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The Playlist: March 29th, 2013

By ; March 29, 2013 at 6:37 PM 

David Bowie

The Playlist is a weekly column where staff writers and occasional guest musicians will have the opportunity to put together a Spotify playlist of songs which they’ve been listening to recently.

To commemorate David Bowie’s latest release The Next Day–his 24th studio album–the staff at Beats Per Minute have chosen an all-Bowie tracklist for The Playlist this week.  Read about and listen to our choices below.

01. “The Man Who Sold the World” (from The Man Who Sold the World, 1970)

“I came to Bowie relatively late in my musical education, and this was one of the first tracks that I really gravitated towards.  Forget the Nirvana cover–though it retrospect it probably did raise awareness of Bowie during the grunge years.  But that odd echo effect on his voice is so otherworldly, and the sense of desperation and violent intent is so palpable that the song still stands as one of my all-time favorite Bowie tracks.” ~Joshua Pickard

02. “We are the Dead” (from Diamond Dogs, 1974)

“Not sure why but I am drawn to music inspired by and is a reinterpretation of other art forms. Based on Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, Bowie best conveys the essence of the modern tragedy with this lyrically-dense track from Diamond Dogs.” ~Autumn Andel

03. “(You Will ) Set The World On Fire” (from The Next Day, 2013)

“My image of Bowie, even when he was experimenting, is that of a decidedly British pop-star. He has that British sound, so I love how un-British this opening riff is; it’s heavy and brutal.” ~Daniel Griffiths

04. “Subterraneans” (from Low, 1977)

“I got Low as a birthday present in high school. While I didn’t “get” most of it, this song, the album’s haunting closing track, stuck with me. In addition to being one of Bowie’s finest cuts, it also served as my gateway drug to Brian Eno.” ~Harrison Suits Baer

05. “Queen Bitch” (Hunky Dory, 1971)

“Remember when Bowie made the catchiest album of his career and then pretended to be Lou Reed and sang some gibberish about bibbity boppity hats? Never was Mr. Bowie more endearing, except perhaps in his turn as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.” ~Colin Joyce

06. “Heroes” (from Heroes, 1977)

“”Heroes” is Bowie at his most glorious. Don’t argue. Amidst the bizarre ventures of the Berlin Trilogy, Bowie and Eno birthed the perfect pop track. Somehow, it wasn’t a true hit upon release. The story since is painfully obvious – Hell, supposedly, it’s his most covered song. It’s easy to see why. There’s plenty of debate as to when Bowie was at his best as ‘speaker for the culture’, but for my money, it’s right here. It doesn’t matter how many years pass. If a kid coming of age hears this song, he will understand it. He will love it. As the years start to heap on, rather than pass with ease, a growing mind can’t help but burst with life at the joyous desperation in Bowie’s chant. He, and his hypothetical lover, want to grasp life and tear it in the direction they’re going – fuck what reality demands. Because we can be heroes, if not for one day, no matter how jaded any of us become, we can believe it while the song is playing. That is a priceless thing. If you can’t just feel the explosion (I, I WILL BE KING! AND YOU, YOU WILL WILL BE QUEEN!), well, it’s time to figure out what the hell is wrong with you, buddy.” ~Chase McMullen

07. “Five Years” (from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972) 

“Holding the distinction of being the first Bowie album that I ever bought, Ziggy Stardust has carved out a very special place in my heart, and the same could be said for its’ opening track “Five Years.” Having been covered by everyone from Arcade Fire to The Old 97’s, this track perfectly encapsulates the primal urges and cathartic necessity of Bowie’s music which seemed to always be on the verge of spilling out of the speakers onto your living room floor.” ~Joshua Pickard

08. “African Night Flight” (from Lodger, 1979)

Lodger, more or less unfairly, is often seen as the (no pun intended) low point in the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ collaboration between Bowie and Brian Eno. To be fair, there’s some truth in saying it’s their most scattered effort, but amidst the frolicking debris are some of the years-spanning project’s most deliciously “Eno” moments, such as the bizarre, Africana tinged track found here. Over the nearly playful drums and aggressive guitar, Bowie sounds quite nearly panicked, and if you can’t picture a cocaine fueled romp over questionably safe skies in an unknown continent, I’ll be damned. The Talking Heads have to be jealous of this one.” ~Chase McMullen

09. “Rock n’ Roll With Me” (from Diamond Dogs, 1974)

“I love the simplicity and sincerity in the sentiment of this song and it has one of the best choruses Bowie ever managed. It’s gotta be one of the more straightforward glam ballads recorded, but all the pieces are so perfectly placed–the drum fill that opens the track, the crash cymbal into the first chorus, the octave-up on the second verse, the syncopated guitar solo–and that last chorus is such a heart stopper.” ~Will Ryan

10. “Let’s Spend the Night Together” (from Aladdin Sane, 1973)

“It may be sacrilegious to say so, but I prefer this version to the original. The chaotic arrangement is a great showcase for Bowie’s impeccable piano chops, coming across like a more unhinged Elton John on the keys.” ~Harrison Suits Baer

11. “Always Crashing in the Same Car” (from Low, 1977)

“I like how this song has it’s mind set towards two directions; early 70’s era guitar-driven Bowie, and a more ethereal synth Bowie and it never seems to set both feet in either camp. Even the vocals move between the two.” ~Daniel Griffiths

“So much of Bowie’s music is, shamelessly, unabashedly drug-fueled. It goes without saying. It both certainly took years of creativity from him in the long run, and skyrocketed the completely, unnaturally perfect, fulfilled nature of his best artistic wanderings. It bleeds through, oh so obviously, in near all his 70’s material. “Always Crashing in the Same Car”, is an intriguing outlier. Recorded in the USA during a supposedly “sober” period in his career, it doesn’t much matter if he was, or if he wasn’t. Because what shines through here is his desire to be. Whereas his usual swagger revels in the debauchery he was famous for, here we can hear the pain, the desperate need for a “better” self, however Bowie could define such a thing. The dark title says it all – he doesn’t succeed, and worse, he already knows it. It sure makes for a great, painful pop tune.” ~Chase McMullen

12. “Space Oddity” (from Space Oddity, 1969)

“This track always seemed to place Bowie on some other world, musically and physically.  He was willing to go to the places where other musicians could not and would not go.  He was that one person who never backed down but crossed over into the darkness willingly.  He never hesitated to light a candle for us in that darkness, extend his hand, and ask us to trust him.   And I’ll be damned if we didn’t follow along with him every time.  It’s probably a good thing too–I’m not sure I can imagine a world where David Bowie wasn’t David Bowie.” ~Joshua Pickard

*Bonus Track: Iggy Pop – “Nightclubbing” (from The Idiot, 1977)

“If you ask me, no collection of Bowie tunes is complete without a drop by from The Idiot. The story goes like this, for some time following the implosion of The Stooges, Iggy Pop was far from the rock idol he’s remembered for, and always should have been. Lost in depression and rampant drug addiction, it’d take an army to get material out his ailing soul. Or, as it turned out, David Bowie. As to exactly how positive an influence Bowie was, well…that’s debatable. Rumors still circle suggesting he smuggled cocaine in to Pop at the treatment center he’d holed up in. Who knows, truthfully, all that matters in retrospect is that Bowie got him back to where he truly needed to be – making music.

As Pop regained his strength, his recordings would grow to sound all the more himself, but the first record to spawn from his return reeks of Bowie’s paw prints. In fact, the album is oft considered the true beginning of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, the man himself later admitting Pop had been a “guinea pig” for his sound. All the luck to Pop, as it blossomed into one of his finest records. “Nightclubbing”, perhaps in particular, spoke of Bowie’s influence, Pop describing it as the product of how it felt “hanging” with Bowie. Still, the sarcastic, faux narcissistic, doomed vibe of the slow-trodding krautrock like track fit Pop’s own mentality at the time perfectly, a truly consummate meeting of the minds.” ~Chase McMullen

If you enjoy any of these tracks, please support the artist by purchasing any of his albums. 

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