First Listen: Beck's 'Morning Phase'

Normally, I’ve got so much music swirling around in my computer that when something new and noteworthy comes around, a day or two passes by before I actually get around to listening to it.

But Beck’s Morning Phase was a major exception. I couldn't wait to dive headfirst into Beck’s first full-length album in almost six years.

One of the most talented and creative songwriters of ours, or any generation, Beck has been a fascinating enigma for twenty years now.

Morning Phase, coming out on February 25, 2014, is a sonic sequel to his 2002 album Sea Change; the definitive acoustic break-up album of the 21st century. Taking its cues from Sea Change, Morning Phase has some defining strengths and weaknesses. But its few flaws almost make it a more endearing return.

Grand, warm, and buoyed by an incredibly wide sonic palette; Morning Phase is a widescreen, high-definition album. With the album’s stunning production, even its lesser songs sound impressive. Beck’s ability to weave intricate and nuanced sonic details with his always-sharp lyricism makes Morning Phase an incredibly strong return to form.

After the instrumental intro, “Cylce,” “Morning” gloriously announces Beck’s return. Its serene opening chords wash over like a wave, Beck’s vocals effortlessly hitting the falsetto the melody requires. It’s a fairly simple ballad, but Beck’s talents make it seem like so much more, with gorgeous harmonies and small instrumental flourishes occurring in just the right places.

“Heart Is A Drum” is propelled restlessly forward by a driving acoustic riff, with Beck’s relaxed, airy vocals providing a beautiful counterpoint to the riff’s determined movement.

Check out "Waking Light" here:

“Blue Moon” may seem, as it did to me, overly saccharine at first listen. But closer examination reveals an exquisitely detailed ballad. The rhythm section is solidly in place, while the song’s guitars weave themselves around the song’s framework, adding consistently to the beauty of the melody and Beck’s vocals.

“Turn Away” has a more simple riff, letting Beck’s voice and songwriting skill really come to the fore. “Country Down” is an expansive beauty that evokes the wide-open, desolate landscape its title implies. When Beck unleashes a beautiful harmonica solo, you could practically imagine listening to this track while engaged in a round of debauchery in “Red Dead Redemption.” “Waking Light” leaves the album on a fittingly gorgeous note. The song’s echo and sense of scale make the track seem like it was written to be listened to in the middle of a canyon.

Morning Phase is an album that shows that Beck has lost none of his touch during his time away from releasing new music. Beck develops on old sounds and experimentations, crafting an album that is completely controlled and calculated, but warm and inviting at the same time. Simply put, Morning Phase is an exhibition of one of the world’s finest songwriters doing what he does best.

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Jackson Maxwell is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is double majoring in history and journalism. He is a staff writer for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and has his own music blog entitled “Two Dudes, Two Computers” with his friend Zach Newman. You can follow him here at or

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.