Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part One

15. Beck
Morning Phase

To draw similarities between Morning Phase and 2002's Sea Change is extremely tempting, which is why so many have rolled out the correlation and then proceeded to judge the former solely in relation to the latter. Unfortunately, it's a lazy observation and one that's only got surface truth. Dig just a little bit deeper and you begin to see how different the two releases really are.

While Sea Change was a sorrowful up-yours to anyone who thought Beck couldn't record a straight-faced album, Morning Phase bears the mark of a matured man, one who no longer needs to make a statement out of a no-frills record and is simply able to let it breathe and exist on its own.

It's also decidedly more uplifting, with every swipe and pluck steeped in warm honey and left to take form in the glow of a picturesque sunrise. Album highlight "Unforgiven" on its own would probably be a good enough reason to consider Morning Phase one of 2014's greats, as its billowing backdrop lifts Beck's voice (quite possibly his most impressive vocal display to date) to new heights; it's the definition of bittersweet. (Daryl Keating)