In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.
Beck’s 2002 break-up album Sea Change is packed with tearful odes to a love lost—specifically longtime girlfriend Leigh Limon—and it came as something of a shock after the loosey-goosey (and in my opinion, woefully weak) Midnite Vultures. But jumping from day-glo silliness to serious self-examination worked: Sea Change is widely regarded as Beck’s best. “Guess I’m Doing Fine” is a big reason for that. The song, so mournful and elegant, could’ve just been five minutes of wallowing, but the keening pedal steel and Beck’s descended register—he hadn’t sung this low since 1994’s One Foot In The Grave—elevate it. And then there are the lyrics, about lies that he’s living and things that he’s missing, and the worst feeling of all—regret. That’s all cutting enough, but it’s that lyrical deception—“guess I’m doing fine”—that makes the song so perfect: Beck knows he’s not doing fine. He just got done telling you he’s not doing fine, that in fact he can no longer hear the bluebirds and that he’s actually crying. When you’re that low, you don’t want to be honest when somebody asks how you’re doing—you just want to be left alone. “Guess I’m Doing Fine” conveys that sentiment perfectly, and unsentimentally.