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Beck’s Newest Phase

Beck surrounds himself with musicians who’ve been on some of his most acclaimed projects. Meditative, wistful and, yes, optimistic. And of course, sonically masterful.



As I was listening to Beck’s 12th studio album,  John Donne’s poem, “The Sun Rising”,  popped into my head. Well, at least the first three lines did.  (Full disclosure, I am an English major. I can’t help it.)

Busy old fool, unruly sun,

Why dost thou thus,

Through windows, and through curtains call on us?

I guess it is because between his crushingly aching Sea Change in 2002 and this new one, the mood seems the same. It’s not for the same reasons, but there are many things that make it sonically so.

But that interval between  2008’s Modern Guilt, and now Morning Phase does indicate that something starting awaking. In-between,  Beck had so many personal issues. But music continued in different ways. And he did the Record Club project with guys like Thurston Moore and Wilco, covering full classic albums with them. Finally, out of a, by necessity, deep slumber, Beck seems to have emerged with  a renewed confidence maybe, in his own abilities.



Because the Pharrell Williams hat has recently become a cultural icon and the image is EVERYWHERE, it seems like a treat to see Beck in somewhat similar headgear.  Although Beck is somber as ever. So what is this new album?

Just a few random thoughts on what is in the grooves. For one, the old team from Sea Change was  reassembled. Beck’s father, David Richard Campbell, is back with the orchestral grooves. The song “Wave” is a perfect example of their collaboration. Check out a sample, below.



In fact, waves of vocals hang like a meditation mantra throughout. There is nothing rushed here from the opening meditative song “Cycle” which moves imperceptibly  into the next song “Morning”. When lyrics do arrive, they fade in at a distance and then just as subtly  fade out. There’s no hurry here at all. In fact. Beck admitted in a recent interview that “the record IS pretty slow”. It comes in at 60 BPM’s. Hit songs usual make your toe tap because the have at least 120 beats per minute. (I DID not know that!)


We are hearing that there is no perceptible heartbreak in Beck’s life at the moment. There is family. There is life in Southern California.. so why the incredible wistfulness, yearning  and melancholy that populates the sonics of this collection? My own theory is that Beck is deliberate, but in a casual way that wastes no effort. A Zen approach. No wasted space or word or note. But a feeling of freely dipping into the heartbreak of life anyway creates the sonic palette we hear. No ironic reflections being trotted out here. So as we listen to the deliciousness of the words and sounds, it makes me think what a garden of delights there must be in Beck’s studio as he creates this stuff. Can I come over?


“I wish there was more room for people to write bad (songs) records…to get to the good stuff. “,  says Beck. It has taken time but. Here we go. THIS is the GOOD STUFF.




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