There is something appealing and refreshing about a new year, a 12-month clean slate with possibilities that seem endless. Music never really starts over, though — it builds on itself. These first couple of weeks of 2016 have brought music that expands on the past but swerves into its own lane.
Here’s what you should listen to this week.
David Bowie’s “Blackstar”
The music world seems a little less dazzling without David Bowie. Rock’s great shapeshifter made some of the genre’s most innovative and interesting music over the course of his 50-year career, with eras as Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke coalescing to give us Bowie 2016, whose vision will remain as boundary-breaking as it was in 1972.
“Blackstar” is a jazz-infused art house acid trip that often teeters on the edge of the experimental cliff, then pulls back. Recorded with the Donny McCaslin Quartet, “Blackstar” sounds like no other Bowie work, skirting the trend of veteran rockers rehashing their old sounds. Instrumental breakdowns abound. Bowie’s worn voice makes lines like “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” all the more affecting. Bowie never really seemed like one who would fade into anonymous retirement or cease his innovative ways. Instead, he left us in a supernova.
Hinds’ “Leave Me Alone”
These Madridistas are not much different sonically than their peers in the lo-fi guitar rock scene, but there is something to be said for deft songwriting and a certain abstract sweetness, exemplified by song titles like “Fat Calmed Kiddos” and “Castigadas En El Granero” (“Grounded in the Barn”). Throw their raucous live shows and a charming Twitter presence into the mix and Hinds may very well be la proxima gran banda de España, or the next great Spanish band.
Kanye West’s “Real Friends”
Last Friday brought the announcement of the release date for Kanye West’s new album “SWISH” (Feb. 11), as well as the return of Good Fridays, weekly releases of new songs to promote the upcoming record. “Real Friends” is the first Good Friday track since 2010, a somber return to rapping for West, featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Lamenting the lack of trust in people that celebrity brings, this track is throwback Kanye, emotional and defiant, with something to mourn besides the fashion houses that did him wrong.