Top ten remastered/reissued albums of 2020

As important and fun as it is to look forward and tear through an unceasing avalanche of new releases, sometimes it’s nice to take a deliberate step backward and enjoy old favorites. Many of these old favorites can be seen in a new light, for better or worse, either by way of physical format, studio wizardry, or the life, experience, and older perspective you bring to it. And all of those factors have contributed to the way I have selected ten of the best reissues of the year, listed here in chronological order.

Depeche Mode: MODE
(2020.01.24)

Depeche Mode went big for their limited-edition career-spanning box set, first announced in 2019, and finally released in January of this year. The box set includes all fourteen studio albums along with additional material from b-sides to bonus tracks. The box is a testament to this group’s musical evolution, from their early synth-pop days to the darker rock-influenced 90s, up through their current iteration as an electronic legacy act. Fans with a slightly smaller budget who prefer vinyl over CD can instead opt for the band’s steady output of single reissues, including the latest from Songs of Faith and Devotion.

White Stripes: De Stijl (20th Anniversary)
(2020.06.20)

De Stijl is not my favorite White Stripes album (is it their best? Debatable), but you can count on Jack White to continue preserving his band’s legacy with the utmost attention and care. This 20th anniversary of the group’s sophomore album from the Third Man Vault includes the original album on double colored-vinyl, unreleased recordings, live performances on DVD, and a booklet full of unseen photos and ephemera from the era. Nobody is better at selling himself as a living legend than Jack White, and this reissue spares no expense or enthusiasm to exploit the hype, mystery and romance of his band’s history, the recent cultural fetish for vinyl, and more notably, the nostalgia it manufactures.

Katy Perry: Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection
(2020.07)

Urban Outfitters is known for their pop-appreciating vinyl reissues featuring a bevy of the serious critic’s most-hated from Britney Spears to Hilary Duff, so it’s a perfect distributor for Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. The year-long celebration of one of the most successful pop albums of all time is a deserved victory for the set, which features iconic, era-defining chart hits like “Firework,” “California Gurls,” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” This Complete Confection edition features the additional tracks released with the CD re-release like “Part of Me” and the “Megasix Smash-Up” by Tommie Sunshine. Tommie Sunshine! 2012, ya’ll!

ABBA: ABBA: The Studio Albums
(2020.07.03)

ABBA has released a countless number of box sets, reissues, demos, remasters, and related merchandise since their break-up, and the river never stops flowing. Capitalizing on the bewildering vinyl resurgence that defies both belief and common sense, the group has reissued all of their studio albums in a deluxe box set, perhaps in a bid to smooth over any grudges held over yet another postponed reunion, the first due to legitimate circumstances. Taking bets now: which will come first, new ABBA material or that new X Japan album?

James Horner: Casper (Original Soundtrack) 25th Anniversary Remastered Edition
(2020.08)

James Horner’s original score for Casper captures the tone of 90’s kid-flicks to a tee: with this delightfully nostalgic and quirky soundtrack, the composer secured yet another notch in his belt of absolute era-defining classics, from Hocus Pocus and Jumanji, to The Land Before Time and Titanic. This 25th anniversary remaster from La-La Land Records includes additional cues alongside the original release with detailed liner notes. Hocus Pocus next?

Goldfrapp: Supernature
(2020.08.14)

Supernature contains some of Goldfrapp’s most well-known commercial hits, from the iPhone 5-accompanying “Ooh La La” to the Target-celebrating, foot-to-arrow stomping DDR “Number 1.” In hindsight, the album was one of the group’s last gasps, the third in a trio of increasingly successful albums that culminated in multiple Grammy nominations as well as critical accolades (personally, my favorite is Head First, but my taste is lousy). To celebrate the 15th anniversary of this monumental album, Supernature has been reissued in a lovely peacock-green vinyl, all the better to relive your most awkward dance floor fantasies.

Marie Antoinette (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(2020.10.09)

One might be nonplussed upon first hearing the incongruous use of new wave music by the likes of the Cure, New Order, and Bow Wow Wow  as the backdrop to the rococo tableau of history and pastels that is Marie Antoinette, but certainly not displeased. Sofia Coppola’s adaptation of the later life of France’s infamous queen bristles with fun, flirtatious, utterly decadent self-indulgence, and this cotton candy-pink vinyl reissue exclusive to Barnes & Noble is a fitting tribute. Not to be forgotten are the original works by Dustin O’Halloran who lays down some of his best piano work in the second half.

Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory 20th Anniversary Edition Super Deluxe Box Set
(2020.10.24)

Love them or hate them, Linkin Park went on to influence and change the face of chart-rock forever, and Hybrid Theory is where it all started. The story of Linkin Park is one of lightning-quick fame and lightning-quick backlash, despite the persistence of million-selling records; in fact, I’m always surprised that Hybrid Theory sold even more records than its follow-up Meteora! This 20th anniversary release features tons of demos, remixes, and unreleased material, for hours of cringe-inducing memories of that time you sat in a corner and cried into your bottle of Manic Panic hair dye while blasting “Crawling.” With time, like twenty years of it, it’s nice to know those wounds, they WILL heal.

Daft Punk & Hans Zimmer: TRON: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
(2020.11)

Boutique labels like Waxwork and Mondo has been churning out exquisite vinyl reissues for years now, and finally tackled two of the greatest soundtracks of all time in one year, Edward Scissorhands at Waxwork for the 30th anniversary, and  TRON: Legacy at Mondo to celebrate its 10th. The reissue features the original score composed by Daft Punk and Hans Zimmer on double, colored vinyl (a chill ice blue and…sunset-orange? OK). The real draw here is the gorgeous new artwork created by Matt Taylor. You know it’s a disappointing year when only two of Hans Zimmer’s scores see release in a calendar year!

Minako Honda: Minako Honda COMPLETE ALBUM BOX
(2020.12.23)

Countless Golden-Age idols have gotten their due reverence over the past decade, with gloriously updated box sets, complete with almost every studio recording in his or her quiver, from Iyo Matsuomoto, to Yu Hayami, to Maiko Itoh, so it’s about time Minako Honda got the VIP treatment. Honda, cousin to mega-idol Seiko Matsuda, had a career which was all-too brief and cut off by serious illness, but in that short time released some of the most fun early J-pop records. Among them are the cut-and-paste synth-pop confections M’SYNDROME and Madonna-homage Lips, but her later move away from typical idol fare, like Cancel and Midnight Swing were just as good. All of these and more are available in this box set, released at the 15th anniversary of her passing, with also includes bonus material and a Blu-ray disc with music videos.

Honorable Mentions

Danny Elfman: Edward Scissorhands (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (30th Anniversary)
John Addison: Swashbuckler (Expanded Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
New Order: Power, Corruption & Lies: Definitive Edition
Britney Speas: Oops!…I Did it Again (20th Anniversary)
Reba McEntire: Rumor Has It (30th Anniversary)

Gahan vs. Depeche Mode, new solo album “Hourglass”

One of the worst side-effects to writing music criticisms is the lack of total abandonment I allow myself when listening to a record (is Ayumi Hamasaki’s LOVEppears really the greatest pop album of all time? No, but in 1999 I thought it was). There’s something to be said of the fact that before I started this website, or the ones like it before, I was, and still am, first and foremost, a fan of music, rather than that jerk who pretends she knows what she’s talking about when she writes things like ‘Achtung Baby-era U2′ or, ‘sounds like Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” without the catchy chorus and deadpan vocals.’ I used to judge albums rather simply: did I like it right away? how many listens did it take before I liked it? how does it make me feel? is the lead singer hot? Of course, in serious criticism, nobody cares about any of those things (I’m kidding about that last one, by the way), especially not how the writer didn’t enjoy the music so much but gave the record an eight out of ten because he drove his wife and newborn baby home from the hospital listening to it. And furthermore, in the age of computer downloading, when your next album is already in the queue, there is no longer any need to make yourself like an album simply because you spent hard-earned lawn-mowing money on it and won’t be able to purchase anything new in another five weeks.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the perks of the Internet, but I do miss those days of finding an album and though disliking it upon first listen, having the time and patience to get to know its quirks and appreciate them gradually. Unless it really sucked right away, then I just pissed and moaned for days about wasting money on it. I mean yeah, it would be great if I loved every single piece of music I ever heard and could wax poetical on the carefully constructed single “Easy Breezy” by Japanese pop star Hikaru Utada (maybe, ‘when Utada croons “You’re easy breezy / and I’m Japanesey” the goose bumps did rise and the soul of Edgar Allen Poe, whom she addresses later in the album, seemed to rise in spirit as she seemingly dictates the words of her muse’), but I can’t love everything.

Enter the perks of writing musical criticisms: the ability to look beyond the total abandonment of sense and direction, to see where the music truly lies in relation to its peers, its own discography, and ok yeah, the personal agenda of its listener. Music is basically a solo activity, no doubt about it. And without kids staying home on Saturday nights, popping in CDs (edit later: hooking iPod up to the speakers), and setting it on full volume, where would the great fans of music be? I guess in the clubs dancing away their blues or attempting to catch the eye of a cute girl, or in the car driving home after a long day of work with a preferred station playing, or maybe even in an elevator waiting for the doors to pop open. It doesn’t matter; alone or in large groups of people; nobody is hearing a song in the exact same way as the person next to them. I call this simple physics; two existing forms of matter can never exist in the same place at the same time without disastrous consequences.

So that was going to be the introduction to my long, pointless Top 100 Albums list where I would I bitch and moan about artists who haven’t released any solid records since MY STORY, but it seems (reluctantly, but willingly), a fitting introduction to the June 26th announcement of Depeche Mode vocalist Dave Gahan’s second solo album, Hourglass. The official stats: will be released October 22, this year. The worries: none, DM will be working on their next album in the Spring of 2008. But seriously: I’m excited.

Depeche Mode is one of those bands that I still manage to listen to with total abandonment; ok, maybe in the grand scheme of things they’re not all that great, though my mind refuses to acknowledge this completely and instead, pegs them as forerunners to the young’uns of today who can only dream of Gore’s ability to pen the ultimate in singles and albums on a steady basis. But I love them, and in an almost freaky fifteen-year-old teeny-bopper way, worship the ground they mix their music on. But Dave Gahan’s solo work is another story: total abandonment? Hardly. It’s with a more critical ear that I listened to his debut solo project Paper Monsters, a still heavily DM-like album, but with lots less synth and more post-heroin confessions (it would almost be totally un-DM like if it didn’t make you depressed, but alas…). Sure, I liked the album, and yes, I’m definitely anticipating the upcoming album, but will I listen to it with the same sense of awe I get of loving the album before I even hear it like I already do their next DM collaboration? Eh. However, if they’re anything like his three recent contributions to DM’s “Playing the Angel” (for the record – “Suffer Well,” “I Want it All,” and “Nothing’s Impossible”), it has potential to cut the Hell out of Paper Monsters. The bad news? Book-by-its-cover judgment with song titles like “Down,” “Tomorrow,” and “Miracles.” Booo-ring (sorry, I’m just keepin’ it real here).

2005 in music

Ten really, really, ridiculously good albums released in 2005:

01. dredg – Catch Without Arms: It’s been way too long since I’ve come across an album as good as this one that just flowed together so well and restored my faith in American rock music. This is one of those albums where you can download each track separately and draw a unique aspect from each and then listen to the album in order and find a commonality that ties the whole album together.

02. Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel: Fantastic album. More than two decades later, they still manage to flawlessly blend an eerie rock edge with synth-pop that brings 80s new wave to the twenty first century. If there is one song I would urge you to download and listen to completely, it would be “Precious.” It is absolutely amazing. ‘Nough said.

03. Namie Amuro – Queen of Hip-Pop
04. Anggun – Luminescence
05. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
06. F.I.R. – Unlimited
07. The Birthday Massacre – Violet
08. The Receiving End of Sirens – Between the Heart and the Synapse
09. Kent – Du & jag doden
10. Tommy heavenly6 – Tommy heavenly6