I was never really a Beck-fan. I knew some songs but was never amazed enough to get into his music, so I probably missed out a lot of greatness from him but this time, I am there from the beginning. I got the first single “Blue Moon” a few weeks ago and was immediately smitten and when I listened to the accompanying album “Morning Phase” a while ago, I immediately fell in love.
That means that I will review this album without any knowledge of Beck’s musical history which can be detriment to a review but sometimes also helps to see an album for its own sake and not as some sort of evolution of an artist.
Funnily enough, I stumbled over Beck’s SNL-gig which he did with Father John Misty and those two are a perfect pairing because J. Tillman’s new project sounds a lot like “Morning Phase” and vice versa although Beck’s album is calmer and less giddy.
Where others might have expected some weird experimental twists and turns for this album, I was completely enamoured by its soft, calm and incredibly smooth flow, it actually sounds like you are sitting on a field and watch the sun slowly come up. There is a sense of comfort and clarity in the sound that made me melancholic and happy at the same time. It’s the kind of beauty that can move you to tears.
Also, this video is divine. I am not the biggest fan of animals in music videos because I am concerned how they are being handled for making a pretty video but this seems not very stressful for the animal, so I hope he was fine during the recording.
The instrumentals are pretty remarkable because even though they are far from simplistic or lo-fi, they stay in the background to let Beck’s voice and his lyrical abilities shine. They are the ever-changing backdrop to the sun, the dark blue of the night slowly descending into deep red, orange and finally clear blue sky whilst the burning sun commands everything in her light.
It is a bold move to go simple after a somewhat longer musical absence. It is bolder than going all out and giving a Brian Eno-like collection of weirdness. And it is perfect because despite it never really picking up speed, it never lets go of your attention. It’s this view towards the stars that you can’t help but get back to, even if there are fireworks in the distance, people celebrating and loud music coming from inside the house. It entices you to stay in the cool quiet of dawn taking over from the night just to see something that might not be new or unique but is so serene that you can’t help but be mesmerized by it.
! And after it took me roughly three days to figure out what this album reminds me of: If you like “Morning Phase”, make sure to check out John Grant’s debut “Queen of Denmark” – it’s thematically a lot darker and more cynical but there are some songs (“TC & Honeybear”, “Marz” and “Fireflies”) that are just as beautiful. But be careful, onion-cutting ninjas might miraculously appear in your near vicinity.
Oh, and one other thing: I know this tonally doesn’t fit at all into this warm-hearted review but when Beck sings “Isolation” over and over again in “Waves”, I had a huge flashback to The Mighty Boosh. Deal with it.