The Best Records of 2014 So Far: Beck – Morning Phase

Embed from Getty Images

Back in 1999 Beck Hansen released the funky Midnight Vultures. Songs like Sexx Laws and the fantastic “Debra” with its chorus of “I want you / only you…. / …and your sister / I think her name is Debra” were as much clever pastiche as anything. Beck’s one-liners, it seemed, were as good as his songs. Truly, like that other indie-folk-funk pioneer and hipster Bruce Forsyth, he was *shudder* an all round entertainer…

As the tour ended, Beck and his fiancée ended their nine year relationship, and the subsequent outpouring of songs became 2002’s “Sea Change”, a break up album worthy of the comparisons to Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks”.

I remember my surprise upon hearing lead single “Lost Cause” on the radio. It was a little short on laughs compared with Beck’s previous single – the up tempo “Nicotine and Gravy”. Indeed, “Lost Cause” by contrast was positively miserable. Picture Jack Dee’s face after sitting through eight back to back episodes of “Take Me Out” and you’ll understand just how miserable that song is. But it was quite brilliant.

I wasn’t the only person to think this, of course. Whilst Sea Change has been a nailed-on favourite of mine since its release (and was one of the first albums I bought when re-building my vinyl collection four years ago), it has only grown in reputation since its release.

Beck Morning Phase album cover

The great news is that Beck’s new album – “Morning Phase” is something of a natural successor. The same musicians that played on “Sea Change” have been reassembled, albeit the melancholy on the first record is replaced by an uplifting reflectiveness echoed in the title of the album: this is a welcome to a new day rather than a record that ponders how one’s life has turned inside out…

Don’t worry. That’s not to say the jokes are back. It still bears the slight air of Morrissey after he has been caught speeding by a particularly unsympathetic policeman. In the rain. On his way to a funeral. For someone he didn’t particularly care for. After running over his cat.

The danger of a sequel is that it fails to live up to the original. Matrix Reloaded, Dumb and Dumberer, Oceans 12, Kelly Osborne… all examples of the follow up being sorely lacking compared to the original.

I therefore worried a little that “Morning Phase” might not be able to live up to the sheer quality of its predecessor, but half a dozen listens later such fears have been laid to rest. “Turn Away” sounds like it should have been recorded by Simon and Garfunkel (in a good way) whilst tracks like “Blue Moon” “Heart is a Drum” and album closer “Waking Light” are stunning and beautiful. It is great to see Beck return with such a strong album after five years out battling health problems (he had a bad back apparently) – I’ll be first in line for the tour. The video for Blue Moon is below. Great song, terrible video, unless you like looking at elephants doing nothing via a moving CCTV camera.





7 responses to “The Best Records of 2014 So Far: Beck – Morning Phase”

  1. marycigarettes Avatar

    it’s my fave record of the year….the singing is just gorgeous…it’s just so lovely on the ear without being mere easy listening…i love that feeling of sunny los angeles desolation he somehow gets across.i envy you have a mobile fidelity copy of sea change…i’ve heard it,and have other mofi things..i’ve been trying to hunt the sea change one down,but to no avail.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I agree. It’s lovely. Might go to the local record shop this afternoon and see if they have it on vinyl. It sold out quickly and is being re-pressed…
      The Sea Change purchase was a fortunate one – it was probably the most expensive record I bought 4years ago (I can’t recall, but £30-35 new? which was an extravagance – but then I was building up the collection from scratch and it was one of my “must haves”), but I see it is now out of print and has doubled in cost/ value. There was one on Discogs last time I looked, but it’s very expensive!


      1. marycigarettes Avatar

        i have the mobile fidelity pressing of the rickie lee jones debut…it was expensive too,but it sounds so great…two discs running at 45…and the mobile fidelity of stevie wonder fulfillingness first finale is outstanding as well…that company are truly at the forefront of 21st century vinyl mastering.

        the vinyl pressing of morning phase is really great…i’m learning that the whole 180 gm vinyl isn’t the be all and end all..the quality of the vinyl is really the thing.i have some new very heavy vinyl with awful surface noise…t-rex slider is terrible…sometimes i wonder if they actually re-cycle vinyl…….really looking forward to these deluxe led zeppelin re-issues.


    2. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I like that description of “sunny desolation” btw – very good description, that.


      1. marycigarettes Avatar

        that author barney hoskyns who writes brilliantly and extensively about the whole california music scene calls it ‘sunshine noir’


  2. Avatar

    It’s great to hear such praise he one of my favorite artists.

    I haven’t had the chance to pick up this release yet. Really looking forward to it.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      It’s a shame it has sold out on vinyl. They are having to re-press them in Europe as there was only a limited run and now Record Store Day has meant there’s a queue at the pressing plant.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: