Comfy and safe, this is the LP your favourite armchair would write. No doubt that was difficult. For a serial experimenter like Beck, being unambitious may be ambitious. He calls Morning Phase a ‘companion piece’ to an old record of his, Sea Change. And what sentimentality songs like ‘Don’t Let it Go’ gesture at, an ineffably easygoing acoustic style makes explicit. ‘Morning’, for instance, is really the same song as ‘The Golden Age’, from the 2002 forebear.
A good recipe is a good recipe, though, and Morning Phase dutifully serves up a warm trayful of sweetly-glazed Californian folk. Sometimes you can’t beat home-cooked simplicity. ‘Unforgiven’ manages light and shade masterfully. But however purposefully its dubby depths perforate its whooshy chords, and however anxious the Neil Young-inspired strummery is on psychedelic journeyer ‘Blackbird Chain’, there’s no doubt those crucial anchor points on Sea Change – the edgy ‘Paper Tiger’ or ‘Lonesome Tears’ – go unreplicated here. The album will be streamed for free on some airlines, which is apt because it’s just about ready to fly off.
Older, wiser, and boundlessly upbeat, Beck finishes up by eulogising that good feelin’ when ‘morning comes to meet you somewhere you can’t make it home’. Is this an old journeyman finally resting easy, or an insatiable creator who hasn’t spotted the dangers of attempting to recapture a sound, mood, era? There’s just something in the repetitive day/night symbolism of the track ‘Cycle’ which makes this record seem more groundhog day than sea change.
Watch Beck perform ‘Waking Light’ on The Tonight Show below. What do you think of Morning Phase? Let us know on Twitter