Beck‘s latest album, “Morning Phase,” has steadily grown on me like a new haircut since its release on Feb. 21 on Capitol Records. Sonically, this mellow and folky album paints a pastoral landscape of twisting hills divided by ribbons of asphalt and old cars. That’s the world that Beck has created with his first album in six year.
My favorite aspect of the album is the acoustic guitar included on nearly all of its 13 tracks, beginning with “Cycle.” This is a departure from what I preconceived from Beck; bluesy, grungy, futuristic and raw. I was surprised to hear beautifully layered harmonies and what sounds like every note seemingly meticulously placed akin to an artist positioning of every molecule of paint he spreads across a canvas.
“Heart Is A Drum,” is soaked in Nick Drake influences and employs Beck’s lyrical quality of highlighting the song’s subject under an acute beam. His tendency of putting characters under the pressure of the entire universe is prevalent on this track.
Songs like “Say Goodbye” show off Beck Hansen’s skills as a producer as every track is layered at just the right level and channel; which I didn’t fully appreciate until I listened to the album through headphones. I read music reviews that talk about “headphones albums” and “Morning Phase is definitely worthy of proper sound equipment.
Beck’s most impressive arrangements are “Say Goodbye” and “Blue Moon,” and they become more dynamic with each subsequent listen. The instrumental tracks, “Cycle” and “Phase” are delicate and warm additions to the album that isn’t lacking authenticity.
“Don’t Let It Go” pulls influences from the 1960s folk movement and is one of the album’s standalone masterpieces. One of the best moments of the album comes in with nice repetitive breakdown right about at the 2-minute, 10-second mark that wraps up the song nicely.
Taking a different approach than the others, “Blackbird Chain” rises to the top because it sounded the most like an evolution of the bluesy Beck sound. This is juxtaposed with the sound of “Turn Away,” a homage to Simon & Garfunkel, influences by Neil Young (“Country Down”), The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan.
After I didn’t see Beck at the Field Day Festival in 2003 at Giants Stadium because he slipped walking on stage (torrential downpour and I got to see the Beastie Boys sooner as a result), Beck fell off my radar until “Modern Guilt,” was released in 2008. When I started listening to “Morning Phase,” I couldn’t remember if I listened to “Modern Guilt.” I did, specifically because it was produced by Danger Mouse, and I liked it.
This album impressed me from beginning to its final track, “Waking Light,” and its instrumental bridge is one of my lasting impressions of this album.
For his 12th studio, Beck has emerged from the creative barn with a masterful 13-track album that authentic, heartfelt and universal.