Bowie And Beyond: Looking Ahead To The Music Of 2016 NPR Music's Stephen Thompson shares songs from forthcoming albums by Esperanza Spalding, Damien Jurado, Lucinda Williams and David Bowie.
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Bowie And Beyond: Looking Ahead To The Music Of 2016

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Bowie And Beyond: Looking Ahead To The Music Of 2016

Bowie And Beyond: Looking Ahead To The Music Of 2016

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So how about some music to start the new year off right? Before you know it, we will have a lot of brilliant new music to savor, including one of the brightest voices in jazz. Let's listen to this.


ESPERANZA SPALDING: (Singing) I'm not lacking love, not haunted by its pain. Of romance, life's given me enough. I can't complain.

MARTIN: This is a new song from Esperanza Spalding. Her single is one that Stephen Thompson of NPR Music has been enjoying already. He's with us now to share some of the music that makes him excited about 2016. Hello, Stephen.


MARTIN: So Esperanza Spalding, she's a bass player. And she won the Best New Artist Grammy four years ago. I think a lot of people think she still hasn't had her big crossover moment. Do you think this might be it?

THOMPSON: I mean, I don't know if it's going to be necessarily a big pop crossover moment because this is a really artistically ambitious record. It's coming out, like, later in the spring - not for a few months. It's called "Esperanza Spalding Presents: Emily's D+Evolution."


THOMPSON: And Emily is kind of this persona that she's created. She's planning to stage these songs in a more theatrical setting. This is definitely not somebody who has seen a taste of mainstream success and decided to chase mainstream success.

MARTIN: Yeah, it doesn't sound like - sounds like she doesn't really care.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I mean, it's - you know, you refer to her as a jazz artist, and she's known as a jazz artist. But this record really brings in a lot of kind of a funky feel. But there's also a real theatrical quality as well, still with her gorgeous, really approachable vocals.


SPALDING: (Singing) There could be one so strong, it stops the world and my heart's spinning. One to prove what I've always known. But couldn't see this modern mind...

MARTIN: So that was new music from Esperanza Spalding. That's a song called "One." And so we have another artist to talk to you about. I know you wrote about this artist recently, and you called his new album epic. Who is it?

THOMPSON: (Laughter). It's another record that comes out in March by a singer-songwriter name Damien Jurado. And I've always really responded to his music, but it's like sad dude with a guitar music, you know? Just kind of the big guy, like, flannel shirt, kind of hunched over and making people cry. His last few records are much more almost kind of psychedelic.


DAMIEN JURADO: (Singing) And when I was alive, you were alive, shining light. So when did you go away? Talking aloud...

THOMPSON: This album that's coming out in March is called "Visions Of Us On The Land," and it's like 17 songs and 53 minutes. You know, when you think of records getting shorter and shorter being more focused on, like, here's an MP3, here is a three-minute song, here's a four- minute song - this record really sprawls and sort of forces you to spend some time away with it unpacking.


JURADO: (Singing, unintelligible) ...It was with me all along.

MARTIN: So that's Damien Jurado. When are we going to hear this album?

THOMPSON: It comes out March 18.

MARTIN: March 18 - OK, we'll look forward to that. And I'm talking with Stephen Thompson from NPR Music about some of the big new releases of 2016. Anything else?

THOMPSON: Yeah. I've got a new record by Lucinda Williams. It's her 12th album. She just put out a record, like, a year ago that was a double-length album, like lots and lots and lots of songs that sprawled and sprawled. And this record that she's got coming out February 5 is called "The Ghosts Of Highway 20." And it's another double album, like, a year later. It's 14 songs but it sprawls out for, like, an hour and a half.


LUCINDA WILLIAMS: (Singing) There's a sadness so deep, the song seems black. And you don't have to try to keep the tears back. Oh, you don't have to try to keep the tears back because you couldn't cry if you wanted to. You couldn't cry if you wanted to.

THOMPSON: It's a lot of road songs, a lot of epics. She's really - she's really become a master of the kind of country rock dirge.

MARTIN: Music to play as you pack up your apartment after a breakup.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I mean, get into the car and drive away.

THOMPSON: If you, like me, have enjoyed some long tear-streaked drives (laughter) this is the record for you. It's - again, it's like - you know, we've talked a lot about these albums that are cohesive statements and that are big and ambitious. And it's easy to think of albums getting smaller and smaller. But I love the fact that Lucinda Williams this far into her career - you know, she's like 35 years into her career - is still making statements that are bigger and grander and more unified.


WILLIAMS: (Singing) Well, even your thoughts are dust. Even your thoughts are dust. Even your thoughts are dust.

MARTIN: I think you've got one more for us.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I've got David Bowie.

MARTIN: Living legend.

THOMPSON: Living legend David Bowie.

MARTIN: David Bowie, what's he up to?

THOMPSON: Well, it's really interesting because I heard this album - it's called "Blackstar." Actually, the title is a small black star, and you're just supposed to pronounce it "Blackstar." And I heard this record described as David Bowie's jazz record. And I was like oh, I don't know if I want to hear David Bowie doing a jazz record (laughter). But it's actually - it's not necessarily like rock musicians playing jazz as just musicians playing rock. He brought in jazz players. And listening to this song "Lazarus," I was really taken with how much it combines those two genres in a way that don't sound like people playing around in a genre they have no place in.


DAVID BOWIE: (Singing) Look up here, I'm in heaven. I've got scars that can't be seen. I've got drama - can't be stolen. Everybody knows me now.

MARTIN: The music is by David Bowie. His new album "Blackstar" comes out this Friday. I've been speaking with Stephen Thompson from NPR Music. Stephen, thanks so much. Happy New Year - come back and see us, OK?

THOMPSON: Oh, I will do that with pleasure. Thank you, Michel.


BOWIE: (Singing) Ain't just like me. By the time I got to New York, I was living like a king.

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