For some reason, the end-of-year listomania is starting early this year — the Guardian has begun its best-of-2012 list already, and we’re sure others will soon be following suit. In the spirit of getting onto getting onto such things ahead of time, then, we thought we’d commence our own end-of-year listing this week with a look at the best of reissues of 2012. In any case, it seems an appropriate time to be looking at reissues, because this month sees the (re-)release of Massive Attack’s classic 1991 debut Blue Lines, an album which we’re very excited to be able to get on nice heavy vinyl. So her are our picks of other reissues we hope you were laying your hands on during 2012. As ever, we’d be interested to hear your additions in the comments section.
Massive Attack — Blue Lines
There are records that really don’t need a whole lot of remastering, and this is one of them — but if nothing else, this reissue is a chance to own one of the great albums of the 1990s on swanky 180-gram vinyl. Two decades on, the title track, in particular, remains a thing of wonder — a masterpiece of tension and restraint, and a signature example of how to use space and silence in a song — but the whole thing is great. If you don’t own it already, shame on you — but still, go out and grab the reissue forthwith.
William Basinski — The Disintegration Loops
Likewise The Disintegration Loops, a record that stands as one of the most remarkable of the 2000s and that’s now available in a beautiful box set. The sound of tape loops winding slowly into literal disintegration remains a singularly moving and discomfiting listening experience, even without the fact that The Disintegration Loops was finished on September 11, 2001, and will always be associated with images of Manhattan burning. This is an album that merits every critical plaudit that’s been lavished on it — in particular, Mark Richardson’s fantastic review for Pitchfork, in which he gives the record a thoroughly deserved perfect 10, is well worth a read.
Manic Street Preachers — Generation Terrorists
There’s a certain irony in a deluxe 20th-anniversary reissue of an album that was meant to represent the crashing and burning of a wildly romantic and ambitious young band — the band insisted prior to the initial release of Generation Terrorists that they’d sell 16 million copies of it and then split up. They didn’t, of course, but the adolescent glory of this album hasn’t been diminished by passing years, and we imagine Manic Street Preachers rather appreciate the idea of its reinvention as a consumer item par excellence, especially since their original plan for the sleeve was to make it out of sandpaper (so that it would literally destroy the rest of your record collection.) Bless.
The Weeknd — Trilogy
Taking the prize for the shortest gap between release and re-release, this consolidates Abel Tesfaye’s nihilistic R&B trilogy into a single package for those who came in late. This has catalyzed much intra-office debate — amongst other things, our resident Weeknd fanatic, Social Media Director, and weird dark music aficionado Russ Marshalek, wrote about it on his music blog Sold Out — and the general consensus is that the Echoes of Silence remaster is a triumph, the Thursday one is fairly nondescript, and the House of Balloons one is inferior to the original. Still, if you don’t have any of the records, this isn’t a bad place to start, even if the deluxe box-set packaging is rather underwhelming.
Various Artists — Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984
By far our favorite compilation of 2012, this fascinating record collects a bunch of DIY recordings from an era when DIY electronic music was in its infancy. As the title suggests, the tracks here concentrate on soul music, and they make for fascinating listening — the instrumentation ranges from the endearingly quirky to the surprisingly polished, but all the tracks retain a certain ingenuous charm. As The Quietus point out in their excellent review, “it is probably the case that all of these artists would have taken the best studio equipment money could buy if it had been offered to them. Luckily for us (if not for them) it wasn’t. For here, as with so much music, it’s the technical limitations that make it.”
GZA — Liquid Swords
Another perfect 10 from Pitchfork, and rightly so — this remains a masterpiece of cerebral hip hop and an album that, for whatever reason, never quite got its due on its initial release on 1995. That the reissue came with a fancy box set really only serves as the icing on the proverbial cake.
Karen Dalton — 1966
A series of home recordings featuring Dalton’s wonderful voice accompanied only by the sparse guitar figures of her husband Richard Tucker, this is a real treasure and a release that deserved far more fanfare than it enjoyed. It’s arguably better than both Dalton’s “proper” albums — 1969’s It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best and 1971’s In My Own Time — which makes it very, very good indeed.
Tortoise — Millions Now Living Will Never Die
Venerable Chicago indie Thrill Jockey celebrated its 20th anniversary with a slew of reissues, and while they were all entirely worthy, we were most excited for this, the re-release of what remains a post-rock masterpiece and arguably the best album the label’s ever released.
David Lynch/Alan Splet — Eraserhead OST
It’s been a travesty that one of the single greatest (and weirdest) movie scores in the history of cinema has been so damn hard to find for years and years. Happily, 2012 saw something of a resolution to this state of affairs, thanks to generally excellent NYC label Sacred Bones, who put out this swanky reissue in August. Sadly, it was only a limited edition of 1500 LPs, but if you missed out on the first release, rejoice — you can preorder one of the second pressings here or just download the digital version.
Pauline Oliveiros — Reverberations: Tape & Electronic Music 1961-1970
An exhaustive 12-CD box set collecting the work of one of our favorite female electronic pioneers? Oh, yes. Yes indeed.
My Bloody Valentine — Loveless
All the My Bloody Valentine reissues are worth having, of course, but it’s impossible to go past the long-awaited deluxe re-release of the band’s 1991 masterpiece. This is a fine example of a remaster working and working well — the cleaned-up sound makes Kevin Shields’ signature guitar sound all the more distinctive and remarkable, even with all the confusion about what you’re actually listening to.
Various Artists — After Dark
The ever-prolific Johnny Jewel found time to remaster this fantastic 2007 compilation of his neo-Italo production work, and then issue it for free download. The remasters don’t diverge wildly from the originals, but this remains a fine place to start exploring the Italians Do It Better/Glass Candy/Chromatics universe, especially since it won’t cost you a dime.
Sleep — Dopesmoker
Honestly, we weren’t entirely sure that the audio on Dopesmoker needed to be “clearer and louder,” as Southern Lord Records promised it would be — the muddy sound of the original Dopesmoker was part of its charm, and as far as we could tell, it was plenty loud enough. But the reissue has won us over — if anything, it’s even more head-melting than the original, which is no small achievement. Turn on, tune in, and all that.
Paul Simon — Graceland
Your correspondent has written before about how influential this album was in introducing the west to the concept of what would go on to be called (rather odiously) “world music.” Whatever your view on the cultural mores of Simon’s working with South African musicians — and/or the fact that this album is basically responsible for Vampire Weekend — it remains a wonderful piece of work.
Can — The Lost Tapes
Three discs of hitherto unreleased Can rarities. What’s not to like, people?