Music

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

Display Width: 200

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. Scott Elingburg

 
Artist: Nils Lofgren

Album: Face the Music

Label: Concord / Fantasy

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/n/nilslofgren_cover_rgb.jpg

List number: 24

Display Width: 200

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. 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

Display Width: 200

The Clean
Anthology

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. Zachary Houle

 
Artist: Slint

Album: Spiderland

Label: Touch & Go

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

List number: 22

Display Width: 200

Slint
Spiderland

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. 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

Display Width: 200

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. Joe Sweeney

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