beck

morning phase

The ultra talented musician managed to best fellow Grammy nominees Ed Sheeran, Pharrell, Beyoncé and the already decorated Sam Smith for 'Best Album' honors at the 57th Grammys. Now whether or not Kanye agreed with the Academy's decision ( he is said to have appreciated Beck's new album), the recognition Beck got from this album on the biggest awards stage reminds of when the general public were unpleasantly surprised by Arcade Fire's Album of the Year victory for The Suburbs. Yes, people bitched, moaned and bemoaned the lesser known work, despite being the most musically impressive compilation of records. Well, sorry that most of Beck's work didn't get ample airtime on the crappy, over-polluted frequencies of your choice FM station but rest assured, the award was well deserved, even if he did topple Queen B, the youngest looking forty year old producer of 'Happy,' the new darling of R 'n' B and of course one of my personal favorites in the music game, Ed Sheeran. 

Morning Phase opens with a melodic instrumental on 'Cycles,' a focus on strings and somewhat orchestral mood that almost seamlessly segues into the second track. 'Morning' features a calming guitar that serves to soothe the listener with earnest intentions and soulful simplicity. There is suitable atmosphere and content reassurance here. It's a great personal way to begin an album; in fact, it's hard to distinguish the boundaries on the first two entries. In an age where albums have a blocked variety of sounds as songs, ball it altogether and release it as an album, it is refreshing to see an artist take the more traditional approach of having relatable fibers to each entry on the album.

'My Heart Is a Drum' evokes shades of Sir Paul McCartney if not a tad more atmospheric instead of pop,  nevertheless a catchy tune which utilizes a guitar. While it does not begin that way, it does provide a sense of peace and contentment. Free as a driving wheel/ Circling around your iron will/ See only what you feel/ You tried to run from trouble when it comes/ You followed the drum followed by everyone. The lyrics may look simple in writing but they are actually anything but. 

The dreariness that initiates 'Say Goodbye' is progressively replaced by the twang of a banjo and a more classic sound. 'Blue Moon' draws the type of melancholic emotion that the title might imply; an expression of the type of loneliness prone to many internal artists. This is perhaps the seminal song of the Album of The Year. It has the type of folk atmosphere that evokes searching; the search for meaning and exactly which personal voids needs fulfillment. It's enchanting and with earnest yearning. 

Perhaps it wasn't his intention, we all know what kind of unique artist Beck has evolved into. However, there are definite shades of Sir Elton John on 'Unforgiven.' The methodical and distinct tempo of the arrangements with haunting intent also call back notions of Pink Floyd. The reverberation on this cut is astounding and draws the listener in like flying insects to blue light, or perhaps the blue moon. 'Wave' is a dreary and moody castle anthem. There are classical string arrangements all within and an almost timeless vibe yet the imagery birthed from the music still projects the spirit of films during the German Expressionism era. Shall we say vampiresque? 

Tradition is restored with the next song, 'Don't Let It Go.' Chords you can hear from your uncle's back porch accompany that serves to inspire with the lyrical structure that makes for an enchanting tune.

These are some faults we've found/ Hollowed out from the years/ Don't let them wear you out/ Don't let them turn your mind, inside out

'Blackbird Chain' is melodical and brings vacation to mind. The type of relaxation that we all strive for, however we can get it. Once again we get some nods to classic Beatles material, perhaps intentionally. Maybe using 'Blackbird' in the title is a tiny nod to the inspiration and process of its recordation. Track number ten is majestic; 'Phase' is almost a cinematic experience you can envision being played over the final scenes or credits of an intellectual film about enlightenment or discovery or some shit. Pure instrumental at its most pure. 

The folky 'Turn Away' is a vintage throwback with a somberly peaceful tone.

Hold the light, that fixes you in time/ Keeps you under, takes you over/ The wall that love divides/ Between waking and slumber, turn away 

If that isn't some cool, relaxing San Francisco hippie type listening then what is in modern times? 'Country Down' is extremely accessible and soothing. Growing up in rural farmland makes a song like this a great addition to the day. James Taylor most likely sits on his porch and beams listening to this jam, with an herbal tea firmly in hand.

The final song on Morning Phase, 'Waking Light' is an album capper that appropriately punctuates the expressions of the previous twelve masterfully executed songs. There is beauty in simplicity and that was shown not only on this final track but the album as a collective body of life. This final song is one of a re-birth of sorts. Some of the joy, pain and intimate messages already communicated are put to bed in a sense in a song of awakening to new beginnings. 

Waking light, it grew from the shadow
Brace yourself to the morning low
Night is gone, long way turning
You've waited long enough to know

When the memory leaves you
Somewhere you can't make it home
When the morning comes to meet you
Lay me down in waking light

No one sees you here, roots are all covered
There's such a life to go and how much can you show?
Day is gone on a landslide of rhythm
It's in your lamplight burning low

When the memory leaves you
Somewhere you can't make it home
When the morning comes to meet you
Rest your eyes in waking light

When the memory leaves you
Somewhere you can't make it home
When the morning comes to meet you
Open your eyes with waking light