Kanye West had a rough year and channelled the pain of his mother's death and the breakdown of his relationship with his fiancée into a defiantly personal album. He's mostly given up on rapping, instead embracing the auto-tune-assisted robo-soul crooning that Akon, T-Pain and Lil Wayne have abused to much success.
As the title suggests, a central element in the sound is the booming 808 drum machine - along with Auto-Tune, one of the most overused textures in contemporary urban music. This might suggest that West is flailing around trying to stay relevant, but luckily he's able to take these ingredients and completely recontextualize them. Instruments and studio tricks usually used to celebrate strip clubs and VIP rooms are flipped to express heartbreak and doubt.
The disc has few radio-friendly singles, and much of it is undeniably weird. Many will hate it, but those willing to give it a chance will be impressed by the naked humanity West reveals. He's gone way out on limb, and for that alone it deserves open ears.
Top track: Love Lockdown