GENRES: Indie/Acoustic, Folk, Alternative
TOP TRACKS: Morning, Heart is a Drum, Say Goodbye, Blue Moon, Wave, Don't Let it Go, Blackbird Chain, Waking Light
Famed singer/songwriter, Beck has returned with his first album in 6 years entitled Morning Phase. There have been rumors and even some commenting from Beck himself about this album being a follow up piece to Beck's critically acclaimed Sea Change record from 2002. Sea Change was a melancholy but beautiful folk/alternative record in which I personally felt Beck found his sound. Since that very poignant and pivotal album, Beck's musical voice has been as wonderful to listen to as ever. Beck then released another great record in my opinion in 2008 entitled, Modern Guilt.
So with somewhat of a lack of fanfare surrounding this album's release and hype, I was still rather excited to hear this new album from a man that I perceive to be an excellent musician and a very intelligent and insightful individual. Upon first listen, the striking similarities between this record and Sea Change are incredible. Beck must have done this intentionally but "The Golden Age" from Sea Change sounded very much like "Morning" the opener on this new record. The slow and steady pace of the song, the winding piano piece, the beautiful acoustic piece and Beck's delicate work overall vocally were the first things that made these similarities apparent.
But the more times I listen to Morning Phase, the more I am able to appreciate it solely as the work of art that it is. I think the main difference between these two albums which I know everyone is feeling the need to compare is the mood. Morning Phase has a more atmospheric, optimistic and happy feeling to it compared to the despairing images conjured up on Sea Change at times. There are times where this can be incredibly soothing. Beck's music has so many different layers and dimensions to it. Whether it is the opening piece with vibrant orchestral and string arrangements or the track "Say Goodbye" that has a certain twang to it almost like country music. On this specific track, Beck's vocals are incredible but the lyrics really add to the song if you take the time to listen to them. Beck's got a great voice conceptually and aesthetically and it's us who are lucky enough to be able to witness the inner mechanisms of his mind.
The sadness, psychedelia and simply unexplainable magnificence of "Wave" was one of the highlights of this record in my eyes. I really loved how the song needed very few elements but still managed to be incredibly meaningful and powerful. But on the other hand I also like more jovial and light-hearted tracks like "Don't Let it Go." While it was more upbeat, this song was equally beautiful as some of Beck's other tracks as well.
"Blue Moon" has some amazing melody arrangements showing me that Beck that has not only managed to maintain the genius of Sea Change but he is evolving and growing as a person just as all true artists strive to do. This very album features influences and different styles of music spanning from the Velvet Underground to Pink Floyd to the Grateful Dead to even Hip/Hop and Electronic music with some of synths and drum machines that are present occasionally on this record. Beck is a very versatile songwriter and musician and this album, although it may be subtle is an excellent indication of just how beautiful and affecting his music can be.
The final track "Waking Light" was an excellent closer to this very beautiful record serving as the light at the end of the tunnel to this piece and thus in my opinion drawing the original message of Sea Change to a full circle. Whenever there is darkness, it must be cancelled out by light and all bad things will one day turn to good. Beck's music is introspective but universal at the same time which is something I think is impressive to say the least.
Morning Phase definitely plays well in the background. It cannot be appreciated fully in one listen but if you just sit with it long enough and let it take you away, you can truly find a beautiful place. Although I do enjoy Sea Change just a little more than this album because it seemed to come from a very honest and dark place that I think simply could never be replicated by anyone (including Beck) I feel like he was able to grow and show that he could dabble in the same type of music styles but also add a completely new twist to it once again. Beck is an artist, nothing more you can say about him and as long as he is making music, I will continue to listen. This album is simply another addition to a career of instant classics.