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.
Just released physically, Grimes’ Art Angels is a brightly colored collection of artpop magical realism. The drumline beats and sunny guitars and melodies of “California” and the title track could almost pass for something on mainstream radio, if not for Clare Boucher’s clarion voice cutting through. Similarly, the nimble “Flesh Without Blood” might not be the most original song Grimes has put to tape, but it’s the catchiest and is damn near irresistible. Yet in between those songs we get “Scream,” which has none of the safety of her more accessible tunes, between Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes’ twisting flow and Boucher’s curdled screech. The previously released “REALiTi” throws fans of her more straightforward electro-pop a bone, though it continues with the posi vibes and influences of K-pop and early ’90s house that flow through the rest of the album. Meanwhile, “Venus Fly,” her spacey hip hop duet with Janelle Monae, is a pure delight, coming off like a futuristic art-school spin on the Spice Girls, and “Kill vs. Maim” has the feel of the drama kids taking over a pep rally with Boucher’s yelp simultaneously spirited and demented. Boucher has no use for genre boundaries and is seemingly allergic to negativity, all of which gives Art Angels an unbeatable all-embracing energy. The biggest change from Visions is that Boucher’s personality is more front-and-center; whereas that album could be more cold and cerebral in its in-between tracks, Art Angels is entirely engaging, and even its most digitized moments are stained with blood.
We’ve been waiting for Freddie Gibbs’ new album since his gritty vocals graced last year’s Pinata, his dynamite collaboration with Madlib. And he doesn’t disappoint—Gibbs’ latest is a contender for underground rap album of the year. Over a digital bounce, Gibbs establishes his powerful presence early on with “Fuckin’ Up the Count” (“Gangsta shit in my DNA, I just can’t explain that/Even if I die tell my enemies I remain that”). His collaboration with Black Thought proves inspired on “Extradite,” as Mikhail’s beat blends ’70s soul with “Twilight Zone” organs while Gibbs and Black Thought’s words spill out like rolling dice. Like similarly great albums released this year by Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples, Shadow of a Doubt is grim but enlivening—seek the hard-hitting “Packages” as proof. Gibbs is the quintessential thirtysomething rapper who’s toiled in the underground only to see younger guys get the glory—if there’s any justice, Shadow of a Doubt should make that a thing of the past.