Published Nov 26, 20135. Various
The Ecstasy of Gold - Killer Bullets from the Spaghetti West
Think "Spaghetti Western" and the timeless classics of Ennio Morricone immediately come to mind. However, newly launched imprint Semi-Automatic proved that there's so much more to the genre than The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Culled from apparently "one of the most complete Spaghetti Western audio archives," this five-volume set is one inspiring piece of work, offering everything from cascading surf guitars, tripped-out organ tones, heart-tuggingly powerful vocals, visionary percussion, booming brass, unnamable sound effects and beyond. And it all comes at the hands of Italian maestros like Piero Umiliani, Alessandro Alessandroni, Bruno Nicolai and Gianni Ferrio, among many others. Each volume in the series (as of press time, the fifth has yet to be released) comes as an individually packaged double-LP set with some appropriately vintage-looking cowboy art. If modern music has you feeling bored and tired, put on one of these suckers and hear just how imaginative music can really be. (B.T.)
4. Shuggie Otis
Inspiration Information/Wings of Love
It was great year to be a Shuggie Otis fan. Not only did the reclusive funk-soul figure re-emerge for a series of live dates, but his final studio album, 1974's Inspiration Information, was packaged up for this reissue. As great as that record is, though, it's this reissue package's second disc, Otis's forever-in-the-works follow-up Wings of Love, that's the real draw (after all, David Byrne already reissued Inspiration Information back in 2001). Recorded between 1975 and 2000, the previously unreleased Wings of Love is eclectic as hell, jumping from synth-led bedroom jams to psyched-out rockers to soaring power ballads and, of course, a big helping of funk butt-shakers. However, it also gives a stunning glimpse of just how genius Otis can really be. The only bummer about this reissue set is that it never made its way to vinyl. (B.T.)
The story behind this lost classic hardcore album was unfortunately overshadowed by Dave Grohl's involvement, but it's because of the Foo Fighters frontman that we have a remastered alternate reissue of BL'AST's It's In My Blood. Retitled Blood!, this new version contains freshly discovered master tapes that were salvaged and invigorated by Grohl in his Virginia studio. Sounding ripe and ruthless, this is a grimy blast of '80s hardcore/thrash that somehow maintains its original gnash while benefiting from a contemporary makeover. (C.L.)
2. John Carpenter
When rising UK soundtrack hub Death Waltz put out its vinyl reissue of John Carpenter's The Fog, the label nearly broke the internet — or at the very least, its website. Demand for this deluxe double-vinyl pressing was so high that it was gone in minutes, leaving Death Waltz scrambling to deal with a bevy of tech issues due to more traffic than it could handle. And it was understandable: director/composer Carpenter's synth-fuelled score for his 1980 film was classic enough as is, but add in 180-gram coloured-splattered clear vinyl, a screenprinted overbag, downright killer new art and extensive new liner notes, and it was the sort of thing record nerds' dreams are made of. Oh, and best of all: the second slab of wax included an amazing set of original movie cues that actually outshines the album proper. Add it up, and Death Waltz's The Fog is as essential as it gets. (B.T.)
A 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana's best album is one of those compulsory releases, but who knew revisiting a record so familiar to us would be this rewarding? The deluxe reissue offers a crisper 2013 mix of the album, which original producer Steve Albini, along with surviving members, oversaw, as well as Albini's scratched versions of "Heart Shaped Box" and "All Apologies," the demos and the B-sides (including Dave Grohl's Foo Fighters-foreshadowing "Marigold"). On top of that, Albini himself admitted it's a "better transfer" than the original, which for most fans is worth the price alone. (C.L.)
Note: We skipped out on those fancy-pants box sets; those got their very own list here.
To see more of the best music of this year, head over to our Best of 2013 section.