With Morning Phase, Beck promised a continuation of the mood from his critically acclaimed, and my personal favorite, eighth album, 2002’s Sea Change. The resulting LP undoubtedly succeeds at re-creating the Sea Change vibe and easily represents one of the best albums of 2014. Each song is a near-perfect exercise in moody, minimalist, and orchestral songwriting from one of the most talent musicians of the last quarter century. The only issue with the record is its lack of originality. Beck has always been a genre-flipping auteur of the unexpected, constantly re-inventing himself album after album. On Morning Phase, everything feels familiar and safe. To be fair, however, he has revisited the sound of his best album quite brilliantly and does so without the help of Nigel Godrich as producer.
The first standout song on the record is its first full-length track “Morning.” The production is pristine, Beck’s vocals exhibit incredible range, and we get the first taste of his father’s magnificent string arrangements. “Blue Moon” sounds very familiar, and the breakdowns take several exciting left turns in just the first two minutes. “Turn Away” may be the album’s best track and represents one of Beck’s finest career moments. The song summons a Simon and Garfunkel vibe, mixes in his father’s haunting string arrangements perfectly during the track’s final minute, and features Beck at his lyrical best. Morning Phase deserves all the critical acclaim its received and will end up near the top of our favorite albums list this year, I just hope Beck ventures outside of his comfort zone his next time out.