Although not yet officially released, I've been able to listen and immensely enjoy Kanye West's latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The man may exhibit an ego the size of a small asteroid, and he may be fluent in the art of public agitation - despite his last record being decidedly bland and dull - the one thing you can't fault this man is his ability - when fully expressed - to create great and powerful music. And that is most certainly this record.
I don't know where Kanye's been over the past year - aside from his public altercations - but the man has certainly been going through a plethora of experiences. It's impossible for a person to create music so deep, complex, and textured without the accompanying emotion and experience. Each track on this record (aside from the interludes) are wonderfully and fully developed. I haven't listened to this record enough to be confidently conclusive, however from my initial listens I haven't experienced one track that didn't sound as if it was meticulously crafted, critiqued, and revised.
The sound of this record can be seen as a logical albeit large improvement from 808s & Heartbreak. The setting is dark and replete with an introspection greater than his first three albums. In comparison to 808s & Heartbreak this album is less dark and more lucid - there are no latent emotions holding back the quality of the tracks. The tracks on 808s bordered on angst and immaturity, dwelling and enjoying the pain that prompted the songs creation. What wasn't apparent on 808s (but is now) was the turn Kanye has taken with the direction of his music. While once content to focus on poppy, radio-friendly tracks, Kanye began turning his attention to creating longer more complex tracks with 808s. On My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy we are now able to see his vision come into wonderful, beautiful, dark, and twisted clarity.
There is absolutely emotional anguish on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy however it is clear the pain and emotions have been logically considered and evaluated. Each track clearly relates to some aspect of Kanye's life, however the presentation of his thoughts and feelings are wholly conclusive and confident. Kanye has collaborated with many great artists on this record, one most notable is Bon Iver of indie world fame. Bon Iver's music is mostly acoustic and dwells in falsetto vocal harmonies. On the awesome track, Lost In The World, Kanye managed to combine the musical interests and talents of Bon Iver with his own to create a song that is haunting, catchy, and powerful. Incredible.
Leaving aside all Kanye-gossip, you can only come away from this record with respect and appreciation. Kanye West has once again proven to all that he is an excellent producer and artist. He has erased all doubts in my mind that he lost his ability to create great music. The man is talented, and this record is great.