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Beck – Morning Phase

Beck - Morning Phase

Typically I view waffles as the culinary equivalent of gooey, upbeat pop music: they’re a guilty pleasure. Drizzled with maple syrup (or, in my case, drenched in a vast waterfall of maple syrup) they are nearly impossible to resist. They’re a fun, nostalgia-inducing breakfast with little-to-no nutritive value. Kasey’s recipe for Savory Rye Waffles is awesome, in part, because it radically turns the conventional idea of what “waffles” can be on it’s head. It’s savory instead of sweat. It’s topped with smoked salmon and poached eggs instead of syrup. In other words, it’s a mature, healthy, and surprising take on the morning staple.

That’s why Beck’s Morning Phase is a perfect Musical Pairing. With a few exceptions (most relevantly 2002′s Sea Change) we’ve known Beck for playful, weirdo pop. In the past, he’s channeled funk, hop hop, and r&b into his mostly bright and upbeat catalog. In fact, despite a well-deserved reputation as a risk-taker with a willingness to reinvent himself, that sonic signature is what has defined most of his career. His 2002 post-breakup album Sea Change was the most notable exception. That LP is solemn, downcast, and steeped in strummy West Coast country/rock.

Morning Phase sounds an awful lot like Sea Change. In fact, it’s a comparison that is pretty much impossible to escape. It’s a lushly-composed and mature “acoustic album” built upon a mostly unadorned foundation of piano, strings, guitar, and crisp percussion. It’s set upon a cavernous sonic stage and continuously turns on ideas of isolation and loneliness. Thus, it’s not in line with his more buoyant albums. So it’s unsurprising that it’s billed as a “companion piece” to Sea Change.

Nonetheless, despite all of that, Morning Phase does have it’s own character, it’s own spirit. It actually feels more grandiose and more cinematic that it’s spiritual predecessor. There’s more depth to the recordings themselves – especially on tracks like “Unforgiven” and “Waking Light” which are incredibly expansive and wide open sounding. And, thanks to tracks like “Heart Is A Drum” and “Blue Moon” it’s actually a more hopeful album than Sea Change. It’ll take more time to tell, but it may even be the better album.

Buy Morning Phase from Insound. Head to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s recipe for Savory Rye Waffles.

Posted by Matthew Hickey


Matthew is the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. He’s addicted to vinyl records, pour over coffee, craft beer, small batch bourbon, and pan roasting pork chops.

  • Nicole

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts here, Matt. I’ve been a long-time fan of Beck in all his stages and I’m still working out what I think of this new album. I’m enjoying it, but yeah, you can’t help but think of Sea Change and draw comparisons. You’ve expressed what it is perfectly. Have fun at SXSW.

  • Matthew

    Thanks Nicole. It’ll definitely need a little time to stew before I can say whether this one really is as good as (or even better than) Sea Change, but my initial impression is quite good. And, thanks! SXSW so far has been fantastic.

  • Clinton

    I actually think some of his best work is on this album. Absolutely lush and very mature. Reminds me a lot of Buffalo Springfield and even some hints of King Crimson in both song writing and production.

  • Matthew

    I agree Clinton. It grows every time I listen to it. And I think your Buffalo Springfield and King Crimson comparisons are very astute!

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