The often-times absurd musical antics of Beck are pretty hard to ignore. Who would have thought the writer of the tongue-in-cheek 90’s ballad “Loser” would release an album in the form of sheet music less than 20 years later? Bouncing around from low-key piano music to experimental Latin-inspired hip-hop, Beck has decided to tone it down a bit more with the release of “Morning Phase,” and has marched one step closer to the musical summit. Similar to his 2002 minimalist classic “Sea Change,” “Morning Phase” calls upon the likes of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley for influence. Unlike the sorrowful sounds of “Sea Change,” this album is a bit calmer lyrically and instrumentally tighter.
After the rather abrupt overture “Cycle,” Beck sweeps the listener through a very warm auditory experience that can only be described as a musical hug. Though melancholic, “Morning Phase” doesn’t stress it and instead focuses on the strange nuances in folk music and the sound-structures. The album tends to lightly focus on different acoustic roots, whether it be the country-bumpkin vibe given off by “Say Goodbye” or the surreally haunting minimalism of “Heart Is A Drum.” Beck is clearly wearing the hat of an old-school troubadour on this album, and effortlessly conjures up a soundscape that cascades through genres, influences, and emotions that fail to feel overzealous at any point. Despite the folky roots, the album does have its fair share of lavishness that is littered effortlessly throughout the album that adds a cinematic flair to the album that still somehow remains understated.
Does this mean our fun-loving hip-hop maestro has gone soft? Far from it! If nothing else, “Morning Phase” is a cathartic experiment for an artist that has longed to stretch his creative muscles in a different direction for a while. Calling this album merely a sister piece to “Sea Change” is doing it a vast disservice; “Morning Phase” is a pleasant foray into genres that Beck has toyed with in the past that is not only a breath of fresh air for him, but an absolute gem for fans of music.
Album Rating: A (Mandatory)
Meet Chris Ricci
I’m a Salem-based writer with a flair for visual arts and all things music. I’ve been working diligently at Salem State University to further my education and have served as the Managing Editor for North Shore Art*Throb for over a year.
I’ve been a very big fan of wordplay for as long as I can remember, and part of that is easily attributed to the eclectic array of music I grew up listening to. Artists like Talking Heads, David Bowie, R.E.M., and Lou Reed were on heavy rotation while I was younger, and their bizarre and (at times) playful lyrics sparked a love for writing that continues today.
The only thing I love more than listening to music is sharing it with others, and I hope that some of my reviews help some people expand their musical horizons and get over the whole “there’s no good new music” cliché. Some personal favorite artists include Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Scott Walker, Beck, and Animal Collective.