tue 26/05/2020

Album of the Year: Beck - Morning Phase | reviews, news & interviews

Album of the Year: Beck - Morning Phase

Album of the Year: Beck - Morning Phase

The erstwhile slacker-rocker discovers his Zen

Beck: cerebral acceptance

Some say the albums that endure the longest are those that comfort us in our dark nights of the soul: LPs such as Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Joni Mitchell’s Blue. So what’s an artist to do when he’s outgrown the intensity of youth and the peaks and troughs have flattened out? Does life become less interesting? Or, necessarily, more predictable? Beck wrote Morning Phase while recovering from a back injury.

Some say the albums that endure the longest are those that comfort us in our dark nights of the soul: LPs such as Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Joni Mitchell’s Blue. So what’s an artist to do when he’s outgrown the intensity of youth and the peaks and troughs have flattened out? Does life become less interesting? Or, necessarily, more predictable? Beck wrote Morning Phase while recovering from a back injury. More generally, though, it expresses a fine range of sentiments to meditate on as you grow older – melancholy, experience and cautious optimism.

The “morning” referred to in the title is key. “Can’t we start it all over again?” the artist sings on the opening track, his languid vocals floating over dewy, Californian folk-rock chords. It feels fresh and direct, a far cry from the clever-clever approach of some previous projects. The obvious comparison to draw is, of course, with Sea Change (which many consider to be Beck's Blood on the Tracks). But, while they share a folky musical palette, Sea Change is all about late-night heartache; Morning Phase, however, dishes up its sadness with a large side order of cerebral acceptance.

Ten months after its release the album is just as capable of transporting you to a place of sublime tranquillity. Partly this is simply down to the quality of the music – Beck weaves a tapestry of Americana from influences that date from Gram Parsons to Ryan Adams. But the words matter too. Consciously imprecise, they are complex and poignant but ultimately uplifting. After all, the LP starts with “Woke up this morning, found a love light in the storm”, and ends with a plaintive “open your eyes with waking light”. That quality made it, for me, the most Zen album of the year. 

Overleaf: watch a video on the making of Morning Phase

Ten months after its release the album is just as capable of transporting you to a place of sublime tranquillity

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