Shugo Tokumaru — “Port Entropy”
On “Port Entropy,” Tokyo-based singer-songwriter Shugo Tokumaru largely abandons the aesthetic he spent his previous three albums developing, a technically complex and sonically dense arrangement of toys, found percussion and acoustic instruments. He retains that experimental sensibility in certain places here, too, but with a new focus on accessible songwriting (“Rum Hee” and “Laminate” are clear standouts). Many latter-day bedroom musicians seem to want to re-imagine what pop music can sound like, but few succeed to the degree that Tokumaru has here.
Kanye West — “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
In contrast to his earlier material, which dealt with higher education, the changing structures of American families, or issues of racial politics, Chicago rap megastar Kanye West only writes about himself on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” This could have been extremely pedantic, but it was saved by two things: His ability to make himself into a compelling subject of discussion, and his tremendously inventive production. He goes beyond his usual template in all sorts of places, adding giant new age choruses (“Dark Fantasy”) and tiny, intricate Aphex Twin piano arrangements (“Blame Game”). Album highlight “All of the Lights” finds room for 11 guests in the span of five minutes and somehow does not end up being completely ridiculous. Simply put — this is the rap album of the decade.
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