Every Day Should Be Like Sunday
There’s something comforting about the ebb and flow of Beck Hanson. Since 1996’s groundbreaking Odelay, he has ventured among and across various genres, creating a pattern that makes the next album predictable, yet not. After 2008’s beat-heavy Modern Guilt, which followed 2006’s dance-pop The Information, the assumption would be that the next release would be subdued, perhaps traveling back to the Sea Change era. In 2012, Beck threw fans a curve, putting out Song Reader, a collection only available on sheet music. Finally, this year, with Morning Phase, he delivers what fans were hoping for: a reminder of the exceptional troubadour that resides in the heart of the jester.
Morning Phase, from the very beginning, alleviates any doubts about what direction this album will take. After a brief intro (“Cycle”), “Morning” begins almost exactly as does “Golden Age” on Sea Change. You can almost sing the latter over the former — almost. There is something smoother about “Morning,” something that feels like awakening. “Heart is a Drum” is a steady, slightly off-kilter, Bon Iver-esque number that is more adventuresome than the previous song, as if slowly building to “Say Goodbye,” where the acoustic plucking is a little harsher than the previous number.
And so it goes, each song offering a little something more, something deeper, bigger. “Wave,” set smack in the middle, while drum-free and orchestral, has a haunting element not found elsewhere on Morning Phase or perhaps Beck’s entire discography. After that, Beck guides us towards the end of the project. Even “Blackbird Chain,” a relatively upbeat song, is lower on the vocal register and therefore decelerating. “Turn Away” offers hope but steals it away with an unexpected chord change in the refrain.
Morning Phase ends with “Waking Light,” implying a twenty-four hour cycle that started with sunrise and ended with the dawn. The song itself swells to a grandiose middle, but there remains a hint of trepidation in the melody and composition, and it ends with a scratchy squeal, like an unwelcome alarm, a reminder that a new day lies ahead. In Morning Phase, Beck has given us a day, a Sunday to be exact, but instead of dealing with Monday, you have the opportunity to start the album over. Take it.