Fall off the avalanche…

Never got round to writing about my favourite records of 2014 – partly because of the reasons I mentioned in the last post (not really being “out there” at the moment, not feeling the year was a particularly good one for new music) and partly for the age old PP reasons of getting distracted by other things, not being arsed. You know how it is…

But for what it’s worth, my favourite record of the year was this one…

 

I’ll confess I’ve drifted away from Beck over the years, losing track of his myriad releases and Bowie-esque shapeshifting, to the extent that although I own copies of most of his records, I’m not really sure I could put them in order or track some sort of progress or evolution to them. I bought Morning Phase pretty much when it came out, though, and since then I’ve been through a number of distinct phases of listening which I feel may not yet be complete.

First listens were dominated by the lush double-tracked vocals and the “new” CSN sound that featured very little in the way of beats. Really enjoyed the humid, stifling feel of songs like “Morning” and the beautiful “Turn Away”, loved the rich strings and the soft focus arrangements, sang along gently and foolishly. All very listenable.

But then, songs like “Blackbird Chain” and “Unforgiven” seemed to rise to the fore, and a narrative (there’s a 2014 word for you) emerged – aided by a few choice interviews and reviews – the man’s been through an emotional trauma of some sort. These are songs whose lyrics have managed to penetrate my feckless consciousness, wretched words of regret and a dogged unwillingness to let go, songs that suggest a vulnerability I hadn’t noticed before. I really liked the words that come in and out of the gorgeous mists of “Wave”, chillingly depersonalised as they are. (I also really like the long fade out…)
Beck PortraitsAnd later still, after a while I found myself becoming not a little disturbed by those lush arrangements and in particular the same double-tracked vocals that first grasped my attention as I got to know the record. I’m actually quite bothered by the tension between what we are led to believe is a new emotional candidness and the painstakingly crafted productions. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to believe we’re being allowed a rare peek behind the mask, a once impenetrable soul laid bare for those who care to see. But then, there are those (beautiful) country-tinged arrangements that are anything but naked or unguarded – they’re carefully, elegantly fashioned. Again, my thoughts return to Bowie – I’m not really a fan – and the “artifice” of it all. (I know, by the way, how quaint and old fashioned I sound, and the self-conscious speech marks are an attempt to make it seem less so).

Yeah, I know, if I demand some sort of faux realism from everything I listen to, I’ll become a very dull boy indeed. But at this stage in my Morning Phase listening, it’s something I’ve not quite been able to straighten out.

Yet.

But… fact remains that having been left a little unsettled by the thing a couple of weeks ago, I get it out again for the purposes of this post, and begin to find myself drawn back in by those saccharine strings and queasy arrangements. What can I say? I think I may be going down again…

It’s my favourite record of the year.

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