Beck delivers another masterpiece with ‘Morning Phase’

“Morning Phase” gets five out of five stars.

Parker Munson, Writer

Many people are calling Beck’s 12th studio album a “follow-up” to his 2002 release, “Sea Change.”  And while there are many similarities between “Morning Phase” and “Sea Change” — in fact, the entire band who performed on “Sea Change” is also performing here — it wouldn’t be doing the album justice to simply consider it a sequel. We named it one of our most anticipated albums of 2014, and it’s proving to be much more than that; “Morning Phase” may be nothing short of a modern masterpiece.


Which begs the question: What makes something a masterpiece? Is it the artwork’s themes? Its quality? Its creator’s intention or vision? Perhaps all of these things should be taken into account when assessing a work of art. But a true masterpiece is the result of an artist's ability to take something intimately personal and, through his or her preferred medium, communicate something deeply universal. This is exactly what Beck does with “Morning Phase.”

The lyrical themes suggest that Beck is battling heartbreak, but a closer listen reveals hopefulness instead of sorrow. The shimmering string arrangements juxtaposed with melancholic musings about love and loneliness advocate acceptance and moving forward. In the first single off the record, “Blue Moon,” Beck sings over brightly orchestrated strings and a driving rhythm, “I’m so tired of being alone / These penitent walls are all I’ve known / Songbird calling across the water / Inside my silent asylum.” This is one example of many contradictions between lyrical and musical tone throughout the record, but they all culminate in a hauntingly visceral listening experience.


Of course, like all good things, the brilliance of “Morning Phase” isn’t necessarily immediate. It’s undoubtedly beautiful right off the bat, but it takes a few listens to fully comprehend its artistry. There’s hardly a song that reaches any RPM to warrant a foot stomp. But if that’s what you’re after, you can easily take your pick from Beck’s adept discography — try “Guero” on for size. No, “Morning Phase” is more introspective.

“Morning Phase” is a dreary-eyed ensemble of melancholic ballads. It is powerful in its composition, subtle in its themes and precise in its execution. It captures the complexities of love and heartbreak so organically that the whole affair can only be recognized by taking a few steps back and letting it all soak in. You might just witness a masterpiece.

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