2014, Music

Morning Phase (2014) by Beck

Beck and the critics both seem to agree this is some kind of spiritual sequel to Sea Change. Now, I’m not sure I would have set what I’m going to say had I not read that, but I suspect I would have.

To my ears the shadow of Sea Change hangs over this record to such an extent that it is distracting. Beck had never made another record like it and, for me, it was my favourite for that reason. I appreciate Beck’s other tendencies and think they’re what makes him great. But I also loved that he had gone and made this chamber pop record, and done such an excellent job. I know all the songs on that record better than I know the songs on basically any other record of his. Sure, it’s not representative of his oeuvre but it may be his most consistent, near-perfect record.

And, to me, this is a pale imitation. Maybe that will change with time, as I come to know the songs better and better. But right now what I hear is a weaker set of songs, some of which appear to almost callback to the previous record, full of arrangements that really do callback to that record.

Everything about this feels like such a conscious echo of Sea Change. I wonder if I would have heard that had I not read too many reviews and interviews. But I do feel like it was going to happen. It’s hard to imagine listening to this and not hearing sub-Sea Change given how little the rest of Beck’s catalogue sounds like this.

My hope is that one day I will grow to like it more.

7/10

All tracks written by Beck Hansen.

  1. “Cycle” 0:40
  2. “Morning” 5:20
  3. “Heart Is a Drum” 4:32
  4. “Say Goodbye” 3:30
  5. “Blue Moon” 4:03
  6. “Unforgiven” 4:35
  7. “Wave” 3:41
  8. “Don’t Let It Go” 3:10
  9. “Blackbird Chain” 4:27
  10. “Phase” 1:08
  11. “Turn Away” 3:06
  12. “Country Down” 4:01
  13. “Waking Light” 5:01
  • Beck Hansen – producer, vocals, acoustic guitar (tracks 2–5, 8, 9, 11 and 12), electric guitar (tracks 9 and 13), keyboards (track 2), piano (tracks 3, 5, 6 and 13), synthesizer (track 13), organ (track 13), electric bass (tracks 5 and 11), sound collage (track 3), tambourine (track 4), ukulele (track 5), charango (track 5), celeste (track 9), dulcimer (track 11), harmonica (track 12), glockenspiel (track 13), orchestral arrangements (all tracks with orchestral instruments)
  • Joey Waronker – drums (tracks 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, and 13), percussion (tracks 2, 3, 5, and 9)
  • Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. – piano, synthesizers, rhodes, clavinet, B3 organ, background vocals
  • Stanley Clarke – upright bass (track 2), electric bass (track 3)
  • James Gadson – drums (tracks 4 and 6)
  • Cody Kilby – guitar (track 4)
  • Bram Inscore – electric bass (track 4)
  • Fats Kaplin – banjo (track 4)
  • Justin Meldal-Johnsen – bass (tracks 6, 8, 9, and 13)
  • Smokey Hormel – acoustic guitar (tracks 6 and 8), electric guitar (tracks 9 and 12), ebow (track 6)
  • Stephanie Bennett – harp (tracks 6 and 11)
  • Steve Richards – cello (tracks 7 and 8)
  • Roger Waronker – piano (track 8)
  • Jason Falkner – electric guitar (tracks 9, 12, and 13)
  • Matt Mahaffey – organ (tracks 9 and 13)
  • Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar (tracks 9 and 12)
  • Matt Sherrod – drums (track 9)
  • David Campbell – orchestral arrangements, orchestrations and conducting

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