The BEST REMASTERS / REISSUES of 2010

By Chris Moore:

The BEST REMASTERS / REISSUES of 2010

This category isn’t  populated by music technically from 2010, but it belongs here all the same.  After all, with all the unsatisfactory, unimpressive remasters and reissues that are being released every year, it’s important to salute the solid ones.

Number one hails form the ever-impressive — and ever-overpriced — “Deluxe Edition” series.  As with the DE treatment of the Blue Album, Pinkerton is dressed up with gorgeous multi-fold packaging and accented with a booklet that includes a note from Rivers dating back to 1996, handwritten lyrics to the core songs on the album, an essay by insider Karl Koch, and a veritable scrapbook of pictures and memorabilia in between.  The music itself is quirky, dissonant at turns, and harmonically pleasing at others.  The only criticism to be leveled at the plentiful bonus tracks is the repetition.  I mean, I love “Pink Triangle” as much as the next guy — probably more — but are five versions really necessary?

The next two on the list are Clutch re-releases.  True to form, Clutch is not simply going through the motions here.  The packaging for both are beautiful recreations of the originals with nice accents added.  The live DVD with Robot Hive/Exodus was a nice touch for fans like myself who will buy their CDs but not necessarily spring for other releases, like their recent live DVD.  There are few booklets so thoughtfully produced as that with From Beale St. to Oblivion, and I can’t imagine any lover of albums and packaging not appreciating this one.

The Fables of the Reconstruction box is indisputably one of the coolest packaging designs of the year, though it would have been preferable to downsize the poster in favor of a longer essay with more insight into the making of the album, etc.  The bonus tracks — the so-called Athens demos — will surely thrill longtime fans fascinated by the songs in their rough forms, though to my unseasoned ear the demos don’t sound all that different from the final studio versions.

The final addition here comes with a caveat.  The four Badfinger remasters are excellent candidates for receiving more attention from modern music listeners, and the packaging comes through in terms of adding several bonus tracks and liner notes that are more than sufficient to outline the context, either forgotten or unknown to those purchasing these albums.  And the remasters are significant, adding volume that was simply impossible on the original CD versions.  However, as a good friend pointed out, there is something lost when the reverb falls away from the drums and the other aural artifacts of their early seventies production disappears.

The honorable mentions are included here, as I’m uncertain of where else to place them.  The ever-excellent Bootleg Series should go without saying.  Even a non-fan could appreciate the rich experience that is to be had by listening to and reading one of these releases, this being the ninth installment.  The other mention is for Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise, a double-album of unreleased tracks from the Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions.  The packaging is beautiful and the music, particularly for the Springsteen fans out there, is comparable to stumbling upon buried treasure.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, and then Thursday and Friday for the best lists yet: the Best Songs and the Best Albums of 2010!

1)  Pinkerton – Weezer

2)  Robot Hive/Exodus – Clutch

3)  From Beale St. to Oblivion – Clutch

4)  Fables of the Reconstruction – R.E.M.

5)  The Badfinger remasters (Magic Christian Music; No Dice; Straight Up; Ass)

Honorable Mention:

The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos (1962-1964) – Bob Dylan

The Promise – Bruce Springsteen

“Photograph” (Ringo Starr Cover)

By Chris Moore:

Welcome to my first of two installments for “Number Ones” week at http://LaptopSessions.com ! I’m happy to bring you my second Ringo Starr cover this year, “Photograph.” Co-written with George Harrison, this is certainly one of his most well-known songs and probably one of his catchiest. If nothing else, it’s one of his most memorable, as it reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100!

There’s lots more to come as the week rolls on, so I hope you’ll check the blog to hear the songs that Jim and Jeff are recording — Jeff’s first installment of the week will be here tomorrow.

See you next session!


The TOP TWENTY ALBUMS of 2010

The TOP TWENTY ALBUMS of 2010

At long last, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of the best albums of the year, in order, as selected by the Weekend Review.

Okay, so the Weekend Review is really just me, but it sounds so much more official when I write it like that…

If you read my Best Songs list yesterday, then you also read my reaction to the “anti-top ten list” post made by musician/writer John Roderick earlier this week.  If not, suffice it to say that I think the end of year music lists aren’t meant to be accurate gauges of the previous twelve months’ new music releases.  If you believe that is even possible, then you must be deluded.  A top ten (or twenty, forty, whatever) list is a celebration of individuals listening to and loving and hating and interpreting and discussing and arguing over the meanings of and value of that aforementioned new music.

That being said, my list is pretty much perfect.  So, bask in its glory, experience the feeling of being in the shadow of greatness as you peruse, that shadow looming more or less large depending on how high or low you go on the list.

And, for crying out loud, leave comments and links to any music I may have missed this year.

1)  All in Good Time – Barenaked Ladies

More than a breakup album, and no, it’s not “a serious BnL album;”  it’s BnL as per usual: excellent.

2)  Sea of Cowards – The Dead Weather

All the potential expressed in the details of their debut is capitalized on here with this outstanding follow-up, and only a year after Horehound!

3)  Bad Books – Bad Books

Two indie artists combine to form an even more obscure band and produce poetry set to folky alternative rock.

4)  Heaven is Whenever – The Hold Steady

My first go-round with the Hold Steady left me wondering how I missed this band and their gritty, smart rock and roll before now.

5)  Kaleidoscope Heart – Sara Bareilles

Her second album is tantamount to hitting a home run, from a capella opener to piano rock/pop to stripped down acoustic and harmonica work.

6)  Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Danger Mouse and James Mercer form one of the most fruitful collaborations of the year, their unique sound accented with echoes ranging from contemporary dance to seventies Beach Boys.

7)  Mines – Menomena

I’ve never heard an album quite like this before, a patchwork of sharp lyrics and killer instrumentation that, combined, sound like an alternative rock orchestra.

8)  Transference – Spoon

Masters of the understated performance, Spoon both strips down their arrangements and manages to weave complicated, interesting threads throughout the album.

9)  Lonely Avenue – Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

A partnership made in alternative rock heaven.  (Was I supposed to say more?)

10)  Be in Love – Locksley

Sounding like the Beatles circa-Please Please Me if they had hailed from the golden age of garage rock, Locksley is a band to keep your eye on.

11)  The Grand Theatre, Volume One – Old 97’s

Only one half of the recordings that were yielded from the Grand Theatre sessions, Volume One is dynamic stuff.  (Does make you wonder how much better it could have been if the best of the best had been included in one release.  Or how mediocre Volume Two is going to be.)

12)  Night Work – Scissor Sisters

If you can get past the buttocks in tights being grabbed on the front cover, you’ll find a smart hybrid of dance music and guitar-driven rock.

13)  Volume Two – She & Him

Not quite retro, not quite contemporary, Zooey Deschanel’s voice casts a spell over each track.

14)  The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

A great album with an impressive sense of concept, implementation, and packaging, though it lacked the dynamism necessary to draw me back for multiple listens.

15)  Page One – Steven Page

A very strong solo debut that ran the genre gamut.

16)  Suburba – House of Heroes

A strong album from a band that clearly works song by song, each track working in movements with multiple elements at play.

17)  Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots

The Stone Temple Pilots do power pop.  (Good stuff!)

18)  Something For the Rest of Us – Goo Goo Dolls

Excellent sound and outstanding lyrics, though as a whole it lags a bit, falling into patterns four plus minute song after four plus minute song.

19)  Hurley – Weezer

The cover image of Lost actor Jorge Garcia notwithstanding, Hurley finds Weezer sounding relevant and rocking out more than they have in some time.

20)  Brothers – The Black Keys

If the album as a whole had been as dynamic as the first five tracks, Brothers would not have been floating on the periphery of this list.

Honorable Mention:

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

I don’t really have a frame of reference for this one (thus the honorable mention), but West’s multi-layered approach has earned my respect, even if I will probably never feel comfortable singing the lyrics out loud with other people around…

The BEST ALBUM COVERS of 2010

The BEST ALBUM COVERS of 2010

This is a category that I feel is becoming increasingly lost in the shuffle of digital downloading.  There are, however, an increasing number of music consumers who desire to have the visual aesthetics return to the music industry, expressed in the nostalgia of vinyl.  There’s really nothing quite like a full vinyl-size album cover, especially if it’s an interesting or well-rendered image.

Although it was one of the most disappointing albums of the year, Rooney’s Eureka hit a home run with its hand-drawn covers and in-lay.  The Dead Weather take the cake for quirkiness this year, as the Sea of Cowards cover is populated by the band looking like they just walked into a costume party.  Locksley, another band to grace the cover of their album, went all-in as they wore all white clothing and ended up looking like the canvas for an abstract painting, a visual motif that was nicely continued in their music video for “The Whip.”

Arcade Fire’s cover for The Suburbs is minimalist, but it fits with the album’s themes perfectly.  Even before the listener has heard the first track, there is a seventies/eighties suburban aura around the release.  Finally, Best Coast created an eye-catching cover for their debut, and I couldn’t resist recognizing it here.

My honorable mention this year is the Scissor Sisters’ Night Work, an album that tests your comfort level even before you’ve heard its scandalous, primal tracks: if you can walk up to the cashier with this album in hand and without blushing, then you’ve passed!

I’ve linked images of these albums to the titles listed below, so simply click for a quick peek at a .jpg version.  They’re much more impressive in person though — but don’t take my word for it.

Remember to check back tomorrow for the Top 25 Songs of 2010 list!

1)  Eureka – Rooney

2)  Sea of Cowards – Dead Weather

3)  Be in Love – Locksley

4)  The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

5)  Crazy for You – Best Coast

Honorable Mention:

Night Work – Scissor Sisters