With the release of his latest record, Morning Phase, Beck has returned to the spotlight. Six years had elapsed since his previous record, Modern Guilt. Due to a serious back injury his creative output had been seriously diminished. However, what the singer dubbed a long recovery is now partially concluded as critics are hailing his newest recorded effort as fresh and invigorating.
Today, the married man of 43 has two children, and another folk-classic to include in his oeuvre. Morning Phase is something of a sequel to 2002’s LP Sea Change. That record was received as a collection of songs written about the singer’s most recent heartbreak at the time due to the ending of a ten year relationship with his former girlfriend. Since aiding the recordings of Stephen Malkmus, Thurston Moore and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck has regained center-stage. Although his mobility while performing is still somewhat prohibitive, his spectrum of experimentation through songwriting is strong and melodic as ever.
On the new album, some of the same musicians from Sea Change were incorporated. With his father David Campbell providing the string arrangements, the sounds and the songs are filled with lush instrumentation, colored in with the singer’s falsettos and harmonies. The record seeks to be something of a unique and psychedelic experience, and its aim is incredibly high. Compared to Sea Change, Morning Phase is unmistakably modernistic. Long-time fans will surely swoon to his shifty vocal phrasing and dynamic chord changes. There is plenty to offer; and, once again, Beck gives himself fully to his art.
Before the record Beck was involved with a number of other musical-driven projects. In addition to having his hands in the production processes of other artists’ recordings, he issued Song Reader as an assembly of 20 songs written as sheet music; he also reproduced David Bowie’s Sound and Vision, and last year released three singles: I Won’t Be Long, Defriended, and Gimme.
The future for the longtime singer looks exceptionally bright. Now that he has finally been able to overcome an injury to his spine which kept him from a ceaseless and adventurous path of knocking down musical barriers, Beck can advance his pursuit of bending genres in order to classify his own unique style of songwriting. Morning Phase is proof that the singer is indeed back in the spotlight among music fans and critics alike. What had initially brought him onto the scene was his ability to stand out amongst a crowd of nineties rockers and grunge fanatics. Arguably, those areas of music have seen their fair share of bands and artists come and go, some with even fatal endings. California sunlight still shines down along the West Coast, of which the singer cruises the highways and epitomizes the spirit of the place by putting into song his natural hippie genius. It would probably be difficult to find a singer more adept at turning gloomy and fuzzy lyrical content into something so luminous and pleasant.
Recorded in Ocean Way Studios, in California, Morning Phase was released by Capitol Records in late February of this year. The record was given four stars by Rolling Stone.
By Bryan William Myers