In 1980, David Bowie followed up the critically beloved but sales deprived Berlin trilogy of experimental rock albums with a set of tunes meant to jump-start his career again. I’m not sure what the label executives were hoping for, but the result feels like a hulking, mutated cousin of what came before it.
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is one of the wildest, weirdest albums of Bowie’s career, ripping violently between hysterical pop and defiantly experimental impulses.
In an interview with Pitchfork last week, Oneohtrix Point Never explained how he needs weird breakages and colliding contrasts to happen for music to feel truthful, and how this also applies to all good film scores. After listening to his soundtrack for Good Time, a new film by the Safdie brothers, reading this passage felt like a tiny lightbulb flickering on.
It’s the rough, distinctive patina surrounding everything he’s ever recorded, the philosophy underpinning the very reason his music is so often astonishing. It’s something he’s expressing most clearly on this, a movie score that basically functions as a proper new album.
Wow. Just wow. This is Miles Davis at that stratospheric peak he seems to ride every few albums, the ones with mountains of praise written about them over the decades. For some reason it’s far less revered than the likes of Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew, and On The Corner, but it’s just as important to his development as an artist and just as incredible of a listen for jazz fans today.
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is one of the most creative guitarists alive, perhaps the preeminent abstract painter when it comes to using the instrument as a brush.
His music transcends basic understanding of what guitar music can be, transporting listeners to realms buffeted by noise and gauzy atmospherics, spaces where traditional notions of the instrument are blasted away like a sandstorm. His latest album, On The Echoing Green, aims that sense of free-form exploration in a refreshingly melodic direction. It’s a change that results in his best work yet.
Quadrant Dub is one of the most transcendent pieces of music ever recorded. It stands as perhaps the most important dub techno recording of all, the pinnacle of an entire genre and a beacon for artists to follow for decades. Created in 1994 by Basic Channel, the German due composed of Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus, this 12″ has done more than stand the test of time; it charges onward, curating its own timeline outside of everyday reality.
I’m doing this. I’m ranking every David Bowie album.
This list is not ranked by historical importance or designed to guide a new listener through his vast discography. This is simply a list of every major album David Bowie released in order from worst to best. While I don’t believe he made any truly bad albums, he certainly had a range of quality to his recordings. I’m skipping the covers album, the soundtracks, and the Tin Machine stuff. This is pure Bowie, no filler.
I’ve seen other lists out there and I almost always disagree with their top picks. They’re always too safe, too obvious, compromised by committee. This list is an unvarnished look at one passionate fan’s embrace of the entire catalogue and will probably bring some surprise. If you’re curious to learn more about Bowie’s impact on my life, check out David Bowie Is Dead // This Is What He Means To Me.
I know that no two David Bowie fans are the same and that most people will disagree with my rankings. That’s part of his magic. In that spirit, I welcome all comments and suggestions, so share away. I had fun making this, and I hope you have fun reading it.
Let’s get on with the list:
I don’t often take note of federal holidays, especially when I’m not let off work, but Martin Luther King Jr. Day is perhaps the most important one in American history. It’s a modern holiday celebrating the life of a man whose passion for justice and equality changed the shape of our country undeniably for the better.
Unlike our other named holidays, nodding to historical figures with dubious or downright depressing impacts – can we end Columbus day already? – this one is an unquestionably good thing. King is one of the truest heroes my nation has ever produced. Recent world-shaking events have shown how vital his lessons continue to be.
Because this is a music site, I feel like sharing my favorite song that samples King’s words. This tune takes the fiery energy from his final speech, “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” and wrings every ounce of suffering from it. This is a harrowing but strangely soothing epic. It’s called Motorik Life (DJ Sprinkles’ Mountain of Despair):