Mellow Gold

Morning Phase
[Fonograf /Capitol - 2014]

As befits the first actual release in half a decade from a major artist, there's been quite the buzz surrounding Beck's latest. Unfortunately, a good chunk of the commentary has been a series of reductive, template-based reviews that focus on comparing it to Sea Change [DGC-2002] ad nauseum with a tad of snark and back handed compliments thrown in for good measure. Morning Phase deserves much, much better. 

Yes, Beck revisits the milieu of a previous artistic triumph with another acoustic-based, and at times lushly orchestrated record. However, Morning Phase, despite a similar musical setting—and truth be told, a cover reminiscent of that previous late-night classic—is not a rehashing but its own entity, one to be judged on its own terms. 

It might seem both disingenuous and pointless to recommend staying away from preconceived notions about an album when your intent is to encourage fellow listeners to dive right in, but Morning Phase's allure is immediate, its initial magnetism hard to resist and the rewards it brings continuous.

It's only late February but the Album of the Year competition just got mighty stiff.

Highlights: "Morning", "Heart is a Drum", "Wave", "Waking Light".