Beck Hansen looks uncannily like a blissed-out Brian Jones at the height of his flower-powered pomp on the cover of his first album in six years but he sounds more like another sixties/seventies lost boy - Nick Drake.

Billed as “a companion piece” to his quietly devastating break-up album Sea Change, Morning Phase is Beck at his best - not the shape-shifting, mask-swapping maverick but a brutally honest songwriter, hurt in love but bouyed by optimism.

Morning Phase is short on magpie tendencies and long on sun-kissed sorrow, twilight orchestral passages, ringing bells and xylophone. On Morning, Beck sure wakes up with the blues but rather than holler the house down and kick the cat, he delivers an easeful and elegiac rumination on his romantic loss.

Heart is a Drum sounds maybe too close to Nick Drake's ghostly Northern Sky but the sheer quality of Say Goodbye - gorgeous plucked banjo - the reverb-heavy Unforgiven, and the epic, string-driven Wave are heartfelt in their pure starkness.

Reunited with Sea Change players Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Jason Falkner, it's as if even Beck himself has acknowledged that wounded optimism and heartache are his strong suit.

He’s a loser (in love) baby so why don’t you hug him?

Alan Corr