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Sunday April 20th 2014

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Ears & Fingers 2/13/14

Beck-Morning Phase
It’s somewhat difficult to sit down with the intentions of writing about Beck. In most ventures, a writer wants to tell his audience something new about the subject matter, especially in a newspaper that people read to be informed. However when it comes to someone as prolific as Beck, the old adage rings true: “What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?”

Thankfully, Beck has taken it upon himself to write a new chapter of his story in the form of new album “Morning Phase.” It’s shimmering, it’s somber, it’s reserved and honestly kind of perfect. Not that I think Beck has any intentions of quitting, but if he did, this statement would be a great punctuation mark on an unbelievable career. Somehow the guy always manages to stay relevant, regardless of what the music community is doing. It isn’t so much that he shifts himself around popular genres, but it’s almost as though popular genres shift themselves around him.

“Morning Phase” is Beck’s 12th studio album across the span of 21 years. In 2002, Beck released “Sea Change,” which was a game changer for him as it was an album that explored heartbreak. It made a stronger use of live instrumentation instead of the sample heavy music that preceded it. Twelve years removed, “Morning Phase” is a great companion to “Sea Change,” and a solid follow-up to the now six-year-old “Modern Guilt.” I listened to this album in its entirety three times last week, and I couldn’t find a track that felt boring or lost my attention. The crescendos and the lulls, the guitar and the keyboard, and all the damn feelings kept me engaged the whole time. This is good news for Beck fans who have been waiting for something to come along and lift their spirits.

High points for me are the acoustic driven “Turn Away,” throwback jam “Blackbird Chain” and album opener “Morning.”  Overall this album maintains the level of introspection I grew to love in “Sea Change,” as well as adding another dimension to an already versatile artist. “Morning Phase” is out February 25th via Capitol Records.

If You Haven’t Heard: Speedy Ortiz
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in the 90s. Not just because I owned a Talkboy, know what the term ‘SNICK’ means and will forever remember the secret of swimming under the ships at the end of Super Mario 3. I feel the most fortunate to have grown up in the 90s because I existed during the golden age of grunge, and I got to listen to the genre’s seminal bands carving out their own niches. I also feel very fortunate to exist in the present, because grunge is making resurgence in some exciting ways. Right in the midst of this revival is Speedy Ortiz, a four-piece from Massachusetts who have been quietly (figuratively) forcing audiences to pay attention with their biting hooks and swagger that embodies some of the great girl-fronted grunge bands of the 90s. Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt, early Hole and The Breeders come to back to life in the raucous chords and attitude of front woman Sadie Dupuis. If any of those bands stirred something in you, I highly recommend checking out Speedy Ortiz. Their new EP, “Real Hair,” is out now via Carpark Records and you can also keep up with the band at their Live Journal (yep) page, speedyortiz.livejournal.com.