FEATURE: The Best Reissues of 2016, Part 1
by Chad Jewett
[Read Part 1 here]
Brand New – Leaked Demos 2006
Ever since its unceremonious appearance on the internet in 2006, Brand New’s collection of seven demos for what would eventually become The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me remained an incomplete document, barely mixed, unmastered, floating from blog to blog in harshly digitized form. Brand New finally addressed this odd quirk in their discography this year, mixing and mastering the demos – which they by no means had to do, considering the initial demo collection was released without their knowledge or consent – and releasing them under the title Leaked Demos 2006. By now, most Brand New fans know these songs well, but the added fidelity revealed the full power of songs like The Smiths-esque “1996” (the collection’s best song) and haunting sparseness of the set’s early version of “Luca”, ultimately making Leaked Demos stand out as a fascinating bit of alternative history both clarifying and adding further mystery to their magnum opus, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.
Hey Mercedes – Everynight Fire Works
As the current critical re-evaluation and rediscovery of emo’s expansive recorded history continues, more and more records that never received their due consideration are finally getting a second look. Such is the case with Everynight Fire Works, the excellent debut LP from Hey Mercedes, initially released by Vagrant in 2003. The defining aesthetic of the Illinois quartet – equal parts tunefulness and math-y twists and turns – now defines what “emo” is in 2016, and this reissue, which compiles the B-sides and extras of the era (many of which are seeing their vinyl debut here), is well timed to give Everynight Fire Works its second chance. The pressing, released through Run For Cover Records, boasts a gorgeous and thematically appropriate blue and purple splatter, matching the lovely nighttime sky of the album’s cover. Everynight Fire Works is a hidden gem that now sounds strikingly prescient – the shape of emo to come.
Unwound – What Was Wound
The past three years have seen Numero Group slowly but surely rounding out their long-running archiving of Unwound, the brilliant Washington post-hardcore trio whose work is equaled only by Fugazi and Sleater-Kinney in its influence and depth. Last year, the label seemingly completed their work with the release of Empire, which compiled remastered editions of the band’s final two albums (Challenge for a Civilized Society and Leaves Turn Inside You) along with era-specific B-sides and rarities. But coy social media hints about further Unwound projects eventually bore fruit this fall when the label announced What Was Wound, a CD/DVD collection of the band’s entire discography, complete with a 90-minute DVD devoted to live footage and music videos and a hardcover book housing rare photos, liner notes, and the band’s oral history of their work and time together. The set is a worthy final ode to the band, underlining through its exhaustiveness the sheer impact and breadth of Unwound’s amazing catalog and its continued importance.
Ornette Coleman – An Evening With Ornette Coleman, Part 1
An Evening With Ornette Coleman, Part 1, a live documentation of the free jazz innovator’s 1965 gig at Fairfield Hall in Croydon, England has been available in one form or another for a while, though largely in the form of pricey import CDs. But it’s never seen the high-quality pressing and gorgeous packaging of this year’s Black Friday exclusive release, which featured the album on 180-gram pink translucent vinyl and housed in a beautiful pink-and-blue sleeve, striking in its pop-art simplicity. The music itself remains inimitable, with Side A devoted to Coleman’s mind-blowing experiments with minimalistic classical art music (Coleman devotes most of his attention to violin for this segment) and Side B given over to the liquid free jazz Coleman and his band had been perfecting for much of the decade. An Evening With Ornette Coleman, Part 1 is a much-needed and well-crafted reissue of a fascinating document.
Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary (Deluxe Edition)
Like Run For Cover’s Everynight Fire Works reissue, Sub Pop’s deluxe remastered re-pressing of Wolf Parade’s excellent 2006 debut, Apologies To The Queen Mary, compiles everything for the era and introduces it to us in a new context. With ten years hindsight, Apologies strikes one as an oddball champion of indie rock’s mid-2000s renaissance, a stranger and more idiosyncratic cousin to breakthroughs like Good News For People Who Love Bad News, Funeral, and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. This edition replacing the original’s pastel minimalism with a grainy, punk circa-’77 snapshot of the band onstage, where songs like “I’ll Believe In Anything” and “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son” would reach their scrappy potential. Produced by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock (with whom Wolf Parade shares some Captain Beefheart-indebted DNA) and somehow fusing bits and pieces of The Shins’ power-pop, The Rapture’s excitable dance-punk, and Man Man’s primal stomp, all with a prog-rock drama that anticipated the mainstream arrival of The Dirty Projectors a few years later, Wolf Parade’s debut is still compelling, still moving, and still oddly catchy. Rounded out by its adjacent EPs (all self-titled), and an unreleased track, this deluxe edition offers a complete picture of the band’s masterful opening statement.