Beck - Morning Phase

Acoustic Beck at his most sublime.

Label: Virgin EMI

Rating:

The lack of a new Beck album had become somewhat of a running joke. Since the release of ‘Modern Guilt’ in 2008, the idiosyncratic singer- songwriter (and all-round genius) had managed to produce albums for Thurston Moore, Stephen Malkmus and Charlotte Gainsbourg, co-write with Jamie Lidell, and Bat For Lashes, add to the Third Man Records ‘Blue’ series with the brilliant ‘I Just Started Hating Some People Today’, and help bring to life the world’s greatest ever fictional band, Sex-Bob-Omb. And this is just an abridged list.

Then came ‘Song Reader’, an album that’s equally not really an album and yet more like an album than any 12” or CD or collection of zeros and ones for a good few decades. It was almost – almost – as if he were trolling. Of course the reasons for the gap are more mundane than this, in an interview with Rolling Stone, it was revealed he’d been suffering from a back injury, one which hampered the recording of ‘Modern Guilt’ (“It hurt to sing”). In addition, he was between record deals.

‘Morning Phase’ is, as Beck himself has previously suggested, very similar to 2002’s ‘Sea Change’ in style. In short, it’s acoustic Beck. And it’s every bit as stunning as that suggests. Luscious string arrangements weave their way between plucked guitar rhythms while country- tinged instrumentation scatters itself around, and
his contemplative and so gorgeously crisp vocals sit on top.

That the record was made alongside his long-time touring band is telling, too – there’s a wonderful familiarity to the sounds while still sounding fresh and, with resigned asides such as “I’m so tired of being alone” (‘Blue Moon’), and ‘Morning’’s refrain “I want you to show the way it used to be”, every chance the melancholy running throughout is a result of Beck’s long recuperation. That there’s nothing particularly ‘new’ about ‘Morning Phase’ is by no means a fault: this is acoustic Beck, and it’s acoustic Beck at his most sublime.