The Next Day (ISO/Columbia)
For countless years, everyone has wanted the newest David Bowie album to be his return to form — to no avail. 2002’s Heathen was marketed as “classic Bowie” — though well-crafted, it was not — and 2003’s straightforward Reality rebutted much of the esoteric material that preceded it, but was hardly reminiscent of Thin White Duke’s golden years, when he became an artistic and cultural iconoclast.
Projecting any Bowie romanticism onto The Next Day will do youself a disservice; anyone anticipating a modern Hunky Dory is living on Mars. And yet: It’s still kind of great. Ten years on, there’s no rust or hesitancy — at 66, Bowie charges forth with the same confidence and energy he showed at 36, with less preoccupation on how contemporary he sounds. Part of the credit should go to longtime producer Tony Visconti, who finds a focus but avoids a rut. And the rest goes to Bowie himself, who has penned more direct hits on one album than he has since 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). Once you accept that it stops short of your nostalgia-fueled expectations, you’ll drop your guard — and then your jaw.