The last time Beck Hansen wrote an album's worth of songs, he did not release an album - he published them as sheet music and, under the title Song Reader, invited guest musicians to bring them to life in a series of special concerts.
While long-term fans appreciated this conceptual art project, they will be happier to know he has been in the studio and actually put his latest compositions on tape. Gathering together some of his cohorts from the time of 2002's Sea Change, he has recaptured the more serious, acoustic-heavy vibe of that record while shaking off its country-folk style and heading instead up the album-oriented rock roads of Laurel Canyon.
The cover art shows Beck in a wide-brimmed hat, sporting longer hippie hair, captured in polarised sunlight.
The music too is filtered through a slow, sunny haze, travelling on a journey from the thick string chords of overture track Cycle, through the full-fat harmonies of Morning and Beach Boys glow of Heart Is A Drum, to the increased amplification of Waking Light at the very end.
There is a solid, steady grandeur to many of the songs, leaving the impression that Morning Phase is bold enough to claim its place within a West Coast tradition of landmark American albums.
I wonder if there is sheet music available to learn these songs myself …