Blackstar (the album just uses a black star symbol) is the latest album by David Bowie. The 69 year-old rocker is still or maybe, more accurately, once again doing some decidedly experimental work. The album is relatively short, at 41 minutes, and only has seven tracks.
The title track starts off with what, to me, feels like a heavily jazz-influenced approach that carries all the way through the album. On the stronger tracks, Bowie’s vocals stand up to the strength of the occasionally frilly instrumental performances behind him. On the weaker tracks, it is a reminder that sometimes you lose a little voice as you age.
I think this is his most experimental album since probably “Heroes”. Only science fictions are likely to understand this reference, but I feel like much of this album could be playing in a middle Eastern cafe in a George Alec Effinger novel. It feels futuristic in a way that I haven’t heard much outside of EDM lately.
That’s not to say that I don’t think this album has weaknesses – I feel like some of the music is a little overwhelming to Bowie’s vocals in places, and I had trouble understanding the lyrics from Bowie’s strained tenor in places. But this has always been true of me for Bowie’s music.
I think it is a testament to Bowie that he would write something like Blackstar at this point in his career. Blackstar doesn’t feel like an album of a musician looking to rest on his laurels. Fans of Bowie in his prime might be heartened of his return to greater experimentation.
After considerable thought, I would recommend this album as a buy. Certainly, if it’s available on your favorite streaming service give it a listen, but I think there’s more to this album that deserves to be discovered on regular relisten.
Recommendation: Buy it
Tracks I think I have a playlist for: Blackstar, Lazarus, Sue (Or a Season of Crime)
Clunkers I would thumbs down: Dollar Days