David Bowie No Plan
As many of us braced for the first anniversary of David Bowie’s death, his team delivered a surprise nugget the day before his birthday. The No Plan EP is less a fresh release and more a curation of recent material closing the chapter that includes 2016’s rapturously received Blackstar and the 2015 Broadway musical, Lazarus—for which these four songs were recorded, the last of the sessions with the NYC-based Donny McCaslin Quartet—and thus Bowie’s career.
“Lazarus” (also on Blackstar) is a dramatic and ideal opener, McCaslin’s piercing, three-note saxophone melody joined by a weary, mortality-pondering Bowie (“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” “Oh I’ll be free/Just like that bluebird”). He soars during the otherwise downcast “No Plan.” Rocker “Killing a Little Time” starts jarringly with complex time signatures and long, minor chord arpeggios, as Bowie continues the expiration process (“I lay in bed/The monster fed, the body bled”). But the uptempo-ish closer “When I Met You” ends what could be Bowie’s final non-compilation release—and its morose themes—with a merciful degree of uplift, managing to make it feel like he’s still with us.