Music

The 20 Best Re-Issues of 2012

This year's best reissues were forgotten favorites and unquestioned classics, some packed to the gills with obscure goodies and others with little more than what 'em great to begin with.

Artist: Donnie & Joe Emerson

Album: Dreamin' Wild

Label: Light in the Attic

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Donnie & Joe Emerson
Dreamin' Wild

Donnie and Joe Emerson were 17 and 19 years old, respectively, when they holed up in a remote, family-built and financed home studio to record their debut album, 1979's Dreamin' Wild. And dreaming wild they were indeed with their impossibly naïve, endearingly sincere composite of white-boy funk, plasticine soul, lite-psych, and coke-frayed yacht rock, unintentionally striking upon a sound at once reverent and forward-thinking, in the process anticipating an entire generation of future DIY artists, few of which have been able to even remotely replicate the Emerson brothers' wide-eyed experimentation and genuinely intoxicating tranquility. Rescued by the sonic archeologists at Light in the Attic after a self-released vinyl run that never traveled much outside the Emerson's Pacific Northwest farming community, Dreamin' Wild and, in particular, it's suave lounge ballad highlight "Baby", is now experiencing an unexpected renaissance via soundtrack spots and covers by indie stalwarts such as Ariel Pink and Hype Williams, somehow emerging as the year's most modern, bracing pop artifact. Jordan Cronk

 
Artist: Everything But the Girl

Album: Baby the Stars Shine Bright... Plus / Eden... Plus / Idlewild... Plus / Love Not Money... Plus

Label: Edsel

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Everything But the Girl
Baby the Stars Shine Bright... Plus / Eden... Plus / Idlewild... Plus / Love Not Money... Plus

Long before they hit it big with "Missing", Everything but the Girl were one of the most consistently winning yet underappreciated bands in Britain. These reissues of the first four albums from Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt were a timely reminder of just how unique and diverse the duo's talents were. Debut Eden (1984) was a classic that took in both folk and jazz. Love Not Money (1985) was a Smiths-influenced examination of cynical Thatcher-era England. Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (1986), the dark horse of the bunch, was a lush immersion in Spectorian orchestral pop, while Idlewild (1988) remains one of the duo's most intimate works. With fine songcraft all around and plenty of worthy bonus tracks, these reissues present the great start of a grand career. John Bergstrom

 
Artist: Pink Floyd

Album: The Wall (Immersion Edition)

Label: EMI

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Pink Floyd
The Wall (Immersion Edition)

It's easy to be cynical about super deluxe editions of albums that have already been re-released several times. After all, insofar as labels do have to make profits, the scheme of selling the same album to a customers four different times (the CD, the deluxe CD, the vinyl, the box set, etc) is undeniably lucrative. But there's something about The Wall, one of the greatest rock operas of all time, that mandates it have presentation as extravagant as EMI's Immersion series allows. After several swanky new editions of the Pink Floyd catalogue (including a similarly excellent box set of career peak Wish You Were Here), the Immersion series culminated in the seven-disc edition of The Wall, which came with novelty items ranging from faux backstage passes, art books, and a Wall-themed scarf. The element of gimmickry is present, yes, but the theatricality inherent to The Wall's elaborate stage production—documented in one of the bonus DVDs here—is reflected in the many components of this thorough edition. And this isn't the case of showy packaging outstaging lazily rehashed CD mixes; this is as good as The Wall has ever sounded. For anyone looking to experience this dystopian rock opera in its purest form—short of seeing it onstage, that is—look no further than total Immersion. Brice Ezell

 
Artist: Aphex Twin

Album: ...I Care Because You Do / Richard D. James Album

Label: Warp

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Aphex Twin
...I Care Because You Do / Richard D. James Album (vinyl)

These seminal albums by producer wunderkind Richard D. James under his Aphex Twin moniker had been out of print for years leading up to now. This oversight left fans to either face an eBay bilking or simply deal with their more ubiquitous, less sonically desirable '90s CD pressings for almost 20 years. Then, licensed from London-Sire in North America, a label called 1972 released a vinyl reissue of 1994's Selected Ambient Works Volume II in May of 2012, and announced it was also going to press his gnarliest full-lengths to wax. For some reason, perhaps having previously forgotten that they had two of the greatest electronic albums ever made sitting in their vault, this spurred Warp to release official represses of their own. Was there anything particularly remarkable about these specific editions of ...I Care Because You Do and the Richard D. James Album? Not really. There are no bonus tracks, unique packaging, numbered editions, or anything extra to speak of. The only thing that made these vinyl reissues special is that they gave those who never had a chance to affordably own these classic albums on vinyl their long overdue opportunity to do so, albums that still sound groundbreaking almost two decades later, and sound that much better in their natural analog environment. Alan Ranta

 
Artist: Archers of Loaf

Album: White Trash Heroes / All the Nation's Airports / Vee Vee

Label: Merge

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Archers of Loaf
White Trash Heroes / All the Nation's Airports / Vee Vee

Following last year's deluxe edition repressing of Icky Mettle, Merge Records has since given the same treatment to the three remaining albums by Archers of Loaf, ‘90s indie rock also-rans that deserved to be anything but. As these records show, what made their output worth resurrecting from the ‘90s indie-label landfill was the fitful passion that ran through their music -- while they could be as sloppy and fractured as Pavement or Sebadoh, the way their thick guitars and Eric Bachman's desperate vocals relentlessly pushed the songs forward earns it a place as fitting background noise to any grunge moshpit. Vee Vee (1995) is more in the vein of the cult fave Icky Mettle, while All the Nations Airports (1996) and White Trash Heroes (1998) had the Archers mixing it up by slowing down and crafting less direct compositions, as well as adding tape loops and new instrumentation to their tool box. All three newly-remastered releases come packaged with extra discs that contain non-album singles, previously unreleased cuts, and a heaping of 4-track demos. AJ Ramirez


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