Morning Phase Album Review
Released February 21, 2014
Genre: Alternative Rock, Folk Rock, Country Rock
“You should never get your hopes up”, everyone always says and rightly so, no-one likes to be disappointed and it’s not like Morning Phase, Beck’s umpteenth thousand album, dropped like a ton of bricks, but rather just failed to captivate, excite or interest me as much as many of his previous releases have. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Beck is a maverick of production, songwriting and hat-wear. Blending elements of funk, Hip-Hop, acoustic and Indie in his spectacular and obtuse debut Mellow Gold, Beck has since been an omnipresent overseer within the alternative scene for coming up to twenty years now. Now, with his twelfth release I can’t help but question whether he’s spread himself too thin? Actually, I don’t think that’s the right vernacular to use since Morning Phase is by no means a ‘thin’ record, in fact it’s immensely profuse in woozy orchestrals and rippling instrumentation peppering every track, however this just detracts from the cyclical nature of this album since a lot of the songs have very little to offer in structural variation making an enjoyable moment often sullied by unsettling déjà vu that you’ve heard these exact chord progressions a few tracks back.
Internet lore deems Morning Phase a companion to the universally admired Sea Change released back in 2002 and maybe this is why my expectations were ramped up a notch. Beck proved most popular at his most vulnerable and melancholy which tells us two things – 1) Music fans are sadistic sociopaths and 2) Beck is at his most proficient when miserable, and that’s what I was looking forward to on this record (now I’m the sociopath). Morning Phase sees Beck whittle down what were the sprawling and emotionally dense rhymes of Sea Change into a series of non-descript catchphrases on this LP. On ‘Heart is a Drum’ for instance, I can revel in it’s sentiment and one of the more indelible melodies of the album but I can’t help but feel the scarcity of conviction and self-vindictive charm that made Sea Change such a powerful record.
Beck’s guitar intonation seems to suffer as well, while on tracks like ‘Blackbird Chain’ and ‘Say Goodbye’ his blues infused acoustic-style remains admirable, a lot of stellar playing is overshadowed by the haunting production levels which does very little to evoke a connection with the idiosyncratic style I cherished on previous releases. Lead single ‘Blue Moon’ was the springboard for my hopes and still remains as charming and refreshing as it was on the first listen providing an idyllic juxtaposition to the equally intoxicating ‘Wave’ with it’s cinematic string arrangements and one of the most serene vocal performances from Beck on this whole album.
The harsh tenor I adopted with this review stems only from my disappointment and the promise of a Sea Change v2.0 but for all it’s menial shortcomings Morning Phase provides some true moments of tranquility, perfect for lazy sunday afternoons filled with feet up procrastination and lacklustre shruggery.
FAV TRACKS: Blue Moon, Wave, Heart is a Drum
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Phase, Turn Away, Morning