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Shriek of the Week: Beck, “Blue Moon”

February 27, 2014

MorningPhase (1)As if it was ever going to be anything else. Any time Beck releases a new album, he will feature that week in my Shriek of the Week. It’s that simple.

My first thought was simply to direct you to read what I wrote a few days ago about Beck’s latest album, Morning Phase, here. Or to just stream “Blue Moon” below.

On further reflection, I wanted to add just a few things (though I strongly encourage you to read that prior post). The first is to mention a few specific songs that are early standouts to me: “Morning”, “Say Goodbye”, “Turn Away”, and, my favorite, “Don’t Let It Go”.

The second is a touch that I only became aware of after receiving the physical vinyl (which I did on Tuesday) and is so extraordinary it must be mentioned. As is customary, the album comes with a card with a web address and a code to download the album. Once downloaded, the album title reads as “Morning Phase (The Vinyl Experience)”, though I didn’t think much of it. Here’s what’s amazing: This particular digital version of the album is made to sound like a record. There is the faintest crackling between songs, which occasionally you can even hear during the quiet moments in certain songs. Then, between “Unforgiven” (the last song on side A) and “Waves” (the first song on side B) there is an extra long pause (the break as the record is flipped) followed by the sound of the needle dropping onto the record. Finally, at the end of the last song, “Waking Light”, before the track ends you can hear the “runout” that you would normally only hear on the record version. That Beck went to all this trouble for his vinyl enthusiasts is … well, it’s the kind of thing that makes him a special artist.

Lastly, though I and just about everyone else (including Beck himself) have compared Morning Phase to Sea Change, the one thing I did not do until yesterday was go back and listen to Sea Change. After listening again, I’m confident in my statement based on prior recollection that although both are downbeat, melancholy records, Sea Change conveys depression while Morning Phase conveys an overall calmness of being. What I didn’t recall though is that several of the songs on Sea Change contain a powerful yearning that you don’t hear on Morning Phase. A song as sad as “Lost Cause” isn’t just sad, it’s desperate. Beck says he’s “tired of fighting for a lost cause” yet there’s more forcefulness in his voice and instrumentation than you hear on Morning Phase. This is even more true at the end of the record, especially on one of my favorite songs, “Sunday Sun”. Again there is desperation, but also life in his voice, and a much wider array of instrumentation than anywhere on Morning Phase. Sunday Sun features crashing cymbals – a sound that would be completely out of place on the new record. After listening to both, I would say that Sea Change requires the listeners deep attention and takes something out of him or her, while Morning Phase is more reassuring. I’m not sure which I prefer – it’s probably mood dependent.

So, the takeaway is this: Listen to Morning Phase in its entirety, preferably more than once. You won’t regret it. And in the meantime stream Blue Moon below.

Vinyl Insert

Vinyl Insert

Vinyl Insert

Vinyl Insert

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Beck – Blue Moon

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