I always liked Beck's Mellow Gold. I go back and listen to it every so often. Mellow Gold always struck me as moody but very catchy and even a little dark. Other than that, quite honestly, I never got into Beck's other albums even the notable Sea Change, though after enjoying Morning Phase, that has changed, as there are some similarities.
I was on board with this album as I began listening to "Blue Moon" released as a single before the album came out. I really liked what I heard but I had no idea where the rest of the album would go and how it would unfold. Filled with acoustic guitars, reverb, piano, and warm tones, this album does a lot to earn my affection that similar albums have not been able to do. It is noticeable that Morning Phase is slow in terms of tempo but its tone and mood are what make it stand out. This album is relaxing and it provokes thought. It has been a while since a mellow album could do this for me while keeping my interest the entire way through. Morning Phase revolves around themes of self-reflection, the beauty of any given morning, and the kind of observations and symbolism you might find in a Longfellow poem.
Beck does something that I appreciate in music. The emotion feels like it comes from the melodies, arrangements, and the atmosphere before the lyrics steer it away with anything too obvious. The lyrics are very complimentary and pair well with all of the other sounds. In "Blue moon" Beck sings "...I'm so tired of being alone". I almost do not believe him. Even with the isolation chanting in "Wave", it seems as if the reflection on loneliness and pain comes from a strong place instead of coming undone or giving in to any negativity or weakness. I have read other reviews of this album that claim this album is indifferent or too neutral. I highly disagree. These songs make me feel content. The divisiveness of opinion is one of the clear signs of a great album, that so many people can reach such different interpretations.
The song that stands out the most is "Country Down". According to last.fm, I have listened to this song 41 times. If I had to pick an all-time Beck favorite, this would be #1. If I had to pick the absolute strongest song on the album, it would be "Country Down". It is filled with powerful melodies, emotion, and just the slightest bit of country feel. It is the first song in a long time that gave me proper chills down my spine.
While the album is enveloped by a uniform dreaminess, it stays conscious before getting too flighty. I have and will continue to listen to this entire album front to back on repeat for the foreseeable future. It is one of those albums where my favorite song changes and then changes back again.
As this long winter comes to an end, I have been daydreaming of sitting around outside relaxing come Spring. This album is a friend, with a piece of straw in its mouth, lying in the hammock in the backyard under a vivid blue sky waiting to share a drink and reflect on life and the warmer, beautiful days ahead. That is something only truly good music can illicit.
When this year commences, two things are certain: This album will be among the best of the year and I will own it on vinyl (an honor reserved for my absolute favorites). This album is undoubtedly my favorite of 2014 so far.