David Bowie surprised us with the sudden announcement of his new album, The Next Day, but it turns out the veteran songwriter has another trick up his sleeve: he'll stream the album in its entirety via iTunes, almost two weeks before the album's March 12 release date.
UPDATE: The album is streaming now on iTunes. To listen, head here, where The Next Day will be streaming until March 12.
In the meantime, Exclaim! was lucky to spend an hour with the album today, and we've given an account of what we heard. Tony Visconti was right: The Next Day is indeed very different from the first single "Where Are We Now?" It's nothing radically different from what Bowie's done in the past, but it's hardly a money grab; the dignified gentleman has recorded a vivacious late-career tribute that hearkens as much to Diamond Dogs and pre-Ziggy Stardust-era albums as it does to Heroes. But having only heard two singles leading up to our listen, it was odd to hear The Next Day begin with such bombast. It begins below.
1. "The Next Day"
A slamming snare gives way to a straightforward Heroes-era rocker not unlike "Beauty and the Beast." What the album title track lacks in melody it makes up for in propulsion and flanged, glammy guitar licks that hearken to Bowie's Berlin trilogy stompers.
2. "Dirty Boys"
On this slow-funk track with horn punctuation, Bowie's voice aims for the slinky, sexy quality it used to have, and though he misses slightly, a hollowed-out vocal effect adds to it a haunting inflection. An excellent, choppy tenor sax solo and wailing guitars close out the track. This one would fit snugly onto Diamond Dogs, one of Bowie's most underrated albums.
3. "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"
A killer bassline propels The Next Day's yearning second single, but it's the oohs and ahhs, as well as the shimmering synth beds, providing the gentle touches that give it real feeling. The lyrics are painfully banal, but this song is much better than its melodramatic video might have subconsciously led you to believe.
4. "Love Is Lost"
"Love Is Lost" begins with a staccato bassline, over which synth chords fade in and out, leaving Bowie's voice alone with the rhythm section. The space sets up a hooky, anthemic chorus that hints that this might be the next single. Bowie's voice has a deranged quality here that is captivating, and the song's climax features Bowie singing over himself and harmonizing, repeating "What have you done?"
5. "Where Are We Now?"
The gentle ballad, our first taste of the album, is a grower. Note the sonic spaciousness of the track, the crystalline quality of the piano chords. Repetition of the track's title makes it hit home, but in his wise, grand way, Bowie hardly seems lost.
6. "Valentine's Day"
Finger-snapping and a jump-rope rhythm make way for Bowie employing his androgynous Man Who Sold the World/Stardust-era vocals. The tinny, rough guitars that adorned much of Heroes feature as decoration on many of these songs, including on this short, simple track. It's not surprising: peep The Next Day's album art.
7. "If You Can See Me"
Wailing abstract vocals with a skittering, dancefloor-ready hi-hat and snare combo open this uptempo number, while constant keyboard stabs lend the track extra urgency. "If you can see me, I can see you," Bowie sings, completing the unsettling picture. By the song's end, a whirling middle-range siren signals a slow fade featuring a slowed-down version of the vocals that began the song.