Sound — 9
David Bowie is known for releasing albums on his own time and for having a fairly eclectic catalog of music over the years. It seems from album to album while he may bring the same collection of tools to the process, he is writing sometimes from drastically different perspectives. The album "The Next Day" was recorded in secret sporadically over a two year period it has been said that in that two year period they really only spent about 2 months recording the album. The album was announced on David Bowie's 66th birthday and the first single, "Where Are We Now" was released on the same day with the accompanying music video. Since then Bowie has released additional singles, launched a viral marketing campaign for the album, and allowed a free stream of the entire album via iTunes. Good move, Bowie! There are 14 tracks on the standard edition of the album, and it clocks in at 53 minutes. The deluxe edition of the album has an additional 3 tracks and clocks in at 61 minutes. David Bowie didn't use guest musicians as much as he has used in the past, but instead mostly used musicians he has worked with since the '90s. One possible exception is the guitarist, Earl Slick, did play on some of the album though he also has a history of working with Bowie. The songs on the album run the gamut from being written from a narrative to observational to introspective point of view.
What a lot of the songs on the album tend to do is either take a compositional clich and turn it on its head or else display harmonies and riffs that are just a tad angular. The album opens with the track "The Next Day" which sounds like it could have come out anytime from 30 years ago to today, and boasting an oddly frenetic harmony. From there the tracks tend to go in all different directions but still feeling like there is a cohesive quality to the album. David Bowie composed all the music and lyrics for all of the songs, collaborating with other writers on only two of the tracks. There is a fairly wide range of instrumentation on the album, from standard "rock band" instruments to orchestral strings, saxophone, clarinet, recorder and piano. The album does absolutely sound like modern music but you can hear David Bowie pulling from psychedelic rock, classic rock, funk and new wave throughout the album to just name a few.
Lyrics — 9
Occasionally you can hear the age in David Bowie's voice but this is as it should be, plus I'm not sure his age shows except in moments where it makes his vocals more powerful. David Bowie has always been one of the few rock vocalists out there who take both his singing ability and his songwriting equally seriously. He began his singing career attempting to emulate vocalists that he liked and consciously developed his vocal vibrato, which has really helped develop a unique identity as a vocalist for Bowie. He is a master of his craft as both a vocalist and songwriter and the album really displays this well. Gail Ann Dorsey and Janice Pendarvis supply backing vocals on many of the tracks on the album and they do an excellent job, as well. While the vocals aren't heavily processed there are some moments when different types of vocal processing are used and they are well done in each instance. On the track "If You Can See Me" there is something which I'm guessing is some kind of reverse delay type vocal effect going on that I really enjoyed.
Overall Impression — 9
David Bowie has not given any interviews regarding this album and according to Tony Visconti, Bowie's self proclaimed "voice on Earth", David Bowie will not grant any more interviews moving forward. Also, Bowie will not be touring for this album though there may be a very few live performances or at least that hasn't been completely ruled out. According to Tony Visconti, who is a record producer and musician who has been involved with David Bowie since the release of "Space Oddity", Bowie will continue to focus on albums but has little interest left in performing live. The good news is they recorded more songs than what made it on this album, so hopefully this will jump start the next album. I personally love all of David Bowie's albums but haven't necessarily been the biggest fan of his more recent releases with the exception of "Earthling" (which I'm referring to as a recent release, even though it came out over 15 years ago). This album, however, is the best album released by Bowie in a good long while the best in about 2 decades or so, in my opinion. Just thinking about it, I realized that Bowie has been putting out albums now for about 45 years how amazing is that?
My favorite tracks on the album would have to be "How Does The Grass Grow?", "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die", "Dirty Boys" and "Valentine's Day". My least favorite song is "Dancing Out In Space"; I don't even truly dislike it, but it is a good song while most of the remainder of the album is full of great songs. So, there are 14 songs on this album and Bowie actually recorded 29 tracks for the album, so taking out the 3 additional tracks on the deluxe version of the album he should have 12 tracks ready for his next album I can't wait to hear it!