Thursday, 27 February 2014

Morning Phase by Beck

Beck's back with an absolutely stunning new album to fall in love with. It is safe to say that 'Morning Phase' will be one of my album's of 2014 and I would bet money on it being included near the top of a lot of critics/media lists at the end of the year.

Why is it so good?

'Morning Phase' is one of those albums that comes along every so often; you sit up a little sharper on first listen, it draws you in, you know there is plenty of depth to come back for more.

'Cycle', a brief instrumental, opens the album before 'Morning' sets the tone. Lazy and mellow, but with urgency and passion. Many interviews and reviews have mentioned or asked whether 'Morning Phase' could be interpreted as 'Mourning Phase'. There is certainly a sense of loss and longing on this song.

'Morning' is beautifully written and captured, setting the tone for much of the album. Beck sounds fantastic.

Woke up this morning
From a long night in the storm
Looked up this morning
Saw the roses full of thorns

The outro is gorgeous, lazy and flowing, extremely enjoyable.

Beck creates some lovely melodies and harmonies throughout the album (with various people on backing vocals) and the wonderfully titled 'Heart Is A Drum' is a first class example of just how 'on form' Beck is.

Your heart is a drum, keeping time with everyone

'Say Goodbye' highlights that this is an album of songs from someone moving on.

'Blue Moon' was my immediate highlight on first listen. A delicate riff is picked out on ukelele, the melodies and harmonies are stunning and there are beautiful moments when the songs rises or falls, when beats kick in, or when Beck strips it bear.

You can't see the wounds you caught in battle
Oh don't leave me on my own

The playing throughout the album is just exemplary, the pace matches the mood and production (self produced by Beck). It all comes together on the heart tugging 'Unforgiven'.

Just let the engine run
Till there's nothing left
Except the damage done
Somewhere unforgiven
I will wait for you

The strings add to the emotion of the song. Stunning, this reminds me of Lennon, laying his emotions on the line.

'Wave' features more strings, tugging further on those heartstrings. This is cinematic music that should come with a box of tissues to mop of the tears.

If I surrender
And I don't fight this wave
I won't go under
I'll only be carried away

Wave, wave, isolation, isolation, isolation

Man, I am feeling for Beck!

'Don't Let It Go' reminded me a little of Steve Mason/Beta Band in the melody and vocal. 'Blackbird Chain' is mellow an dreamy, while 'Phase' is the instrumental companion to the opener, more heart tugging/breaking strings.

'Turn Away' has echoes of Simon and Garfunkel/Fleet Foxes. Acoustic and dreamy with beautiful harmonies.

Pedal Steel Guitar and harmonica are musical highlights in 'Country Down', combining with ease on the instrumental.

The section beginning 'You could wake up on a lifeboat 'neath the sun' is fantastic, Beck in full flow.

In many ways, album closer 'Waking Light' reflects the whole album. Beck is contemplative and poetic,  the music is emotional and soaring, yet gentle and delicate.

'Morning Phase' is an exceptional album that I've had on pretty much constant rotation since buying it on Monday. There is a lot to get lost in.

I hope Beck tours and comes to Scotland. To see and hear him play this album in full would be a joy.

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