Morning Phase

Beck

Capitol, 2014

http://www.beck.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/26/2014

Beck’s first album in six years is a beautiful, introspective meditation that shares a sound with 2002’s Sea Change, if not a sentiment. Where that album was full of loss and regret, this one offers hope and promise even as it rarely strays from the melancholy.

Brian Wilson-esque vocal harmonies color many of the songs, which are acoustic and sometimes backed with strings and light drums. It’s a sound that is immediate, timeless and intimately personal – and, in the case of “Wave,” occasionally cinematic. Beck cited this as a companion piece to my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sea Change, but no knowledge of that album is required to enjoy this one.

The album is slow and mature, rarely venturing into the detours or alleys for which Beck is famous, but his songwriting chops and unerring ear for melody remain intact, and he gives the album a burnished, dreamy feel. “Wave” is absolutely gorgeous in its scope and composition, “Morning” and “Don’t Let It Go” are nice acoustic-guitar songs with a hint of folk, and “Heart Like a Drum” slowly builds its layers and features a strong Moody Blues influence to boot.

The similar approach to each song means they will not all work as standalone cuts, especially “Country Down” and the repetitive closing section of “Unforgiven,” but it feels as if this album is meant to be heard as a piece. The album flows nicely from the above songs to the alt-country of “Blue Moon,” the lovely short string solo “Phase,” the excellent “Turn Away,” which updates both Paul Simon and mid-period Beach Boys for 2014, and the near-epic closer “Waking Light.”

Morning Phase glistens with the weight of the world and the dawn of a new day. By making the album slightly more upbeat and accessible than Sea Change, Beck brings the listener along with him on the journey toward morning, toward hope. It’s the first great album of 2014 and easily Beck’s finest in a long time.

Rating: B+

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