beck: morning phase

comments, track by track

First off, my second favorite track is  the 39 second ‘intro’ track Cycle. What can I say; I got pretty pumped up (during all of those 39 seconds) about where this was going. Now that I’ve listened to the album several times, it’s hard to say why it’s even there. Just to tease us? Apparently. But, tease accepted.

The album actually takes a step back from all the bustle of flowing ambience when Morning busts in at a raging ♩=40. Now, I’ve always said that if I needed to kill myself I’d for sure do it while listening to Shostakovitch’s Prelude and Fugue No. 16 from op. 87. In this scenario, when I’ve muscled past rock bottom and woken up to find that I’ve failed even at suicide, Morning would be an acceptable wake-up tune.

Heart is a Drum centers around a repetitive little guitar block which I imagine as the crumbs left over from a Juana Molina banquet. It moves on to some nice and ghostly guitar / vocal etherea.

Next we have Say Goodbye, which is clearly Suzanne Vega posing as Beck. I’m pretty certain that if I listen to number 13 on Songs in Red and Gray, after about 9 minutes, I’ll get to this hidden track. Rhythms, harmonies, and lyrics are decidedly Vegan, and as such are great.

Mandolins. Nobody writes a sad song with mandolins in it. So, Blue Moon gives the general happiness exuded by that tiny little double-stringed gem an interesting twist (and I choose my words carefully here because it’s not some not-so-clever, ironic juxtaposition – see also any indie band using a glockenspiel) by inviting it to answer and play along to vocals bordering on melancholy. (And I swear the ending was written by Badly Drawn Boy.)

By track 6, we’re back to pre-Morning soundtrack possibilities. Warning: Unforgiven should not be consumed with alcoholic beverages.

It’s worth the trudge through Unforgiven to arrive at Wave. This seems like central idea of the album. At times, Beck channels Brendan Perry and obviously that’s okay. Now we can see that Cycle was actually a setup for Wave. The haunting nature of this piece is emphasized by its brevity. That’s why I give in to the temptation to listen to this one on repeat.

Don’t Let it Go will snap you back into your seat without being too abrupt. What I’m really wanting to not let go of is the previous song, but then come the low strings as a welcome surprise.

The album could have done without Blackbird Chain. Maybe I just don’t get it, but Don’t let it Go brought me to the same place as the end of the next track. They seem almost like looking at the same song from 2 different angles.

Again, Phase reminds me what we’re listening to here. It’s another ambient intermezzo which turns things down a notch for the Simon & Garfunkel / Elliot Smith-seasoned Turn Away. When the the strings come in full force (unfortunately again toward the end), they are joined by the ghostly vocals and you realize that there is a new sound on this album. It’s a good sound.

Country Down…could have done without this one. Someone tell me why I should like this. Disposable at best. I only allow CDs on my shelf if I would be happy being stranded on an island with them. This track will cancel its reservation there. I’m only being this critical because I like the rest of the album. Will listen again before writing the next sentence. Nope still don’t like it. Harmoni-come on.

Back to reality with Waking Light. Second longest track on the album, but I was ready for several more minutes. This last one did make me want to make sure I had the repeat album button on.


★★★★ right off the bat. Good album. Loads of subtle parts, not great for listening to without paying attention. Minus ★ for Country Down until I ‘get it.’ Otherwise best when listened to straight through.