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Ah, Beck, it's been a while. With no releases since 2008's Modern Guilt, the eclectic songwriter has only been teasing fans with new material, including an album put in the form of a song book, which isn't much use for those of us who don't read sheet music.
His latest album, Morning Phase, marks his return to more conventional releases. Despite all the free time he might have had, Beck has returned to familiar ground for his latest release. Such has not always been the case for Beck.
Now he seems content to revisit the mournful soundscapes of his excellent 2002 album, Sea Change. Press releases said Morning Phase would be in the same vein as Sea Change, and they weren't kidding.
You could pair the two on one disc and few would notice much difference between the songs. This could be taken as a sort of criticism, but an artist can tread water, or in this case, revisit water he's already tread, without becoming tired. Or it can become extremely old extremely quickly.
Fortunately for Beck, he's a great songwriter. Even if he wasn't, the production and style of both albums is perfectly conceived and executed. Most songs start with a crisp acoustic guitar strum, and each chorus adds lightly swelling orchestral arrangements, tinkling piano or keyboard sounds, and delicate vocals from Beck.
It's a winning combination and it captures a mood more albums could stand to capture. Personally, it's perfect music to drive aimlessly to, off into the night, in a melancholy, maybe nostalgic mood, drifting between lanes as your mind wanders with each melody. But that's just me.
As much as I like the sound, it's fair to say it's all a bit formulaic, a carbon copy of another album in one of the most eclectic music careers of modern musicians.
Though I'm content to listen to Sea Change 2.0 for now, a part of me longs for Beck to release another album that's a total turnaround, as he's been known to do from time to time.
Alas, I won't hold my breath. In the mean time, Morning Phase isn't breaking any new ground, but it's hard to deny the appeal of standout tracks like "Country Down," "Morning Light," and "Blue Moon."
Image: Wikimedia Commons