The 25 Best Album Re-Issues of 2016

The music world saw amazing reissues from all over the genre map, spanning rock titans to indie upstarts and soul to folk.

Artist: Grace Jones

Album: Warm Leatherette (Deluxe Edition)

Label: Universal


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Warm Leatherette (Deluxe Edition)

Warm Leatherette was one of Grace Jones' poorest-selling albums. But it was one of her best and most important, as this deluxe reissue makes clear. Up until its release in 1980, Jones had been a mildly successful disco queen. But she was always destined for more than that. Island Records' founder Chris Blackwell sent Jones to his studio in the Bahamas and put together a band led by the great reggae rhythm section Sly & Robbie. They all had the wisdom to inject Jones' music with a new wave edge, exemplified by the title track, a cover of a cult British synthesizer hit about car crash erotica. The rest of the song selection, featuring coyly sassy takes on Roxy Music, the Pretenders, and Tom Petty, allowed Jones to create the androgynous dominatrix persona that made her a trendsetter for decades to come. Warm Leatherette was nothing short of the moment when a true icon was born. -- John Bergstrom

Artist: Tori Amos

Album: Boys For Pele

Label: Rhino


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Tori Amos
Boys For Pele

Tori Amos's 1992 debut Little Earthquakes may be her most widely known work, but venture into the deep legions of so-called "Toriphiles" and you will find 1996's Boys For Pele to be perhaps her most beloved release of all. Amos's third album finds her at her most deliberately unhinged and obscure: the 18-track opus features a number of harpsichord-driven dirges and veers wildly from hysterical exorcisms to broken balladry. It alienated many listeners at the time, and initiated the winnowing of Amos's fanbase into only the most devoted of cult followings. For everyone who dismissed Amos as a nut, though, there is a person who will tell you that Boys For Pele quite literally saved their life. With a title that suggests offering ex-boyfriends/The Patriarchy to a Hawaiian volcano goddess, the album is often mythologized among fans as rage and vengeance personified. Beneath the fury of "Professional Widow" and "Blood Roses", however, is a quiet, broken soul seeking only self-reparation, as expressed in the somber beauty of "Horses", "Hey Jupiter", and "Putting the Damage On". The album is a beacon for anyone who has ever found themselves shattered, abused, or marginalized, and for that it lives on as a seminal work of the 1990s. -- Andrew Paschal

Artist: Badly Drawn Boy

Album: The Hour of Bewilderbeast (15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Label: XL


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Badly Drawn Boy
The Hour of Bewilderbeast (15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

It's easy to forget how amazing Badly Drawn Boy's first album was today, 16 years later. Despite critical accolades across the board, Bewilderbeast seems to have been nearly forgotten after Badly Drawn Boy couldn't maintain the same quality level as a career. But the reissue is a great reminder how nearly every one of the album's 18 tracks works beautifully. From alt-rock and indie-pop singles ("Everybody's Stalking", "Pissing in the Wind") to brief instrumental interludes ("Bewilder", "Blistered Heart") the songs on the album refuse to stick with one style but somehow remain united by earworm melodies and Damon Gough's quiet, compelling vocals. And the digressions remain thrilling, from the opening chamber orchestra of "The Shining" through the piano pop of "Magic in the Air" to the disco of "Disillusion." As a reissue, the loaded second disc gives a glimpse of material that didn't quite make the cut to the main album, and most of the time it's obvious why these other songs just weren't there in terms of style or quality. It's fascinating in its own way and does a great job of filling in the edges of what Badly Drawn Boy was doing at this time. -- Chris Conaton

Artist: Cornelius

Album: Fantasma

Label: Lefse


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Cornelius' Fantasma has a genre, the Japanese nostalgia-fueled "Shibuya-kei", but what it actually feels like is the producer taking conventions of trip-hop, alternative rock, pop, and electronic music, jamming them into a pressure cooker, and producing a dense, surrealist final product that is as difficult to describe as it is easy to indulge in. Originally released in 19XX, Fantasma opens with the fairly straightforward breakbeat-heavy "Mic Check" before spending the next 12 tracks (16 including bonus cuts), reveling in its oddball charm. For example, "Micro Disneycal World Tour" is part early Beck, part "Welcome to Duloc" from Shrek, while "Star Fruits Surf Rider" sounds like the end credits of an old Nintendo game if it was performed by the Flaming Lips. Cornelius is a true visionary; not only did he have the vision to see combinations other producers could not, but he had the gall to make his less logical ideas work through sheer force of will. The musical landscape in 2016 is diverse and eclectic, but Fantasma is still breathtakingly and painstakingly odd. -- Grant Rindner

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Artist: Bert Jansch

Title: Avocet (Special Edition)

Label: Earth Recordings


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Bert Jansch
Avocet (Special Edition)

Earth Recordings has embarked on an ambitious reissue series focusing on revered UK folk guitarist and singer-songwriter Bert Jansch. It will be hard to top the treatment they've given his unique 1979 work Avocet. An instrumental concept album about British water birds, the reissue boasts remastered sound, an excellent essay by Jansch biographer Colin Harper, and new, improved artwork. Jansch is joined by violinist / mandocellist / flautist Martin Jenkins and bassist Danny Thompson on six tracks ranging from the 18-minute title song through the shimmering, almost psychedelic "Bittern" and "Kingfisher," which prominently features Jenkins' soaring violin. The natural interplay between the musicians creates a feeling of flight and the oft-mysteriousness of nature. Favorably received upon release and now a long-time fan favorite, this new version of Avocet reintroduced a landmark album and made it even better. -- Rob Caldwell

Artist: Primal Scream

Album: Screamadelica (Collector's Edition)

Label: First International / Ignition


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Primal Scream
Screamadelica (Collector's Edition)

Judging by Primal Scream's first two albums at the end of the '80s, not a single soul could have predicted that a titan like THIS would come next. The first track is truly a come-up, where the previously pretty-much-exclusively-jangly-rock band sheds their skin and launches into an oft-psychedelic, always-emotive and grooving release. In the same way that most of its tracks quote or directly sample other media from the years before its release, Screamadelica provided monumental inspiration for dance music that came to hold supreme rule throughout the '90s (as well as the notoriously drug-fueled club-goers that went bonkers for it). When the opus isn't pounding away with its programming towards the tail end, they reveal their analog base layer when earnestly describing the ache of "comin' down". The classic album is guaranteed to help power your Ups and bring you back from your Downs, and this year's reissue of the 20th anniversary edition from 2011 contains a boatload of treasures for any fan: Kevin Shield's remaster of the original album; the Dixie-Narco EP from a few months after Screamadelica's original release (featuring the somehow-unused but flooring title track); a cavalcade of remixes; and a live set from the band all the way back in '91. Still today -- at our seeming singularity of mega-simplified instantly-gratifying DAW loops -- the long, rising-and-falling-and-rising release that won the first-ever Mercury Prize remains a must-hear album. -- John DeLeonardis

Artist: This Heat

Album: Health and Efficiency / Deceit

Label: Light in the Attic


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This Heat
Health and Efficiency / Deceit

The music of This Heat was and always will be timeless, but it's hard to ignore the parallels between the swelling, Orwellian despotism of today and that of 35 years prior. The pre-post-apocalyptic paranoia that trickled through veins of Brits Charles, Charles and Gareth in those weird '80s now seems to gush through the global, corporeal consciousness of our Soviet-run contemporaneity -- what with imminent ecological catastrophe at the hands of man's greed and negligence. This timely reissue of This Heat's most seminal work crisply and cleanly frames that unnervingly familiar ideology. And as with Allan McCollum's Plaster Surrogates of the subsequent year, we're left to wonder whether the frame is mere simulacrum. Take a gander at the opening bars of Deceit's "Shrink Wrap", a cyclonic self-remix of the unnervingly stilled opener, "Sleep", or at "A New Kind of Water", an ode to the putrefied, precious resource that sustains us... for now: "We finance clinics to research / A cure for cancer, our least vague fear / A new kind of water, a new way of breathing", a choir of Charleses sings. Then bury yourself in the alarming dune of tape shreds that compose the Health and Efficiency EP, which uncannily forecasts the alt-swagger of Sonic Youth by over a decade. This Heat unquestionably knew too much. Now we do too. -- A. Noah Harrison

Artist: Various Artists

Album: Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection

Label: Alligator


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Various Artists
Alligator Records 45th Anniversary Collection

It's been 45 years since Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers entered a Chicago recording studio to cut the album that would change the face of American music forever. That self-titled release came out in August 1971 and launched an American institution, Alligator Records. Label boss Bruce Iglauer ran the operation from an efficiency apartment in the Windy City. In the subsequent decades, his imprint would issue roughly 300 titles, including releases from Koko Taylor, Albert Collins, Luther Allison, and Lil' Ed and The Blues Imperials, among many, many others. When quality blues records were hard to come by, and majors turned their attention to the latest fashions, Iglauer stuck it out, giving a loyal fan base music they didn't know they were missing. To see the Alligator logo on an album's spine meant you were getting something handpicked from a friend who loved that music as much as you did. Maybe even more. -- Jedd Beaudoin

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