Best Albums of 2014: Beck, “Morning Phase”
The quieter side of Beck delivers one of the biggest triumphs of the year.
It would be pretty easy to write Beck Hansen’s twelfth full-length album off as Sea Change 2: Electric Boogaloo considering they both take a more subdued and acoustic tone than the rest of Hansen’s discography…and there’s the whole almost-identical-album-art thing, but you shouldn’t. Although Beck still looks exactly the same as he did in 2002, he’s had over a decade to mature and reflect upon the scope of his life and the world’s quietest hours.
Morning Phase blends the delicate nature of its earlier companion album with the warmth and hope that only time can provide. Instead of the fully enveloping, despondent tone of Hansen’s excellent early aughts breakup album, Beck’s latest LP dabbles into loneliness and isolation (“Blue Moon,” “Wave”), but never dives straight into the abyss. Tracks like “Blackbird Chain” and “Say Goodbye” evoke Hansen’s more playful side while still existing in Morning Phase’s ’60s folk sound. The album’s lush vocal harmonies, spirited guitar riffs, and thoughtful use of a string section (conducted and arranged by Hansen’s father, David Campbell) elevate the pensive full-length to a collection of atmospheric beauty. With Sea Change, Beck brilliantly expressed the overwhelming feeling of drowning within self-doubt and depression. Morning Phase gorgeously reminds us that there is always a new dawn after even the darkest night. —Bailey Pennick