David Bowie’s 25th studio album shows the nearly 70-year-old artist is showing no signs of slowing down. Far from it — Blackstar is one of the most adventurous albums of his career. That’s saying something, given Bowie’s remarkable history, from his Ziggy Stardust days to his hallowed Berlin trilogy to his days as an unlikely ’80s pop star and subsequent movements thereafter. The epic-length title track combines a shuffling jazz beat and electronic throb with strings, horns and Bowie’s eerie doubled vocals. The whole thing moves creepily, a little like Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song,” but breaks into a typically gorgeous yet still intense second portion — it’s hard not to get goosebumps when Bowie sings “how many times does an angel fall?” over floating guitar lines. “Lazarus’” languid jazz-inflected atmosphere calls to mind the aforementioned Berlin albums and reminds us he was the original post-rocker. The previously released “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” plays the album’s jazz-noir theme most strongly; its horns trill fabulously while Bowie turns the suburban dream into a waking nightmare. Comparisons to Scott Walker’s later albums or Tom Waits are sure to abound, but Blackstar is still Bowie at the core. While some late-era Bowie albums have seen him try on ill-fitting guises or attempt to recapture past glory, Blackstar finds him maturing gracefully without losing an ounce of his creative mojo and finding something new, even revelatory, once again. Check out the creepy new video to “Lazarus” below. And celebrate D-Bizzle's 69th b-day and album release with a listening party at Amoeba Hollywood tonight at 6 p.m.!
Though he's previously released an album under the Hunx moniker (Hairdresser Blues) this is his first solo album under his own name, and accordingly, the style is much different than the classic-garage-pop stylings of his previous work. The new song "Forgotten Fantazy" actually is more like the introverted cousin to Gravy Train!!!!, a woozy electro-pop song built on a chintzy beat and weary lyrics about the magic wearing off in a relationship ("surrounded by your thoughts/but I'm not listening"). Though we've loved Bogart's previous work, this is the most sincere thing we've heard from him yet.
Now that the year's over, it’s time to look ahead into 2016. There are already several exciting releases announced for the new year, so here’s your preview of what’s coming out in the next couple of months.
David Bowie’s upcoming 25th album will be released on the venerable artist’s 69th birthday. It’s a seven-song release featuring a few extended tracks, like the nearly 10-minute electro-orchestral opus that is the title track, which also is being used as the opening song for the TV series “The Last Panthers.” So far, we’ve also heard “Lazarus” and “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” all of which are fueling anticipation for this being one of the best albums of Bowie’s later career.
As everyone’s been putting out their top 50 of 2015 lists (including us), there are a few great albums that have been curiously missing. Here are a few albums that should have gotten more love than they did and are worth checking out.
Busdriver – Thumbs
L.A.-based rapper Busdriver has never really gotten his due. His latest mixtape and follow-up to 2014’s Perfect Hair has spacey, esoteric beatwork, but Busdriver is never less than engaged—his rhymes on “Hyperbolic 2” and “Much” shake you by the shoulders and rouse you from a daze. Appearances by Anderson .Paak, Jeremiah Jae and Del tha Funkee Homosapien keep things interesting. Hopefully we’ll see a physical release of Thumbs in 2016.
Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker shifts gears a bit for his third album, drawing as much from ’80s soul and disco as he has from prog-rock and psychedelia. Though such a change could threaten to derail a good thing, Parker is the consummate perfectionist, and Currents’ various strands are braided together without a hair out of place. Opener “Let It Happen” builds from a proggish uphill chug into a psychedelic freakout and finally hits its stride with a silky disco beat. “Eventually” relies on rock dynamics but uses fat synthesizers to achieve its booming changes. And a tune like crystalline psych-funk jam “The Less I Know the Better” seems to marry all of Parker’s influences into a perfect amalgam, calling to mind everything from Michael Jackson to My Bloody Valentine. Through it all, Parker is the same chill knob-twiddler he’s always been, but he’s come out of his shell a bit more—it takes confidence to command a song like “’Cause I’m a Man,” which gloriously oozes ’70s cheese, akin to Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” or 10CC’s “I’m Not in Love.” From the get-go, Parker himself seems to be reflecting on the change—“Something’s trying to get out/And it’s never been closer,” he sings on “Let It Happen.” It’s confirmed by the time we get to “Yes I’m Changing,” ostensibly a breakup ballad but it seems more pointedly about an introvert accepting accidental stardom (“Curse indulgence and despise the fame/There’s a world out there and it's calling my name”). This lyrical theme, the sense that Parker is coming into his own as not only a songwriter and performer but human being, gives Currents a unity that even the superb Lonerism didn’t have. In every way, Currents is a complete triumph, both as a fascinating headphones album for production junkies and as a set of immaculate psych-pop songs that feels endlessly giving.