Review: Beck – Morning Phase
Published on February 10th, 2014 | Jonny Abrams
Beck Hansen’s steadfast refusal to make even remotely similar-sounding albums back-to-back can yield spectacular results when the inspiration’s well and truly flowing – happily, his twelfth LP Morning Phase is one such occasion.
If 2005’s Guero and 2006’s The Information suffered slightly from the notion of Beck just settling into Beckdom, Morning Phase makes a strength of his own customs by revisiting the slow-paced majesty of Sea Change while substituting radiant hope and West Coast pop in for the unsettling air of despondency.
Any comparisons with classic 1998 LP Mutations would be wide of the mark – yes, acoustic guitar reigns, but Mutations was hewn more out of a kind of psychedelic pop that resurfaced in different form on 2008’s vibrant Modern Guilt, the last album he recorded himself.
That’s a reference to his Song Reader project, such a strong collection of songs that they sounded like instant classics even in the hands of others.
For all of the West Coast influences proffered, there are isolated moments on Morning Phase where its majesty swells into something verging on Sigur Rós, not least as “Morning” reaches its splendorous climax.
Elsewhere, said influences prove instructive: “Heart is a Drum” could be a lost Simon and Garfunkel classic, “Say Goodbye” is sublime in all its jangling, plucking glory, while set-closer “Waking Light” does good by its title with a kind of twinkling intensity that simply demands, and gets, rolling kettledrum.
“Country Down” is also aptly titled, resplendent as it is with pedal steel and harmonica, whereas “Wave” is stern stuff, just Beck’s vocal set to a mournful string arrangement bemoaning “isolation” – its dark drama feels like new territory for Beck, and it sits so well amongst the old.
Sea Change mark II? Arguably, but Morning Phase is more than anything else just another great Beck album. Now let’s have some more of the electronic stuff he was putting out as singles last year.
Morning Phase will be released on February 24th through Fonograf Records.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!