Under Review: Beck, ‘Morning Phase’

Beck, “Morning Phase”
(Capitol)
Rating: ★★ (out of four)

“Morning Phase” is Beck’s first album in five years and it’s an echo of an album from 12 years ago. But like an echo, the reflection lacks some of the definition that made the original what it was.

“Sea Change” was Beck’s break from slacker rock to take a trip full of slow folk strummers, and while it would be easy to call this a return to form, this album does little more than downshift into orchestral mid-tempo tunes and never really leave. “Sea Change” was brililant because it was different, but it still retained some of the breaks and beats that drew us to Beck in the first place.

“Morning Phase,” on the other hand,” has little to admire other than a lot of double meanings (including the title) referencing a breakup and weepy orchestral movements.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing to pull anyone (both him and the listeners) out of the funk other than looking forward to the dawn, a new beginning that’s constantly referenced on this album even though Beck himself doesn’t sound too confident that it’s ever gonna come.

It’s a sleepy record perfect for some mellow mood music, and only a few songs ever move out of that dreamy place. “Blue Moon” has some confidence from a thumping beat, an acoustic guitar strum and a pile of layered vocals.

The final two songs are the best on the album. “Country Down” is a sort of easy-listening country tune that will make you want to hit the repeat button, and “Waking Light” takes Beck’s orchestral vision from the rest of this album and makes it fully realized with a dynamic beat and strings that rise and fall instead of simply swishing around.

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