earthings! 2016: My ten favorites of the year

Here we are again – the end of the year, or at least the end of our year here on earthings!, as we take that long holiday break to recharge, or whatever passes for that these days. And it’s been a busy year, or perhaps because we found ourselves juggling a lot of things on many fronts – lots of changes off screen, and a bunch of new features on screen. But I digress. Here we are again – the end of our year on the blog, which means I trot out my ten favorite songs of the year – not a definitive list by all means; just a reflection of what I’ve liked, considering that I seem to have listened to less new music and more K-pop these past few months. So, here’s the list, arranged alphabetically as always. [NB]

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Review: Blackstar by David Bowie

Blackstar by David BowieMusic used to come to us in a vacuum, a bunch of words set to layers of melodies, frozen in time. These days, though – maybe it’s because of the Internet; maybe it’s because we demand more of our musicians – we yearn to learn of the context behind the music. Context, they say, is everything: it’s, for one, what turned Coldplay’s Ghost Stories from a trip back to the band’s roots to a break-up album. David Bowie – whose career began at a time when musicians were mystical, almost mythical – managed to allure without providing context; in the past decade he was pretty much quiet, before suddenly announcing The Next Day in 2013. His follow-up to that, Blackstar, also had the sheen of obscurity, but more because of its warmer, jazz-biased sound and its elusive lyrics. And as it is, it’s a great album. But his death two days after its release gives it a whole new meaning – the context, if you will; the context we have demanded lately. The lyrics now read like a farewell, with oblique references to his battle with cancer, one that was going on as he produced the album. Tony Visconti, who co-produced Blackstar, said that the album was a “parting gift” and added that “this was the way it would be”. It’s now eerie listening again to Blackstar – an album shorn of obvious hits, or even callbacks to the most stories parts of Bowie’s past – knowing all this. It’s just not how it usually is. It’s just not how it should be. But perhaps that is the point: for his swan song, a music legend, who traded on embracing different identities, reveals just a little bit more of who he truly is, without being all obtuse about it for a change. Context, they say, is everything. [NB]4/5

The inventory: David Bowie in collaborations

It’s incredibly hard to summarize David Bowie’s career. He’s done a lot of things: 25 albums, several films, everything else in between… the man’s a restless soul, always looking for something to pour his energies into, something he’s done up until his last days, as he produced Blackstar while fighting cancer. So, where to begin, exactly? We won’t exactly have the time to dig deep into Bowie’s many personas and phases, so we’ll spin things a bit and look at his collaborations – or at least some of them; again, we can’t quite cover everything – in this installment of the Inventory. [NB]

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David Bowie will always be there

Yesterday I drafted my review of Blackstar, the latest album from David Bowie. Early press called it his “experimental” record. I didn’t think it was, or at least it wasn’t as experimental as the term implies. Sure, it’s different, with a warmer sound, strongly reliant on wind and horns. Sure, it was cryptic as hell. But I thought it was satisfying nonetheless.

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