David Bowie, Peter Buck, and Hinds 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge David Bowie
  • David Bowie

David Bowie


Columbia Records

File next to: Isaac Hayes, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel

In some quarters, the late David Bowie's final studio album, Blackstar, has been characterized as a "jazz" album. That's not accurate, even though sax and other instruments closely associated with the genre are employed throughout its seven tracks. Distorted electric guitar crops up fairly often as well — most prominently on the snaky closer, "I Can't Give Everything Away" — but it's not accurate to call Blackstar a rock album, either. Immersing themselves in Bowie's 28th album, longtime listeners may spot sonic similarities between it and his so-called Berlin trilogy (Low, "Heroes" and Lodger), as well as Diamond Dogs and Scary Monsters. Blackstar sounds and feels like the logical culmination and synthesis of most every style Bowie has ever traveled. And that's saying something. Blackstar is both a career triumph and generous parting gift. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Peter Buck
  • Peter Buck

Peter Buck

Warzone Earth

Little Axe/Mississippi Records

File next to: The Minus Five, Tom Waits, Session Americana

Former REM guitarist Peter Buck has released three solo albums on vinyl only, and Warzone Earth is the most polished, with the broadest star-studded cast of session musicians. Buck has brought along his regular collaborator Scott McCaughey of Young Fresh Fellows, as well as Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana fame, and Chris Slusarenko of various Guided by Voices side projects. Despite the heavy hitters, the work is a juke-joint affair, rough around the edges, with Buck dishing up Tom Waits-style vocals on tracks like "Your Crooked Mind" and "World Spins Around You." Those expecting layered production or even the occasional REM jangly guitar would best pass this album up. But Warzone Earth and its two predecessors will delight those who prefer their superstar sessions raw and howling. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Hinds
  • Hinds


Leave Me Alone

Mom and Pop Music

File next to: Wolf Alice, Heart, L7

The cover art for Leave Me Alone, the debut album by these four young women from Madrid, would suggest an Iberian riot grrl movement, or a Spanish version of The Runaways. But Hinds instead serve up sophisticated mid-tempo rock with tight vocal harmonies, as though The Roches were covering Best Coast. If ruthless managers like Kim Fowley and Malcolm McLaren still existed, the recasting of the band formerly known as The Deers might appear too staged, if not sinister. But Carlotta Cosials and her compatriots set out with their own garage-rock agenda. This is an album loaded with talent and laughter. There's a lot going on in the counterpoint lyrics and complex riffs of "Fat Calmed Kiddos" and "San Diego," making one wish there was still a rock-oriented Top 40 radio they could dominate. — Loring Wirbel

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