Album Review: Blackstar by David Bowie

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

Album Review – Wildfire by Rachel Platten

Wildfire by Rachel Platten was officially released on January 1, 2016. Which is, if you ask me, a strange day to release an album, but there was no New Years Day competition for new albums, in any event.

Wildfire is a straightforward pop album with some catchy tunes. Rachel Platten has a nice, clean voice and she sings clearly (hey, I love a clean singer in the modern world filled with mushmouths).

There are no songs on this album that are exceptionally edgy. Platten sings catchy, danceable pop tunes that will individually appeal to a wide spectrum of pop fans. “Fight Song,” which was released in April 2015 on the EP of the same name, seems to resonate particularly with the teen-aged girls it feels aimed at went to #6 on the Billboard charts and was nominated for a Teen Choice award. “Stand By You” also had some chart success at #61.

On the whole, I like Wildfire but is an album that I’m more inclined to listen via streaming services than to own.

Rating: Stream it

Songs I have a spot in a playlist for: Hey Hey Hallelujah, Better Place, Astronauts

Clunkers I will thumbs down: Lone Ranger