By Takumi Otsuka
What makes a record great? Greatest records in history sometimes dared listeners. They pushed boundaries. They surprised you. They let you see different views you have never seen. They made you start listening to other genres.
When you take a look at Beck's discography, this man has been a master of "dare" since his sensational debut single Loser. The rest of his discography speaks for itself. Odelay, Mutations, Midnite Vultures, Guero, and Modern Guilt. While he smoothly crossovers between Rock, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Folk, Funk and Blues, he has become the definition of an alternative artist. In terms of creativity, there is no singer songwriter as successful as Beck Hansen in alternative category.
However, if you read his interview prior to his latest release, Morning Phase, you would realize this is not one of his signature "dare" albums. Or you might have noticed that when you heard his first single, Blue Moon. In the interview, he admitted that Morning Phase is the sequel of his 2002 masterpiece, Sea Change, which is a collection of his heartbreaking break up songs. Obviously there are lots of common grounds between two albums. After a short interlude, Cycle, virtually track 1, Morning will remind you of Sea Change's opening track, Golden Age musically and lyrically.
Although both albums are on breakups and its bitter process, Morning Phase isn't just the follow-up if you take a look at its sound production carefully. While Sea Change makes acoustic, synth and string arrangements very minimum, Morning Phase deliberately makes space between each sound and makes it sound more dimensional. It might be a trivial approach, but it makes huge difference in terms of depth.
Great artists are always great collectors. What it means is that they are capable of taking ideas from others' or their own previous works masterfully. As Michael Stipe from R.E.M once said, "Vulnerability is the greatest thing any artist can possess", they are easily influenced, flexible and sensitive. In a sense, Morning Phase clearly proves that Beck is one of those greats. Songs like, Heart Is A Drum, Unforgiven, and Waking Light would not have been written during Sea Change era.
As a whole, Morning Phase is such a enjoyable record from start to very end and it gets better and better as you listen more. I understand that trying something others have not done is always very crucial for artists to express themselves. But at the same time, us music fans tend to overlook the importance of the albums like Morning Phase. 30 or 40 years from now, when you look back his entire discography, probably this album would not be talked about over Odelay. However, by the end of day, when I go back to my bedroom, I can see myself making sure to put this record on the top of my collections. And it will stay there for a long time.