I’m excited to start a new series of posts in my blog, as someone who constantly surrounds themselves by music I wanted to finally dip my foot in music reviewing, while also recommending some of my favorite albums. For my first music post, I decided that I would write about my favorite album and what it means to me. My first album review I will discuss Beck’s album Morning Phase.
Morning Phase was released in 2014, to much critical appraise, receiving a Metacritic score of 81 out of 100. The album won Grammys for Album of the Year, Best Rock Album. Meanwhile, lead single, “Blue Moon” was nominated for Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song.
Genre jumping and sonic lingering have not been American artist Beck Hansen’s style. In his last 5 albums, he has transitioned from alt-rock to electronic rock, to grunge garage rock, to country-folk and most recently to psychedelic pop-rock. While the first half of Beck’s musical career was based on absurdist lyrics and catchy choruses, such as his break out single all the way back in 1993, “Loser”, off of the album Mellow Gold. Beck’s first noticeable shift away from his bombastic hip-hop roots into a more mature musical composition was in his 2002 album Sea Change, which features a distinct shift into a much more melancholy acoustic sound. Which is one of the primary influences on the album I am reviewing today, Morning Phase.
Morning Phase, Beck’s 12th studio album, Beck ditches his iconic nonsense form of lyricism in exchange for more melancholy poetic lyrics. Instead of using his lyrics to guide his music, he employs his voice to help create an atmosphere to allow for his instrumentation to drive the tracks. While Beck is no stranger to singing, in this album he elongates his voice so that he can allow for his accompaniment to lead. “Unforgiven”, is a great example of Beck’s use of his slow, drawn-out vocals to give his slight synthed instrumentation more kick. Similarly in “Turn Away”, in which he instead slightly distorts his voice and keeps his acoustic strumming pure and unedited. Beck channels a more folk-inspired method of vocalization to help compliment and bring his instrumentation to the forefront of his songs.
Lyrically, Morning Phase, follows many of the same patterns that Beck’s, Sea Change, had established before it. These albums both express grief over a broken relationship. During the time that Beck was writing Sea Change, he had just broken up a 9-year relationship with his then, fiancé. The lyrics in Morning Phase, are similarly downtrodden, personal, and deeply melancholy. The song “Say Goodbye”, perfectly encapsulates the lyrical feel of the album, “ … She is gone, Somewhere else, I do not know, Time will tell, I will go, These are the words we use, to say goodbye”. Fans of Bob Dylan will definitely see parallels in Morning Phase, to the legendary singer/songwriter’s lyrical pattern.
In this album, Beck strips back his brash beats in exchange for a more traditional country and folk-inspired acoustic sound. A country like twang is something that many Beck fans may not associate with Beck’s long list of sounds, but what makes Beck such an interesting artist is his insistence on reinventing his own sound album to album. Instrumental highlights lie in tracks such as Country Down, which truly features his acoustic sound at the forefront of the song. The aptly named, Heart is a drum, uses a rhythmic heartbeat-like drum to guide the track. Several of the tracks also rely heavily on an atmospheric keyboard arrangement to give the tracks a sense another layer of depth.
This album treads the line between deep lyrical melancholy and musical warmth. Despite Morning Phase taking heavy inspiration from Beck’s previous album, Sea Change, he still manages to reinvent his own sound to create a brand new album. This album’s focus on long, extended vocals to drive acoustic guitar, mellow drum lines, and beautifully warm string orchestration really create a folk sound that challenges the genre to let the instrumentation to do the story-telling.
I hope you enjoyed my first album review. Music has always been a huge part of my life and is constantly being played in my house, (probably to the point of driving my roommates crazy). I’ve always loved talking about music, why I like it, what a song reminds me of, and what it means to me. This album has always meant a lot to me personally. I used to fall asleep to this album playing every night, and it was always a comfort to play in the morning while I was getting ready. I believe that part of the reason I have such a soft spot for this album is that it was my first exposure to a “breakup album”. I had never really bothered with gloomy or sad music, but I have always been a huge fan of Becks. So when he released the singles before the album, “Blue Moon”, and “Waking Light”, I was instantly captured. The album just had such a stripped back and acoustic feel which I had never really been exposed to and couldn’t stop playing. While, I totally acknowledge that this album is far from perfect, my intent with these music reviews is to highlight their strengths and why they hold a special place for me in my music collection. Once again, thank you for reading, I know I still have a lot to improve on, such as, not being able to really express how a song or album sounds, I’m trying my best and learning a lot! Any and all criticism is appreciated! Have a nice day.