Album Review: 'Morning Phase'

It's been six years since singer-songwriter Beck released his last album. Music critic Tom Moon says that Beck's new record, Morning Phase, is purposely out of step with the pop trends of the moment.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The singer and songwriter Beck is considered one of the most innovative artists of his generation. This week, he released "Morning Phase," his first new album in six years. Critic Tom Moon says the new record returns back to the brooding pop of 2002's "Sea Change," which many consider his best work.

TOM MOON: We hear it constantly. Everything in this on-demand culture seems to be moving fast and getting faster. Here's an exception: The new songs from noted contrarian Beck. They're slow. Deliciously, magnificently slow. Dial-up modem slow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY GOODBYE")

BECK: (Singing) Bones crack, curtains drawn on my back and she is gone. Somewhere else, I do not know. Time will tell and I will go. These are the words we use to say goodbye.

MOON: Beck has written down-tempo music before. His album "Sea Change" had some exquisite sad songs. His new music lives in the same melancholy neighborhood, but it's more open somehow. There are vast spaces between backbeats. The refrains, even the catchy ones, sound like they might have been born in a trance state. It's pop as a gateway to contemplation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNFORGIVEN")

BECK: (Singing) Just let the engine run until there's nothing left except the damage done. Somewhere unforgiven, I will wait for you.

MOON: Of course, there's a thin line between majestic slow and paint-drying slow. For the most part, Beck stays on the right side of it. When he kicks it up a notch for this medium-tempo song, it's almost jarring.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEART IS A DRUM")

BECK: (Singing) Pain, does it hurt this way to come so far to find they've closed the gates? You've lost your tongue when you fall from the pendulum. Your heart is a drum keeping time with everyone. Everyone, if they drown...

MOON: The music on Beck's "Morning Phase" is not exactly revolutionary. But the more I listen, the more I admire the boldness of the gesture. Some musicians returning after a six-year hiatus would do their best to align themselves with the prevailing mood in the culture. Not Beck. He's creating music that unfolds on its own schedule even if it's out of step with this frantic multitasking moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORNING")

BECK: (Singing) But can we start it all over again this morning? I've lost all my defenses this morning. Won't you show me the way it used to be?

BLOCK: We're listening to the new album from Beck. It's called "Morning Phase." Our reviewer, Tom Moon, is the author of "1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORNING")

BECK: (Singing) I've gone all around until there's nothing left to say. We've worn it all down into something that couldn't be said. Yeah, tie it all down, and bury me...

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

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