Beck's 'Morning Phase': What the Critics Are Saying
The singer-songwriter reflects and reveals in his twelfth studio album.
Six years after the release of Modern Guilt, Beck has returned with a follow-up album that reflects heavily on the human condition in modern society. Out Feb. 25, Morning Phase draws from folk-rock roots, lending itself to the musician’s signature storytelling style.
Beck’s twelfth studio album has been described as a "companion piece" to Sea Change, featuring several artists that collaborated in the 2002 release. Throughout production, the singer-songwriter has preoccupied himself with a series of outside projects, but resolved to move beyond the flux for Morning Phase.
Many critics speculate that the contemplative undertone derives from time spent in recovery after a recent spinal injury, which Beck revealed in 2013. Nonetheless, the singer-songwriter breaks past the self-referential in his latest album, putting relevant issues at its folksy forefront.
Read what top critics are saying about Beck's Morning Phase below:
"At its core, Morning Phase is a record about what to do when the world seems totally f---ed," Rolling Stone’s Will Hermes writes. "Irony doesn’t cut it anymore; truth, beauty and resolve are the best weapons." Hermes gave the album four-and-a-half stars out of five, lauding the overlay of "bright acoustic guitar and chiming percussion" with Beck's "layered vocals ... The result is a set that feels like an instant folk-rock classic."
The New York Times' Ben Ratliff credits "slow tempo and reverb… time and space" for the success of Morning Phase. "These aren’t great songs, if great means original, or complex, or ready to be reinterpreted," Ratliff explains. "It doesn’t matter." What does matter is that Beck has "found the right sound for his disposition and he resonates like crazy with that sound."
"With the same downbeat acoustic vibe and many of the same players, the new record serves as a kind of spiritual sequel… to 2002’s Sea Change," LA Times' Mikael Wood notes, and "the sequel is better than the original." But while the circumstances behind Beck’s latest work have certainly changed, "the comfortable fortysomething dad on Morning Phase refreshes that familiar post with some welcome mystery."
The Guardian's Kitty Empire gave Morning Phase three out of five stars, comparing the tracks to "a fat analogue sunrise gradually asserting itself, usually through some haze, at the conclusion of some dark night of the soul." Empire calls it "a mellow album, if bittersweet," which "is emphatically not a record for people in a hurry."
"Rather than focusing on a resigned anger or ambiguous darkness, Morning Phase is plagued by a frustrating in-between-ness that can also come off as flat and neutral," Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal says. "You get an overall sense of wisdom from the lines on this album, though that wisdom too rarely coalesces into something truly affecting." Dombal gave the new record a score of 6.8 out of 10.