January's Blackstar didn't need to be Bowie's final album to land in the top tier of his 25-album career. It's extraordinarily weird, and heavy, and tender and inspired, with a densely powerful 10-minute title track opener, a la '76's Station to Station. Its ambitious visuals forever stitch themselves to the songs once you've witnessed seen them. It took cues from Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and tasked jazz musicians with making rock music.
Bowie died of cancer two days after releasing the album on his 69th birthday, and his potent discography could've pushed Blackstar to the wings as the world mourned. Instead, it shone—and still shines—bright, emotionally concluding with the era-agnostic farewell "I Can't Give Everything Away." —Zach Dionne