Best Album Re-Issues of 2023
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

The 30 Best Album Re-Issues of 2023

The year’s best album re-issues include rock legends, essential R&B/soul artists, classic pop, jazz, alternative rock, global beats and so much more.

Airiel – Winks & Kisses 20th Anniversary Edition (Feeltrip)

Shoegaze music has made quite a comeback in recent years, but Chicago’s Airiel never went away. This reissue collects the sought-after series of four EPs that debuted in 2003 and 2004. The six-and-a-half-minute “Shirley Temple Title Wave” is every bit as blissful as its title and is an all-time classic of the genre. The other 15 tracks, though, offer plenty of additional riches as frontman Jeremy Wrenn stretches and molds his processed guitar sounds into various shapes and patterns. The anniversary issue appends a thorough tranche of demos and outtakes, providing a glimpse into how the alchemy was done. – John Bergstrom

The Auteurs – People ‘Round Here Don’t Like to Talk About It: The Complete EMI Recordings (Cherry Red)

Luke Haines‘ the Auteurs have always been in the running as one of the most underrated bands in history, as Haines’ plainspoken vocals and dry-to-the-point-of-acidic lyrics garnered a cult following, even when he marries his dark sentiments to outright pop choruses. Often dismissed as Britpop also-rans (Haines chuffed at any mention of or association with the 1990s run of “Britpop”), they were the favorite band of many people’s favorite groups, namedropped and often covered even as chart success and smash singles often alluded them. Given Haines’ early band, the Servants also didn’t break; the bitter streak that runs through Haines’ lyrics is very understandable.

People ‘Round Here Don’t Like to Talk About It is an all-encompassing box-set that rounds up Haines’ significant EMI recordings but with some major caveats instilled. Back in 2014, Haines’ major works were given the deluxe reissue treatment, rounding up the Auteurs’ acclaimed debut New Wave (initially released in 1993), their debated follow-up Now I’m a Cowboy (1994), the Steve Albini-produced epic After Murder Park (1996), the final album How I Learned to Love the Bootboys (1999) along with Haines’ electro side-project Baader Meinhof (1996) and the orchestral Auteurs cover album Das Capital from 2002. – Evan Sawdey

Bettie Serveert – Palomine (30th Anniversary Edition) (Matador)

Bettie Serveert‘s first label, Matador, have re-released their debut Palomine as part of their Revisionist History series, which also includes LPs by PavementYo La Tengothe New Pornographers, and Kurt Vile. Bettie Serveert are in good company, and this 30th-anniversary reissue is arguably the most warranted, given the continued prominence of these other acts. It isn’t difficult to find Slanted and Enchanted or Wakin on a Pretty Daze at your local record store. It is likely very difficult to find a copy of Palomine, especially on translucent orange vinyl, along with a seven-inch of three songs initially released with the single “Brain-Tag”, which this deluxe edition offers. 

Taken together, Palomine is a debut that has lasted after three decades. Flexing musically and tonally while still maintaining a coherent sound, it deserves this reissue treatment and hopefully will inspire listeners to return to Bettie Serveert’s catalogue. It is too bad more unusual material wasn’t included, such as demos or live tracks, some of which can be found on YouTube. 

Nevertheless, Palomine dropped clear hints at what Bettie Serveert was capable of in a warm and amiable manner. The cover art of a Dalmatian puppy indicates as much. This album aspired to be friends with you. It wanted and still deserves a home. – Christopher J. Lee

Booker T. & the M.G.’s – Green Onions (60th Anniversary Edition) (Rhino)

With “Behave Yourself” set as a potential single, Booker T. & the M.G.’s needed a B-side, and Jones and Cropper recovered a riff that Jones had recently been fiddling with. That riff, recalled to provide B-side material, quickly led to their definitive recording. “Green Onions” is just a 12-bar blues cut played in F, but Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper take it to remarkable places. The organ alone provides all the necessary swing, but Cropper’s guitar hits come off the beat at the end of each measure, giving the track an irresistible groove. The song sounds at once slinky and dangerous, with Cropper providing a constant edge right through the fade out.

The rest of the album mostly comprises covers of contemporaneous hits. “I Got a Woman” remains the clear standout. The group keeps the groove but turns it into a rocker. The key to all of these covers, whether from expected or unexpected sources, lies in Booker T. & the M.G.’s ability to make them their own. If, in 1962, you wanted to know who Booker T. & the M.G.’s were, any performance from Green Onions would tell you. The title track remains the group’s pinnacle, but every cut they played on carried an inimitable feel. It’s now 60 years later, but if you don’t know who these fellows are, you can find out just as quickly from the same album. – Justin Cober-Lake

The Breeders – Last Splash (30th Anniversary Edition) (4AD)

We are always in favor of a new generation discovering a group as legendary as the Breeders, and it’s to our shock that current pop star of the moment, Olivia Rodrigo, invited the band out to open her latest tour. What great timing that this tour coincides with a new “30th Anniversary Edition” of their most popular album, the decade-defining Last Splash (their best, per all purists, is still 1990’s Pod). What’s interesting here is comparing this newfangled release against the more vault-clearing 20th-anniversary LSXX edition from 2013, which featured demos, rarities, and all the hard-to-find EP tracks from this era.

Stripped down to the basics, the 30th Anniversary edition features just the main album (now remastered from the original analog tapes) along with two rarities from the original sessions that didn’t make the cut for LSXX: a version of “Divine Hammer” with lead vocals by Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis, and “Go Man Go”, an unheard original that leader Kim Deal wrote with her old Pixies bandmate Black Francis. You can go your whole life without hearing “Divine Mascis” and be perfectly fine, but the new rarity and the fresh remaster of one of the greatest alt-rock albums ever made is more than worth the price of admission. —Evan Sawdey

Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People (20th Anniversary Edition) (Arts & Crafts)

The catalyst that launched the Canadian indie rock renaissance of the early 2000s, Broken Social Scene’s second album created a groundswell of excitement that started in Toronto indie circles in late 2002 and snowballed into full-on hysteria by early 2003. For good reason, too, as this strange, ragtag collective of friends with a communal, rotating-door membership fused innumerable musical influences into euphoric live shows and, eventually, magical material on record. Having so many cooks in one tiny kitchen could have easily yielded disastrous, chaotic results, but the creative community fostered by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning created a warmth that still radiates from the music 20 years later. In fact, much of the album sounds even better today.

The first two-thirds of the record is searing, joyous, as good as 2000s indie rock would ever get, at least until another collective of misfits – this time from Montreal – would give the world another Canadian classic. “KC Accidental”, “Stars and Sons”, “Almost Crimes”, “Anthems For a Seventeen Year Old Girl”, “Cause=Time”, each wildly different in tone, managed to wriggle into the subconscious of indie nerds everywhere. Reviewing the album nearly 21 years ago, yours truly was a little cautious with You Forgot It in People’s final third, but the gentle yet defiant power of those closing ballads has grown more potent – and relevant than ever before. This record continues to age gracefully, sounding better with each passing decade. – Adrien Begrand

Mariah Carey – Music Box: 30th Anniversary Edition (Columbia)

Music Box (1993) wasn’t Mariah Carey’s first album (it was her third), but it might as well have been, as it is the definitive Mariah Carey album. Ultimately selling over 25 million copies and spinning off five hit singles, Music Box is not only the ultimate Carey album, but a textbook example of the mid-1990s contemporary pop album. Mixing doe-eyed ballads, funky midtempo jams, and nods to the dance floor, Music Box represents an artist who dominated popular culture, pop radio, and MTV with top-shelf pop confections. 

For the 30th anniversary, Columbia Records have released a mammoth three-CD set that includes the original record, B-sides, hit singles, remixes, and several live tracks. Music Box is very good as it captures the singer in her youthful pride when she was in possession of a remarkable five-octave range that sports her trademark whistle register. Sure, there are filler moments, but the singles are still engaging and moving. Whether it’s the swinging dance-pop of “Dreamlover”, the fervent gospel of “Anytime You Need a Friend”, or the high school slow dance standard “Hero”, Mariah Carey’s singles discography during these years showed a peerless hitmaking machine. 

The new tracks are a treasure trove, particularly the club remixes. The tunes reworked by C+C Music Factory are peak house-pop. The sprawling, 11-minute mix of “Anytime You Need a Friend”, marries the spiritual euphoria of church with the emotional bliss of the disco. B-side “I’ve Been Thinking About You” shows off Carey’s affinity for Chicago house. The live album proves that before the variety of campily messy live performances on TV, Carey was a consummate live performer with a strong grasp of her gifts. Music Box isn’t Carey’s best album, but it’s a landmark album, asserting her dominance as the ultimate 1990s pop diva. – Peter Piatkowski

Sheila Chandra – Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices / Zen Kiss / ABoneCroneDrone (Real World)

Between 1992 and 1996, Sheila Chandra released three albums on Real World Records: Weaving My Ancestors’ Voices, The Zen Kiss, and ABoneCroneDrone. Each was an experiment full of experiments, Chandra exploring the versatility of the human voice through everything from konnakol recitations to Irish trad ballads. This year, a reissue of the trilogy proves how well Chandra’s work stands the test of time. 

Before her medically necessary retirement, Sheila Chandra’s singing voice was an instrument of exceptional beauty and expression, equally capable as drone, melody, and rhythm. In the Real World trilogy, this voice takes center stage, acting as the luminous core of every album and often making up many more of its gauzy layers. On Weaving and Zen Kiss, it comes through the prism of Chandra’s creative mind and leaves her mouth in many languages, many tones, and many forms, emulating anthemic R&B in “La Sagesse (Women, I’m Calling You)” or finding stillness in spoken word on “Women and Child” as just a couple of examples.

ABoneCroneDrone departs from easily separated songs in favor of 45 minutes of continuous meandering over blissful drones. Freeform or strophic, individually and collectively, these are each exquisite pieces of Chandra’s legendary catalogue, well deserving of reissues over a quarter century later. – Adriane Pontecorvo

DeYarmond Edison – Epoch (Jagjaguwar)

Most archival reissues concern iconic acts of great accomplishment. In contrast, Epoch is about a mostly unknown band of promise that experienced only minor regional acclaim. Yet, one of DeYarmond Edison’s key members, Justin Vernon, went on to massive success as/with Bon Iver. Epoch is not exactly A Star is Born, but it does carefully document a group of friends from high school into their late 20s following their passion for music. There is something unique and special here. Curated by Grayson Haver Currin, who was a cub reporter when DeYarmond Edison peaked in Raleigh, North Carolina, Epoch consists of 5 LPs plus four CDs, including dozens of studio recordings, demos, and live tracks. A 120-page book of interviews and photos is also provided. Overblown? Maybe. The music? Brilliant. Vernon had the gift. But you can’t do it alone. You need friends. Epoch is ultimately a tribute to musical camaraderie. – Christopher J. Lee

Drive-By Truckers – The Complete Dirty South (New West)

In 2004, Drive-By Truckers released their third consecutive “classic” album, The Dirty South, only a year after their stunning album Decoration Day. Even if their “completed” work wasn’t released, The Dirty South still feels like a complete album with vivid character sketches of outlaws, boys afraid of letting their racecar-driving fathers down, and tornado survivors. 

The Complete Dirty South can be described as a “director’s cut” of an already classic movie. Patterson Hood resequenced some of the order and added three additional songs, two written by him (“Goode’s Field Road” and “The Great Car Dealer War”) and one written by Jason Isbell (“TVA”). It’s hard to improve on an album that was nearly perfect to begin with. While The Complete Dirty South may not improve on the source material, it adds a fascinating, even essential layer to one of the best rock records of the 2000s. – Sean McCarthy