Here it is folks, the album I’ve been teasing about on Facebook. The record that’s going to make me do something which no right minded critic would do in February – pronounce the album of the year. I might be wrong, obviously. In fact, I dare say I hope I’m wrong, because who doesn’t want to hear music that’s better than any given reference point? But my gut tells me I’m right, save for one foreseeable possibility. After all, Tool might actually release an album this year, and where they’re involved, all bets are off. But for now, there is only Beck.
So I’ve already told you what I think “Morning Phase” is, in brief. Let me then start by defining what it is not. First and foremost, it is not an album to be compared to Beck’s older records – his discography is so consistently enthralling, in so many different ways, that I believe this rule of non-comparison should apply anyway, regardless of the so-called-objective value of the album. Beck’s records are bordered as ferociously as islands rising from a turbulent ocean – the softness of the sand fading into the waves is misleading compared to the shock of land rising from the fathoms randomly. And within the archipelago of Beck’s individual lonelinesses, “Morning Light” shimmers sweetly over the farthest horizon.
However, it is very hard not to engage in comparative discourse in general, when it comes to “Morning Light”. Beck’s eclecticism shall not be denied, even on a record of such amazing structural and aesthetic coherence, so I cannot help but cast some links to other familiar names, whose trademark essences (as least where my way of listening is concerned) Beck channels almost preternaturally on this album. Not since Mark Kozelek’s heart rending musings on Red House Painters’ “Old Ramon” or Sun Kil Moon’s “Admiral Fell Promises” have I heard music of such terrible, soul-shriveling beauty and tenderness. Even the savage, eerie spirit of Björk’s “Homogenic” lends a dark glimmer to some of the songs on “Morning Light”, and congeals into a perfect, impossible sonic gemstone on the track titled “Wave”.
This is music apt for ripping the world from under one’s feet, concealed by the thinnest, most subtle veneer of familiarity and comfort. Listen hard enough and implode, dear friends. Sigh, as reality slides down some unknowable walls, until all that’s left is sudden, heartbreaking dawn. It is commonplace to refer to certain vistas as “humbling” – the clear, star stricken night sky, the stifling majesty of mist rolling between mountains… you know it well. I must confess, I’ve been a stranger to this feeling of humility, because I’ve always felt that witnessing such things places the beholder at the pinnacle of a certain difficult to define hierarchy. Not so with music. This art can make my (otherwise considerable) body feel like a speck, a desperate mote in a tidal wave of beauty my mind cannot explain. It is religious, pure and simple. I’ve reconnected with this, my personal form of spirituality, after a difficult year, and so I hope you’ll forgive my sentimentalism. Beck is a particularly gifted preacher. Enjoy!