"The songs are coming out of a California tradition," Beck says of the LP, his first in five years, out in February. "I'm hearing the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Gram Parsons, Neil Young—the bigger idea of what that sound is to me."
The effort features 12 songs, including "Wave," "Unforgiven," "Blue Moon," "Say Goodbye," "Waking Light," "Blackbird Chain" and "Country Dawn." The bulk was recorded in Los Angeles in early 2013, then tinkered with by Beck over the next months.
It's a sequel of sorts to Sea Change, Beck's critically acclaimed 2002 acoustic LP, and the new album was tracked with the same band: guitarist Smokey Hormel, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, keyboard player Roger Joseph Manning Jr. and drummer Joey Waronker. Beck's father David Campbell, who orchestrated Sea Change, returned to help with brass and string arrangements.
"It was going back to the same place," Beck says, "and seeing where we're all at, like those Seven Up! movies, where they go back and see those people every seven years."
There's also a theme or concept with all 12 songs set in dawn's early light. "It's not heavy-handed, but it's in there," Beck says. "There's this feeling of tumult and uncertainty, getting through that long, dark night of the soul—whatever you want to call it. These songs were about coming out of that—how things do get better."
Three Morning Phase tracks—"Blue Moon""Say Goodbye" and "Waking Light"—were actually recorded years ago in Nashville. According to RS, Beck headed to Music City in 2005 to record an album, which didn't materialize. He returned in 2007 to try again, recording a one-off single for Jack White's Third Man label and other songs for a prospective album. "At the end of it, it wasn't quite there," Beck says. "But I ended up keeping a few songs [for Morning Phase]."
And there's plenty more Beck material in the vaults. He started another album, similar in style to Odelay, back in 2009 but shelved it. A few tracks, including "Gimme" and "I Won't Be Long," have been released as 12-inch singles, but Beck wants to release the full LP. He's also halfway into the follow-up to Morning Phase, which will hopefully drop in 2014.
Ladies and gentleman, it's never been a better time to be a Beck fan.