Music

Best Reissues of 2006

At long last, the annual rite of passage, the "best of" list... Here's PopMatters picks for the best 20 reissues of 2006. Stay tuned tomorrow and Thursday for ongoing genre top 10s with our coverage culminating in the year's best musical events on Friday.

Artist: The Beatles

Album: Love

Label: Apple

Label: Capitol

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/b/beatles-love.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-11-21

UK Release Date: 2006-11-20

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List number: 20

I'd challenge anyone who's not impressed by Love. In 2006, more than 30 tracks from the Beatles' coveted catalog were specially mixed for a Cirque de Soleil stage production. The Beatles' producer and arranger, Sir George Martin, and his son Giles conceived a stunning song cycle that, in execution, set a precedent for re-contextualizing a musical act's body of work. Weaving together three dozen songs from the Beatles' extensive song library is not a light undertaking and the Martins should be commended for their incisive ability to derive fresh meanings from standards like "Yesterday" and "Here Comes the Sun". Most impressive is the overlay of different sound designs: how the harpsichord from "Piggies" and the coda of "Hello Goodbye" bubble underneath the strings and drums of "Strawberry Fields Forever". To appreciate Love doesn't take much work. Just press play.Christian John Wikane

The Beatles - Love teaserThe Beatles: Love

Artist: Kashmere Stage Band

Album: Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974

Label: Now-Again

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/k/kashmerestageband-texas.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-07-25

UK Release Date: 2006-07-24

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List number: 19

Houston, TX's Kashmere High School undoubtedly played host to some of the most supremely funky school assemblies from 1968 to 1974.  Like many other school stage-band leaders of the time, Conrad O. Johnson recorded his prodigiously talented band, both in the studio and live, and had the results pressed on limited LPs and 45s; unlike some band leaders, Johnson welcomed the current funk trends into the program's fold.  The band's free-flowing swing builds gradually throughout the years documented on the disc of studio recordings in this two-disc reissue set (the other disc documents a live show), starting off with the rigid cop-show schematics of "Boss City" and eventually blowing the gymnasium roof off with atomic funk feasts like "All Praises", "$$ Kash Register $$", and "Do Your Thing" (dig the maniacal fuzz-faced guitar solo on the latter).  The kids in the Kashmere Stage Band would have inspired James Brown to launch into one of his mid-song filibusters, had he ever played with them; they inspire the rest of us to abject surrender, to stunned disbelief, to unending happiness.Zeth Lundy

Kashmere Stage Band: Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974

Artist: Karen Dalton

Album: In My Own Time

Label: Light in the Attic

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/d/daltonkaren-inmyown.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-11-07

UK Release Date: 2006-11-20

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List number: 18

Born in Oklahoma, Karen Dalton moved to New York City in 1960 to become a regular in the Greenwich Village folk scene. While uncomfortable with the comparison, her Billie Holiday-esque voice was one of the most revered of the coffeehouse stages, and earned notable fans in Bob Dylan and Fred Neil. Not a songwriter herself, Dalton was more an expert interpreter: her often-haunting translations of songs and heartbreaking delivery have continued to influence countless others in the new folk scene of today. While a timid performer, she was even more hesitant to enter a recording studio and, as such, few recordings exist of Dalton's work. In My Own Time was her only official studio album, laid down over a six-month period in a Woodstock studio and released the following year. Sadly, problems with drugs and alcohol would prevent her from properly promoting the album; the album and the artist essentially slipped off the radar altogether soon after. Often referred to as Dalton's "lost record", the album was properly reissued this year with updated liner notes and comments from fans like Nick Cave and Devendra Banhart to finally shed some light on this extraordinary lost treasure.Dara Kartz

Karen Dalton - God Bless the Child

Karen Dalton: In My Own Time

Artist: Romica Puceanu and The Gore Brothers

Album: Sounds from a Bygone Age: Vol. 2

Label: Asphalt-Tango

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Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/r/romicapuceanuandthegorebrothers-soundsfromabygoneagevol2.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-05-09

UK Release Date: 2006-03-06

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List number: 17

Listen to the Bygone Age series and you're hearing the sound of a hermetic world being rescued from possible oblivion. These recordings were made in Communist Romania and meant for domestic consumption only. After the 1989 revolution the country opened up, influences from the outside crept in, and the scene altered; the musicians were dying, and the recordings might have sunk into neglect. Asphalt-Tango is the first western label to have given them any serious promotional backing. The results are superb. So why single out Vol. 2? Vol. 1 is all about the instruments, and in Vol. 3 the focus is on the singing, but Vol. 2 gives you the best of both worlds. Puceanu has a voice of cream and honey, and the band gallops next to her with the panache of men who recognize their own expertise and know enough to be proud of themselves. It's terrific stuff.Deanne Sole

Romica Puceanu and The Gore Brothers: Sounds from a Bygone Age: Vol. 2

Artist: David Byrne and Brian Eno

Album: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Label: Nonesuch

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Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/b/byrnedavidandenobrian-mylifeinthebushofghosts.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-04-11

UK Release Date: 2006-03-27

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List number: 16

This welcome reissue of the collaboration between two of pop music's most cerebral artists showed just how far ahead of the game they were. The overall feel was that of station-surfing on a vast radio as they sampled a range of diverse voices, religious incantation, and even a recording of an exorcism, to a background of richly textured ambient electronica and complex beats. The origins of the music of the Future Sound of London, the Orb, and Boards of Canada could be found right here in this dizzying cocktail of global sounds and looped samples. Often credited with inaugurating the popularization of ‘World Music' that grew during the 1980s, there remains throughout the album a genuine fascination with the exotic, esoteric, and unknown that steers clear of either patronizing or diluting the source material. The reissue came with seven bonus tracks of a generally high standard, and was a thrilling lesson in genre-pushing, intelligent, and downright funky music.John Dover

David Byrne and Brian Eno - Mea Culpa

David Byrne and Brian Eno: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

Artist: R.E.M.

Album: And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987

Label: Capitol

Label: I.R.S.

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/r/rem-andifeelfine.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-09-12

UK Release Date: 2006-09-11

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List number: 15

In the mid-1980s, R.E.M. had not yet sold out stadiums, taken over the airwaves, or performed with Bono at benefit concerts. It was just a group of young, smart, rock ‘n' roll upstarts from Georgia who happened to release album after album of the coolest music of the decade.  This year's collection, And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987, is a long time coming, considering most R.E.M. collections tend to focus on its ‘90s hits.  The album features 21 of the most worthy tracks from Murmur, Fables of the Reconstruction, Reckoning, Lifes Rich Pageant, and Document, while a second disc (in the collector's edition only) supplies band favorites, previously unreleased demos, and live recordings.  Though most die-hard fans have managed to get their hands on more R.E.M. material than they know what to do with, this album has the potential to seduce new listeners: those too young to know what indie rock sounded like before it was a brand.  Classics like "Begin the Begin", "Radio Free Europe", and "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" fit well alongside lesser-known gems like the beautiful "Perfect Circle", the country stomper "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville", and the raucous "I Believe" (which contains my all-time favorite Stipe lyric: "I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract").  Listening to these songs all together, one can't be anything but amazed.  R.E.M. was, at its best, a band bursting with so much talent that album after album was not only distinctly original, but always distinctly them.  It's been 20 years, but the songs on And I Feel Fine... contain enough energy and brilliance to win over a whole new generation, and remind the rest of us what it takes to be a real rock band.Maura McAndrew

R.E.M. - Wolves, LowerR.E.M.: And I Feel Fine...: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987

Artist: Matthew Sweet

Album: Girlfriend

Subtitle: Legacy Edition

Label: BMG Legacy

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/s/sweetmatthew-girlfriend.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-06-13

UK Release Date: 2006-06-26

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List number: 14

This splendid two-disc reissue of Matthew Sweet's seminal alt-rock classic offers a detailed glimpse at one of the most pleasant, not to mention unlikely success stories of the early 1990s. An ingenious blend of power pop and dissonant guitar squalls, Girlfriend was accessible enough to reel listeners in with its ridiculously catchy hooks, yet loud enough to cater to the kids who had just discovered the distorted genius of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr. With minimal, no-frills production and benefiting greatly from the presence of legendary punk guitarists Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd, Girlfriend is kind of like Crazy Horse-meets-Big Star, melody and cacophony not so much meshing as simply bouncing off one another. The combination remains thrilling today, as Sweet's gut-wrenching confessional tales ("You Don't Love Me", "Nothing Lasts") are brilliantly offset by awkward come-ons ("Girlfriend"), nerdy odes to comic-book heroines ("Evangeline"), that combination of adult desperation and boyish charm (let us not forget a certain video that introduced animé to Middle America) making Girlfriend all the more appealing.Adrien Begrand

Matthew Sweet - GirlfriendMatthew Sweet: Girlfriend

Artist: The Cure

Album: Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

Label: Elektra

Label: WEA

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/cure-kissme.jpg

First date: 1987-05

US Release Date: 2006-08-08

UK Release Date: 2006-08-14

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Artist: The Cure

Album: The Top

Label: Elektra

Label: WEA

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/cure-thetop.jpg

First date: 1984-05-01

US Release Date: 2006-08-08

UK Release Date: 2006-08-14

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List number: 13

Another year, another batch of incredible Cure reissues.  This year, we get The Top, The Head on the Door, and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, along with the long-forgotten relic that is the Glove's Blue Sunshine, a collaboration between Robert Smith and the one and only Steve Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees.  The relative merits of the albums themselves can be debated (personally, I'll defend The Head on the Door to the death), but there's no debating that for any fan of the Cure, these re-issues are nothing short of essential.  The demos allow vital clues into the formative stages of some of the Cure's most revered songs, and the stray rare tracks are always treats, even if the strength of those rare tracks isn't often in the same league as the albums with which they are now associated.  The remastered quality of the albums is fantastic, finally allowing you to put them in a multi-disc changer without having to constantly adjust the volume as the discs change, and the fabulous liner notes only add to the experience.  Still, perhaps the greatest achievement that can be said of these reissues is the transforming of the Glove's one and only album from a deservedly largely ignored one-off to an essential footnote to the Cure's discography.  Hey, Rhino: Bring on Disintegration!Mike Schiller

The Cure - In Between DaysThe Cure: Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me|The Cure: The Top

Artist: Gram Parsons

Album: The Complete Reprise Sessions

Label: Rhino

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/p/parsonsgram-completereprise.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-06-20

UK Release Date: 2006-06-26

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List number: 12

After leaving the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons gave us only two albums before dying of an overdose at 26. His legacy, though, looms large, influencing generations of bands from the Rolling Stones to Whiskeytown. The Complete Reprise Sessions offers those two albums, GP and Return of the Grievous Angel, as separate remastered discs with ten bonus tracks and interview snippets between them, as well as a third disc of alternate takes (including three cuts from 1976's posthumously released Sleepless Nights collection of outtakes). Sessions is lovingly packaged, containing cardboard mini-sleeve reproductions of the original album covers, and adding a book with essays covering the circumstances surrounding each record. It's the music that matters, though, and while the outtakes offer no startling revelations, they underscore not only the silky grace of Parson's music even in its rough state, but also the unmatched rapport between Parsons and Emmylou Harris.Andrew Gilstrap

Gram Parsons - Fallen Angel trailerGram Parsons: The Complete Reprise Sessions

Artist: Depeche Mode

Album: Speak & Spell

Label: Rhino

Label: Sire

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/d/depechemode-speakandspell.jpg

US Release Date: 2006-06-06

UK Release Date: 2006-04-03

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Artist: Depeche Mode

Album: A Broken Frame

Label: Sire

Label: Rhino

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/d/depechemode-broken.jpg

First date: 1982

US Release Date: 2006-10-03

UK Release Date: 2006-10-02

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List number: 11

This is, once and for all, proof of how inaccurate it is to call Depeche Mode a "synth pop" group or an "‘80s band".  Though issued non-chronologically, these first two salvos of long-overdue remasters include all the band's seminal albums save 1986's Black Celebration. 1990's Violator is the one everyone knows, but take these albums together and you can hear the band outgrow the "synth pop" tag early on, evolving musically and emotionally and incorporating everything from musique concrète and Steve Reich to Eurodisco and Delta blues, producing some great songs in the process. A lovingly crafted, album-specific mini-documentary accompanies each CD, and the 5.1 audio mixes are revelatory. If you're going to put a label on Depeche Mode, these albums make a good case for "One of the Most Important Bands of the Last 25 Years".John Bergstrom

Depeche Mode - Never Let Me Down AgainDepeche Mode: Speak & Spell|Depeche Mode: A Broken Frame





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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

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Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

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There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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