Beck – Morning Phase: #788 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Beck - Morning Phase

Why is Beck’s Morning Phase on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

What eludes easy definition becomes a core strength.

Some stats & info about Beck – Morning Phase  

Beck’s Morning Phase on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.

What does Beck’s Morning Phase mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

I’ll tell you right up front that I’m enormous Beck fan. I found Morning Phase to be his most inaccessible album, at least at first*.

* Your mileage will vary, of course, one what is “accessible” or “inaccessible” for any artist or piece of music. With Beck, Stereopathetic Soul Manure or even One Foot in the Grave might be relatively inaccessible for many. I’d strongly advise to give both, and particularly the latter, a chance because the audio rewards are great.

Released in 2002, Sea Change – Beck’s first slower, quieter, sadder singer-songwriter style album and something of a bookend album to Morning Phase – makes more sense right up front. “Oh, this is the breakup album,” you recognize right away, and get into a lovely bummer groove when “The Golden Age” or “Paper Tiger” kicks off.

Morning Phase eludes that easy definition. But whereas at first I found that a little bit frustrating, it ends up becoming a strength. “Heart Is A Drum” became my way “in” to the album*, a quiet, soft, contemplative song. What’s striking too, taking a step back, is that there’s zero tongue in cheek put on with this version of Beck, no playful smashing together of genres, no wildly wicked lyrical wordplay.

* I received a really kind note from my old friend Dan recently, a brilliant musician and percussionist in his own right, who noted that this best 1,000 albums ever project has reawakened his interest in listening to albums as a whole once again in this era when streaming and the massive aggregation of musical content on the likes of Spotify and other services typically drives listening to individual songs with no relation to the album that they might have been carefully produced as part of.  

** The above sentence might be the longest sentence that I’ve ever sentenced. Let’s get back to Beck, shall we?

The more I listen to “Blackbird Chain,” I think about Beck’s Mutations album. A slightly sped up version of “Blackbird Chain,” perhaps with a few more musical flourishes, might have fit in rather well on that (great) 1998 album. And while “Blackbird Chain” obviously spent quite a bit of time getting produced in the studio, getting those vocal overlays and strings layered precisely, there’s a lean toward simplicity in this song and this album which is noticeable.

There’s something a little Simon & Garfunkel-y about “Turn Away,” a gorgeous and tightly written folk song that’s built off a base level of singer songwriter simplicity and beautiful guitar strumming and background vocals.