Beck – Morning Phase

“Can we start it all over again this morning?” Beck asks early on in the opening track of Morning Phase, his first album since 2008’s Modern Guilt. After a gorgeous 40 second instrumental opening, strings give way into the plaintive guitar strums of “Morning”, and it truly does feel like a something entirely new, a rebirth — which is odd, because Beck has specifically said this album is a spiritual successor to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change.

And sure, the beginning of “Morning” has an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of Sea Change opener “The Golden Age.” And sure, all of Morning Phase is ostensibly similar to its much-vaunted predecessor. It does feature the same musicians and the same California-folk influence. And yeah, even the cover art (Exhibits 1 and 2) looks strikingly similar, Beck’s steady gaze staring out behind smears of orange and blue.

But hear me out: the truth is that it’s only similar in the sense that all music by an artist sounds similar to previous music produced by that artist. No left turn is truly a total departure: even the cold, Kraftwerk heartbeat of Kid A‘s “Idioteque” had its roots in the laserbeam percussion loop of OK Computer’s “Airbag”.

The point of all this is to get you to look at Morning Phase in the ways it differs, rather than its similarities, because these differences are what make Morning Phase the best Beck album since 1998’s Mutations.

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A Look at Two New Songs from Beck’s Upcoming LP “Morning Phase”

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Beck has been in extended hiatus since 2008’s Modern Guilt. Of course, he hasn’t been entirely dormant; he’s been producing, working on his own label, collaborating with people as diverse as Jack White and Phillip Glass, and releasing new songs in the form of sheet music. Beck is to release his first LP in six years, Morning Phase — a spiritual successor to 2002’s Sea Change recorded with many of the same musicians — this Friday, and has already released two songs from the album: “Blue Moon” and “Waking Light”. Let’s take a look. [Read more…]

A Much Delayed Top 5 Songs of 2013

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2014 is over a month old now, the Grammys have finally aired, and it’s high time for me to compose this before the moment passes and 2014’s release schedule starts to heat up as the year pushes into spring. And what better time is there to catch up on music than a rainy Nashville February?

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Reflections on Christmas Music

There’s a golden rule that it’s generally impermissible to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s to contain everyone’s excitement; maybe — as my girlfriend likes to remind me — it’s to preserve the sanctity of Thanksgiving, the best holiday. My mom, in the past a proponent of this rule, announced with guilt that she’s been sneaking Christmas music: “I’m usually able to hold off until Thanksgiving but I was weak this year.”

In the past, I would’ve groaned; I was, like her, a staunch proponent of the Thanksgiving Rule. But this year even I find myself slipping into a Christmas mood earlier than usual. So I broke. I listened to Barry Manilow’s Christmas album, then all of my Christmas favorites. And I feel phenomenal. Christmas is the itch, and its music is the salve.

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