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Beck Carries on ‘California Tradition’ With New ‘Morning Phase’ Album

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In February, Beck will issue Morning Phase, his 12th studio album and first proper full-length in six years. Little is known about the upcoming effort, except that it’s on the way via Capitol Records and has been described as a “companion piece of sorts” to Beck’s 2002 masterpiece, Sea Change. Now the “Defriended” songsmith has shed some light on his Modern Guilt follow-up in an interview with Rolling Stone.

The 43-year-old alt-icon is branding Morning Phase as “California music,” saying, “the songs are coming out of a California tradition. I’m hearing the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Gram Parsons, Neil Young — the bigger idea of what that sound is to me.” According to RS, the 2014 LP features a total of 12 tracks. Song titles include: “Wave,” “Blackbird Chain,” “Unforgiven,” “Blue Moon,” “Say Goodbye,” “Waking Light,” and “Country Down.”

“There’s this feeling of tumult and uncertainty, getting through that long, dark night of the soul — whatever you want to call it,” Beck says of the set. “These songs were about coming out of that — how things do get better.”

The basic tracks for most of Morning Phase were apparently recorded earlier this year in Los Angeles over the course of three days. Beck was joined by a supporting crew that included guitarist Smokey Hormel, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, drummer Joey Waronker, keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Beck’s father, David Campbell, who contributed brass and string arrangements. (Campbell also provided orchestration on Sea Change.)

Beck originally began work on Morning Phase long before the 2013 L.A. sessions, though. The genre-warping singer-songwriter decamped to Nashville back in 2005 to make a record that he eventually put on hold: “I recorded a bunch of things real quick. Then I thought, ‘I need to come back and try this again.'” And that’s exactly what he did in 2011, but that trip to Tennessee only resulted in a one-off single for Jack White’s Third Man Records label, the 2012 7-inch containing “I Just Started Hating Some People Today” and “Blue Randy.”

“At the end of it, it wasn’t quite there,” Beck says, referencing the album he hoped to finish. “But I ended up keeping a few songs.” Some of those tunes — “Walking Light,” “Blackbird Chain,” and “Country Down” — have been migrated to Morning Phase, which Beck hopes to follow with another LP some time in 2014. That second full-length is supposedly not an acoustic collection, despite previous reports.

“It’s still in flux,” he says of the project, which he’s reportedly halfway done with. “I’m thinking about the live show, a certain energy. That’s a whole other kind of writing — and difficult to do. You’re writing for a studio environment that is the antithesis of where the song is going to live.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Beck offers a few more details on the back injuries he recently discussed with an Argentinian news outlet, and explains that his recent stream of singles (including “I Won’t Be Long” and “Gimme”) are pooled from another studio album he started in 2009, finished, and then shelved.