You’ve got to love it when a brand new album is released for download at virtually the same time as other formats. In this instance we find David Bowie, after a lengthy hiatus, reuniting with his old band, his old producer and, seemingly, his old self. On The Next Day he exudes confidence and muscular vocals. And if you’ve always loved the Bowie “sound” circa Station to Station or Heroes, then you’ll love it here, too—rip-snorting sax and all. If only the material were up to Bowie’s old standards as well. Oh, the songs are perfectly fine; they ably serve as vehicles for that inimitable sound. But, with a few exceptions, these tunes lack staying power. They fade from mind as soon as the last bit has streamed by. For that reason, I can’t consider this album essential, even for Bowie fans. Sonics on both the CD and the download are terrific—punchy and perfectly balanced. The two sound virtually identical, so this is a case where you can simply choose the format you find most convenient.