Update – Stream Beck’s “Morning Phase”

UPDATE Stream Beck’s Morning Phase before its release; pre-order on itunes or vinyl.
I had a few years where I thought that was probably it for me,” Beck told NME in December. “I mean, I’d always make music, but you have to be out there, waving a flag, saying, ‘Hey! Over here!‘” His doubts were worsened by a spine injury that occurred “when I was shooting a promotional clip which required me to be in a harness for two days. There was no training or preparation, it wasn’t done properly, and I was left in it for much too long, which resulted in a lot of complications.” When he started playing guitar again “there was a lot of joy. It was a relief for me. I’d been looking at that guitar for years, wishing that I could pick it up, wanting to be able to play it again. So there was a lot of emotion when I finally did.”

From that recovery sprung numerous projects.  “There’s three to four albums, 80 per cent finished, and all pretty different,” Beck says in the February 2014 issue of Mojo.  He’s preparing a compilation of recordings of the tunes in his 2012 sheet-music-only Song Reader “album” and an as yet untitled LP is tentatively scheduled for next September (according to NME and various sources).  Beck described the latter in recent interviews as “not of a piece” with Morning Phase, “I’m thinking more about the live show, which is more about energy. It’s a lot more up.” “I haven’t quite finished it. But I’d say it’s finding its legs.” ““I do want to put out something that is a lot more up, and energetic, and melodic.” ““Some [tracks] are experimental and abrasive.”  As for the Song Reader comp, “We have been working on that” Beck told Página/12 in November (and reiterated in the latest Rolling Stone’s “In The Studio” section).  Beck also revealed to Página/12 that this year he’ll release more stand-alone vinyl singles like his three 2013 one-offs are, further confirmed in NME.  But before any of that Beck is issuing Morning Phase on February 25th, “a companion piece of sorts to Beck’s 2002 classic Sea Change,” according to October’s album announcement.

Beck has played four songs from Morning Phase in concert (hear them all in the video above and click on the following titles to read the full lyrics via Beck mega-site whiskeyclone.net).  “Unforgiven,” “Morning” and “Don’t Let It Go” were debuted at his acoustic show in Santa Cruz, California on May 19, 2013. “Wave” was previewed at Beck’s third Song Reader event, a full concert with the LA Philharmonic (conducted by David Campbell, Beck’s dad) at LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall on November 24, 2013. (He has also played “Evil Thing” – a song debuted with Eddie Vedder singing back-up at a 2002 charity show, abandoned for eleven years, brought back last May for a second concert performance with a new bridge section, then included with edited lyrics on an early mix of Morning Phase released to the press, only to be removed for the official release out next month).

The first official preview of the album came January 17th in a YouTube video of the Morning Phase vinyl being cut with a segment of “Blue Moon” dubbed over the audio (linked in the tweet above).  Starting today all Morning Phase pre-orders on iTunes or Direct will receive “Blue Moon” instantly.  Also today “Blue Moon” can be purchased as the album’s first digital single, or streamed on Spotify and in the below YouTube video (it will also be available February 11th on Girls: Volume 2 … Music From the HBO Original Series). 

Below is a recap of everything else revealed so far about Morning Phase:

Beck on “Wave” Channeling His Back Pain

I think that does tap back into that period…I don’t know if I have any perspective on it other than: I sat down to write, and that came out. It’s one of those things where… Well, maybe when you sit down with an intention to write something, but it’s never exactly what comes out. And I don’t think I have a choice in that matter! You can only hear a song like that… I just have to accept that is what came out, and it represents something.
-Beck to Clash

The Musicians on Morning Phase

“Featuring many of the same musicians who played on [Sea Change] – Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Jason Falkner — Morning Phase harkens back to the stunning harmonies, song craft and staggering emotional impact of that record, while surging forward with infectious optimism.”
October 2013 press release

Beck on “Morning Phase” Being a “Sea Change” Companion

It was going back to the same place and seeing where we’re all at, like those Seven Up! movies, where they go back and see those people every seven years.
-Beck to David Fricke in Rolling Stone, November 2013

I always intend records like this one or Sea Change to be simple, kind of raw.  They end up being more expansive.
-Beck in Rolling Stone “In The Studio,” January 2014

I mean, it’s from a slightly different perspective this time. If I think about this record, there are a few threads there; whereas ‘Sea Change’ was more specifically about one thing (the breakdown of a long-term relationship). You know, you have periods in life where you’re at different stages. You have periods where everything turns over, and afterwards you’re in a new space, at a new point in your life, be that through choice or circumstance.
-Beck to Clash

Who’s Heard Morning Phase?

David Fricke listened to Morning Phase prior his interview with Beck in Argentina last November – distinguishing him as the first member of the press to hear it.  Shortly after that Capitol Records hosted a listening party in Studio A of their historic LA building to preview the record to about 100 insiders.  That event – and thus the album – was described here and here.  Select reviewers were offered a stream of the Morning Phase in December.

Beck on the LP Title and Writing a Dozen Morning Songs

I noticed this word popping up over and over, subconsciously at first. When you’re working on each song, you’re so deep in it you can’t see the forest through the trees. Then I realized, ‘Oh, these images, the light.’ I went back and forth on that title, but it speaks to the songs and where they are coming from.
-Beck in Rolling Stone “In The Studio”

The album is called Morning Phase, but I suppose there is a double meaning there, ‘mourning’. When I’m trying to come up with a title that sums up a group of songs, honestly, I’m just looking for something that doesn’t make me cringe – or doesn’t make me cringe too much. These songs, they’re personal, they’re simple in that way. A lot of them reference the morning, or the mourning of something. And I kept thinking about this word ‘phase’. Those two words came together, and really it felt like the closest approximation of the sound I was going for. I wouldn’t speak for these guys, but I think coming into this record we’ve gone through some personal changes and challenges. You can certainly hear it in the songs. I could feel it in the room.
-Beck in Uncut “2014 Albums Previews”

What Took So Long?

For long periods, stuff just didn’t work – songs would sound too sentimental, or too middle of the road somehow. So I worked on them, relentlessly, and eventually something began to work about them. Some songs I gave up on, but it was really a matter of putting the time and patience into this record… A lot of my records were purposefully done in one take, out of tune, really rough around the edges. That was always intentional. It’s not that I couldn’t have spent time and worked on them, but… Over time, you come to appreciate songs that have that extra time taken on them…‘Mutations’ we did in about 12 to 14 days. [Mutations’ producer Nigel Godrick and Radiohead] spent two years on ‘Kid A’, and you can hear that. That sounds like a record that took two years to make. Also those are brilliant songs, but that is a piece of work that a lot of time was spent developing, so the band could go deeper, and explore its sound. With ‘Mutations’, I love the record, but it was more a case of throwing something down quick. It is what it is.
-Beck to Clash

We’re at the point of about 6 years [since Modern Guilt]. I had spent long periods of time working on a certain record that was going in a certain direction and then it didn’t feel quite right so I went to Nashville and tried to do a kind of country/ folk record and then I spent a long time working on a lot of kind of electronic things, things that were a little bit more abstract – less structured songs.  Yeah, it is hard, and it’s hard to know…what is really valid, what is necessary…Ultimately I ended up gravitating to this record ’cause I thought to do something very very simple and personal, and not really think about the production or the relevance of the songs…
-Beck to Zane Lowe

The Album Art

The cover of Morning Phase is a distorted photo of Beck by Autumn de Wilde, previously published sans filters in the book Beck. The image to the right shows the original picture with the cover overlapped its bottom for comparison.

The full cover is below:

Beck on Recording in Nashville in 2005

“I recorded a bunch of things real quick. Then I thought, ‘I need to come back and try this again.”
Beck to David Fricke in Rolling Stone

Beck on Returning to Nashville, to Record at Jack White’s Third Man

“At the end of it, it wasn’t quite there but I ended up keeping a few songs [for Morning Phase – “Waking Light,” “Blackbird Chain” and “Country Down”].
-Beck to David Fricke in Rolling Stone

All my records have one or two stray songs that have been sitting around. It’s whether it feels like the right time to go in and finish them. I was back in Nashville a couple of years ago, and did some more songs with Jack White. I’ve done a lot with Jack over the years, and I hope more of it will see the light of day. I could do a group of acoustic songs pretty regularly, but you have to wonder if there’s an audience out there who are into it. I guess I felt like enough time had passed since Sea Change that it felt all right to go back.”
-Beck to Uncut

I tried again in Nashville, and it became a much more country record, which wasn’t right; I’ve tried making a country record before, but it must ring true, it can’t just be a genre exercise.  I decided to make a much more ‘up’ record, but everyone I wanted to work with was busy for a year, so I kept a few songs and returned to [LA studio Ocean Way] with the musicians from Sea Change.”
-Beck to Mojo

Beck on California and Morning Phase

I live in California and this records sounds like it. I could’ve brought the drum machines out, but I really wanted to avoid that.”
-Beck to NME

I always remember the sound of those [West Coast] records [like Crosby, Stills, & Nash]. They were part of the culture when I was growing up.  They’re imprinted on me whether I like it or not.  “I probably rejected it when I was starting out, trying to find my own identity. But myself and everyone else who played on this record, we all grew up here [California]. That music is unavoidably part of our make-up.”
-Beck to Q

Track Selection and Making The “Album”

I think I’ve come from a place where my first contact with an audience was based on a song, rather than a record.  I can’t say how people are going to listen to ‘Morning Phase’… You know, I don’t have a lot of delusions: there will be a couple of songs that a lot of people really like, and those are the songs that will appear at the shows. But when I’m working on the album, it’s a matter of trying to come up with something that, whatever effect its creating, you don’t break the spell, you know. Whether you’re making a dance record, or an acoustic record…On this album, I spent a lot of time making sure the songs were different from each other.
-Beck to Clash

The Tracklist

Side 1
1. “Cycle” 0:40
2. “Morning” 5:22
3. “Heart Is A Drum” 4:31
4. “Say Goodbye” 3:29
5. “Blue Moon” 4:00
6. “Unforgiven” 4:34
Side 2
7. “Wave” 3:45
8. “Don’t Let It Go” 3:08
9. “Blackbird Chain” 4:26
10. “Phase” 1:12
11. “Turn Away” 3:05
12. “Country Down” 4:00
13. “Waking Light” 5:00

Pre-Release Scrapbook

Rolling Stone “In The Studio” – January 2014

Mojo “Preview 2014” – February 2014

Uncut “2014 Albums Previews” – February 2014


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