Critic’s notebook: My favorite albums

After next week, my weekly music column will be taking a nine-month hiatus. With the long break looming, I feel it is a better time than ever to reflect on works I love rather than waste a review on a string of recent poor albums. I have decided to pick two of my favorite albums, Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

MBDTF came out during the fall of my junior year of high school. The album had gained hype over the summer after a series of free releases known as G.O.O.D. Fridays. The album was essentially presented as Kanye’s comeback album after the public fallout for the incident with Taylor Swift.

The moment I remember most from this album was the unveiling of “Runaway,” the album’s best song and one of my favorites. Kanye performed at the end of 2010 MTV VMAs. I was hesitant when I heard auto-tune, wary of a return to the stylings of the weak 808’s & Heartbreak. However, the artistry within “Runaway” crafted the auto-tune to form an impeccably beautiful song.

The reversal of the use of auto-tune on “Runaway” is part of how MBDTF is a masterpiece. The album is a combination of the strengths of Kanye’s career from the four albums preceding it. The emotionality of 808s, brilliant sampling of College Dropout, the orchestral sound of Late Registration, and the stadium-scale sound from Graduation. West gorgeously combined these qualities to create a gorgeous piece.

I’m hesitant to say the album is flawless, but it’s almost hard to find anything wrong with MBDTF. It brilliantly tells the fall and rise of Kanye West.

A band’s rise may be perfectly captured by Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” I didn’t actually hear this album until my freshman year here at CC. I had repeatedly heard student bands play “Dreams.” With my curiosity peaked, I pursued the full album.

The brilliance of “Rumours” is the eclecticism and how the songs were written. Four of the five members of the band were in relationships with each other, and many of the songs on the albums were written about other members of the band. No song on the album sounds like another one.

The sound of Rumours ventures into hard rock, funk, soul, and ambient sounds. From start to finish, the listener hears the jangly sound of “Second Hand News” to the somber blues styling of “Gold Dust Woman.”

The true gem of the album is “Dreams.” The song, much like “Runaway,” is lyrically incredibly simple. Yet, the delivery by Stevie Nicks is gorgeous matching in line with the music. The sheer ambiance gives power to the line “Thunder only happens when it’s raining.”

As a critic, picking these two albums as my favorites aren’t exactly bold picks. MBDTF was a universal critical success, one of the few albums that ever received Pitchfork’s coveted 10 out of 10. “Rumours” was both a critical and commercial darling during its time, with 31 weeks on the top of the Billboard charts.

The importance of these two albums, however, is so important. Fleetwood Mac has been hugely influential and is currently on a nationwide stadium tour. MBDTF is a major influence on hip-hop and even led way to Kanye furthering his influence, by attempting to rewrite perfection, as he said, with Yeezus. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Chris Rock said he believes the album is better than “Thriller.”

These albums have become my benchmarks. Great rap albums since are almost always compared to MBDTF. In reality, it is a rare success for a rap album to be so universally praised and capture so much emotion and energy. As a music writer, it is a truly special occasion to find something like these two albums. These two criterions will manifest next week as I pick the best music of 2014.

Nick Dye

Nick Dye

Nick Dye

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