Thursday, February 8, 2024

My favorite reissues, box sets, and live albums of 2023

Reissue releases of old music is a huge category and seems to be growing every year, as the rock n' roll cannon relentlessly marches forward. Alongside with new releases, the sheer volume of reissues I listen to every year doesn't leave me much time to go too deep into live releases. But the two that really stood out to me this year were:

Favorite Live Albums

  • Meat Puppets' Camp Songs captures a quirky set from the early 90s Too High to Die era. It starts off a little slow but is great the rest of the way. 
  • The 1999 live set included in R.E.M.'s Up (25th Anniversary Edition) is a pretty perfect document of the band in its later era.

Favorite Reissues/Box Sets 

  • The large majority of the rage for 2023 reissues rightfully belongs to The Replacements' Tim (Let It Bleed Edition), which was both stunning in bringing out big sounds from that legendary classic album and in further illuminating just how crappy that original recording sounded despite the band's perfection throughout. 
  • The only other re-issue that matches the Mats' is obviously The Beatles' 1962-1966 (Red Album) and 1967-1970 (Blue Album). Those were my entrypoints as a kid to my favorite band and they become more mastered and masterful than ever with these new issues. 
  • I think The Lemonheads' string of 1990s albums is among the strongest streak in rock history, and so the remastering and addition of plenty of additional tracks and acoustic versions for Come On Feel (30th Anniversary Edition) make for an even-bigger enjoyable listen. 
  • Acetone's 1992-2001 is a gem that somehow passed me by but was reissued by the surviving members of this L.A. band that out-Yo La Tengo's Yo La Tengo on several of these mellow and hypnotyzing pieces. 
  • Neutral Milk Hotel
    's concise collection Ferris Wheel on Fire explores songs not released during the band's 90s heyday. 
  • The Drive-by Truckers' The Complete Dirty South is a classic of Southern rock n' roll and this version adds a few great songs to the tracklist. 
  • Frank Zappa's Funky Nothingness is most likely for the diehards (it's a lot to take in one sitting), but that dude was nuts in some of the best-possible ways. 
  • Ffa Coffi Pawb's Hei Vidal! is a late 1980s project by Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals and is an impressive psych-rock glance into all the great music to come from him. 
  • Bettie Serveert's The Palomine Demos displays the origins of a classic and way-underrated 1990s album, with the four solo acoustic tracks at the end being the real keepsake here. 
  • Guided by Voices finally made its debut 7-song release Forever Since Breakfast available on streaming and at least four of the songs foretell what the world is in for with GBV's next 400 (ish) releases. 
  • The Breeders' Last Splash gets a 30th anniversary reissue and has a handful of the very best songs of the 1990s, and I especially love the added Divine Mascis, sung by the leader of Dinosaur Jr. 
  • Sparklehorse
    's Bird Machine isn't really a reissue because it was never issued, but it is archival material from right before leader Mark Linkous died of suicide in 2010. 
  • Neil Young's Chrome Dreams is another that's not really a re-issue since it was never issued, but it's new stuff from prime-era Neil. 
  • The Who's Who's Next: Life House (Super Deluxe) provides a wealth of materials about Pete Townshend's original visions for that music and it's all great but also a ton to digest. 
  • The Beastie Boys' Hello Nasty (Deluxe Version) proves that this band remains classic after all these years. 
  • Superchunk's Misfits & Mistakes: Singles, B-sides & Strays 2007–2023 is a wild collection of tunes, and anyone who loves this band or is a completist should check it out. 
  • The remaster of Mercyland's No Feet on the Cowling displays this 1989 lost classic from an Athens, Georgia band that never recorded again but sounded here like R.E.M.'s pop meeting Husker Du and Soul Asylum's early punk.

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