Admit it. When’s the last time you bought, or really even considered, downloading an entire album instead of just a couple tracks?1
For me, it’s probably right around the time I bought my first iPod nano. I love music, but to my amateur ear, over the past 25 years or so most of the songs besides a couple of hits on most albums are just filling space, which until the past 10 years or so meant the luxury of hearing the one song you really wanted used to set you back about $15.98. I can think of my exceptions released after Y2K: Maroon 5’s Songs About Jane, self-titled Dirty Vegas, Foster the People’s Torches and Groove Armada’s Hello Country Goodbye Nightclub and maybe The Shins but they are just that: exceptions. Nothing like the run in the ’80s, with artists like Sting and The Police, Dire Straits, Van Halen, and one of my all-time favorites, Roxy Music’s Avalon. I even enjoyed the entire Wang Chung Points on the Curve album although I have to admit this story made me think twice about the lyrics to “Dance Hall Days.”
But this is 2014, and I’m really not stuck in the ’80s. Honest. Proof: earlier this year I finally found an album worth every penny, and more: Beck’s Morning Phase. If you just rolled your eyes, and “Loser” is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Beck, erase your brain.
My first experience with Morning Phase was in yoga class one morning when the teacher played it in its entirety. My Beck station is a favorite on Pandora, and after a couple of songs breaking through my Zen I realized the music was his, but was deliciously unfamiliar as well.2
When Morning Phase came out I read somewhere that “sad Beck is the best Beck” but this album is so much more than sad, and with much more depth than Sea Change 2.0 as others have described it. It is immensely easy to listen to, whether you want to talk over it, drive to it, or “just be” on the couch while the sound surrounds you. The sound is unique, with a rich, moody classical depth thanks to his dad’s orchestration setting the tone in the instrumental lead track “Cycle” and then sprinkled throughout. It even reminds me a little of Pink Floyd, with its haunting drums and wordless vocals.
The lyrics are often unusual, in usual Beck style, weaving stories that seem mostly untold and open to interpretation. These are the first few lines:
“Woke up this morning, found a love light in the storm
Looked up this morning, saw the roses full of thorns
Guns are falling, they don’t have nowhere to go
Oceans of diamonds always shine, smooth out below
Can we start it all over again this morning?
I lost all my defenses this morning
Won’t you show me the way it used to be?”
Or, as my sister said, don’t ruin it by over thinking it. Ignore the words and just enjoy the music.
I agree. Not many artists could get away with “Blackbird Chain”:
“A keepsake in a dresser drawer from who-knows-where
A symbol of your exegesis and a full-length mirror
I’ll never never never never never never refuse you
My blackbird chain, my blackbird chain”
I think it’s nearly impossible to describe music with mere words, but my best explanation is that Morning Phase is “an epic musical journey full of wisdom hidden in esoteric lyrics and pleasing, watercolor-esque ambient blends of instruments and vocals.” You can quote me on that.
If you’d rather read what the experts have to say, check out Rolling Stone. Better yet, do yourself a favor, listen to the tracks “Morning” or “Waking Light”, and then hit the buy button for the entire album. Your brain will thank you. It’s the way music used to be.
- Or have you just given up on owning music altogether and tune in to Spotify or Pandora instead? ↩
- Some of you might remember I was struggling with Dave Matthews Band and Beck scheduled in Raleigh on the same night in my quick Raleigh & Company rant “Anger with the Raleigh music gods.” I had tickets to both shows, ended up selling DMB, and loved every minute of Beck on stage. ↩