Released this week, The Next Day represents David Bowie's first studio effort in nearly a decade, far and away the longest break between albums the art-rock icon has ever undertaken: It beats easily the six years separating Never Let Me Down ('87) from Black Tie White Noise ('93). Then again, during that break he cofounded hard-rock unit Tin Machine, who coughed up a pair of albums, so it wasn't like he had totally dropped off the face of the planet or anything. Which is why the latest break felt different: It was as if Bowie's devoted legion of fans was for the first time actually coping with the possibility that its hero wouldn't ever again return to the studio. In a recent online piece, SPIN magazine wisely pointed out that the singer hadn't been quite as reclusive as we had thought, yet it sure as hell felt like it.
But now, the artist known as the Thin White Duke is indeed back, and in celebration, Napster has put together the ultimate album guide, with 35 titles in total. The classics are, of course, included, from the genre-defining glam dramatics of both Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to his Berlin Trilogy: Low, "Heroes" (both featuring input from the great Brian Eno) and the idiosyncratic and somewhat underappreciated Lodger. Our Artist Spotlight also contains plenty of hidden gems and oddities, like his self-titled debut from '67, a strange foray into symphonic pop that has more in common with Scott Walker and Donovan than it does T. Rex and Roxy Music. Then there's the Labyrinth soundtrack, a dreamy slab of New Age exotica that blended perfectly with all those monsters and obscure Muppets and a young Jennifer Connelly wandering aimlessly through some kind of M.C. Escher netherworld.
Now, on to Napster's David Bowie Artist Spotlight.