Pink Floyd and more...
The Pink Floyd Discovery Studio Album Box Set
Pink Floyd occupies a curious and somewhat unique place in rock history. Certainly it would seem ludicrous to suggest that this celebrated band has not received sufficient attention. Still, most of their approbation has been focused, not unjustly, around the streak of albums they made starting with 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon through 1979’s The Wall. That these works are among the best-loved and best-selling of all time is not a matter of dispute. That this run ended just after (or just before, depending on your perspective) Roger Waters’ exodus—a move he considered the de facto final act of the band’s career (he was wrong as it turned out)—and set the stage for more than two decades of bad blood, recriminations and music that, to put it charitably, does not sit comfortably on the shelf with what came before, is pretty well established fact.
As such, Floyd became infamous for the feuding and ever-bloated arena tours, and not since the Beatles (or possibly Led Zeppelin) has such anxiety, hope and expectation been wasted deliberating whether a reunion—however strained—was inevitable. In the meantime, the work the band did before Dark Side has tended to get overlooked or else dismissed as middling by people who have never provided much evidence that they’ve bothered to listen to the albums in question.
With the possible exception of their 1967 debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which featured original songwriter Syd Barrett, and Meddle, which preceded—and anticipated—Dark Side, the first band in space’s early output has existed in a critical (if not commercial) black hole. This can’t be helped, but it could be rectified. And so: the occasion of yet another exhaustive reissue campaign should provide necessary incentive for some exploration by the uninitiated.—Sean Murphy
The Defamation of Strickland Banks
A prosperous genre in the UK, British rap is largely overlooked in the US. Not all is merry and gay in England; the amount of hoodies, chavs, and ASBOS (Anti-Social Behavior Orders) alone make a convincing enough argument for chronicles of inner city British life. Despite its big soul sound, this album is far from being a suitable dinner party soundtrack. If 2011 proves to be a year in which promising artists get their due respects, then this CD will provide Plan B with US success. Anyone enamored of nu-soul, strong story telling, and the darker side of British culture has already been rewarded.—Maria Schurr
Screamadelica (Kevin Shields Remaster)
Presently being reissued in several editions for its 20th anniversary, Screamadelica remains the most rewarding, most enduring evidence of the variety of sounds that could be folded into early ‘90s dance music. It’s an exceptionally well-crafted album, wasting not one moment in its journey through numerous strands of popular music. A testament to rule breaking and genre bending, the album is that rare kind of pastiche that elevates what it imitates, and in the process, innovates.—Thomas Britt
Full set of catalogue re-issues
Boasting sales of more than 300 million albums worldwide and responsible for enough classic songs to spill over multiple best-of compilations, Queen belongs in this most rarefied category of rock excellence. Beloved by countless fans the world over, but not always treated kindly by critics during its heyday (the band’s gleeful embrace of musical excess and stadium-sized showmanship was particularly an affront when punk reared its spiky head in the late 1970s), the British quartet has seen its cultural cache steadily increase decade after decade. Nearly 20 years following the death of singer Freddie Mercury, Queen is now rightfully regarded as true rock royalty. To mark the band’s 40th anniversary, Queen’s label Hollywood is in the process of issuing remastered editions of the quartet’s entire catalog in three waves.—AJ Ramirez
Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010
With the release of this two-disc best-of and rarities compilation, the Swedish indie-pop veterans ride the momentum they’ve gained from their spectacular 2010 album, Clinging to a Scheme. Some of the album’s best social commentary is offered in the samples, when the band tugs at the roots of rebellion in hip-hop and rock. It’s easy to listen to Passive Aggressive—whether you’re new to the band or not—and conclude that the Radio Dept. will spend the next 15 years churning out much of the same great songs, however infrequent the output is.—Freeden Ouer
The King of Limbs
Radiohead may or may not be the best or biggest band in the world, but it’s the most enigmatic act around. Radiohead’s paradoxical nature and contrarian attitude might have more to say about the band’s music and its reception than it does the group’s ingeniously (anti-)media campaigns, which continue to rewrite the book on publicity in the digital age precisely by eschewing and disdaining self-promotion. The less fuss Radiohead makes about itself, the more of a cultural phenomenon the albums become. There’s no way any other band could release something as dense, complex, and abstract as The King of Limbs to as much hubbub, fanfare, and warm adoration.—Arnold Pan