When Beck announced his seminal folk LP Sea Change in 2002 no one was expecting the king of ironic lyrics and genre bending to have created an album of repressed aggression as the result of an unfortunate break-up, but Beck crafted a stunningly melodic and timeless album. Fast forward 11 years later and Beck announced he would be releasing a sequel to the album, continuing its themes and ideas and thus sparked a great deal of excitement, but does Beck deliver an album of the same quality?
The short answer here is no: the album feels as if Beck is trying to recreate the sound of Sea Change (even opening with the same chord) that found him previous success because of a slew of mediocre releases leading up to this album. The meaningfulness of the lyrics is lost as he simply piggybacks off the former album’s sadness – this time round his sorrow is not directed towards anything in particular and it loses the impact that Sea Change had. The orchestral and stringed melodies are gripping in the album’s crescendo but this only leads way to what feels like a tired drone for the rest of the album and the only real pulse to be found is in the song ‘Turn Away’, otherwise this is a slow and bare album.
Furthermore, Sea Change was an album with fully fleshed out songs yet Morning Phase feels like a collection of these songs’ B-Sides which is only a disappointment for an album said to be in production since 2005. One can’t help but think that Beck is trying to flourish in a world where groups like Bon Iver and The National achieve mainstream success, but ultimately he fails to imitate what makes their sound unique and loses his own uniqueness in the process. The album has a very melodramatic sound too, but beyond this it quite simply basic – flowing like a frozen river. Beck may be on top form which his vocals, but there is no connection with them, the aura feel off and it just doesn’t strike a chord with me.
Overall, the album is swollen and conveys very little. The change of sound is one that Beck should not have re-embarked upon, leaving Sea Change as the beauty it is without tarnishing its name. This was an album that could have been more had he developed the ideas displayed. Perhaps the surrounding hype made me too expectant, but Beck has put out yet another lacklustre release this side of the millennium.