The Year In Review

#top 75 International Albums 2010, part III: from 25 to 1

The Year In Review top 75 International Albums 2010, part III: from 25 to 1We’re coming to the home stretch. From 25 to 1, we’re counting down to discover the most important albums of the past year according to PlayGround.

25. Efdemin: “Chicago” (Dial Records)

What we heard in “Efdemin” (Dial, 2007) was a master class in house without clear roots. Was it more American or European? Would that patina of Germanic coldness stand up to the heat of the melodies, or would it melt like a block of ice in the tropics? Was it minimalist or progressive, contained in passion, or torrential like a burning love? The truth is that it was all of this and more, a polyhedron of metahouse that deserved its just praise. Now “Chicago” comes along, and Efdemin seems to have taken a turn without moving from the same place where he was, an admirable manoeuvre that shows him to be both the same and different, more American than before, but also hopelessly European, more experimental, but without giving up on speaking with simple, intelligible language. JB

24. How To Dress Well: “Love Remains” (Lefse Records)

Obsessed with being a pop singer in the best Justin Timberlake style, debut artist Tom Krell can already boast of having achieved a lot. At the very least, he has become a vital figure when it comes to analysing the framework of hypnagogia. The best thing about his project How To Dress Well, besides awesome songs, is that it gives a lot of clues about what it is, where the genre comes from, and where it’s going—questions that are becoming increasingly difficult to answer. He explains that one day, tired of being in hardcore and black metal bands when he was in high school, he started to “hate rock” and threw himself into what he had always wanted to do: write according to his own particular vision of pop, R&B according to the grammar of drone and ambient. CR

23. Darkstar: “North” (Hyperdub)

So with Darkstar there is an important idealist background. Deep down it’s another record –and a key record– of the retro-futurist tradition, which is located in a previous time to speculate about how the future would be like from that previous moment on. If Kraftwerk and the early The Human League experienced “nostalgia of the future” (the longing for a romantic, humanist and warm future in its cold appearance, but always seen from the past), Darkstar make the effort to transfer to the era of the dawn of pop with machines to dream about perspectives starting from there. That’s why the record sounds so crude, so foggy, so apparently lo-fi, to the point where it has more of The Normal than of Skream and more of Thomas Leer or Gary Numan than of Ikonika. JB

22. Forest Swords: “Dagger Paths” (No Pain In Pop)

Many of the comments that have been made about Forest Swords identify Barnes’ sound with that of Ennio Morricone. Of course, although it also seems familiar with respect to what Richard Skelton does, especially when he manipulates acoustic instruments, like the e-bow guitar, to achieve prolonged sounds that pass through your ears as if they were curtains. Forest Swords, on the other hand, is much richer than Skelton in the complexity of construction and acoustic sources. He is also much less truculent. Forest Swords isn’t led by internal pain, but it is rather a well-developed antenna that leads him to everything that transmits density and something of mystery. He isn’t a dubstep artist, not by a long shot, but once in awhile the thickness of the bass dominates the piece’s humour. RE

21. The Roots: “How I Got Over” (Def Jam)

Essentially dramatic, confessional, and melancholy, “How I Got Over” is on its way to becoming the great hip hop album of the recession era. No other artist or band in this genre has so precisely and humanly manifested the uncertainty, doubts, disconsolate pessimism, and restrained optimism generated by a period when every misfortune and every setback places another load on the back of faith. Faith in God, in man, or in art- these are the three thematic lines served up in the lyrical proposal of an album that hurts down to your soul. It’s been too long since a hip hop album emanated so much emotion and common sense. DB

20. Roska: “Rinse Presents Roska” (Rinse Recordings)

“Rinse Presents Roska” goes beyond funky. Why settle for a partial description when Roska is using the language of grown-ups? The album might not be the reinvention of the wheel, but it is house that is booming, or bubbling, because the ideas are coming up from down below—from Chicago– and they are sprinkled with asymmetrical orientations to end up mixing with the waters of history, providing their own flavour and nutrients. This album has all the conditions of a future classic. Here we have an old-school producer, someone who seems to have the immortal house lexicon down cold, whether it is due to a thorough knowledge or to simple intuition. JB

19. Four Tet: “There Is Love In You” (Domino)

“Ringer” was a trick maxi to suggest that Four Tet could dive head first into dance music—only two or three songs on the album are openly for playing in a club—but this is not to say that the cosmic, 70s and ecstatically 90s thing would work so precisely in their sound process. What “Love Cry” anticipated, therefore, has been fulfilled: rhythmic intensity, effective hypnosis, acoustic texture, and an uncontrollable happiness, without a trace of bitterness—or acidity—to taint it. When the album is over, you not only feel suspended, but you also feel good. You have gotten away from it all, and you feel satisfied and filled. JB

18. Beach House: “Teen Dream” (Sub Pop-Bella Union)

More than floating, everything in “Teen Dream” crawls in a soft, viscous amniotic fluid. Assimilating teachings consciously, without limiting themselves to repeating them, like so many others do, here they digest the textures of “Loveless” (referred to starting from the cover itself) with maturity, they capture the attractive narcotic seed of Slowdive and recover the air of songs like underwater cathedrals from the Cocteau Twins, where, despite their vast size, one’s voice can’t be raised very loudly. Worthy of comment apart from this is the performance of Victoria Legrand, who gives her singing an almost masculine depth to which all of the songs surrender, majestic, but intimate, among harmonies that double, arpeggios of keyboards, and overlaid choruses. It is anything but sepulchral, but with the same velvety feel that made us love them. CR

17. DJ Nate: “Da Trak Genious” (Planet Mu)

With this material it could well be that a new way of making dance music is born in the big American cities, and (who knows) it could also be the heads up for the return of Chicago with a new kind of house –rushed, with constant drops and frantic rises in the rhythm, with accelerated female voices and vocals of men affected by halitosis– which opens a new era of activity in the north after several years of relative draught. Its connections with hip-hop –the production owes a lot to Southern rap what with the cascade of beats from the TB-808 and the moments of comatose deceleration, in the style of screwed & chopped syrupy– could be a good way to spread the message. JB

16. Janelle Monáe: “The ArchAndroid” (Bad Boy Records-Atlantic)

“The ArchAndroid” is made up of the second and third parts of this conceptual album. A total of seventy minutes designed to place the listener in the centre of a filmic super-production. Monáe refers to this album as an early James Bond space adventure, a definition that is more or less accurate. But on the trip, you also find endless other references as well. From “ The Cotton Club”, to “Grease”, with a touch of “Dreamgirls”, and even a nod to the Disney factory. How do they do this? With exceptional and monumental production, musicians who have spent a lot of time together and a voice that is highly prepared and chameleonic. MF

15. Arcade Fire: “The Suburbs” (Merge-Universal)

“The Suburbs” is an album that contains all the complexity of a Russian doll in its intention and which, nevertheless, turns out to be highly accessible to those who approach it, independent of that person’s desire to “root around” in its multiple layers. When everyone expects Arcade Fire to continue to be Smiths obsessed with the perfect miniature, they have chosen to hunt down their own clear Moby Dick. “The Suburbs” isn’t an impeccable album. But it does give further proof that Butler and company have taken the pulse of the current situation, this work transcends the musical aspect and lands directly in the territory of contemporary art, scraping the social to tear fascinating shreds of poetic beauty from it. RDT

14. Black Milk: “Album Of The Year” (Fat Beats)

My choice as J Dilla heir was always Black Milk, also from Detroit and an outstanding student to his teacher. The profile was as clear as day, and only the final proof of confirmation was missing, the definitive explosion, to declare the changing of the guard and swear him into office. “Album of the Year”, a title that is neither self-congratulatory nor presumptuous (it alludes to an idea of summary or compendium of everything that has happened in a year, in no case does he proclaim himself to be the winner or the king of any title or prize), arrives as the ideal complement to its predecessors, accurate and precise; it is especially a new declaration of the intention to open up and expand, take a leap in quality and maturity in all of the creative aspects that affect Black Milk’s discourse. Today, he is at the pinnacle of experimental boom bap. DB

13. Sufjan Stevens: “The Age Of Adz” (Asthmatic Kitty)

Symphotronic? Turbo-folk? Glitch-gospel? Musique concrète or music with a mohawk? This latest from Sufjan has no name. Many people will be put off by this boundless aberration, but those who appreciate him for his overwhelming talent as a composer, producer, and singer, should melt instantly. One can’t help but expect such diverse reactions from the triple somersault that is “The Age of Adz”. In fact, comparisons have already been made to another album that was unexpected and made an impact, as misunderstood at the time as it was praised afterwards. People have spoken of “Kid A”, and although it might seem exaggerated, continuing in this line, we find in Adz the same feelings as those aroused by that anthological album: an exciting confusion, absolute perplexity, definitive catharsis. Adz requires listeners to set scruples aside, to listen in another way—get ready for a long trip, lasting an hour and twenty minutes, where patience and attention are required—and this is the most powerful thing that a work of art can suggest as a premise. CR

12. Daft Punk: “Tron Legacy” (Walt Disney Records)

Daft Punk manage to give the modern mainstream soundtrack another distinction in “Tron: Legacy”. The strings, the synthesisers, and the songs get under your skin and tell you that the film is not only going to be good, but great and action-packed, just listening to the analogue zig-zags of “The Son of Flynn” and “Arena”, the galloping drums of “The Game Has Changed” or the funeral strings of “Adagio for TRON”. It is majestic, unforgettable music, and you also have to keep in mind a couple of details: it belongs to the area of Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s neoclassical music and if that weren’t enough, in a year in which analogue and the retro synthesiser have been the focal point, thanks to the young neo- kosmische crowd, Daft Punk have come to add their grain of sand, which is in reality a diamond. JB

11. Actress: “Splazsh” (Honest Jon’s)

Actress gives an entire lesson on his wide knowledge of the syntax of American techno from an English point of view, locating himself at the same sound coordinates, but moving the axis towards a fine late-night texture, undone, as if it had fractures in key bones. A record like the ones from the good old days, but which sounds like one from now. Some time ago, Cristian Vogel’s hard and fragmented sound was identified as wonky techno. “Splazsh” should be described the same way: it’s as if Martians came and abducted the Detroit sound and did it all over again starting with an irregular geometry, a non-Euclidian one, unknown to us. Every minute is disconcerting, every piece is a lesson in class and intelligence. JB

10. Big Boi: “Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son Of Chico Dusty” (Def Jam)

The vitality, drive, originality, punch and freshness that we have been missing for the last four or five years in Southern rap are concentrated here; there is no hesitation, no moment of impasse, no filling. The material is excellent, with many aspects to explore and comment on. To start with, the LPs concept and general idea show an admirable balance and internal logic. It doesn’t claim to be a revolutionary statement, not even within the context of Outkast, as the formula is recognisable, remaining respectful of and faithful to the parameters of the group, especially those of their first album. This record doesn’t just settle for the recreation or conservative continuation of old achievements though, rather it insists on a shining, brand-new sound, with a laborious, conscientious process, to finish and enhance the point of departure. DB

9. The National: “High Violet” (4AD)

Without hiding behind the impressive body of their sound or the brutality of their lyrics, what really makes them sublime are details like the phantasmagoric choruses or the solitary trumpets. Paying as much attention to the marked features of their soft landscape as to the smaller details, outlining metals, wind instruments, and strings as if they were carved in relief, “High Violet” prioritises the stylisation of arrangements more than ever—they continue to be buried in the depths of the songs, but are more profuse than ever. For this reason, trumping the affected “Boxer”, this sounds like a destructive avalanche of new textures. Its indelible, lovely calligraphy traps you in the spell reserved for high literature alone. And this can only be called an absolute triumph. CR

8. Crystal Castles: “Crystal Castles II” (Fiction)

Before the arrival of “Crystal Castles (II)” there were two clear positions: fans, and enemies who had their knives ready, and two a priori ways to understand their music: people who think that their form is punk, and people who have the feeling that Crystal Castles are punks deep down, mutant troublemakers who enjoy spiritual more than material chaos. In other words, it seemed that the first album was a noisy challenge, a sequence of arcade melodies, machines with their guts out, and a drunk girl screaming while swallowing down bits of her liver—but really it was just a provocation without greater ambitions. You have to get this nuance: Crystal Castles don’t want to bother you with violence, but rather with the unexpected. Their attack isn’t frontal and by force, but rather from behind, with the intelligence of Machiavelli. Negative comments have been made about “Crystal Castles (II)” because it seems it’s not the same album they made before. People hear that the protesting voices have sweetened, and become less angry. And it’s your own fault—if you are one of those people—for thinking like that. What the two Canadians have done is work on another of their many creative facets; here they show us their sensitive, euphoric side. This shows that they don’t only have bile, but also deep, passionate emotions, while they continue to create the same wake of confusion, chaos and anti-personnel mines as with their first LP. RE

7. Magnetic Man: “Magnetic Man” (Columbia UK) + Skream: “Outside The Box” (Tempa)

In dubstep’s climb towards a spot on the charts, Skream and Magnetic Man are the spearhead: from “Perfect Stranger” –a breakbeat-pop hymn with the well-modulated voice of Katy B– to “Fire” (with Ms. Dynamite making a grand comeback) and smash hit “I Need Air”, what becomes clear is the wish to reach more people and higher spots on the sales charts without compromising the quality of the music. Magnetic Man want their music not to function solely in the clubs, nor do they limit themselves to one particular and pre-established pattern. There are a few pieces that are cut according to the pattern of wobblestep –bass lines that arch like an animal about to attack, breaks hard as granite–, but there are others that have a radio-friendly sound –based on pop, dance and R&B, no less–, others that touch on soundtrack music and others that explore the history of rave culture, a tradition of which Magnetic Man want to write a new paragraph or even chapter. JB

6. Robyn: “Body Talk” (Konichiwa-Universal)

In almost all of Robyn’s songs it seems like she’s giving you a spicy-flavoured candy camouflaged in the wrapping of a Werther’s Original: when she talks about love, she lets it slip out that she isn’t as good as she looks, and when she talks about the dance floor, it’s as if she were scrutinising it from heights (far) above the DJ’s box and even the VIP area. A she-wolf in lamb’s clothing? Something like that. It’s already been said: “Body Talk” is like a Rubik’s cube. As such, the colours that should be organised one on each side mixed together to make surprising, stimulating combinations. Nothing is what it seems in Robyn’s album. Well, only one thing is what it seems: this is a tremendous greatest hits collection. RDT

5. The-Dream: “Love King” (Def Jam)

With “Love King” , The-Dream sells you real love, the everyday kind, the kind that says “Damn, I love you a lot, but if my ex who hurt me really bad texts me, it messes with my head,” as on “ Nikki Pt. 2”. Or that “Yes, I was out partying, and I was messing around with a little Lolita, but I came home to you, and this is something I can fix by stopping off at the Mac stand in Selfridges ( “Make Up Bag”). That’s how crude he is, and you end up buying it because the time comes when you realise that the idea of romantic love is a lie sold to us by Disney when we were little. Where’s the trick? In the packaging, like every product with hype. Mr. Nash’s productions have their own stamp: synthesisers of love, cotton-candy melodies, auto-tune outpourings, super-classic drums and boxes, and verse-bridge-chorus structures. Simple, to the point, and effective. You know it’s got nothing special, but it goes straight to your stomach (by way of the vagina, of course). At times, it borders on infantile, like with that obsession with spelling. Singing “L to the O / V to the E / K to the I / N to the G” makes you feel like a dumb cheerleader until the melody comes, with the chorus, and that dirty southern bit, and the sky turns pink and purple, filling the horizon with the outlines of palm trees, and everybody looks as if they’re falling in love like they’re 15 years old. The same thing happens with “ F.I.L.A.” And what is love without lust? MF

4. Oneohtrix Point Never: “Returnal” (Editions Mego)

The main ingredients of OPN’s recipe are still there: pastoral ambients that call to mind lost childhoods like “In a Beautiful Place out in the Country” by Boards Of Canada, small-format synthesisers with the primitive texture of the 70s, fomenting the feeling of infinite space and unmoving time (limbo), lucid suggestion and hypnosis based on ingenious arpeggio cycles. What has changed is his capacity for concentration, possibly, and his trust in his creative abilities. It’s not enough to be special, you have to believe it and act like it. The album is a total experience: you can listen to it in the background, like a decorative abstraction or a sensory illusion –a perfect ambient album, in this sense– or it can be listened to actively, passing intensely through all kinds of moods. The first few times listening to it, the only thing that seemed imprecise was the end, especially after two homages to Boards Of Canada as clear as “Pelham Island Road” –a shot of a memory of a forgotten summer recovered from childhood– and the ethereal “Ouroboros”. “Preuyouandia,” is anticlimactic and doesn’t have the solidity of a real tour de force –whether in the form of emptiness or epic. But until you perceive how different it is from the rest of the album, slightly disconcerting like dirty water, you cannot discover his intention of closing a phase falsely and ambiguously so that he can begin to work in a more disturbing line where a sweet dream and a nightmare run together. If he tries it and achieves it, Lopatin will certify everything that has been said here, that in current horizontal electronic, he is ahead of the rest. JB

3. These New Puritans: “Hidden” (Angular Records-Domino)

Led by a Jack Barnett who seems to be guided by the Holy Spirit, These New Puritans take shelter under the sign of bad vibes spread out over various dimensions. There are traces of astrology and various kinds of mysticism, and the obsession with ancient Egypt that already appeared in “Beat Pyramid” is still in effect. Among the screeches of “Orion”, for example, is the hidden Osiris presiding over the trial of the dead, who will try to convince us that “the trees started to walk and the rivers to speak, although it was only thanks to digital manipulation.” In “Hologram”, Memnon is invoked, the legendary son of Eos, killed in battle with Achilles, and it is “imagined that the thermometers drop and the world disappears under millions of tons of ice.” The immense “We Want War” brings Galahad back to life, one of the three Knights of the Round Table who reached the Holy Grail. It is clear that it might give you the creeps, since the subject of spirituality is delicate and not suitable for all audiences. Nevertheless, and although for some it might surpass the limits of the “arty,” they play their cards masterfully, and everything is done with such power that the attraction is absolute.“Hidden” is a tribal exorcism in the middle of the night, something like a “post-apocalypse.” From its underground currents, it gives the impression that they wanted to take up again premises similar to those that drove the luminaries of more open-minded post-punk in its day. One notes the shadow of Tuxedomoon, Art Of Noise, the lighter Faust or the Psychic Tv with a double-edged beauty, and starting from something as spongy as a series of songs written for a bassoon, they build a Tower of Babel with indestructible foundations: disturbing spirals of dancehall, choral songs like psychophony, a crushing rhythm, and a selection of found sounds including sounds like swords being unsheathed, triggers being prepared for firing, and even a melon being chopped by an axe simulating how a crushed head would sound. “We Want War”, “Three Thousand” or “Attack Music” (to name three of the eleven pearls) are crazy, but they are also singularly beautiful songs, trapped in a labyrinth of mineral music with which to commune at blows. “Hidden” has many thorns, as indecipherable as a black hole and as dangerous as a sandstorm. An excellent work that resists being pigeonholed in a category other than that of the “X-files”. Impressive. CR

2. Salem: “King Night” (IAMSOUND)

Salem is real. Their name may be literary, an obvious reference to devilish forces, which may allude as much to the witch trials in Salem, Ipswich and other colonial Massachusetts towns in 1692 as to “Salem’s Lot”, the Stephen King novel about vampires; or it might not be referring to any of this, but they have been in contact with the rough side of life: drugs, prostitution, bohemia, all mixed with solid training in the fine arts—and they have taken it all naturally to a music that unfolds with assurance. In fact, sooner or later, something like this had to happen: if Southern rap—that of Houston, Atlanta, Miami– has a rural background, far from the cosmopolitan, consumer, glamorous civilisation of Manhattan or Hollywood, it wasn’t crazy to suppose that a similar process could take place among the white Northern population as a deforming reflection. If Southern crunk was born from the mixture of paralysing syrup and explosive electro jams, the drag of the Midwest is caused by listening to crunk and dream pop (with a few drags of tin foil with their crack rocks). “King Night” sounds like it should: creeping, desperately slow, shot through with voices that seem about to break, like a nightmare from a 19th-Century fantasy novel: ingenuous to the eyes of the modern reader, harmless once you know that there is no ghost in the closet, but still hypnotic, fascinating. The important thing about the album, despite the bombarding of basses (“Asia”) and the thickness of the melodies, is the unreal atmosphere that it transmits, somewhere between grotesque and romantic.If “Love Remains” from How To Dress Well is vaporous –and the gloomy fantasy of an aspiring pop star, “King Night” is as thick as fog, the same gloomy fantasy for two guys (Holland and Donoghue) who seem to be coming back from hunting partridges, and a girl (Marlatt) whose best job in this life could be that of a waitress in a trailer park, serving coffee and eggs on the graveyard shift. Meanwhile, they dream of being rap super stars and live trapped in the tangled webs of “Loveless” . There is a mummified flow in “Sick” that sounds like a comatose Lil Jon, to which a background of spectral voices and a keyboard melody like those of The Cure have been added (and if it isn’t a keyboard, it’s transparent guitars, plucked and surrounded in feedback like in “Killer”, which has a lot of My Bloody Valentine mixed with DJ Screw). In “Redlights”, much more clearly than in “Frost”, Marlatt’s throat imitates the timbre and emotive falls of Elizabeth Fraser ( Cocteau Twins). Every song on “King Night” adds a piece to the complex puzzle of Salem, a detail that enlarges the expressive palette of an album that deserves to be one of the points that this year revolves around. Although it may objectively be a laborious patchwork of influences and genres, it manages to sound new and different from the material of other names on the witch house scene ( Balam Acab, for example, is much more European, with dubstep basses, and takes a greater interest in ambient textures; oOoOO emphasises a sickly slowing-down based on screwed & chopped technique, and it seems to create more cacophony than atmosphere). And besides being new, Salem is also definitely an exciting, rejuvenating experience that is worth listening to with the volume sickeningly loud, if possible with headphones and outside, at night, with the first chill of autumn in the air. JB

1. Kanye West: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (Def Jam)

Kanye West defined “Love Lockdown”, the first single on “808s & Heartbreak” and a very representative sample of the contents of the album, as 72 bars of fucking pain,” a faithful description of what that exercise in therapy and exorcism on all levels that many didn’t want to understand meant for the artist. The recent evolution of hip hop has ended up proving that this album was more than right, a fascinating leap into the expressive, emotional emptiness of its author in the midst of a depression—and you need only take a look at the discourses of Drake, Kid Cudi, Theophilus London, The-Dream, B.o.B. or even Jay-Z to corroborate and demonstrate it. But even so, it was unviable to prolong it; it was a particular album, the fruit of a very specific personal situation, and it wouldn’t have made sense to continue on that way. We all knew it, the album’s creator most of all. Having overcome his traumas, reconciled with himself and with life, highly motivated again in his studio in Hawaii, more active and positive than ever, ‘Ye has spent the entire year breathing life into the album that was supposed to bring him back to hip hop territory at a time when he had already outgrown the genre. The situation didn’t look easy: combining the status of the total entertainer, showman, and author with a clear idea of reconciling with the public, a massive audience, but also that of hip hop, and with an obvious, explicit intention to regain his credibility with the community was a creative pirouette only within the reach of a crazy man or a genius. Organising and preparing a Marx Brothers dressing room where you have Elton John, RZA, Rihanna, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, Raekwon, Bon Iver, Jay-Z, John Legend, Rick Ross and Gil Scott-Heron, without the room catching on fire or emptying out at the first sign of difficulty, seems like a miracle. A possessed orchestra director, a mad scientist unable to tame or control his impulses, West organises his own private musical theme park in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, where new paths and possibilities for hip hop are promoted, at the same time that new sounds and horizons are opened up for pop language. The producer and rapper’s idea is in a sense new and powerful: to finally give big stadium hip hop a face, using songs that he himself defines as “festival monsters,” based on a sound equation that is born (and this is what makes this all apparently contradictory and brilliant) from precepts very closely linked to classic hip hop, to the aesthetic and etiquette of 90s New York rap, but with a design and a personality that gives meaning to the contemporary. Today, there is no music that is more current, valid, and contemporary than that of Kanye West, but many of his mechanism borrow from orthodoxy and classicism: a flurry of samples, beats with an analogue flavour, or absolute submission to rhyme, even if you have to spend seven minutes on a song to fulfil this desire. Some months ago, before the songs on the album started to lead out, DJ Premier was already advancing that the return of ‘Ye had strong connections with boom bap, and that the sound was more hip hop than what we might all expect. And as we started to get news, through the weekly dose of G.O.O.D. Fridays, we got a glimpse of what the producer’s project consisted of. Boom bap? What? Let’s analyse the contents well. We hadn’t heard such powerful, aggressive, solid beats from our star since the days of “The College Dropout”; even the album’s emo moment, “Runaway”, which acts as a sentimental confession with an overwhelming lyrical lucidity, comes with a 90s resonance rhythm. His lyrical baggage is especially powerful and convincing in this album. It’s true that at many times we have the feeling that we are looking at vengeful, resentful exercise in getting back at haters and critics—the chorus of “Runaway” is fanatical, an unsurpassable declaration of intentions: “Let's have a toast for the douchebags / Let's have a toast for the assholes / Let's have a toast for the scumbags / Every one of them that I know / Let's have a toast to the jerkoffs / That'll never take work off.” But this air of revenge also coexists with surprising outbursts of self-criticism, reflection, and intimate confession that only the greatest of the great MCs can match. It is in this balance, the nuances and attacks of sincerity that are worked into a mosaic of counterattack, after an album of pain and a series of public events and problems, where ‘Ye’s lyrical contributions shine with a light that is special, intimate, epic, raging, hopeful, and inspiring, all in equal amounts. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is not here to change hip hop, it’s here to modernise it, excite it, motivate it, and challenge it. In the midst of great debate over the health of the genre, an outburst of creative fury of this calibre, a bottomless pit of ideas and ambitions seems to be a turning point in terms of the way of integrating an entire tradition and legacy into a context of raging contemporariness and implacable pop voraciousness. Inexhaustible, monumental, baroque, this is an album that increases in greatness, solidity, and value every time you listen to it, as if its plan to conquer isn’t settling for dominating this month or this year. This album seeks total longevity. Its goal is that when someone asks what the 21st century sounded like, the answer will be that it sounded like Kanye West. DB

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