Morning Phase
Studio album by Beck
Released February 21, 2014 (2014-02-21)
Recorded 2012–13
Genre Folk rock[1][2][3]
Length 47:08
Label
Producer Beck
Beck chronology
Modern Guilt
(2008)
Morning Phase
(2014)
Singles from Morning Phase
  1. "Blue Moon"
    Released: January 20, 2014 (2014-01-20)[4]
  2. "Waking Light"
    Released: February 4, 2014 (2014-02-04)[5]
  3. "Say Goodbye"
    Released: May 5, 2014
  4. "Heart Is a Drum"
    Released: July 28, 2014

Morning Phase is the ninth official studio album and twelfth overall by American recording artist Beck.[6] The album was released in February 2014 through his new label, Capitol Records. According to a press release, Morning Phase is a "companion piece" to Beck's 2002 album Sea Change. Several of the musicians who recorded parts for Sea Change returned to record for Morning Phase.

Upon release the album received critical acclaim and was nominated for five awards at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, winning three: Album of the Year, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and Best Rock Album. Along with winning the award, Chris Martin collaborated with Beck to sing "Heart Is a Drum" at the Grammys.[7]

The roots of the album are similar to Sea Change, as well as 1993's Golden Feelings and 1994's One Foot in the Grave. Most of the critics noted of the change in sound, and genre being the same as Sea Change.[8]

Background

Beck's previous album, Modern Guilt, was released in 2008, and was the final album released under his Interscope Records contract.[9] In the interim between album releases, Beck worked on a wide variety of projects, including new studio material, most of which went unreleased for several years.[9] In October 2012, bassist and frequent collaborator Justin Meldal-Johnsen commented: "I would estimate that there are currently about three or four albums’ worth of material floating around," and Beck himself said that "I wasn't sure if I was going to put out a record – or if I should put out a record. It felt like I was standing still, while everything else was in such flux."[9]

In 2012 and 2013, Beck began to perform live with more regularity than in the years immediately following the Modern Guilt tour.[10] This period also saw new original material. The "I Just Started Hating Some People Today/Blue Randy" single was released in 2012, and he self-released the "Defriended," "I Won't Be Long," and "Gimme" singles in 2013.[11] All three of these songs were standalone releases as 12-inch singles on his own FONOGRAF label.[9] "I Won't Be Long" and "Gimme" were allegedly from an unfinished project from 2009, described as being similar to Odelay.[9] According to Beck, the remaining songs from this project may see a similar release method.[9]

In June 2013, Beck announced the expected release of two new albums for 2014, with one of the two being an "acoustic" album. The press release for the "acoustic" album (along with the news of his contract with Capitol Records) arrived in October 2013, announcing the title as Morning Phase and giving a February, 2014 release window.[12] The other still-unfinished album would be planned for a later release. In comparing the production of Morning Phase with his previous album, Beck stated that prior to recording Modern Guilt in 2008, he had suffered a serious spinal injury,[13][14] and that the recording process for Modern Guilt was like "doing it with both hands tied behind your back. It hurt to sing. I'm whispering through half of those vocals."[9] On the other hand, Beck said that Morning Phase was a much more satisfying experience: "Some of the songs on the new record – I get to shout and yell. I'm like, 'Thank you!' I had a lot of ideas and things I'd been wanting to do. This last year and a half, I feel like I can really do them."[9]

Recording

In 2005, Beck began recording material in Nashville for a new album, but it remained incomplete for several years.[9] It was not until 2012 that he returned to continue the project, this time recording at Third Man Records (which, incidentally had not existed at the time of his previous sessions).[9] Two songs from these new sessions, "I Just Started Hating Some People Today" and "Blue Randy" were released that year as a non-album single on Third Man's Blue Series.[9] Other songs, like "Blackbird Chain", "Country Down", and "Waking Light" were reserved for what would become Morning Phase.[9] In the beginning of 2013, he recorded a great deal of the album in his hometown of Los Angeles in three days, with familiar studio and touring musicians Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., and Smokey Hormel. The next six months, Beck worked with this material for an album release.[9] His father David Campbell contributed orchestral arrangements for the album, as he had done previously for Sea Change, and most of Beck's other albums.[9]

Singles

On January 20, 2014, the album's first single "Blue Moon" was released.[4] Beck released the second single from the album, "Waking Light", on February 4, 2014.[5][15] "Say Goodbye" was released as the third single in the United Kingdom on May 5, 2014.[16] "Heart Is a Drum" was released to United States adult album alternative radio on July 28, 2014 as the fourth single.[17]

Reception

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 81/100[18]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[19]
The A.V. Club B+[20]
Consequence of Sound B+[21]
Entertainment Weekly A–[1]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[22]
The Independent 4/5 stars[23]
Pitchfork Media 6.8/10[24]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[2]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[25]
Spin 8/10[26]

Prior to its release, Morning Phase was placed at number 2 on Stereogum's list of most anticipated albums of 2014.[27]

Upon its release, the album received critical acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 81 (based on 46 reviews), indicating "universal acclaim."[18]

At Mojo, James McNair stated that "Morning Phase isn't an album that obsequiously courts your approval [...] it just does."[28] Andy Gill of The Independent wrote that the album is "a deeply satisfying journey, the sadness tempered by the warmth and beauty of the settings, and the gentle determination of the resolution. Accordingly, it’s a much better album than Sea Change, just as immersive, but wiser and less indulgently wallowing."[23] According to Reef Younis of Clash magazine, Morning Phase has a "slight, melancholic tone," and "there's an awful lot to love."[29] CraveOnline's Iann Robinson rated the album 9/10, calling it a "proud successor to Sea Change" and "downtempo stroke of genius," and noting that it's some of Beck's best work in years.[30]

Accolades

Publication Rank List
The A.V. Club 14 The 20 Best Albums Of 2014[31]
The Daily Telegraph 12 Best 50 Albums of 2014[32]
Guardian 8 Best Albums of 2014[33]
Mojo 1 50 Best Albums of 2014[34]
musicOMH 7 Top 100 Albums of 2014[35]
The Huffington Post Unranked The 23 Best Albums of 2014[36]
Time Out 25 The 30 Best Albums of 2014[37]
Year Ceremony Nominated work Recipient(s) Category Result
2015 Grammy Awards[38] Morning Phase Beck
Beck Hansen, producer; Tom Elmhirst, David Greenbaum, Florian Lagatta, Cole Marsden, Greif Neill, Robbie Nelson, Darrell Thorp, Cassidy Turbin & Joe Visciano, engineers/mixers; Bob Ludwig, mastering engineer
Album of the Year Won
"Blue Moon" Beck Best Rock Performance Nominated
Beck
Beck Hansen, songwriter
Best Rock Song Nominated
Morning Phase Beck Best Rock Album Won
Tom Elmhirst, David Greenbaum, Florian Lagatta, Cole Marsden, Greif Neill, Robbie Nelson, Darrell Thorp, Cassidy Turbin & Joe Visciano, engineers; Bob Ludwig, mastering engineer Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical Won

The album received nominations for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards: Out of 5 nominations, Morning Phase won 3: Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Upon receiving Album of the Year, Morning Phase also beat out Pharrell Williams's G I R L, Beyoncé's self-titled album, Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour, and Ed Sheeran's x.[39]

Commercial performance

Morning Phase debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 albums chart, selling more than 87,000 in its first week, and becoming Beck's second highest charting album in the United States, after Guero (2005).[40] The album also reached top 10 positions in the UK, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. As of February 2015, Morning Phase has sold 300,000 copies in the U.S.[41]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Beck Hansen
No. Title Length
1. "Cycle"   0:40
2. "Morning"   5:20
3. "Heart Is a Drum"   4:32
4. "Say Goodbye"   3:30
5. "Blue Moon"   4:03
6. "Unforgiven"   4:35
7. "Wave"   3:41
8. "Don't Let It Go"   3:10
9. "Blackbird Chain"   4:27
10. "Phase"   1:08
11. "Turn Away"   3:06
12. "Country Down"   4:01
13. "Waking Light"   5:01
Total length:
47:08

Personnel

  • ProducerBeck Hansen
  • Audio Engineers – David Greenbaum, Florian Lagatta, Cole M. Greif-Neill, Robbie Nelson, Darrell Thorp, Cassidy Turbin & Joe Visciano
  • Mastering EngineerBob Ludwig
  • charango (track 5), celeste (track 9), dulcimer (track 11), harmonica (track 12), glockenspiel (track 13), orchestral arrangements (all tracks with orchestral instruments)
  • Joey Waronker – drums (tracks 2, 3, 5, 8, 12, and 13), percussion (tracks 2, 3, 5, and 9)
  • Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. – piano, synthesizers, rhodes, clavinet, B3 organ, background vocals
  • Stanley Clarke – upright bass (track 2), electric bass (track 3)
  • James Gadson – drums (tracks 4 and 6)
  • Cody Kilby – guitar (track 4)
  • Bram Inscore – electric bass (track 4)
  • Fats Kaplin – banjo (track 4)
  • Justin Meldal-Johnsen – bass (tracks 6, 8, 9, and 13)
  • Smokey Hormel – acoustic guitar (tracks 6 and 8), electric guitar (tracks 9 and 12), ebow (track 6)
  • Stephanie Bennett – harp (tracks 6 and 11)
  • Steve Richards – cello (tracks 7 and 8)
  • Roger Waronker – piano (track 8)
  • Jason Falkner – electric guitar (tracks 9, 12, and 13)
  • Matt Mahaffey – organ (tracks 9 and 13)
  • Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar (tracks 9 and 12)
  • Matt Sherrod – drums (track 9)
  • David Campbell – orchestral arrangements, orchestrations and conducting

Charts

Weekly charts

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[42] 5
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[43] 11
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[44] 7
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[45] 10
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[46] 2
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[47] 3
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[48] 5
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[49] 13
French Albums (SNEP)[50] 36
German Albums (Official Top 100)[51] 13
Italian Albums (FIMI)[52] 10
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[53] 8
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[54] 6
Polish Albums (ZPAV)[55] 30
Portuguese Albums (AFP)[56] 6
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[57] 34
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[58] 41
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[59] 5
UK Albums (OCC)[60] 4
US Billboard 200[61] 3
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[62] 1
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[63] 1
US Top Tastemaker Albums (Billboard)[64] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (2014) Position
US Billboard 200[65] 60
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[66] 8
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[67] 10

Certifications

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[68] Gold 40,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[69] Silver 60,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history

Region Date Label Format(s) Ref
Australia February 21, 2014
Digital download [70]
Netherlands [71]
New Zealand [72]
Argentina
  • CD
  • digital download
[73]
France February 24, 2014
  • CD
  • digital download
[74][75]
United Kingdom [76][77]
United States February 25, 2014
  • CD
  • LP
  • digital download
[78][79]
Germany February 28, 2014 [80][81]
Poland March 3, 2014 Universal Music Poland CD [82]

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