So initially, a setlist.fm report for one of Beck's shows in Australia (November 2012) included a song called "I Won't Be Long."
There was some initial reports that it was a cover song on the internets, but as they tend, that was wrong. Beck wrote it.
Then in July 2013, it was announced that "I Won't Be Long" will be released as a standalone single. There is a 15-minute extended version of the track, as well. (Or honestly, I like to think of the long version as normal, and the short one as an "edited" one.)
The three 2012 singles ("Defriended," "Gimme," and "I Won't Be Long") were all likely a part of an album Beck began in 2008. Beck told Pitchfork in 2010 that album was to be called Rococo
, but after working on the songs for a few years, felt they had become less relevant, so he gave up on it. He also said he was figuring out whether to finish them and put them out as 12" singles, or on beck.com, or what. (Two years later, Beck did do the final work on them, and they came out as singles.) Beck said, "I'd always wanted to do a longer piece of music...with all these different sections." The point was to take a song and stretch it and add to it and that's what you hear on these 2012 singles. I'm not sure how that would have worked on an album setting, but as singles with long remixes, they are wonderful.
"I Won't Be Long" begins with a some really atmospheric, trippy keyboards. It's one of the stranger beginnings to a Beck song ever, but I've grown to really love this portion of the song.
From that intro, a bassline emerges and the main part of the song. It's much more traditionally structured than "Defriended" was (the previous 2013 single) with verses/choruses.
In between the choruses though, the song flows into strange dreamy instrumentals and sounds: throbbing bass, what sounds like ocean waves, spoken vocals from Kim Gordon (she's hard to make out, and I think only in the extended version), sighs, some cool electric guitar. Like "Defriended," though, Beck really creates a world here, fifteen minutes of ideas, not worrying, taking the song wherever it may possibly go.
Lyrically, I reckon that this is a vaguely political song. Beck has said some of The Information was influenced by the political feelings in the air, and "I Won't Be Long" sort of reads like those to me. The chorus, many have pointed out, is similar to The Beatles "Blue Jay Way" ("please don't be long") which Beck seems to have recognized by using a painting that has The Beatles in it on the single's cover.