01 January 2011

Album of the year

I didn't listen to a lot of music in 2010, but I listened to enough. My favourite albums were XX by The XX, Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West.

I have gone back and forth on the Kayne record, but I realise that the reason I struggle with it is that I am asking it to do more than just be excellent music: I'm asking it to say something about the culture, to show that the misogyny in the lyrics and imagery is self-conscious, and to be a critical comment on celebrity in 2010. I don't have that expectation of the XX or Mumford and Sons. They don't have to make any deep political or critical statement about anything. They can take a snapshot of a love scene and that is enough.

To be sure, that is enough. I'm not taking anything away from them. But Kanye West's record is brilliantly produced, brilliantly constructed, and full of tension: it requires much, much more from me when I listen to it. I have to argue with him. And I like that. I like that much more than The XX dredging up the feeling of being 16 again or Mumford and Sons capturing perfectly the essence of this picture.

No, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy wants to be great, tries to be great, and is, for the most part, great. So it is my album of the year.

UPDATED: The NY Times sort of agrees with me.