|I got it for $9.98 plus tax|
Last Tuesday, during my lunch hour, I walked over to the Best Buy near my office and picked up a CD of the brand-new Beck album Morning Phase.
I took the physical media off the sparsely populated, sad- looking New Releases rack, brought it to the checkout counter, took it home, unwrapped the cellophane, peeled the annoying sticker across the top off, and put the CD in my iMac to add to my iTunes folder. Then I transferred the song files to my iPhone for convenient, on-the-go enjoyment. I've been listening to it non-stop ever since.
This was surely the same ritual I went through when Beck released his last record, the Danger Mouse-produced Modern Guilt, way back in 2008. But it didn't seem like a lot of work back then.
Of course, I could have saved about six steps by directly downloading the record from iTunes right onto my phone, but Beck Hansen took the care and the time to make a beautiful, melodic, cohesive and evocative album, already the high bar for album of the year. I felt like I needed to follow some sort of ritual as a gesture of appreciation to one of my musical heroes.
Morning Phase is being billed as a follow-up to 2003's Sea Change, the Blood on the Tracks-ish record Beck wrote after breaking up with his longtime girlfriend, and one of his absolute best records (see the RT write up here).
It has many of the same stellar musicians, string arrangements (courtesy of Beck's conductor/arranger dad David Campbell) and overall vibe. (1998's very underrated Mutations is also of this ilk, and a must-own if you are a fan.)
Yet Morning Phase feels less like a follow-up and more like the opposite side of the same coin.
Morning Phase is a little more hopeful and mature, as one might hope after ten years of personal and artistic growth. Rather than get into a song-by-song rundown, just take my word when I say the record has an arc and wholeness to it that call to mind classic albums of yore. It's good to know they still exist.
For someone who came to the world's attention as the genius goofball behind "Loser" and Odelay, it's interesting that his quote-unquote serious work is the most enduring. It's kind of like when someone silly like Bill Murray does a serious role and it turns out he's a better actor than all the Oscar-type capital-A Actors.
Beck put in two sublime performances on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, redeeming a comedically abysmal show hosted by the guy from Big Bang Theory.
First was the lead single "Blue Moon," featuring some wonderful, Fleet Foxes-esque harmony singing with his bandmates.
Near the end of the show, he sang one of my other favorites from the record, the haunting "Wave."
One of the things I love about it is that it reminds me of my favorite tune by Radiohead, "Pyramid
Song." For SNL, he was accompanied by a huge string section. The catering alone must have cost
Buy Morning Phase on iTunes here.
Or better yet, make a pilgrimage to your local brick-and-mortar