This is such a slow, lush, languid, immersive, beautiful record. Like 'Sea Change', which is very much its blood-brother, it puts us behind the wheel of a comfortable but ageing sedan and takes us on a slow, hazy drive through the desert, with Nick Drake in the passenger seat. But if 'Sea Change' was a drive in the cold moonlight, on 'Morning Phase' we're driving into the bleached-out, watery colours of the dawn.
Beck has always mined deep into the seams of American musical forms, and never more so than in 2012's 'Song Reader', an album so traditional it was only ever issued as sheet music. Those of us who were lucky enough to see Beck and his pals perform 'Song Reader' at last year's Barbican jamboree might have expected the same gleeful, antic spirit of experimentation and discovery from 'Morning Phase'. No chance. While the new new album is as in love with the past as its immediate forebear (how can it not be with a song titled 'Blue Moon' and a first lyric that begins "Woke up this morning"?), it's also the most restrained, constrained record in Beck's entire canon. Musically, it completely recaptures the woozy feel and texture of 'Sea Change', but whereas that album's lyrics railed against the traps of fate and circumstance, 'Morning Phase' just opens its palms and accepts what life throws at it. Like Beck sings in 'Wave' "If I surrender and I don't fight this wave, I won't go under, I'll only be carried away."
Goodness knows we could all do with this kind of blissed-out West Coast sunshine in our lives after the miserable winter we've all just endured. If you have the patience to let its charms slowly enfold you, 'Morning Phase' will warm your bones like a familiar old pullover.