Martyrs

Ohlala, où commencer avec ce film? C’était difficile à voir, et je ne sais pas s’il y a quelqu’un qui l’a vraiment vu en entier. Je ne pouvais pas regarder certaines parties du film, parce que c’était vraiment dégoutant et cruel. Mais ce qui était intéressant, c’était la structure du film et le fait que c’était divisé en deux.

martyrs-xlargeJe ne vais pas donner des spoilers, mais ce film n’était pas exactement ce que vous anticipez. Oui, il y a beaucoup de violence; oui, c’est hyper cruel et horrible; mais il y a quelque chose qui est totalement différent des autres films de ce genre. Je ne veux pas dire plus, mais l’histoire est simple: deux femmes cherchent la revanche contre une famille qui a torturé une des femmes quand elle était petite, mais cette femme est hantée par un monstre, et l’autre femme s’en doute que c’était la famille qui l’a fait…

Et franchement, j’aimais mieux la première partie que la deuxième. En général, j’aime les films de revanche, et j’aimais la relation entre les deux femmes et le cauchemar de la vie de la femme dérangée. Cette première partie du film m’a touché pour deux raisons: 1) le pouvoir des femmes et comment elles trouvent leur propre pouvoir, et 2) que même la revanche ne donne pas de paix, parce qu’il y a toujours le monstre qui la hante depuis son enfance.

La deuxième partie du film a changé complètement le thème du film. Je comprends ce que le réalisateur voulait dire à propos de la capacité des gens d’être cruels et la capacité des gens de souffrir, et j’aimais bien la fin, mais c’était moins amusant – en fait, pas du tout amusant, et le message de la première partie était plus forte, même si c’est grâce à la deuxième partie que le film est si connu.

En tout cas, c’était intéressant. C’était un film important, mais franchement je ne veux jamais plus le revoir!

JEFFERY

“I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.”

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Before I ever listened to Young Thug, I admired him. It’s hard not to love him, whether he’s wearing a dress or making comments about equality and being whoever you are. He’s super lovable, and now I’ve had Jeffery on repeat for a bit and love him even more.

Even if you don’t know the lyrics, you love this for the hooks and the beats, and at a very slim 42 minutes, it is smooth and really easy to listen to. The beats aren’t genre-changing, but they’re wonderful for their subtlety, because there isn’t anything that’s in your face or show-stealing. They’re enablers, keeping the mood and helping the album flow from song to song, which is does spectacularly. The songs melt together, but they aren’t boring or forgettable, because Young Thug keeps it spicy with his huge presence.

He knows his strengths, and this is a supremely confident album. Maybe they’re all confident, but this is the first one I’m listening to. He spits and rhymes like an absolute master, and more than that, his delivery is so unique from song to song. He raps sweetly, wildly, in gasps, whatever fits the tone of the song. Swizz Beats is complimented by a lovely “la la la” and Guwop by a chipper “ya did ya did” while on Harambe he mimics Louis Armstrong and RiRi has him turning “work” and “earn it” into dog-like yips of pain. His voice isn’t just a method of delivering his lyrics but an instrument itself, contorting and flexible.

Even though the songs are all named after his idols and influences, none of the songs are really about them. I first became interested in him, because of Kanye West and Harambe, expecting them to be funny meme-songs, but what I got instead were thoughtful deconstructions of masculinity, love, and life. His lyrics are hard to decipher, and I am not the person to do that anyway, but unpacking them isn’t what needs to be done, because they’re as thoughtful because of their delivery and complexity of the hooks as they are the actual lyrics. On Kanye West, he sounds fragile and opened up, one of the hardest things you would expect someone called Young Thug to do, because here he’s not Young Thug. He’s not a woman, he’s not a man, he’s something you will never understand. He’s Jeffery.

28 Weeks Later

Let’s be real. This movie was bad.

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This seems to be a thing. A great first movie followed by a bad action sequel. This is the Maze Runner 2 of horror movies. Somehow worse than even Aliens.

There was so much that I hated about it. It was boring, the characters made stupid decisions (a horror trope, but these were B-movie silly in a movie of A-listers), and the plot progression and points were ridiculous.

Not gonna waste a lot of time on this stinker. What a shame!

Creep

Found footage should be the scariest of all, but they are really hit or miss for me, and Creep was a movie that definitely should not have been directed this way.

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There are some great shots, like everything involving the wolf mask, which should be an indie horror classic if it isn’t already; but really, the movie didn’t take advantage of the inherent scariness of it. There are a lot of “boring” scenes (in terms of horror), and the jump scares get old after the very first one.

What was really nice about the movie though was Mark Duplass. I had seen Safety Not Guaranteed, which I didn’t really love either, but one thing’s for sure – he could make a good movie about people, and the journey or whatever of his character and the way he was played were great here. The multiple deceptions, the oversharing, the way he pushed Aaron at every possible chance, it was really exciting.

This has great sequel potential though, because the premise is solid, and it’s packed with a lot of good ideas. It just needs to be a lot more streamlined and get away from the handheld camera.

Peachfuzz tho and the scene of him at the door. 😱

Over the Garden Wall

When was the last time you had a love at first sight with some kind of media? Before Over the Garden Wall, I don’t know when that last time was for me when I really fell for something so deeply. In the two years since it came out, I’ve watched it more times than I can count on two hands, and I recently watched through it again last weekend. T’is the season. I’m not the first person to rave about Over the Garden Wall, and I won’t be the last, but even if I don’t have anything new to add, I want to rave about it just a little.

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It’s the story of two boys and a bluebird lost in the woods, trying to find their ways home and their misadventures on the way. There’s so much about that simple premise that speaks to me. That gets the certified Ethan style stamp from the simple premise alone, so the show wrings out a little bit of nostalgic love from me.

The characters are so flawed but lovable. Wurt’s a teenager, but his complaining isn’t to the point of annoying; it fits nicely in the expected part of being a teenager, and he has enough good points to really like him. Plus, his costume is cool. His little brother Greg is infectiously positive. It’s adorable how naive and wonderful everything is to him. Once or twice he hit the plain stupidness, but for a child/comic relief he had as much character as Wurt. I loved the episode devoted to his leadership dream, for example! Beatrice is older than the two boys, and she’s often the voice of reason, the older sister. Anyway, the characters all so fun and voiced so well. I only know Elijah Wood though. There were other minor and semi-minor characters throughout the show, and they were all fantastic too. The Woodsman is the biggest, and, voiced by Christopher Lloyd, he plays the perfect balance between mysterious guardian and bad guy. It reminded me of his performance as the librarian/pagemaster in Pagemaster.

The style is gorgeous, all friendly pastels but with a good sense of macabre. It had a feel similar to some of the Studio Ghibli movies (I got particularly Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle vibes) and the anime Mushishi. Of course, one of the biggest draws is the soundtrack (just officially released last week, by the way), which the show would have been lesser without. They’re all really special, and the songs have been one of my go-to October soundtracks.

There’s a consistent narrative, both for the story and for the characters. Like many of the best stories, I feel like this was a lot about growing up, facing your fears, that sort of thing. From my favorite movie, Coraline, to Over the Garden Wall (constantly called my favorite television program for two years), that’s what I love, growing up.

As for the ending and wrapping up this story, the narrator put it best: “And so the story’s complete, and everybody’s satisfied with the ending.” That indeed.

Paranorman

Last year, I made a list of every horror movie I wanted to watch to celebrate Halloween in October, and I watched approximately one of them (Unfriended, which by the way was pretty good).

This year, I’m going to make good on that promise I made last year, and I’m going to watch as many as I can this month. All of them are ones I’ve never seen before, but today I watched a movie with my students that’s one of my favorites, so it ended up being a great starter for the season.

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It’s no secret that my favorite movie of all time is Coraline. I feel like I drop that into conversation once a month somehow, but I don’t talk enough about the other great Laika productions, and with Kubo and the Two Strings coming out, it’s more perfect than ever. Also, my students love Coraline (and Corpse Bride, too).

I saw Paranorman for the first time on accident. I started watching it on Netflix, not knowing it was from the same company as Coraline, and even though it starts quite slow, the way it builds up is fantastic.

For starters, it’s gorgeous. That’s to be expected, because it’s claymation, and I love that style. I don’t know how they do it, especially since the directors have very little to their name (one has only done Paranorman, and the other has done just a handful of others that are less spectacular), but it’s beautiful. The scene that blew me away was when we’re first dropped into Norman’s world and see it through his eyes, the camera going from third-person spectral cameraman to following Norman from behind then spinning around, zooming in on Norman’s face, and then panning back around as we enter his world. It’s probably the most jaw-dropping moment of the film for me, at least when it comes to visuals. That or the way the scene literally burns away when Norman has a vision.

Plus, it’s legitimately scary. I jumped out of my seat more than once, especially in the first half of the movie. The jump few scares never seem disingenuous though, because in a lot of cases they turn into gags. It reminds me of Shaun of the Dead in that way, because it’s legitimately a horror-comedy that scares just as well as it makes you laugh. I laughed harder than my students in a lot of cases, to be honest.

I love the twist, when the zombies are thrust into that scare of modern day life, and very quickly the tables turn on them. It’s pretty hilarious how fast it happens, and I think you immediately sympathize with them (that’s hard to do in a horror movie, sympathize with anyone to be honest). But I sympathized hard with them, and yeah, they were terrible to the little girl, but you could see how they’d realized their errors and that it’s wrong to act out of fear. I love showing this movie, especially nowadays when too many people are reacting out of fear because they don’t understand something, whether it’s in Britain or the USA or anywhere really.

If there’s any misstep in the movie, it’s the resolution. I am almost never a fan of big action-packed resolutions, and I found the actual plot (not the visuals at all, because wow) of the ending to be really lacking. Still, that’s not why I love this movie. Honestly, though short, one of the things I love most is the relationship between Neil and Norman. It’s really touching, and my favorite scene is when they’re hanging out in Neil’s backyard with his dead dog. Everything there is so touching, and I found them both to be incredibly lovely, relatable characters with a whole lot of charm.

Paranorman is, I think, a film that isn’t talked about enough. It’s got a solid core, fantastic visuals, and I’m telling you now, the way they’re heading, Laika is going to be taking the place of Disney and Studio Ghibli.

Happy Halloween 👻

Strangers When We Meet

“Steely resolve is falling from me
My poor soul, poor bruised passivity
All your regrets ran rough-shod over me
I’m so glad that we’re strangers when we meet”

So good, he couldn’t just put it on one album and be done with it. And yet, it’s still an obscure masterpiece. This song means a lot to me, not because of any special memory I have with it, but Bowie’s performance combined with the lyrics and melody move me an incredible amount. If it doesn’t move you yet, take a walk alone at night and put this on repeat. The bass will work its way into you, and Bowie will fight over your emotions. It’s something special, and it’s a huge shame that the song got lost.

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Love is the most common subject in songs for a reason. It’s the most complicated, frustrating, wonderful feeling that exists. Falling in love is powerful, and falling out of love is excruciating. When love is over, and you meet, it’s an odd feeling. You’re displaced, and it’s the closest feeling to purgatory that probably exists. You’re neither lovers nor friends, but you pretend to be one while you feel you’re the other, and neither works out. The person you once knew becomes a stranger, because you can’t share anymore, like a door has closed.

That’s the feeling of this song: displaced, not quite settled anywhere at all. Bowie sings in a hushed, conversational tone in the beginning and slowly grows in strength and power as the song goes on. At first, he’s numb, apathetic and grey, but later he makes a choice to make the best of an awful situation. There’s no use complaining, might as well just accept it.

In the beginning, he’s confused by how they got there, exactly how you feel at the end of a relationship. How did such a good thing turn so sour? But in the middle of the song, there’s a lot of anguish in his voice. I love how he sings, “cold tired fingers… tapping out your memories… halfway sadness… dazzled by the new…” Powerful stuff for me.

At the end of last year, I read this book called On Love by Alain de Botton that was really great. It chronicled a relationship from beginning to end, and Strangers When We Meet reminds me of that same thing. When he sings, “your embrace… was all that I feared…” it’s that moment when you know something’s wrong and you push it knowing that you will only get an answer you don’t want.

Then in the end, instead of ending it, he accepts it. “Steely resolve is falling from me” turns to “I’m so glad that we’re strangers when we meet!” Maybe they can fall in love again, start anew. It even comes off a little delusional, like he knows it can’t happen but he will go overboard trying to force it to happen, and it hurts like a knife in my chest when I hear it. I’ve cried almost every time I’ve listened to this song.

Both versions (on Buddha and Outside) each have their share of strengths, but I think that overall I would go for the version on Outside. They aren’t all that much different but for a few little changes that make some big impacts. Outside frankly has a better band, and Bowie’s singing is a lot more nuanced. I wanna also give props to Reeves Gabrels who I’ve been a little wishy-washy on in the past as a guitarist, but here he sounds like he’s trying to sound as much like Robert Fripp as possible. Those guitar sounds in the beginning of the song especially, but also throughout, are fantastic. Fripp could coax out some incredible textures, and Gabrels does just that here. And you know, the whole frame of the song is in that bass. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.

A New Career in a New Town

This is the most impactful Bowie song to me, and it’s not just because of his death and its use in I Can’t Give Everything Away. This has been one of my favorites for a while, and over the past seven months it’s just gotten more and more powerful. Bowie is known as a vocalist and an interesting pop songwriter, while his Berlin trilogy is heavily Eno-influenced and though it’s not typical of what makes Bowie such a popular musician, it’s part of what makes his legacy so grand. He dabbled, and A New Career in a New Town was a fork in the road of the two paths he would take.

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Low, and the Berlin trilogy in general, lives and breathes by its duality. There’s the duality of the Berlin Wall that inspired it, the American and European divide that drove him to it, and the actual divide in pop and instrumental on both Low and “Heroes”. A New Career in a New Town sits right in the middle of that divide, and it doesn’t shy away from every possible sentiment coming with that. It’s an actual combination of the two sounds, opening to the sounds of side two of the record with otherworldly synthesizers and a programmed drumbeat that clashes very quickly with the incredible drums and bass from side one.

The harmonica acts like the vocals, but why I love this song so much is in the way the harmonica speaks much louder than any lyrics possibly could have. I guess that’s why it was so fitting to use them on I Can’t Give Everything Away. See, the harmonica is a melancholy instrument – I mean that’s why they call sadness the blues right? – and it bridges the sadness of eastern Germany with the bright pop instrumentation that gives sound to the optimism of western Germany. It’s wistful for a future or a past that’s just out of reach. You can define it any way you want, but in the end it perfectly represents that feeling of something you can no longer have, leaving your past behind for an uncertain future. But it’s not just wallowing in that feeling, because the pop melody brings that joy of the unknown to the whole experience.

In the end, just like in 1977, Bowie was leaving behind a past that he knew well, a past that led him to a lot of fame and wonder, but also it was leading him out of pain – the pain of drugs and psychosis, the pain of cancer – and into a better place. I’ve cried so much listening to this song, and I think that’s what shows how powerful it is. It’s not a shallow manipulation either, this is an expertly crafted song that sincerely encapsulates what it means to be on the threshold of something new, and it’s wonderful, scary, and beautiful all at once.

Angel (1999-2004)

I’ve been regretting that I didn’t keep a written log of every episode after I watched them like I did with Buffy. I definitely wish I had done a “season review” at least, because Angel was much more serialized than Buffy, and I think that’s what might keep it from being discussed quite as often as Buffy, that and the fact that it was quite a lot darker. I was always frustrated (in a good way) when the characters on Buffy were angry with one another, but Angel took that to a whole new level. In the end, Angel turned out to have an incredible overall arc and, except for season four, shied away from the “big bad” of every season like Buffy did.

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I think that Angel felt more like a team effort as well thanks to that. There was a point in season two where Angel fired Cordelia, Gunn, and Wesley, and there was a stronger focus on Angel and Darla (and Drusilla), and there was something that kept nagging me at that point, something that bothered me, and I realized that it was because without the rest of the team, there was a noticeable hole in the show (ha ha ha), which made their eventual reunion and Angel’s apology so much sweeter. That absence also gave Cordy, Gunn, and Wes the time to grow as characters without their attachment to Angel, and we saw that they were still an effective team even without their superpowered vampire. I also liked how, like on Buffy, nothing was ever “reset”, and character arcs were maybe even stronger on this show. Their strength as a team didn’t last for long though, because the Holtz/Connor arc in season three is one of my favorites on the show. It changed the show irreversibly in terms of characters, and it was hard to watch at times (in a good way). Wesley’s betrayal and then abandonment hurt so much even while I relished watching him get meaner and harder alone. It made the temporary reset of season five all that much better when it was broken again near the end when Wes restores their memories of Connor.

This show-long arc made for some great villains. Wolfram & Hart is such a cool concept and one that Buffy could never have done properly, despite trying at times to create something similar, and the fact that they were so lawful evil (ha ha) made them a really powerful villain (especially Lindsey and Lilah, the latter who I loved to death). The reversal in season five took me by surprise, and I loved that season’s exploration of the theme of “how to do good in a bad world”. I think it really worked, as we saw the characters change noticeably. Wes’ change is obvious; Gunn’s renewed sense of purpose and how it totally backfired on him was a great use of dramatic irony; Fred became so much more than the crazy hermit from the beginning of season three; Lorne’s world-weariness (or rather, Angel-weariness) grew so naturally, his exit at the end is one of the most heartbreaking exits that didn’t end in death that I’ve ever seen on TV; Cordelia toughed up just like Wes; they redeemed Spike from an increasingly problematic character in Buffy; even Darla who I didn’t care for for a long time but who I sympathized with so much by the middle of season three; and of course Angel at the end, the one who fed on a human two times in order to succeed, something he never would have done before. This doesn’t mean they aren’t heroes, but it was a fascinating exploration of how we are corrupted and how we have to make sacrifices to succeed. It’s something that Game of Thrones does constantly but never so naturally or as well as Angel did.

Which leaves the season arcs. They follow the frame that Buffy set up of having three acts, the opening, a natural segue into the middle part, and usually followed by a twist. None as surprising as season two’s jump to Pylea, which was hilarious and unexpected in the best possible way. Season three got super dreary at the end, and then I don’t even want to talk about season four and how terrible they handled Cordelia (no wonder she left the show), but it did lead to one of the best “big bads”, Gina Torres as a god who everyone falls in love with.

All of this makes the finale one of the best of any TV show, I think. The whole show got its purpose at the end of season one with the Shanshu Prophecy, promising that a vampire with a soul who did enough good works could once again become human. Mid-way through season two, Angel realizes that doing good works for the purpose of being human defeats the purpose. He has to do good works for the sake of it, and slowly he begins to lose faith in the Shanshu Prophecy as things get worse and worse. The addition of Spike created the hilarious competition between the two (seriously, they have so much chemistry!), but in general I loved how this show handled prophecy and fate. Cordelia is prophesied to be the savior of Pylea, but does she really save them from anything? Wes finds the prophecy that “the father will kill the son”, which ends up having been a fake and gets him nearly killed and then exiled from the group; the demon who brings back Holtz changed that prophecy because it was supposed to be Connor who kills him and we forget about him for a season and a half before suddenly he’s brought back and the prophecy is fulfilled (in this sense, a self-fulfilling prophecy, because what he did created the situation that got him killed); and then of course, back to the Shanshu Prophecy which Angel signs away at the end of the show. It was a red herring all along, and I love that. The show was never really about Angel being prophesized to become human again. It was about so much more about that, how to BE human in a bad world, and nobody embodies that more than Angel does, a vampire with a soul.

I’m not ready to do an episode ranking yet, but here’s what I’d pick from each season, my favorites:

Season 1: Five By Five/Sanctuary, To Shanshu in LA
Season 2: Are You Now or Have You Ever Been, Darla, The Trial, Reunion, Disharmony, Over the Rainbow/Thru the Looking Glass/There’s No Place like Plrtz Glrb
Season 3: Fredless, Lullaby, Waiting in the Wings, Birthday, Sleep Tight, Forgiving, The Price, Benediction
Season 4: Spin the Bottle, Awakening, Soulless, Shiny Happy People, The Magic Bullet, Home
Season 5: Conviction, Just Rewards, The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco, Harm’s Way, You’re Welcome, Smile Time, A Hole in the World, Shells, Underneath, Time Bomb, The Girl in Question, Not Fade Away

Although I think I could guess my top 10 as

1. A Hole in the World
2. Waiting in the Wings
3. You’re Welcome
4. Not Fade Away
5. Sleep Tight
6. Awakening
7. Five By Five/Sanctuary
8. Fredless
9. Disharmony
10. Are You Now or Have You Ever Been

Blackstar

I’ve had a long time to process David Bowie’s death now. During my break at work, I was skimming through Facebook when I saw a RIP status, and I thought it was some joke, and then I frantically checked the news and saw that it was true. I had never cried at a celebrity’s passing before, but I went home and I cried for an hour with this music playing. I knew that Blackstar was something special from when the title track was released, and I listened to it more than fifty times during the month of December. Like, The Next Day was good, but this was on another level. I mentioned in my review for the Next Day that timing is everything. That applies even more to Blackstar, because the event of his death is woven into the narrative.

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What does David Bowie mean to me? That’s the question that popped up a lot while listening to all of his music from beginning to end. He wasn’t just another musician that I liked, and it’s not the naive thought that he would live forever and my reality was shattered. It’s not that. David Bowie was special to me, because he made me feel comfortable. Listening to him in high school, I was caught by how weird he was. I didn’t realize it then, but he helped me come to my self-identity. He was feminine when everywhere masculinity was valued, and I think that his gender-bending and sexual identity was important in creating the foundation for my beliefs today.

I know everybody has their own story or feelings, but I think what’s important and notable above all else is that Bowie lived his own myth. From day one to the last day, to the next and another day. Blackstar was an art project. He was diagnosed with cancer a year and a half before releasing Blackstar, and it was an impetus for him to get everything out of his head before he couldn’t anymore. You could argue that Bowie was at his most effective when he dug the music out from inside of himself, Low being the best example. He combined the inside and the outside so effectively, and Blackstar continues that method, taking Bowie’s inner feelings about dying, commenting on it at times like a nonchalant outsider.

I started thinking about the five stages of grief a while ago while listening to this. It doesn’t fit neatly, but I think there are elements of it here. Denial in the title track, anger in Girl Loves Me, a little bit of bargaining and depression in Dollar Days, and acceptance throughout the whole album but most strongly in I Can’t Give Everything Away.

It’s notable that the two most aggressive songs are the two that were first created with his impending death guiding them. Tis a Pity She Was a Whore and Sue were both released in very different, very rough forms in 2014. They ostensibly songs about being made a fool by love, but I have the nagging impression that Sue isn’t a story about a woman having spurned him. It’s much looser, much jazzier in its original version, nearing seven and a half minutes long, building on a jazzy brass section. I think he was still coming to terms with his diagnosis, Sue being the personification of death perhaps. In the middle of the original version, he builds to a climactic screaming “goodbye” followed by the brass section spitting out low burps before the final verse. The most telling moment is in the second verse, “Sue, the clinic called. The x-ray’s fine.” If that’s a coincidence, it’s a mighty big one. The song then peters out on the snare. The album version is shorter and given a much more bossy and energetic tone, exploding with a great low end, tightened up considerably.

Tis a Pity is also rough in its original version. I love how muted the vocals are, like he’s being smothered. It opens with sounds similar to maybe Tom Waits’ Hoist That Rag or something else on Real Gone, and the whole song has a similar production quality that works astoundingly well. The band comes in wheezing and puffing out of sync. It pounds you in the gut as Bowie wails in tortured falsetto with the cacophony all around him. It may not be directly about his condition, but it certainly has that feeling of helplessness that might come with the knowledge of it, especially the line “tis my curse, I suppose” that’s drowned out. In the end, he’s eaten up by the noise. On the album, it’s a lot cleaner and a whole lot less cacophonous, but it has a similar energy. I like the deep breath that it sounds like Bowie takes in the beginning and the breathing you can hear throughout the first minute of the song.

I like the story behind these two songs. Bowie went to a little jazz club to watch the players would become his band for this album, and little by little people began to notice that David Bowie was there. After the band finished, he left without speaking to the band, but later sent them an email asking them to play with him on these two songs in 2014 and later the Blackstar album. I think it’s a cute story and plays into the mystery of David Bowie, the one that he unintentionally cultivated over the ten years he settled into his neat little domestic life.

The rest of the songs are more direct, with the title track functioning as an introduction to this weird new world, combining dark, dense atmosphere with sexy pop from a 69 year old man in a leotard. I love the call-and-response lyrics during that part, where he repeatedly denies the previous title, pressing that “I’m a blackstar.” From the beginning of his career, he was creating the identity that he was a star. I read a quote from Andy Warhol that a superstar is someone who convinces others that he or she is a star, and Bowie was doing that even before he was an actual star. Now he’s creating his own star again.

Lazarus, released just before the album dropped, is the most poignant song on the album. I don’t know how much time he knew he had left, because based on Tony Visconti’s account, the end must have come more quickly than imagined, but there must have been some idea that this might have been the last goodbye, as he directly references that he’s in heaven. The saxophone is both mournful and a little frantic, clinging to life but finally doused out in the end. It’s not the only time that Bowie references death so on the nose. In Dollar Days, admitting that he’s okay if he doesn’t see his green pastures again, he cuts each verse with, “I’m dying to” / “I’m dying, too”. This and he closing track are have a totally different feel to them than the rest of the album. He sounds tired, old. Pitchfork compared it to Five Years or Ashes to Ashes, all songs where Bowie is luxuriating in sadness and turning loss into triumph.

I Can’t Give Everything Away is the most heartbreaking for me. Sampling the harmonica from Low’s A New Career in a New Town, it’s his final trip. I love the way he holds it in, “I can’t give everything…. away” and the way that his pronunciation of “give” sometimes sounds like “keep”. It touches on Bowie’s legacy, his music and his art. He can’t give everything he wanted, but he gave the most he could.

In Pitchfork’s afterword on Bowie, they wrote one line that really made an impression on me. “David Bowie’s greatest albums always opened us up to new worlds; Blackstar leads to the most mysterious, frightening, and unknowable of all.” It’s amazing how Bowie set this up, like one last wink from beyond the grave, knowing the very real possibility that he would die before it was released, and narrating like a spectator of his own death.

In his final two songs, he can barely finish his thoughts, because really there is no end. He can’t give everything away. Like Lazarus coming back to life, he’s dying to fool us all again and again. It’s just a new career in a new town, and he’s trying to, he’s dying to…