Beck's 'Morning Phase': Grammy Album of the Year Spotlight

Autumn De Wilde
Beck photographed in 2014.

Who will take home Grammy's biggest prize?

The Nominees: Beck | Beyoncé | Pharrell Williams | Ed Sheeran | Sam Smith

One thing Beck rarely does is repeat himself, and yet that's what he did, sort of, with Morning Phase. Billed as a "companion piece" to his much-loved 2002 album Sea Change, the 12th studio LP from this West Cost chameleon is all slow tempos, gentle strumming, soothing synths and strings and gorgeous melodies. It's a meditative record perfect for Sunday mornings, and that makes it stand out from the other four competing for Album of the Year honors at the 2015 Grammy Awards.

The reason Beck hasn't exactly made Sea Change II is that the original is a dark, somber record inspired by the singer's then-recent breakup with fiancée Leigh Limon. Morning Phase is a much more hopeful and optimistic set of songs, and even if Beck isn't doing folk-inflected hip-hop or psychedelic funk -- two of the many sounds he's dabbled in over the years -- songs like "Blue Moon" and "Waking Light" sound like the work of levelheaded dude sitting down and sorting things out. The music is lush and inviting -- the opposite of stark.

Vital Info

Release DateFeb. 25, 2014
Label  Capitol     

Billboard 200 peak

No. 3 
Album sales (as of Feb. 2, 2015)
300,000

Fun Fact: Morning Phase is Beck's highest charting album since 2005's Guero reached No. 2

Handling production himself, Beck recorded Morning Phase in Nashville, London, New York, and Los Angeles. While the goal was never to recreate the sound of Sea Change, he worked with the same backing band heard on that record and once again enlisted his father, David Campbell, to provide horn and string arrangements. That combination of players again hit on something special, and Morning Phase debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. While none of the singles had much chart impact, the disc earned rave reviews and made numerous year-end best-of lists. Insofar as it marked a major departure from Beck's previous studio outing, 2008's more vibrant and rocking Danger Mouse collaboration Modern Guilt, it also reaffirmed this singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist's ability to keep fans guessing.

The good vibes on Morning Phase may have also stemmed from Beck's renewed health. Just before making Modern Guilt, he suffered a series back injury that sidelined him for a few years and made it tough to sing and play guitar. By 2013, he'd apparently recovered, and news broke that summer that he was readying two new albums, one a largely acoustic affair. So far, Morning Phase has been the only one to surface, but it's given fans reason to believe there's more great material on the way. It's like Beck sings on the opening track, "Can we start it all over again this morning?"