Welcome back students! It's cold outside, but there are exciting things happening here in the basement of the UMC — including a slew of awesome new DJs on the AM airwaves. For a full list of new talent, check out radio1190.org.
On Sunday, legendary musician, songwriter, actor and artist David Bowie passed away at 69 after a battle with cancer. Through his nearly 50-year career, Bowie created an unmistakable style of poised, charismatic, inventive and unabashedly strange music. Like a musical chameleon, Bowie dipped into genres such as glam rock, electronic, experimental and beyond.
Friday, his 25th album, Blackstar, was released — just days before his death. The title track is a 10-minute epic with dark, broody droney chords over jittery, jazzy drums. The album as a whole is a dark and mysterious listen, but provides enough pop structure to please the masses of fans. Bowie reportedly was heavily inspired by artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Death Grips while writing this album, which really shines through — notably on the title track. Blackstar is an end-of-career album that stands just as interesting as his Berlin trilogy, or even his glam-rock classics of the 1970s. The instrumentation and execution is the strongest and most experimental Bowie has been in a while — resulting in one of his best albums in well over 20 years.
In the heyday of indie pop, the Pacific Northwest was the incubator for some of the best acts. In the early '80s, Calvin Johnson began releasing low-fidelity pop recordings under the moniker Beat Happening while in college. Over the course of a few years, the group evolved into a full band and gained a cult following for its eccentric personality, playful performance and simple pop melodies. Now, 35 years after the group's formation, Domino Records has released an anthology, Look Around, to celebrate the band's legacy.
The album chronologically goes through the band's short discography, adding in better mixing and mastering, but without compromising the lo-fi charm. Classic tracks such as "Indian Summer," "Tiger Trap" and "Bewitched" are featured, showcasing the band's true genius. Though this compilation is full of fantastic tracks and masterful mixing, it doesn't really bring anything new to the table. But with that being said, there really isn't much to uncover other than music from one of the greatest indie-pop groups of all.
Pop experimentalist Grimes has been exciting and frustrating fans throughout her short career. After she announced a follow-up to her 2014 cult-favorite debut, Visions, she rescinded because it didn't please her fans. But then late-2015 brought us Art Angels. Unlike her first record, Art Angels is a much cleaner and poppier record, minus the dark edge she once had. But the production on every song is truly remarkable; each song is incredibly textured, detailed and unconventional. Though some songs, like "Flesh Without Blood," sound as if they could be on top-40s radio, there are at least some elements of experimentalism deep within the track. Though this release may not please some of Grimes' die-hard fans, there are still enough saving graces to make it memorable.
James Calvet is Radio 1190's music director. Read more reviews: coloradodaily.com/columnists.