Beck "Morning Phase"

Musical chameleon Beck explores loss in the past tense on a lush acoustic album.

Beck’s 12th album opens with a line of somber violins that grow in intensity then ebb as acoustic guitar takes the spotlight. Understated arrangements carry the singer’s plaintive vocals. The tone is set for a lush, mostly acoustic album that dovetails off Beck’s 2002 album Sea Change. But whereas that release focused on a lost relationship Morning Phase reflects the evolution of emotions that lead to healing and forgiveness. It is also a pronounced singer/songwriter album that came together in somewhat convoluted fashion. The material was written over a period of years with some tracks recorded in Nashville as long as two years ago. After reuniting with his band and heading into the studio Beck began to piece together the structure of the album.

Beck has never been easy to categorize as he’s genre hopped between albums and even within albums. Morning Phase features lush strings, pedal steel, banjo, ukulele, clavinet, and harp. What is missing is electric guitar, and percussion is kept on the down low. Melodies are sweet in minor chord fashion. Beck’s father, David Richard Campbell, arranges and conducts the album’s strings, adding moments of high drama. “Wave” swells with silky strings that sound cinematic. “Phase” is a short instrumental violin interlude that leads into the Simon & Garfunkel-esque “Turn Away.” Beck has never been shy about wearing his influences on his sleeve. “Blackbird Chain” suggests influences ranging from The Beatles to The Byrds.

Lyrically Beck explores the pain of broken relationships in past tense. Turmoil is put into context thanks to the passage of time. An honest assessment of responsibility, guilt, and forgiveness is possible now and he delves into the deep end of the topic. Ending the album with “Waking Light” suggests he’s found peace with his losses.

Beck is currently working on new material which is rumored to be more in the vein of his Grammy winning album Odelay. He’s already recorded with vocalist Pharrell Williams on that project. Hopefully the musical chameleon will be releasing that before years end.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)