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

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)

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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)

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

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)


Linkin Park’s “What I’ve Done”

Linkin Park / What I’ve Done / April 02, 2007
What I’ve Done

I used to be an insanely huge Linkin Park fan. I defended them at the height of their mainstream success, at a time when everybody asked, “Seriously, why does anyone like them? They are not that great.” I couldn’t describe it, although I remember coming up with excuses like, “They combine hip hop and rock and even some orchestral elements to create a delicious hybrid of musical awesomeness.” Or something. And I will deny this later, but I totally went and stood in line on the day of Meteora’s release back in 2003. Let me repeat that: 2003. It has been four years since their last album. Four long, ungodly years filled with unforgivable side projects and horrible rock/rap collaborations.

So you’d think after four years of getting all the hypothetical shitty third records out of the way, they would all come together and create a masterpiece of da Vinci proportion. But nay, my friends, instead, we get “What I’ve Done,” a very lackluster come-back single. When the song first started up, a haunting piano melody, with an almost excruciatingly simple drum beat that crashes into the full-fledged melody I could swear Linkin Park had already written this song, already sang these lyrics, somewhere on some other album. While Meteora was a step forward, it seems this single is, well, maybe not a step backwards, but certainly not a step of progression. It’s just…very, very simple. Very angsty Linkin Park, circa 2000. For a single, it was a very poor choice, and I’m left thinking that if this is the best on the disc, it’s not even worth the $12.99. So long, Linkin Park. Time to let go of what I’ve done. Nah nah, nah nah.

Official Site
Buy Minutes to Midnight

Linkin Park / Minutes to Midnight / May 15, 2007

Friday night shuffle III

Wherein I put the ol’ iRiver on shuffle and post the first five songs that come up.

Linkin Park – Forgotten: “Forgotten” is from their debut album Hybrid Thoery, which used to be the band’s original name. Comparing this work to their newer stuff, you can see how rough their sound was, particularly Mike Shinoda’s rap, which at that point, needed more than a little sharpening. It’s a pretty catchy song, but it’s not one that I play frequently, especially not from their first album. The first time I discovered Linkin Park, it was with their debut single “Crawling.” I remember hearing the song play at a carnival I was at (yeah, this was many years ago) and saying, “Who is this? I love this song, I must know!” My friend turned to me at the Skeeball game, looked as if in deep thought and confidently remarked, “I think it’s Godsmack.” Well, it wasn’t Godsmack, but when I did find out who it was, it sure was god-smackin’ good.

Mai Kuraki – Love, Day After Tomorrow: When Mai Kuraki’s career first began, many pegged her as a Hikaru Utada rip-off and darn if it wasn’t the truth. Since then, she has released a few albums, but has most certainly failed to attain the popularity of Utada (GIZA artist, go figure). This is one of her earliest singles and one of only two songs I really like by Kuraki, the other being “Secret of my Heart.” No wait, I do kind of like “PERFECT CRIME” in a strange, don’t-tell-anyone-I-do kind of way. It’s a slow, pop number with a catchy chorus. After about the third listen, though, it begins to taper into annoying drivel.

Matsuo Hayato – Rakuen ~ Tousou to Konran: Uhh, why do I even have this song in my iRiver? This is a background piece from the Magic Knights Rayearth soundtrack. It starts out fluffy and happy, and then in typical soundtrack fashion goes all, “No, don’t go in there!” Remind me to delete this soundtrack from my player within the next 24 hours before it begins spoiling the barrel.

Michiru Oshima – Nonbiri Usagi no Ichinichi: This is a background song from the live action Sailor Moon, also known as PGSM. This song is usually played when the main character, Usagi, is having light-hearted, pondering thoughts or is investigating something. However, as I’ve often noticed with orchestrated soundtrack music, you usually just won’t ‘get it’ unless you’ve seen the show; this is no exception.

Michiru Oshima – Sailor Senshi no Mezame: OK, wow, what’s up with all of the soundtrack music that came up this week? This is another one from the live action PGSM, and actually, I have no clue when it plays in the series. It’s one of those songs I recognize for its presence, rather than its uniqueness. I hope no more geeky soundtrack music comes up for a while. This is making me look bad. What a terribly boring shuffle week.