Morning Phase Review

artist: Beck date: 02/26/2014 category: compact discs
Beck: Morning Phase
Released: Feb 21, 2014
Genre: Alternative Rock, Folk Rock, Country Rock
Label: Capitol
Number Of Tracks: 13
This is the first release by Beck since "Modern Guilt" in 2008 unless you count his release of sheet music titled "Song Reader" released in 2012.
 Sound: 9
 Lyrics: 8
 Overall Impression: 8
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review (1) pictures (1) 7 comments vote for this album:
overall: 8.3
Morning Phase Featured review by: UG Team, on february 26, 2014
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: Beck has maintained a relatively productive career except for the recent absence of new music except for scattered singles, which has finally come to an end. He re-entered the studio with the majority of the same musicians he worked with when recording his earlier album, "Sea Change." Beck has even referred to "Morning Phase" as a "companion piece" to "Sea Change." "Morning Phase" is going to be one of two full-length studio releases by Beck in 2014, though the details of his second release are still kind of vague. The album has 13 tracks with a total runtime of just over 47 minutes. The songs "Blue Moon" and "Waking Light" have been released as singles from the album in January 2014 and early February 2014, respectively. 

"Cycle" is the first track on the album, is less than a minute, and is completely instrumental - really it seems to be more about inciting the right type of mood for the rest of the album to rest in. "Morning" opens up with some acoustic strumming and Beck's almost-signature vocal style of being just on the edge of having slurred vocals. "Heart Is a Drum" starts out with an acoustic melody and some light harmonized vocals. I really enjoy that Beck does things like leave the string buzz on this track. "Say Goodbye" has an almost early Meat Puppets vibe to me, mixed with some strong country/bluegrass vibes - especially when the banjo comes in. "Blue Moon," which is also one of the singles from the album, opens up with a melody and some reverberating piano bass notes, but this track really starts to breathe after the intro. "Unforgiven" starts out with what sounds like some midi triggered drums and some heavily processed piano, or more likely a synth of some type. The vocals on this track have a lot of sustained notes. "Wave" has a creepy vibe to it in the intro, very similar to the melody used in "Cycle" earlier in the album. "Wave" eventually builds to use vocals, which have a good bit of reverb and possibly some delay on them as Beck sings along with a (probably virtual a la midi workstation) chamber orchestra. "Don't Let It Go" has a much more traditional acoustic vibe to it than the past few tracks on the album and has a very foot-tappable quality to it. "Blackbird Chain" is very old-school acoustic in the intro, but kind of takes on more of an acoustic psychedelic vibe to it after the intro. "Phase" is only just over one minute, and again is very similar to "Cycle" and the beginning of "Wave." Like "Cycle," "Phase" is completely instrumental. "Turn Away" is a really cool acoustic track with some interesting vocal harmony stuff going on, or a really good vocal chorus effect being used to process Beck's vocals. "Country Down" takes on a country-western façade for much of the song, but starts wrapping up the album and has a really awesome harmonica solo. The album closes out with the track "Waking Light" which is a kind of epic piano ballad and easily one of my favorite tracks from the album. // 9

Lyrics: "Morning Phase" definitely has Beck stretching his vocals a lot more than he did on "Modern Guilt," which serves the whole album really well. The vocals are actually fairly similar to the "companion piece" recording, "Sea Change," with the main difference being a strong underlining optimism running throughout "Morning Phase." The lyrics from "Morning Phase" are fairly optimistic, as well, while going into the weird surreal world of Beck's lyrics. Here is a sample of the lyrics from the track "Morning": "Woke up this morning, found a love light in the storm/ Looked up this morning, saw the roses full of thorns/ Guns are falling, they don't have nowhere to go/ Oceans of diamonds always shine, smooth out below/ Can we start it all over again this morning? / I lost all my defenses this morning/ Won't you show me the way it used to be? / I've gone all around 'til there's nothing left to say/ Wrote it all down into something that couldn't be said/ I tore it all down and buried me underneath the wave." // 8

Overall Impression: Honestly, this sounds like the Beck album that I've been waiting to hear for a long time. I've personally been a fan of Beck since I picked up "Mellow Gold" on cassette tape. This album scratches an itch I didn't even know I had regarding Beck's music, and after listening to this album with "Sea Change" it provides some closure to an album that I didn't realize was needing closure. My favorite songs on the album are "Country Down," "Blackbird Chain," "Don't Let It Go" and "Waking Light." I didn't dislike any songs from the album, and now I really pumped to hear the other album that Beck is working on. // 8

- Brandon East (c) 2014

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