5. NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS: Skeleton Tree
4. CONAN: Revengeance
3. RADIOHEAD: A Moon Shaped Pool
2. ORANSSI PAZUZU: Värähtelijä
1. DAVID BOWIE: Blackstar
When you hear an iconic artist with an enormous back-catalogue has just died, the usual thing to do is spend the day listening to their classics from when they were in their prime. When I heard that David Bowie had departed Earth, I immediately wanted to hear his new record, at that point only two days old and having not yet made its way into my ears. That’s Bowie - always relevant, never resting on his laurels, refusing to be typecast or reduced to a single cliched moment in history.
In typical Bowie fashion, Blackstar manages to be a pastiche of genres without sounding contrived - see, for example, the nod to drum and bass on Sue (Or In a Season of Crime) - while remaining a jazz album at its core. It’s difficult to compare anything to the almost flawless run of albums from Hunky Dory to his Berlin Trilogy but, even putting aside the sentimentality and unnecessary-gravitas that Blackstar induced as Bowie’s final record, it’s an album that may well deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those ’70s masterpieces.
While it’s natural to look for discussions of mortality on Blackstar, that undercuts what a great record it is in its own right. It deserves to be heard as such, free from that voice in the back of your head trying to decode subtle metaphors through a prism of the artist’s knowledge of his impending death, and instead (like most of Bowie’s work) as a wide-ranging, deep and fucking beautiful examination of the possibilities of life itself. That’s impossible now. I regret not using that narrow opportunity of a couple of days in January to do so.