Morning Phase

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Morning Phase
Studio album by Beck
Released February 21, 2014
Recorded 2012-2013
Genre Folk rock, country rock
Length 47:00
Label Capitol
Producer Beck
Beck chronology
Modern Guilt
(2008)
Morning Phase
(2014)
Singles from Morning Phase
  1. "Blue Moon"
    Released: January 20, 2014
  2. "Waking Light"
    Released: February 4, 2014

Morning Phase is the twelfth studio album by American musician Beck.[1] The album was released in February 2014 through his new label, Capitol Records. According to a press release, Morning Phase is a "companion piece" to his 2002 album Sea Change, and "harkens back to the stunning harmonies, song craft and staggering emotional impact of that record, while surging forward with infectious optimism." Several of the musicians who recorded parts for Sea Change returned to record for Morning Phase.

Upon release the album received critical acclaim and is currently nominated in five categories at the 57th Grammy Awards including Best Rock Album and Album of the Year.

Background[edit]

Beck's previous album, Modern Guilt, was released in 2008, and was the final album released under his Interscope Records contract.[2] In the interim between album releases, Beck worked on a wide variety of projects, including new studio material, most of which went unreleased for several years.[2] In October 2012, bassist and frequent collaborator Justin Meldal-Johnsen commented: "I would estimate that there are currently about three or four albums’ worth of material floating around," and Beck himself said that "I wasn't sure if I was going to put out a record – or if I should put out a record. It felt like I was standing still, while everything else was in such flux."[2]

In 2012 and 2013, Beck began to perform live with more regularity than in the years immediately following the Modern Guilt tour.[3] This period also saw new original material. The "I Just Started Hating Some People Today/Blue Randy" single was released in 2012, and he self-released the "Defriended," "I Won't Be Long," and "Gimme" singles in 2013.[4] All three of these songs were standalone releases as 12-inch singles on his own FONOGRAF label.[2] "I Won't Be Long" and "Gimme" were allegedly from an unfinished project from 2009, described as being similar to Odelay.[2] According to Beck, the remaining songs from this project may see a similar release method.[2]

In June 2013, Beck announced the expected release of two new albums for 2014, with one of the two being an "acoustic" album. The press release for the "acoustic" album (along with the news of his contract with Capitol Records) arrived in October 2013, announcing the title as Morning Phase and giving a February, 2014 release window.[5] The other still-unfinished album would be planned for a later release. In comparing the production of Morning Phase with his previous album, Beck stated that prior to recording Modern Guilt in 2008, he had suffered a serious spinal injury,[6][7] and that the recording process for Modern Guilt was like "doing it with both hands tied behind your back. It hurt to sing. I'm whispering through half of those vocals."[2] On the other hand, Beck said that Morning Phase was a much more satisfying experience: "Some of the songs on the new record – I get to shout and yell. I'm like, 'Thank you!' I had a lot of ideas and things I'd been wanting to do. This last year and a half, I feel like I can really do them."[2]

Recording[edit]

In 2005, Beck began recording material in Nashville for a new album, but it remained incomplete for several years.[2] It was not until 2012 that he returned to continue the project, this time recording at Third Man Records (which, incidentally had not existed at the time of his previous sessions).[2] Two songs from these new sessions, "I Just Started Hating Some People Today" and "Blue Randy" were released that year as a non-album single on Third Man's Blue Series.[2] Other songs, like "Blackbird Chain", "Country Down", and "Waking Light" were reserved for what would become Morning Phase.[2] In the beginning of 2013, he recorded a great deal of the album in his hometown of Los Angeles in three days, with familiar studio and touring musicians Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Roger Joseph Manning Jr, and Smokey Hormel. The next six months, Beck worked with this material for an album release.[2] His father David Campbell contributed orchestral arrangements for the album, as he had done previously for Sea Change, and most of Beck's other albums.[2]

Singles[edit]

On January 20, 2014, the album's first single "Blue Moon" was released.[8] Beck released the second single from the album, "Waking Light," on February 4, 2014.[9][10]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 81/100[11]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[12]
Consequence of Sound B+[13]
Entertainment Weekly A-[14]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[15]
The Independent 4/5 stars[16]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[17]
Spin 8/10[18]
Time Out 4/5 stars[19]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[20]
Pitchfork Media 6.8/10[21]

Critical reception[edit]

Prior to its release, Morning Phase was placed at number 2 on Stereogum's list of most anticipated albums of 2014.[22]

Upon its release, the album received critical acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 81 (based on 46 reviews), indicating "universal acclaim."[11]

At Mojo, James McNair stated that "Morning Phase isn't an album that obsequiously courts your approval [...] it just does."[23] Andy Gill of The Independent wrote that the album is "a deeply satisfying journey, the sadness tempered by the warmth and beauty of the settings, and the gentle determination of the resolution. Accordingly, it’s a much better album than Sea Change, just as immersive, but wiser and less indulgently wallowing."[16] According to Reef Younis of Clash magazine, Morning Phase has a "slight, melancholic tone," and "there's an awful lot to love."[24] CraveOnline's Iann Robinson rated the album 9/10, calling it a "proud successor to Sea Change" and "downtempo stroke of genius," and noting that it's some of Beck's best work in years.[25]

On December 5, 2014, "Morning Phase" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.[2]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Rank List
The A.V. Club 14 The 20 Best Albums Of 2014[26]
The Daily Telegraph 12 Best 50 Albums of 2014[27]
Guardian 8 Best Albums of 2014[28]
Mojo 1 50 Best Albums of 2014[29]
musicOMH 7 Top 100 Albums of 2014[30]
The Huffington Post Unranked The 23 Best Albums of 2014[31]
Time Out 25 The 30 Best Albums of 2014[19]

Commercial performance[edit]

Morning Phase debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 albums chart, selling more than 87,000 in its first week, and becoming Beck's second highest charting album in the United States, after Guero (2005).[32] The album also reached top 10 positions in the UK, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. As of December 2014, Morning Phase has sold 295,000 copies in the U.S.[33]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Beck Hansen

No. Title Length
1. "Cycle"   0:40
2. "Morning"   5:19
3. "Heart Is a Drum"   4:31
4. "Say Goodbye"   3:29
5. "Blue Moon"   4:02
6. "Unforgiven"   4:34
7. "Wave"   3:40
8. "Don't Let It Go"   3:09
9. "Blackbird Chain"   4:26
10. "Phase"   1:03
11. "Turn Away"   3:05
12. "Country Down"   4:00
13. "Waking Light"   5:02
Total length:
47:00

Personnel[edit]

  • Beck Hansen - vocals, acoustic guitar (tracks 2-5, 8, 9, 11 and 12), electric guitar (tracks 9 and 13), keyboards (track 2), piano (tracks 3, 5, 6 and 13), synthesizer (track 13), organ (track 13), electric bass (tracks 5 and 11), sound collage (track 3), tambourine (track 4), ukulele (track 5), charango (track 5), celeste (track 9), dulcimer (track 11), harmonica (track 12), glockenspiel (track 13), orchestral arrangements (all tracks with orchestral instruments)
  • Joey Waronker - drums (tracks 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, and 13), percussion (tracks 2, 3, 5, and 9)
  • Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. - piano, synthesizers, rhodes, clavinet, B3 organ, background vocals
  • Stanley Clarke - upright bass (track 2), electric bass (track 3)
  • James Gadson - drums (tracks 4 and 6)
  • Cody Kilby - guitar (track 4)
  • Bram Inscore - electric bass (track 4)
  • Fats Kaplin - banjo (track 4)
  • Justin Meldal-Johnsen - bass (tracks 6, 8, 9, and 13)
  • Smokey Hormel - acoustic guitar (tracks 6 and 8), electric guitar (tracks 9 and 12), ebow (track 6)
  • Stephanie Bennett - harp (tracks 6 and 11)
  • Steve Richards - cello (tracks 7 and 8)
  • Roger Waronker - piano (track 8)
  • Jason Falkner - electric guitar (tracks 9, 12, and 13)
  • Matt Mahaffey - organ (tracks 9 and 13)
  • Greg Leisz - pedal steel guitar (tracks 9 and 12)
  • Matt Sherrod - drums (track 9)
  • David Campbell - orchestral arrangements, orchestrations and conducting (all tracks with orchestral instruments)

Charts[edit]

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[34] 5
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[35] 11
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[36] 7
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[37] 10
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[38] 2
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[39] 3
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[40] 5
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[41] 13
French Albums (SNEP)[42] 36
German Albums (Official Top 100)[43] 13
Italian Albums (FIMI)[44] 10
New Zealand Albums (Recorded Music NZ)[45] 8
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[46] 6
Polish Albums (ZPAV)[47] 30
Portuguese Albums (AFP)[48] 6
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[49] 34
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[50] 41
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[51] 5
UK Albums (OCC)[52] 4
US Billboard 200[53] 3
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[54] 1
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[55] 1
US Top Tastemaker Albums (Billboard)[56] 1

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format(s) Ref
Australia February 21, 2014 Fonograf/Capitol Digital download [57]
Netherlands [58]
New Zealand [59]
Argentina CD, digital download [60]
France February 24, 2014 CD, digital download [61][62]
United Kingdom [63][64]
United States February 25, 2014 CD, LP, digital download [65][66]
Germany February 28, 2014 [67][68]
Poland March 3, 2014 Universal Music Poland CD [69]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Fricke, David (November 21, 2013). "Beck Shares 'Morning Phase' Details". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
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  14. ^ Rahman, Ray (February 19, 2014). "Beck – 'Morning Phase' album review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 21, 2014. 
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