Beck’s 12th studio album was released on Feb. 21 to fans who have been waiting for six years for a new album. Beck said “Morning Phase” is a companion piece to his 2002 critical masterpiece “Sea Change.”
After hearing this, fans may have expected the album to have a slower sound and be more reflective, similar to “Sea Change,” as opposed to his typical guitar and drum heavy sound that helped catapult him to fame with his 1995 single “Loser.”
Labeling something as a companion piece is a risky move for “Morning Phase,” though. “Sea Change” is an album that was considered one of the best of 2002, and has been cited as one of the best albums of the decade by outlets such as the Rolling Stone.
The lonely lyrics in tracks such as “Blue Moon” and “Waking Light” are easy to compare to “Sea Change,” which was written after a rough breakup with his longtime girlfriend.
Unlike “Sea Change,” it seems as if “Morning Phase” is less about trying to survive a harsh break up and more about self-exploration. Which is a nice turn after Beck’s last album, 2008’s “Modern Guilt,” which features more of Beck’s typical exploration of sound and technology and less about internal exploration with sincere lyrics.
On first listen, “Morning Phase” could be construed as a Neil Young replication. However, as the songs are heard more, it is clear that Beck is simply channeling musical influences rather than copying his musical heroes.
The first single, and possibly the best track on “Morning Phase,” is the melancholic “Blue Moon.” The track features lyrics that risk being cheesy such as “Oh don’t leave me on my own,” but Beck manages to save himself with self-criticizing lines that ask listeners to “cut me down to size.” Beyond the lyrics, “Blue Moon” contains a simple but effective instrumental arrangement and double tracked vocals, both of which make the song a relaxing listen.
The track “Say Goodbye” stands out for its visual imagery, and an energetic but tame guitar solo. The song is a nice breather among the album’s sea of slow songs. In “Say Goodbye,” Beck dishes out lines in a relaxed, but not depressing manner, in order to give off an effect of a nonchalant break up.
Another standout track is “Heart Is a Drum.” which, like “Say Goodbye,” has more energy to it than most other tracks on the album. The track has more of an optimistic atmosphere to it as Beck sings “Your heart is a drum keeping time with everyone.” While the song comments on the struggle people feel keeping up with the world, it becomes clear that everyone does and that everything will be fine.
The overall theme of “Morning Phase” seems to be Beck examining himself and letting fans know that he still can feel isolated, but this time he knows that it will be fine.
The album stands out in today’s music culture due to the lack of hipster folk and heavy pop hooks. Instead Beck presents listeners with a chance to relax and listen to music with some soul in it.
“Morning Phase” was released on Feb. 21, and can be heard for free on Spotify.