In the 10 years since David Bowie’s last release, 2003’s Reality, he has faced some documented and rumored health issues that left many of us wondering if that comparatively tepid effort would be the cultural icon’s last. Then, shortly after 2013 began, there was “Where Are We Now?” — a sublime first single that muses on the Berlin of his best years in the late 1970s — followed by a cryptic and understated press campaign that seemed bent on asking us to dig through Bowie’s past for clues about the man’s 24th album, The Next Day. Are all the self-referential nods in the lyrics and art to be taken as signs that this album is meant to sum things up or settle old scores? Perhaps these explanations are forthcoming or perhaps, as with the costumed conjurer of long ago, we’re meant to simply savor the mystery of it all. Working again with producer Tony Visconti, Bowie has crafted a wonderful maze of bleak and jazzy art-rock with moments of tempestuousness and chock full of trademark reflections on societal decay, paranoia and himself. The Next Day is an elegant, musically diverse album which proves that Bowie is one of only a handful of artists from his generation still capable of making a musically relevant statement.
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