Friday, January 8, 2016

★ (blackstar)

David Bowie chases danger and drama in the restless intensity of this dark jazz inversion.  Nearly a decade after 'Reality', the iconic chameleon of rock had surprised everyone when he released 'The Next Day' in early 2013.  He never gave any interviews, but submitted a "work flow diagram" around that time.  The slinky vagabond had gone underground after undergoing emergency heart surgery in 2004.  His only live appearances since then have been at Fashion Rocks (performing solo and with Arcade Fire) in 2005 and with Alicia Keys at the Black Ball in 2006.  That same year, he did an hilarious cameo on the show Extras with Ricky Gervais.

The Next Day was recorded with his longtime producer and collaborator Tony Visconti.  They cut some demos for a new album in early 2014 and Bowie went to his home to work on the material for several months.  When he was ready, they called in the members of an experimental jazz quartet that Bowie had seen earlier that year.  The sessions included Saxophonist Donny McCaslin on saxophone, Ben Monder on guitar, Mark Guiliana on drums, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Jason Lindner on keyboard, and James Murphy on percussion.  

Visconti says in MOJO:   “David on purpose used Donny so that [it would sound different].  If we’d used David’s former musicians they would be rock people playing jazz. Having jazz guys play rock music turns it upside down. Their approach to the music was so refreshing, I looked forward to every day in the studio. Nothing was done recalling the past.”

the band at 55 Bar in New York City where Bowie first saw them in the Spring of 2014.  

Visconti reveals in Rolling Stone:  "We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar.  We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn't do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that's exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll...When he put out albums like Heroes and Low, no one was doing anything like that.  And then he gave birth to the New Romantic scene. He's a genre-breaker, and I can't wait for the ★ imitation albums to start coming out."

The terrifying video directed by Johan Renck for the ten minute title track harkens back to other epic album openers from Station to Station  and  The Man Who Sold the World  and evokes imagry of Major Tom and Aleister Crowley.  The sonic undercurrent of his work from the Berlin Trilogy (Low"Heroes", and Lodger) flavored with the kind of heavily syncopated drum rhythm he experimented with on Earthling.  Maybe that creepy dance will catch on.  

In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the center of it all, in the center of it all
Your eyes

On the day of execution, on the day of execution
Only women kneel and smile, ah-ah, ah-ah
At the center of it all, at the center of it all
Your eyes, your eyes


In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah
In the center of it all, in the center of it all
Your eyes

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
He trod on sacred ground, he cried loud into the crowd
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangster)

I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m-a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a marvel star)
I’m the great I am (I’m a blackstar)

I’m a blackstar, way up, oh honey, I’ve got game
I see right so white, so open-heart it’s pain
I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
(I’m a blackstar, I’m a star star, I’m a blackstar)

I can’t answer why (I’m not a gangster)
But I can tell you how (I’m not a flam star)
We were born upside-down (I’m a star star)
Born the wrong way ‘round (I’m not a white star)
(I’m a blackstar, I’m not a gangster
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar
I’m not a pornstar, I’m not a wandering star
I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

In the villa of Ormen stands a solitary candle
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the center of it all, your eyes
On the day of execution, only women kneel and smile
Ah-ah, ah-ah
At the center of it all, your eyes, your eyes

"Lazarus"  is cut from the same cloth as Black Tie White Noise.

Look up here, I'm in heaven I've got scars that can't be seen
I've got drama, can't be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Look up here, man, I'm in danger
I've got nothing left to lose
I'm so high it makes my brain whirl
Dropped my cell phone down below
Ain't that just like me?

By the time I got to New York
I was living like a king
Then I used up all my money
I was looking for your ass
This way or no way
You know, I'll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain't that just like me?
Oh I'll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh I'll be free
Ain't that just like me?

★ (Blackstar)
full album

2."'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore"
4."Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)"
5."Girl Loves Me"
6."Dollar Days"
7."I Can't Give Everything Away"

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

a feast of twenty fifteen favorites

With the turnover of the calendar comes the passing of the torch for albums of yesteryear.  An exciting and exhausting avalanche of considerations threaten to bury me as best of lists come rolling in from friends, magazines, blogs, and other media.    This is the year that was and these are the albums and songs that have thrilled and continue to thrill me.  


Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
coming out of the woods to shake it like never before with an anthemic answer and ferocious force

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
an emotional acoustic tribute to the memory of his mother. amazing.

Kendrick Lamar -  To Pimp A Butterfly
they had this one at the library and i renewed it six times.  survivor's guilt leads to mad respect.  turns out that version had all the naughty words edited out.  i didn't miss them.  

Björk - Vulnicura
the grieving process in charming crystalline colors

Ryley Walker - Primrose Green
folk jazz flavors of nick drake and tim buckley

Neon Indian - VEGA INTL. Night School
those disco synthesizers bring to life cartoonish visions of new york after dark

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon
multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster shit

Jenny Hval - Apocalypse, girl
explores death and devotion through a trip hop aura of amusement and acceptance

Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
psychedelic freak folk funk to contend with a cosmic colossus

Grimes - Art Angels
freaky freeform feminist fury of eclectic pop deconstruction 

New Order - Music Complete
restlessly returning to the game with their electronic technique intact

Deerhunter - Fading Frontier
a groovy experimental elegy to illusions and ephemera

Kamasi Washington - The Epic
a monumentally magnificent modern jazz message of freedom of the mind

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
expressive freestyle exploitation by a do-it-yourself whip-smart wise-acre

Jlin - Dark Energy
a flowering of footwork into a statement of deep rhythm and cinematic abstraction

Wilco - Star Wars
the liberation of wild irreverent infectious reinvention comes as no surprise

Beach House - Depression Cherry
subtle shifting soundscapes spark dark and playful levitating lullabies

Kurt Vile - b’lieve i’m goin down
takes the edge off with the acoustic aspirations of sophisticated singer songwriter upcycling

Jamie xx - In Colour
xx producer finds his own way through kaleidoscopic rave euphoria

Tame Impala - Currents
channeling surreal solitude into a shimmering psychedelic disco 

My daughter commandeers the radio in the car; so I've been exposed to more pop music this year than in a very long time.  


Major Lazer & DJ Snake,  "Lean On" (feat. MØ)
"we would only hold on to let go"

Bastille,  "Pompeii"
"where do we begin, the rubble or our sins?"

Mark Ronson Ft Bruno Mars,  "Uptown Funk"
"girls hit y'r hallellujah"

Fall Out Boy, "Uma Thurman"

"bury me 'til I confess"

X Ambassadors, "Renegades"

"All hail the underdogs All hail the new kids All hail the outlaws Spielberg's and Kubrick's"

Genevieve, "Colors"

"Recreate the world in your own good vibes"

twenty one pilots, "Stressed Out"

"We used to play pretend, give each other different names, We would build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away, Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face, Saying, 'Wake up, you need to make money.'"

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis,  "Downtown"
"There's layers to this shit player, Tiramisu, Tiramisu"

The Weeknd, “Can't Feel My Face”
"And I know she'll be the death of me, at least we'll both be numb
And she'll always get the best of me, the worst is yet to come
All the misery was necessary when we're deep in love"

Katie Garfield, "Put Me Back On My Throne"

"Mercy, you won't find it in me"

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”

Missy Elliott, "WTF (Where They From)" (featuring Pharrell Williams)

Hudson Mohawke, “Ryderz”

CHVRCHES, “Clearest Blue”

Rihanna, “FourFiveSeconds” (featuring Kanye West and Paul McCartney)

Lana Del Rey, “High By the Beach”

Madonna, “Living For Love”