Album Review

Beck - Morning Phase

Released February 25, 2014
Chad W. Lutz
Known for funky, robotic sounds, lazy vocals, and wild lyrics, Beck serves up yet another unexpected: a serious side. Take Sea Change and throw in something we've never heard from the artist and you have his new album, Morning Phase. And none of this should come as any surprise. Beck reunited with Sea Change sessions musicians Justin Meldal-Johnson, Smokey Hormel, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Joey Waronker to produce the album, and the influences on the collaboration are evident throughout.

Released February 25, 2014, Morning Phase represents the first release for Beck on Capital Records. Buzz has been swarming about the new release in last November, when the LA-native first announced the album's proper release this past Tuesday. The last time Beck released an album, 2008, George W. Bush was still in the White House.

Instead of driving, crunchy rhythms and zany references to cocaine nose jobs and time as pieces of wax falling on termites choking on splinters, the lyrics and themes of Morning Phase are largely solemn but uplifting. In the song "Waking Light", which appears last on the thirteen-track LP, a somber narrator insists against a Beatles-esque guitar lick, "When the memory leaves you/Somewhere you can't make it home/When the morning comes to meet you/Open your eyes with waking light". Beck gives you a sense that he's grown older through his lyrics; that perhaps the party is over, but the good times don't have to end. Another prime example of this sentiment comes in the song, "Say Goodbye", which appears toward the middle of the album at No. 4.

In a November 2013 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Beck indicated he was aiming for, what he referred to as, "California music." The sounds found in Morning Phase were to pay homage to greats like Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, the Byrds, and others. The stripped down, snail-tempo tempo pacing of the album definitely lends to the artist's self-assessment of the music. In the interview with Rolling Stone, Beck shied away from using the work "sequel", but he also admitted that the new album goes back to many themes found present in 2003's Sea Change, which would account for the musical similarities. At the time, Sea Change represented an anomaly within the psych-disco pop star's discography. Now it's considered classic Beck.

Casual Beck listeners looking for a reprise of grinding, heavy-handed hitters like Guero (2005), Midnight Vultures (1999), or Odelay! (1996) may not find what they're looking for in Morning Phase. What they will find, however, are refreshing and truthful lyrics bounds together with sweet melodious harmonies from a man who's been around the block once or twice in his day. The album is more than listenable and draws you in from the early moments of "Cycle" and doesn't let up until the last notes of "Waking Light". You won't experience the wide range of emotions you might normally from listening to a Beck LP, but what Beck does well he does on Morning Phase, and that's produce honest art instead of just some other music.