When I was 18 years old (6 years ago, ugh), my first ever girlfriend dumped me and I moved away to college where I didn’t know anyone. I was, and still am, a very sensitive and romantic kid. Breakups, or really any rejection from ladies, can sometimes send me into a tailspin. As you can probably imagine, during this time I was eating up sad music left and right. I was drinking too much and huddling up in the fetal position in my dorm, listening to The Postal Service, Bon Iver, and Beck’s Sea Change.
Sea Change, released in 2002, was written after Beck had suffered a crushing breakup, and with tracks named “Guess I’m Doing Fine”, “Lonesome Tears”, “Lost Cause”, and “Already Dead”, you can imagine what a field day depressed Sean P. Darr was having. Although I still regard it as one of the best albums made in the past few decades, I don’t really listen to it anymore, probably due to the memories attached. I feel embarrassed about how emotional I got back in ’08, and I think I project that on to album. That’s why I was so excited when Beck announced he was releasing a new album, and called it a “companion piece” to Sea Change. It was a second chance for me to connect with one of my favorite artists.
And connected I have.
If Sea Change was the sounds of a man beginning to plunge into darkness, then 2014’s Morning Phase, is the sounds of him beginning to see the light. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a bleak album lyrically. With songs like “Say Goodbye”, “Turn Away”, and “Unforgiven”, there is still darkness abound for old Beck Hanson. But “seeing the light” means something else on Morning Phase. Light doesn’t so much represent peace of mind or redemption, but instead acceptance. Acceptance that life isn’t perfect, that it’s probably ending, and filled with darkness, but that everyday we have the chance to appreciate the beauty around us. On “Morning” Beck sings of “oceans that look of diamonds” and on “Country Down” he sings of beautiful mountains that “roll out like centuries”. At the end of the album on “Waking Light” he urges the listener to lay down in the waking light when it meets you in the morning, and I think what he means is that, you can dwell on the darkness around you, but you can also try your best to see the light.
Musically, I can only explain Morning Phase by comparing it to the Beatles (Wow! What an original music review, comparing something to the Beatles!?). Whenever my brother and I talk about the Beatles, we always mention how each one of them had a distinct sound. Lennon was intense, Paul was sweet but cheesey, Ringo was… Ringo-y, and George Harrison’s songs always had this “ahhh” feeling; so pure and beautiful. That’s the kind of vibe I think inhabits Morning Phase. It’s definitely more country-folk, but it has such a spacious and relaxing ambience.
Morning Phase has come to mean a lot to me in this short time, because Beck has grown in these 6 years he’s been away, in all the ways I have since curling up in my dorm room. Morning Phase is no longer sad like Sea Change, and neither am I, but it is instead world weary, and weathered, yet tough enough to survive the dark times, which I hope I am.