Beck: Morning Phase
“Woke up this morning/ From a long night in the storm,” sings Beck Hansen moments into his 12th studio album, his youthful falsetto floating amid choral harmonies, strings, twinkling keyboards, and steel-guitar. “Can we start it all over again/ this morning?” Early critics have pegged Morning Phase as the spiritual successor to 2002’s Sea Change, which, with its melancholy reveries, repositioned Hansen as a mature songwriter. The comparison is inevitable: Both albums feature the same core cast of players (bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, drummer Joey Waronker, guitarist Smokey Hormel, keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr.) and the same wide-eyed, psychedelic sonic palette, landing somewhere between OK Computer and The Notorious Byrd Brothers. The difference is thematic: Sea Change was the blissful sound of falling backward into melancholy, and Morning Phase is the blissful sound of emerging into the daylight. From the Nick Drake-tinged meditations of “Heart Is a Drum” to the country-rock daydream “Blackbird Chain,” it’s an LP of quiet optimism and heartbreaking beauty.