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.

20 - 16

Artist: Fugazi

Album: First Demo

Label: Dischord


List number: 20

Display Width: 200

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. Scott Elingburg

Artist: Sun Ra

Album: In the Orbit of Ra

Label: Strut


List number: 19

Display Width: 200

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. Dave Heaton

Artist: Captain Beefheart

Album: Sun Zoom Spark: 1970-1972

Label: Rhino


List number: 18

Display Width: 200

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. Matt Fiander

Artist: Songs: Ohia

Album: Journey On: Collected Singles

Label: Secretly Canadian


List number: 17

Display Width: 200

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. Matt Fiander

Artist: Aztec Camera

Album: Hard Land, Hard Rain

Label: Domino


List number: 16

Display Width: 200

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. Kevin Korber

Prev Page
Next Page




On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.


Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.


Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.


Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.


That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.


Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.


Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.


Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.


'Thor: Ragnorak' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.


Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.