Beck, an American legend and singer-songwriter, has returned with yet another somber folk-rock album.
"Morning Phase" is the latest album from Beck since 2008, when he released "Modern Guilt." The newest addition to the artist's discography bears a resemblance to his 2002 album, "Sea Change." If you listened to both these albums back-to-back, you would swear they were identical. This comes as no surprise, as many of the musicians who played on "Sea Change" are back for "Morning Phase."
Despite the similar sound, the inspirations for the two albums seem to differ. "Sea Change" was Beck's signature breakup album, which would explain the heartbroken, angst-ridden tone.
The only explanation for the somber, slightly emotional sound in "Morning Phase" is that it was presumably caused by the spinal injury Beck suffered a few years back. The injury was so severe that Beck was unable to perform or record for several years. This gave him the opportunity to cultivate his music and develop "Morning Phase."
The comparison to "Sea Change" seems to work in favor of the new album, bringing back that folksy, acoustic sound and somehow managing to give it a new soul.
The tracks on "Phase" are at times a little too slow, but Beck somehow manages to make his voice match the beats perfectly. The first track, "Cycle," is a 40-second instrumental which sounds like the opening to a melancholy symphony piece. "Morning," the album's first full track, sets the pace for the rest of the album.
The next few tracks blend with each other; the ends feed into the beginnings to create one long folk ballad. It's not until "Blue Moon" that the beat quickens a little and has a more upbeat rhythm. The slightly speedier tempo is short-lived as the next track, "Unforgiven," returns to that slow, melancholy beat. Beck's voice drones on while an almost sci-fi sounding tune plays in the background.
"Wave" has the same orchestral sound as "Cycle." Beck's voice sounds eerie when paired with the musical score. "Waking Light" is the perfect end to the album, with a booming piano ballad and gentle lyrics.
Throughout "Morning Phase," it seems as if Beck is just going with the flow of the songs in terms of singing. He's not forcing lyrics or commanding that his voice be the centerpiece of the song.
The lyrics Beck composed during his recovery seem to be more optimistic than his 2002 album. They are less hopeless and more hopeful.
The lyrics, however, come second in terms of importance. It seems Beck intended for the audience to pay no mind to the lyrics of the songs, but to the instrumentals accompanied with them. The flowing sounds of the guitars, the pulsing beats of the drums and the symphonic melodies steal the album.
"Morning Phase" has a very mellow tone. The songs aren't asking much from their listeners, nor are they confessing much. The tone of the album and the atmosphere it creates is all that is needed.