I think at this point we’re all pretty much agreed on the genius found in all of Beck’s albums thus far. When Pitchfork did their poll a while back for the People’s List covering the best records of the last 15 years, Beck was the only artist who got two spots in my voting-Sea Change and Midnite Vultures (of the final 200 listed, Beck’s name took up three spots). The fact that those two albums are so completely different makes me respect his work even more. He’s hit all the genres, released an album that’s just sheet music, and spent millions of Lincoln’s dollars on a Bowie cover. What is left for him to show us?
I think that’s the problem I have with Morning Phase-I don’t know what else he could do to change it up any further. I’ve always relied on his imagination to take me to places I’ve never been before, and here he’s repeating himself. If you’re a fan of Sea Change, you’re gonna love this. The sonic similarity took me a while to get over. I listened time and time again looking for something deeper, but I never found it.
The real problem is that Morning Phase is still a really good record. Hundreds of artists have taken up the style that Beck used on Sea Change, but no one has ever done it as well as he. I currently have this listed as my third best album of the year, and that makes me kind of mad. If he had focused his energy on something completely new instead of going back to the well, I have no doubt that we’d be looking at another classic. There’s nothing wrong with Morning Phase-I’m sure a lot of the mainstream critics will put it on their year-end lists. That just reaffirms how much Beck means to the world of music at large.
There are things that should be praised on the album, like the way “Cycle” opens it up with this beautiful ethereal instrumentation. “Blue Moon” was the first real glimpse we had of what the album would sound like, and it does a good job of displaying almost everything you’ll hear throughout the rest of Morning Phase. Beck’s vocals seem really strong on this record as well. Maybe taking a little time off from recording allowed his voice to recuperate from years of being in the studio and on tour.
So I love this album and I hate it. I’m disappointed that it isn’t at least a little bit different from everything else he’s done; at the same time, he’s the best at this kind of music so it’s hard to argue against it. If you’re a Beck fan, you’re gonna be buying Morning Phase regardless, so I’m not going to convince you one way or the other. Because he’s such a talented artist who has proven himself over and over again, I’m letting this one slide. I’ve heard rumors that he’ll be putting out another albums sooner than later, so I’m hoping that one is a little more out there and weird.
A couple weeks ago the Pitchfork Festival lineup was announced, and Beck will be the Friday headliner. I bought tickets almost immediately. I’ve never seen him live before, and I’m hoping he doesn’t stick too much to this new material (it doesn’t make for a great outdoor festival setlist). Now, if he wants to do an after show at Schubas and give me a ticket, then we can talk about just playing Morning Phase from start to finish.