The Best Album Re-Issues of 2014

The music world saw reissues from all over the genre map, spanning classic rock titans to electronic music legends.

The music world saw reissues from all over the genre map, spanning classic rock titans to electronic music legends.


Artist: The Clientele

Album: Suburban Light

Label: Merge

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/s/suburbanlight.jpg

List number: 25

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The Clientele
Suburban Light

Suburban Light is either the most classical pop album of the aughts, or the best classical album to utilize pop structures. It’s far too loose to be accepted by classical audiences, despite its inclusion of some achingly gorgeous string accompaniments and more than a few nods to the days of Romanticism and Victorianism. Long overlooked because of its piecemeal track list and an inferior “US release” status, Suburban Light finally came to us like a fever dream, full of promise and repose, in 2014. The reissue extras, especially the keyhole peek of “Tracy Had a Hard Day Sunday”, blew a window wide open into the Clientele’s process and unearthed some would-be forgotten gems. But, truthfully, the fullness of the analog warmth, the Fender Twin Reverb vocals of Alasdair Maclean, and the crystalline melding of what would become the band’s signature sound, are what make Suburban Light a silver-plated gift of celebration. Like most bands too good to last forever, the Clientele has gone off and left us and, in the process, left a niche that has yet to filled by any band as astute and austere as it was. At least the band left us with a porcelain gift in Suburban Light; a single gaslight left glowing in a shadow box of ever-dimming pop songs. Go back, then, and listen to “Bicycles” and “I Had to Say This” and think about all that could have been, but never was. img-864 Scott Elingburg


Artist: Nils Lofgren

Album: Face the Music

Label: Concord / Fantasy

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List number: 24

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Nils Lofgren
Face the Music

Face the Music is a testament to Lofgren’s impressive career and demonstrates Lofgren is a lot more than just a notable sideman. Right from the get-go Lofgren had a cult following, and the level of detail contained in this box set will be of great service to his fans. In itself, Face the Music makes any type of debate over Lofgren’s commercial success redundant because there is so much good music here. Listening to the CDs in order traces the arc of modern popular music, from late ‘60s innocent pop, to straight-ahead ‘70s rock, to ‘80s over-production, with a restoration to balance in the ’90s and beyond. Probably the best material is contained on CD1 (the Grin years) and CD5 (made up of more mature, dark work), but there are good songs on every shiny surface. The packaging is sturdy, with a sketch signed by Lofgren, and as a niche proposition this box is a real way of getting to know a versatile artist in depth. Casual listeners should be entertained if they can afford the outlay, but there’s no doubt die-hard fans will be enthralled. img-864 Charles Pitter


Artist: The Clean

Album: Anthology

Label: Merge

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/t/the_clean_anthology.jpg

List number: 23

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The Clean

The Clean’s Anthology is a reissue of a reissue, of sorts: this collection culling this New Zealand band’s EPs, singles and album tracks originally came out in 2003, and was dusted off to celebrate its American record label’s 25th anniversary. If you want to hear where Yo La Tengo got some of its best ideas, look here. The Clean is a vital group for basically forging the New Zealand sound during the early ‘80s — it was playing original material at a time when most of its homeland brethren were content to merely work as covers outfits. And “Tally Ho”, which opens this set, is infamous for being recorded on the cheap ($60 USD or so), though it certainly doesn’t sound like it. There’s a lot of history on Anthology to take in, and nearly all of the songs are top notch. Essentially, if you need a primer on the music of the antipodes, this should be anyone’s starting point. Anthology is sterling, and its re-release is a great reminder that not only is Merge an important American indie label, but there was great music being made by an act on it well before it was even born. img-864 Zachary Houle


Artist: Slint

Album: Spiderland

Label: Touch & Go

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/s/slint_cover.jpg

List number: 22

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In the ‘90s, only Nirvana had Slint beat for the level of influence derived from a single rock album, and over two decades later, it’s just as impossible to imagine modern music without Spiderland as it is to imagine it without Nevermind. Slint, who disbanded shortly after releasing the album, never reached near the level of success as Nirvana, but the fabric of Spiderland continues to echo through modern music, specifically in the realms of post-rock and post-punk revival. Considering all this, Spiderland was a clear candidate for a big deluxe reissue set, and this year it finally happened. The remastered Spiderland featured the album, a Lance Bangs documentary, a selection of demos and outtakes, and, in the limited edition box set (long ago sold out), a beautiful 104-page hardcover book. It was one of the big reissues of the year — it netted a near-perfect score of 99 on Metacritic — finally giving the album the loving, devotional treatment it deserved. Spiderland may never have blown up the way it should have back in 1991, but this beautiful reissue helped ensure that it will never be forgotten. img-864 Colin Fitzgeralnd


Artist: Hank Williams

Album: The Garden Spot Programs, 1950

Label: Omnivore

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/w/williams_hank_garden_spot_ov-97.jpg

List number: 21

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Hank Williams
The Garden Spot Programs, 1950

If there’s an issue with this surprisingly great-sounding collection of lost Hank Williams radio performances, it’s the inclusion of every intro and outro — eight tracks in all peppered amongst the good stuff. But even those have their moments of poignancy, like when Williams — who died at 29 — closes out the second batch of songs by musing, “that clock, it just won’t stay still”. Here is country music’s most achingly organic talent, singing songs like “Lovesick Blues” in a yodel that could weaken the most apathetic heart. No amount of forced cheer from the host can blunt the effect of Hank singing about his dying mother or about finding salvation after losing out big time on the physical plane. It’s actually fitting that these seemingly down home programs were actually mass-produced, glorified ads for a Texas nursery called Naughton Farms. Because no artist has ever spoken more clearly to those who have a hard row to hoe. img-864 Joe Sweeney

20 – 16

Artist: Fugazi

Album: First Demo

Label: Dischord

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List number: 20

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First Demo

This may be cheating, but goddammit Fugzai deserves to be somewhere on this year-end list. First Demo as its unadorned title implies, isn’t “new” Fugazi material in the way that we all have been waiting for over a decade. (The band is still on “indefinite hiatus”, and at this point it would take George W. Bush burning the original Constitution and declaring himself President again in a military coup to bring it out of hiatus.) But First Demo isn’t a reissue either; the tracks have appeared in modified forms throughout Fugazi’s lengthy, yet too-brief career. Recorded in January 1988 at Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, Virginia, First Demo captures the early seeds of Fugazi’s germination. There are missteps, scrapped lyrics, and a strange brew of misery and politics. Yeah, yeah, the US was a bit of shitshow in 1988, you know? Not as much as in 2002, when Fugazi tossed in the towel, but there was a community of like-minded fans and musicians in 1988 that had the gumption to ring the bells of the underground and Fugazi helped sell the blueprint–moreso than the stringency of Minor Threat ever could. Is it possible to think of punk without the call-out of “Waiting Room” or the anti-commerical stance of “Merchandise”, where the band sings, “You are now what you own!”? Didn’t think so.

But here’s why Fugazi deserves our attention 13 years after its last official release: we will never see another band like it. Ever. It’s a tragedy, but not in the typical way we have come to think of tragedies. Fugazi gave us all the tools we needed to create our own indie empire and it left, arguably, when shit was starting to go bad and the underground needed new heroes. The band could have keep plugging along, but it moved out, stepped aside, and decided to allow some of the others to issue a call.

And we failed.

We didn’t heed Fugazi’s instructions; we let DIY get co-opted and sold, replaced by critical coolness. And instead of following its instructions, we sat on our thumbs and waited for the group to come back. But Fugazi isn’t coming back. First Demo is all we’re gonna get. It’s all the we need; a reminder of what you can do when you decide to make some noise. Go now. Make your own demo. img-865 Scott Elingburg


Artist: Sun Ra

Album: In the Orbit of Ra

Label: Strut

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List number: 19

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Sun Ra
In the Orbit of Ra

Take a year’s worth of reissued and repackaged music and sift through it to find those releases that take a unique approach to the music of the past. You won’t find many. In the Orbit of Ra is one; it presents a thoughtfully, lovingly curated approach to Sun Ra’s music. Marshall Allen, who played in the Arkestra for decades and continues to carry on the legacy, put together this two-CD tour of Sun Ra’s music. Spread across nearly four decades and countless record labels, his catalogue is immense. You could spend a small fortune trying to listen through even just the most beloved albums of his career. Focused mainly on the 1960s and ‘70s, In the Orbit of Ra is a great introduction to the world of Sun Ra, like a mix-tape made for you by a knowledgeable friend. It covers a remarkable expanse of sounds and styles within its limits, which any true Sun Ra introduction has to. It shoots us off into the outermost galaxies, within our own heads. img-865 Dave Heaton


Artist: Captain Beefheart

Album: Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972

Label: Rhino

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List number: 18

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Captain Beefheart
Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972

When we talk about Don Van Vliet, the man behind the Captain Beefheart persona, we tend to talk about what’s not there. We talk about him the way we often talk about genius we don’t (or don’t want to) understand, as if it sprung up, mysterious and ex nihilo, fully formed. To talk about Trout Mask Replica, the Beefheart’s thorny classic, we talk about what it’s missing: a sense of order, a sense of calm, in some cases definable structure, in others definable songs. We talk about these as virtues, of course, but for some reason it’s easier to talk about what’s missing than what’s present and accounted for in Van Vliet’s work.

The same is true of the albums contained in Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972. The three albums here — Lick My Decals Off, Baby, Clear Spot, and The Spotlight Kid — were released by Warner Bros. in the years following Trout Mask Replica. They are considered Van Vliet’s attempt at some form of commercial success, and so to talk about these records you also have to talk about a sort of failure, about the notion that these albums never sold the kind of units the musician or the label had hoped for. Sun Zoom Spark, though, packaged with another disc of outtakes and rarities, gives us a chance to re-evaluate this part of the Captain Beefheart story, and in reminding us not what is missed here but rather what exists in these albums, what wonderful eccentricities and peccadilloes are there to dig into, this box set pays fine tribute to a strange performer who wasn’t interested, primarily, in strangeness. He just wanted to make good records. img-865 Matt Fiander



Artist: Songs: Ohia

Album: Journey On: Collected Singles

Label: Secretly Canadian

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List number: 17

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Songs: Ohia
Journey On: Collected Singles

Secretly Canadian has done a lot to celebrate the work of Jason Molina in the wake of his untimely passing. The label reissued Magnolia Electric Co. and Didn’t It Rain, both of which reminded us of the power Songs: Ohia had when Molina’s first great band started making cohesive records. The tracks on Journey On: Collected Singles, though, tell another story. Journey On reminds us of the isolated, individual early days of the Songs: Ohia project. From the rattling shuffle of “Soul” to the darker corners of “Journey On” to the beautifully stripped-down early take of “Lioness”, Journey On collects lonesome transmissions that feel deeply generous in their emotional reach. It’s a bittersweet listen, one that reminds you just how much talent was lost when Molina passed, and reminding us how much great music he left behind. It presents music as both a place of sacrifice and safe haven. Some of these songs feel too raw, too bare, as if Molina was giving us more than he could, but others — like the quietly powerful “How to Be Perfect Men” — sound like Molina’s primary source of power. This excellent set is a more impressionistic view of Molina’s songwriting than those other reissued albums, but it might give us a different look at the man behind those songs, a man still dearly missed. img-865 Matt Fiander


Artist: Aztec Camera

Album: Hard Land, Hard Rain

Label: Domino

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List number: 16

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Aztec Camera
Hard Land, Hard Rain

Roddy Frame’s career went down many winding paths, but it’s safe to argue that he never created something as wholly unique as his first album with Aztec Camera. Even now, it’s baffling to think that someone as young as Frame was at the time could write songs so complex and mature. Pulling equally from Django Reinhardt and Joe Strummer, Frame created a style of guitar pop unlike anything that had been done before, a style that would later influence bands like The Smiths. While Aztec Camera would experience highs and lows throughout its career, High Land, Hard Rain stands alone. The album remains absolutely essential listening, and it’s about time that audiences (especially in America, where the band never had much of a chance) gave the album its fair due. img-865 Kevin Korber

15 – 11

Artist: Modest Mouse

Album: This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About / The Lonesome Crowded West

Label: Glacial Pace/Fat Possum

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/m/modestmouse_albumart200.jpg

List number: 15

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Modest Mouse
This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About / The Lonesome Crowded West

Two twin pillars of indie rock, resurrected. Forgive the ponderous prose, but this is a big fucking deal. Modest Mouse’s indie cred has soured in the years since “Float On”, but sucks to the critics—this is America’s best indie rock band of the ’90s, the hill to lay the genre on, and yes, I’m familiar with Pavement, Built to Spill, and the rest. Kudos to them, but The Lonesome Crowded West is the best guitar album of the last 20 years, a genre unto itself, a blistering bloom of Americana, an existential yawp, a peerless classic at once utterly unique and completely definitive of an entire sound. This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About has “Dramamine”. “Dramamine”, people. Imperfect, sprawling, exhausting, it’s a record that takes every idea brimming in Isaac Brock’s mad genius brain, chews them up, and spits them back at you, an ugly, beautiful, heartbreaking, life-affirming work that exerts its own gravitational pull. The Moon & Antarctica gets the attention and the “classic” plaudits, as it should, but these two records match it shoulder to shoulder in their own ways. Take them as a trilogy, an unbroken story from one of our most indelible songwriters. Take them, whatever you do. img-866 Corey Beasley


Artist: Led Zeppelin

Album: Led Zeppelin III (Deluxe Edition)

Label: Atlantic

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List number: 14

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Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin III (Deluxe Edition)

1970’s Led Zeppelin III might not be the most iconic Zeppelin album, but it’s one of the band’s most rewarding, and one of the great pleasures of 2014 was hearing Jimmy Page’s new expanded re-release of this laid-back, eclectic record. Unlike Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin IV, whose remasters put a lot more punch in the band’s legendary rhythm section, III is more about bringing out its unmistakable, vibrant folk influence. Consequently songs like “Friends”, “Gallows Pole”, “Tangerine”, “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, and “That’s the Way” flow from the speakers with more grace and intimacy than ever. Toss in some seminal Viking metal (“Immigrant Song”), the joyous “Celebration Day”, a classic ballad in “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, and some filthy blues (“Hats off to (Roy) Harper”), and you’ve got an already perfect album that sounds better than ever before. Page’s bonus tracks are also well worth the time, especially the “Jennings Farm Blues” and “Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind”, two unreleased tracks that had fans salivating. img-866 Adrien Begrand


Artist: Various Artists

Album: C86 (3CD Edition)

Label: Cherry Red

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List number: 13

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Various Artists
C86 (3CD Edition)

Origin stories tend to include an element of myth, and the way that the term “C86” has come to stand in for a subculture of shy, cardigan-wearing lo-fi indie-pop bands is really no exception. But in the case of C86 — which refers to a NME-sponsored cassette compiling the new sounds of Britain, circa 1986 — its historical legacy is actually bigger than the urban legend, since it spoke to a broader cultural movement than the narrower scope of twee bands the tag has stayed with. Setting that record straight is just what Cherry Red’s three-disc retrospective of C86 accomplishes: Adding another 50 tracks to the original 22-song cassette, the collection includes what was happening around C86 and how a diverse range of British indie bands were reacting to the overproduced pop of the day. So this deluxe edition not only revisits contributions to the tape from indie mainstays like the Pastels and the Wedding Present, but it reminds you that its alumni included groups that went on to bigger things in different directions, such as Primal Scream and the Soup Dragons. Just as illuminating is how the whole package provides the bigger picture that C86 was a part of, drawing out the connections between Tallulah Gosh, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Happy Mondays, with countless fondly remembered and otherwise forgotten points in between. img-866 Arnold Pan


Artist: Oasis

Album: Definitely Maybe

Label: Big Brother

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/o/oasisdefinitelymaybe2014cd.jpg

List number: 12

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Definitely Maybe

Few post-’70s British rock albums are as ubiquitous as Oasis’ debut — and arguably best — record, Definitely Maybe. As such, it was bound to get a deluxe remastering at some point, and as 2014 marked the album’s 20th anniversary, it seemed as good a time as any to revisit Liam and Noel Gallagher’s wide-eyed first album. The reissue was accompanied with two extra discs of demos, live tracks and rarities to compliment the refined retro rock of the main album, their simplest, most reverent and, somehow, most humble. Even if the Gallagher Bros. don’t publicly approve of their albums being remastered and resold (let’s be honest—what do they publicly approve of anymore?), fans were no doubt more than happy to shell out for an updated version of one of Britpop’s most popular records, complete with a bevy of bonus tracks, and rightfully so. img-866 Colin Fitzgerald


Artist: Big Star

Album: #1 Record / Radio City

Label: Stax

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/b/big_star_no_1_record.jpg

List number: 11

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Big Star
#1 Record / Radio City

The Big Star story is one tinged with sadness: despite delivering two crucial and groundbreaking albums in the early ‘70s, the band only found critical favour and not the commercial success that it so richly deserved. Sure, many musicians since then have paid homage to the group — though arguably never bettered them — and “In the Street”, from #1 Record, would wind up becoming the theme song for TV’s That ‘70s Show. But despite the fact that many have heard Big Star, not as many have actually heard of Big Star. I’m hopeful that the recent reissue of the outfit’s first two albums should rectify that to some degree. Both are stuffed to the gills with classic songs such as “Thirteen”, “I’m In Love With a Girl”, “September Gurls”, and “The Ballad of El Goodo”. If you need to know how the alternative rock landscape was formed, go back and pick up these two important records. Your ears will say thank you, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. Never go far without a little Big Star, indeed. img-866 Zachary Houle

10 – 6

Artist: Unwound

Album: Rat Conspiracy

Label: Numero Group

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List number: 10

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Rat Conspiracy

We are now three-fourths of the way through an almost unprecedented two-year long celebration/reissuing of Unwound’s unimpeachable decade-spanning catalog. Beginning with the release of Kid is Gone in the fall of 2013, Numero Group (who, with its Bedhead reissue as well, are on a bit of a roll this year) seems determined to make sure fans everywhere understand that the path of inventive post-hardcore goes through Tumwater, WA. One of two three-LP box sets (four-LP, if you go for the bonus edition) released this year, Rat Conspiracy combines what was technically the trio’s second album (though first to see official release), Fake Train (1993) together with its successor, New Plastic Ideas (1994), and their pairing illustrates how much Unwound developed artistically year by year. As if the music itself didn’t paint enough of a picture, each set comes with an accompanying 10,000 words on that corresponding time in Unwound’s history — practically a short book when it is all put together. img-867 Ian King


Artist: Led Zeppelin

Album: Houses of the Holy (Deluxe Edition)

Label: Atlantic

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/l/ledzeppelin_housesoftheholyreissue_albumart200.jpg

List number: 9

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Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy (Deluxe Edition)

The first series of Led Zeppelin reissues in 2014, spanning the band’s debut to its fifth album Houses of the Holy, are a half-and-half affair. On the one hand, the remastering jobs, helmed by guitarist Jimmy Page, are stunning, bringing to life these 50-year-old albums through a host of simple but crucial enhancements. John Bonham’s drums sound even more crisp and punchy. Quiet passages, like the a cappella postchorus on Houses of the Holy’s “The Ocean”, sound far more distinct than they do on the original masters. Yet for all of the clarity Page brought to the remasters, the bonus feature discs usually do little to add to the overall experience of the albums. These bonus tracks, usually rough demo versions, sometimes provide insight into the group’s songwriting process, but most only slightly deviate from the final album cut.

Houses of the Holy proves to be an exception to the latter problem, with songs like the instrumental version of “No Quarter” proving to be real stunners. Houses of the Holy remains Led Zeppelin’s most eclectic recording, which naturally leads to curiosity regarding the compositional choices made by the band in the studio. The extras disc on this reissue doesn’t dive in all that deep, but it more than any other of the first five reissues actually rounds out the new perspective afforded by Page’s fine remastering work. As I’ve argued before, Houses of the Holy is Led Zeppelin’s strongest studio outing, and like any good reissue, this deluxe edition both reaffirms the excellence of the music, all the while giving the listener even more reasons to dive back in. img-867 Brice Ezell


Artist: The Velvet Underground

Album: The Velvet Underground (45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

Label: Polydor/Universal

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/misc_art/v/vuthird.jpg

List number: 8

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The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground (45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

A 45th Anniversary Edition? Universal ought to just come out and call it the “We-Could-Use-The-Money-While-People-Are-Still-Buying-CDs Edition”. In any case, yet another chance to appreciate the Velvet Underground’s excellent third album was not all bad. In fact, it was rather good. The storyline was well-known. John Cale…out. Feedback and songs about S&M…out. Introspection and more straightforward pop/rock songs…in. If The Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat invented alternative and punk, then The Velvet Underground invented indie pop. Lou Reed’s songs were uniformly good, and it was obvious he was still willing to do whatever necessary to uncover a new angle or edge, even if it meant making a plea directly to Jesus Himself. Reed and his band may have been beginning to see the light, but they were anything but born again. In its relatively quiet, guileless way, The Velvet Underground was as subversive as ever. img-867 John Bergstrom


Artist: Nas

Album: Illmatic XX

Label: Legacy

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List number: 7

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Illmatic XX

“Illmatic” has become its own adjective since it entered our consciousness as the title of Nas’ untouchable debut album. Listening to this sumptuously remastered edition, the word sounds more than ever like a fusion of “illuminating” and “automatic” — the 20-year-old emcee shone a phosphorescent light on life in the Queensbridge projects, his flow as innately musical as the rich R&B samples it was paired with. Because Illmatic XX pays such close attention to the responsible enrichment of this music, it’s full of the little sonic discoveries one hopes for in reissues, from the diabolical sleigh bells on “Halftime” to the rumbling left-hand piano run that anchors “N.Y. State of Mind” (I always thought it was a bass guitar). The second disc of extras might be disappointing to someone ready to take a Smile Sessions­-level dive, but all of it is taken from the time period and offers valuable context — two lush remixes of “One Love” made me realize how much I’ve slept on the skeletal marimba groove of the original. And I thought I couldn’t love this album more. img-867 Joe Sweeney


Artist: Bedhead

Album: Bedhead: 1992-1998

Label: Numero Group

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/b/bedhead_19921998_albumart200.jpg

List number: 6

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Bedhead: 1992-1998

Bedhead has long been considered a crucial band to the slowcore movement. 1992-1998, the Numero Group box set that collects the band’s albums, EPs, and b-sides, reminds us of how important the band is to that genre. If that’s all it did, this would be a solid enough collection. 1992-1998, however, suggests that Bedhead’s reach is far further than merely one genre. Though we don’t talk about the band as much as some of its contemporaries, collecting the dreamy edges of WhatFunLifeWas next to the more scraped-out space of Beheaded next to the brilliant expansions of Transaction De Novo shows us just how far out there Bedhead could go. The group internalizes a set of dream-pop and rock and shoegaze influences, among others, to morph these sounds into something both more ruminant and aggressive. The EPs and other material here only work to further expand the band’s palate. Nevermind that the box set is a good excuse to go back and revisit some great records, but in this context you can hear Bedhead as a seminal band for any expansive rock act that followed, any group we might align with post-rock or indie rock or insert-your-own-rock. At their best, reissues should make us reconsider the material, and on 1992-1998 Bedhead asserts its place in modern rock history, and it’s a more important place than we may have originally thought. img-867 Matt Fiander

5 – 1

Artist: Brian Eno

Album: Nerve Net / Shutov Assembly / Neroli / The Drop

Label: All Saints

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/e/eno.jpg

List number: 5

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Brian Eno
Nerve Net / Shutov Assembly / Neroli / The Drop

The Shutov Assembly has long been my favourite Brian Eno album. It’s hard to convey the elusive charm of this release, whose tentative opening notes build into a crescendo of mesmerizing electronic ambience: delicately mysterious tones drift in unison with faint, distant birdsong conjuring visions of distant landscapes. Waves and wind merge with pure crystalline notes; somewhere beneath it all darker, threatening tones rumble and rise. It’s the discovery of a distant new world; or the vision of one ancient and lost. The Shutov Assembly is a gorgeous album, but one that’s been devilishly hard to obtain in North America. Eno fans, as well as the electronic/ambient community more generally, can finally delight in the re-release not only of this underrated 1992 album, but of a generous swath of other re-releases, coupled with rare, hard-to-find and previously unreleased Eno material.

These discs are part of an ongoing series of re-issues by All Saints Records. On 1 December, it was Eno’s turn, as the label re-released four of his albums jam-packed with extras. The pioneering musician got his first break as a member of Roxy Music, but has forged a far more notable solo career working with the likes of Robert Fripp, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and many others. Eno has no shortage of albums to choose from, but these four -— Nerve Net, The Shutov Assembly, Neroli, and The Drop -— are particularly outstanding selections. img-868 Hans Rollman


Artist: Cabaret Voltaire

Album: #7885 (Technopunk to Electropop 1978-1985)

Label: Mute

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/c/cabaretvoltaire-reissue.jpg

List number: 4

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Cabaret Voltaire
#7885 (Technopunk to Electropop 1978-1985)

There are bands for whom this kind of compilation in 2014 would be redundant. Despite the presence of (versions of) 12 of these 19 tracks on relatively recent, well-curated, beautifully packaged compilations, Cabaret Voltaire are not one of those bands. The greater part of why #7885 is necessary simply and sadly goes back to the Cabs being one of those pioneering groups (more pioneering than most, right down to inventing some of the instruments it used) that is given more lip service than actual love, let alone being played and heard. If you were to trace the direct influence of all the band’s work here alone, you would eventually map a huge, largely unacknowledged debt in popular music.

But beyond the simple fact that more people should hear Cabaret Voltaire (because they would like it, and learn some history, not because the band somehow deserves it), we need #7885 as well as the two excellent Original Sound of Sheffield collections because, as the subtitle here makes clear, neither of them give the whole picture. This is the first collection to try and trace, in one disc, the main arc of the Cabs’ progress; the trail from “The Set Up” to “Big Funk” is a long one, and if during these years Cabaret Voltaire never sounded like anyone but itself, its story is one of the most compelling tales of a band broadening its sound, not to chase mass appeal, but to incorporate new skills and interests. img-868 Ian Mathers


Artist: Sleater-Kinney

Album: Start Together: 1994-2006

Label: Sub Pop

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List number: 3

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Start Together: 1994-2006

When it was finally revealed that Sleater-Kinney would be reforming for a new record and tour in 2015, its career-spanning box set Start Together took on a whole new meaning. It no longer marked the end of a tumultuous and prolific career, but the start of an entirely new stage. The inclusion of new mystery single “Bury Our Friends” alone makes Start Together one of the most important reissues of 2014, but the box set also contains Sleater-Kinney’s entire recorded output since its formation in 1994. If you know Sleater-Kinney, you know it never made a bad record: Dig Me Out and The Woods are indisputable classics, of course, but many fans still prefer The Hot Rock, Call the Doctor or All Hands on the Bad One. No matter your taste, Start Together is a treasure trove, made all the sweeter because, through it, we discovered that there was plenty more Sleater-Kinney to come. img-868 Colin Fitzgerald


Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: The Basement Tapes Complete

Label: Columbia/Legacy

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List number: 2

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Bob Dylan
The Basement Tapes Complete

While the summer of 1967 was dominated by Sgt. Pepper, Monterey Pop, Haight-Ashbury, Scott Mackenzie imploring kids to go to San Francisco wearing flowers in their hair, and London’s similarly flourishing scene, Bob Dylan, who not even a year before was fully part of that zeitgeist, had retreated to upstate New York. In a house in West Saugerties, New York, he and his backing band the Hawks — soon to be renamed the Band — were casually recording new and traditional material on their own. The massive body of work that resulted from the sessions were never fully released and became more and more mythical with each passing year, with only unauthorized bootlegs and a good yet imperfect and polished 1975 double album representing this pivotal moment in Dylan and the Band’s career. Nearly 50 years later The Basement Tapes have been released in their entirety, and Dylan fans worldwide had every reason to rejoice. Although the two-CD Basement Tapes Raw is a wonderful, far superior replacement for that 1975 release, the six-CD Basement Tapes Complete is the real treasure, lovingly compiled by the Band’s Garth Hudson, and loaded with many tracks that have never seen the light of day. Presented chronologically, it makes for an extraordinary six and a half hour experience as you hear the musicians settling in, working their way through some old standards, gradually experimenting here and there, and ultimately creating some of the greatest American country, folk, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll ever recorded, a vivid, eclectic, modern exploration of the country’s rich musical heritage. The Americana genre begins right at this moment, and while countless artists have strived to carry on in this tradition, none have matched what Dylan and the Band accomplished that summer. img-868 Adrien Begrand


Artist: Underworld

Album: Dubnobasswithmyheadman (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

Label: Universal

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Dubnobasswithmyheadman (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition)

Dubnobasswithmyheadman has at this point been canonized and picked-over enough that there’s little enough to add, but in the context of all this other material it’s kind of amazing all over again that Hyde, Smith, and Emerson came up with such a fully-formed sound and emotional tone from all these disparate directions they might have taken. While the supplementary material is great, there’s only maybe one example of a track so good you might wish it had made the cut instead (that would be the immortal “Rez”, especially ever since Underworld’s live album indelibly connected it and “Cowgirl”). Interestingly enough, most of the less dancefloor-friendly songs here are found on the original LP, like the lithely downtempo “River of Bass” and the plaintive, sparse “Tongue”. On the album, these cuts serve to give the likes of the dark, cathartic “Dirty Epic” and the propulsive, buzzing “Spoonman” greater impact through contrast, but as the other four discs here prove, Underworld could have easily made an album that would have been much more conventionally club focused, and it would have also been astounding, but perhaps a little less distinctive.

Those four discs cover, in order, non-album singles and b-sides (including two songs they released under the Lemon Interrupt name), remixes, previously unreleased material (mostly rough versions, with some worthwhile new songs) and the aforementioned rehearsal tapes. While any fan who owns a significant number of Underworld releases will find some duplication, the band appear to have generally tried to avoid that common pitfall (“Bigmouth” and “Big Meat Show”, both of which appeared on the recent 1992-2012 The Anthology, only appear here on the rehearsal tape for example) while still being definitive. There are definitely some oddities, especially for fans that weren’t around when some of this material was originally released (“Dirtyguitar”, for example, contains elements of both “Dirty Epic” and “Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You”, not two songs you’d necessarily think to combine), and some revelations even for longtime fans: the sublime outro to “Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You” appears to have been composed by adding the guitar riff from the fine, previously unreleased “Can You Feel Me?” to what’s tagged as the “After Sky” version of the former here, and more than once you can hear Karl Hyde trying out different lyrical and vocal techniques on the way to the assured, stream of consciousness sloganeering he fully pioneered on the original album, an approach that’s still one of the most striking things about Underworld’s work. img-868 Ian Mathers