Exclaim!'s Top 27 Albums of 2016 So Far

3. David Bowie

There are two versions of Blackstar: the album we heard before we knew David Bowie was dying, and the one we experienced after his death. Much like the cover of his 25th LP, which transformed when exposed to sunlight, the music on Blackstar changed significantly when placed in the context of a swansong.

Co-produced with longtime studio partner Tony Visconti, these seven tracks were recorded by Bowie as a parting gift; he was aware that cancer would take his life soon. But what was the message Bowie was trying to leave to his fans? The fact that Blackstar sounds different from anything he'd recorded before — an album that pushes the limits of art rock; that's built around sparse saxophone and even sparser melodies; that spoke about life and about death as if they were interchangeable — says that Bowie was both ready and not quite ready to go. He needed to tell us all that he wasn't quite done evolving, on this realm and wherever the next one takes him.
Daniel Sylvester