In 2015, as he was recording music for his 25th album, Blackstar, David Bowie also recorded a handful of songs for his musical Lazarus. In November of that year, he found out that his liver cancer was terminal, but even with his health declining—as late as a week before his death—Bowie believed he'd live long enough to record a final album. Then, tragically, two days after his 69th birthday on January 10, Bowie died. Those Lazarus tracks—including the title track and three others—became his final recordings.
These recordings have been compiled into the No Plan EP, which was released yesterday to celebrate what would have been Bowie's 70th birthday. The EP includes the haunting "Lazarus," the morose "No Plan," the dark jazz-rock "Killing a Little Time," and the sprawling groove of "When I Met You." Though he didn't know at the time how imminent it was, it's clear that Bowie was considering his own mortality. Time, the future, and death are looming themes present across the tracks.
In a strange way, it's easy to find yourself admiring Bowie through these songs. More artist than man, Bowie lived his life engrossed in his own creativity. And it seems only appropriate that he would get the opportunity to contemplate his own death in the same way—through music. It's tragic, but a silver lining is that it's also poetic. These songs are dark, but their existence is beautiful, like any art worth considering.
To coincide with the release, there's a new music video for "No Plan," which depicts TVs in a window on a rainy street. As the lyrics and old images of Bowie slide across the screens, crowds of mourners gather to watch the news as we all did when we woke to the news of Bowie's death on January 11.
It's not easy to do so, but now is the time to listen to Bowie's final recordings, along with "Blackstar," his brilliant swan song. This is him saying farewell through the medium that defined him, as the rest of his catalog speaks of his transcendent life. On the anniversary of his death, celebrate David Bowie's art from the beginning to the end.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.