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It’s been five years since Beck has made an album until now with Morning Phase. This is Beck’s 12th studio album, where he felt he had a more satisfying experience (telling Rolling Stone that on some of the new songs, “I got to shout and yell. I’m like, ‘Thank you!’ I had a lot of ideas and things I’d been wanting to do.”). While recording his previous album Modern Guilt in 2008, he suffered a spinal injury where he felt he was whispering his vocals half of the time. But Beck has returned strong and better than ever making it March’s Album of the Month. He nabbed #3 on the Billboard 200, making it his second highest charting album ever. In total, Morning Phase is Beck’s 10th album to chart and 5th album to make it in the top 10.
Beck started working on the material for Morning Phase five years ago in Nashville but didn’t start to pick it back up until 2012. While recording, Beck worked with familiar faces like his touring musicians, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Roger Joseph Manning Jr, Smokey Hormel, and Joey Waronker. In an interview with NPR, he talked about his long time friendship with Waronker: “I’ve been playing with him since before my first record came out. We’ve been playing together for 22 years or 21 years.” He also worked with his father, David Campbell, who contributed to the orchestral arrangements for the album as he did with Sea Change. He was able to record in his hometown of Los Angeles. The journey wasn’t easy for Beck though, despite how comfortable he was with what he was surrounded with musically. When asked by Rolling Stone about the process of making the album, he said, “I recorded a bunch of things real quick. Then I thought, ‘I need to come back and try this again.” At one point he didn’t even have a label. He wasn’t sure if he was going to make an album or if he should make an album. Beck said he wasn’t sure where everything was landing. But in the end it all resulted with much success: a thirteen-track album full of meaning and beauty.
As for Morning Phase overall, it has a lot more similar folk rock tones and themes as his 2002 album, Sea Change. The multifaceted artist’s openers “Cycle” and “Morning” give the vibes of a morning phase and set the tone for the rest of the album. “Heart of Drum” also a popular song has a warm collection of acoustic instruments and soothing vocal harmonies. The lyrics touch on his pain with his back injury when they say, “Why does it hurt this way?/to come so far to find they’ve closed the gates.” Beck’s first single off the album, “Blue Moon”, was released in January and has one of the stronger tones in his mellow album, using his guitarists Smokey Hormel and Justin Meldel-Johnson to make an impression. Other melodic, meditative highlights off the album are songs like “Wave” and “Turn Away”. The record ends with another achingly beautiful morning song called “Waking Light”. The last lyrics sing, “When the memory leaves you/Somewhere you can’t make it home/When the morning comes to meet you/Open your eyes with waking light.” The soothing lines end as if you’re supposed to be waking up in the most peaceful way.
This shows that Morning Phase is one of Beck’s high points in his career, but he’s not finished yet; he hopes to complete a follow-up album to Morning Phase later this year. He is hoping to perform it in concert next year but is unsure because of his band mates. In his Rolling Stone interview he said, “We’ve been doing this tour and done a few one-offs this summer. But everybody’s getting busy. Joey’s playing with Thom Yorke now [in Atoms for Peace] and Justin is producing a ton of albums. This might be it for some time.” But what is final is that they are performing in a couple festivals this summer such as Coachella in California, the Pitchfork festival in Chicago, and Bestival in the England. If you really enjoy his music, then get your tickets because it might be the last time you can see him for a while, but it will definitely be worth it.
Beck shows that he has returned with something truly mesmerizing with Morning Phase. The albums theme of struggling with light makes it feel personal as well as a universal issue too. Beck’s new album does feel connected and warm and shows a vulnerable side with his musical story telling. Morning Phase has come a long way over the years but it is truly a beautiful collection of songs that are worth listening to.