catalogue, but it also makes for a warm, textured mix, a three-dimensional backdrop for the vocal. All very nice.

This is Beck’s first new material since 2019’s Hyperspace, and it has been described as a standalone release, so it would be remiss to speculate as to whether we will hear a new studio album from him any time soon. 

His 2023 calendar is filling up. He will be in Australia for three dates in April, before returning to the states to play two nights at The Hollywood Bowl to celebrate the 90th birthday of country icon Willie Nelson, with more dates scheduled for August and September. 

See Beck for full dates.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.