Exclaim!'s Best of 2014:

Top 10 Reissues

BY Cam Lindsay & Brock ThiessenPublished Dec 17, 2014

With the vinyl resurgence now bigger than ever, it seems the music industry is now just as focused on the past as it is on the present. As such, 2014 was met with more than a few outstanding reissues, whether they were dusted-off '90s gems, long-lost synth explorations or the works of reclusive mystery men.

It made choosing a list of just ten no easy feat, with many labels going that extra mile with gorgeously executed artwork, must-have bonus content and sonics-expanding remaster jobs. Nonetheless, here are the reissues we deem best and most essential from this past year.

Don't forget to head to our Best of 2014 section for more coverage of 2014's top releases.

10. Emerald Web
Whispered Visions
(Finders Keepers)

Music archaeologist Andy Votel has dug up some serious gold over on his Finders Keepers imprint over the years, but hands down, one of his finest finds has been Emerald Web. Made up of husband and wife duo Kat Epple and Bob Stohl, the DIY synth experimenters formed in 1978, and as this reissue of sophomore 1980 effort Whispered Visions proves, they would soon craft some of the most forward-thinking and visionary synth sounds we have ever known.

In fact, it's downright frightening how modern Whispered Visions' blend of calming post-prog, proto-new age comes across all these decades later. It all makes us wonder how many minds were blown to bits back in the day when this album and many others by Emerald Web were originally released as private press cassettes. After all, few records can both expand the mind and calm the soul as beautifully as this. (Brock Thiessen)

9. Manic Street Preachers
The Holy Bible

The Manics' third album, The Holy Bible, was the final one with songwriter/guitarist Richey James Edwards. Months after its release, he would go missing for what is now two decades, giving the album a significant place in history. What he left us with is a darkly disturbing account of his struggles with anorexia, depression, addiction and self-harm that to this day every fan and critic agrees is the best album in their 28-year existence.

This 20th anniversary edition contains basically everything related to the album: both the original and U.S. mix, B-sides and the much sought after vinyl release. While the Manics released an excellent new album this year in Futurology, no matter how many times you've heard The Holy Bible, it's tough not to let it overshadow everything else. (Cam Lindsay)

8. Cleaners From Venus
Vol. 3
(Captured Tracks)

Just like in 2013, Captured Tracks stole our heart and ears with its loving salute to English punk poet Martin Newell and his Cleaners From Venus. Gathering up 1986's Living with Victoria Grey, 1990's Number Thirteen, 2000's My Back Wages and rarities set Extra Wages, Vol. 3 again proved that Newell ranks up there as one the world's best — though often ignored — songwriting geniuses, with each record offering up repeated bursts of poetic pop gold.

The beautiful colour-themed aesthetic, revamped artwork, book of Newell's poetry and option to buy these all as a box set or separately also didn't hurt. Few releases were as cerebral and straight-up catchy in 2014. The fact that this marks the end of Captured Tracks' series on Cleaners From Venus makes us sad but also thankful for all the great musical memories. (Brock Thiessen)

7. Modest Mouse
This is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About / The Lonesome Crowded West
(Glacial Pace)

Going for upwards of $200 each on Discogs for original vinyl copies, Modest Mouse's first two proper albums were long overdue for reissues. Reminding us of the band's dynamism as a trio, these two albums, especially Lonesome, became benchmarks for 1990s indie rock.

Isaac Brock's troublesome relationship with the road is expressed through his barking outbursts and corkscrewing guitar work, while Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green supply a pliable and frenetic rhythm. Seeing as it's been seven years since we've had a new full-length from Brock and co., it's nice to get anything at this point, these two milestones especially. (Cam Lindsay)

6. Coil / Nine Inch Nails
(Cold Spring)

The story goes that Trent Reznor was a big Coil fan, and asked John Balance and Peter Christopherson of the legendary avant-industrial group to remix tracks from The Downward Spiral. For whatever reason, they were never officially released, but the "Unrecalled" remix of "Closer" played during the credits of David Fincher's Se7en.

Years later, a NIN forum managed to secure the music, releasing it first as a download, and then as a five-track EP. Completists of either act will eat this up, but these remixes aren't the defiant versions one might expect from Coil. In fact, the transformative renderings of "Gave Up (Open My Eyes)" and "Eraser (Baby Alarm Remix)" are both examples of just how malleable Reznor's music is to remixing. (Cam Lindsay)

5. Z (aka Bernard Szajner)
Visions of Dune
(Infiné Music)

Riding the wave of acclaim left by documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, the reissue of Visions of Dune by French music visionary Z (aka Bernard Szajner) couldn't have been better timed. Serving as an homage to Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel, the synth-fuelled album once again gave us visions of sand-surfing worms, murderous space aristocrats and, of course, that ever-precious spice.

But having a love for Dune hardly mattered when it came to appreciating this fictional score, which wrapped you up in cascading arpeggios, claustrophobic drone exercises and mind-expanding future sounds. Bernard Szajner has often been called France's Brian Eno, and it's easy to see why from Visions of Dune, an album that's gorgeous, challenging and altogether fascinating all these decades later. (Brock Thiessen)

4. Various Artists
Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985
(Light in the Attic)

If you needed any more proof that we're in the midst of an indigenous music renaissance, look no further than Light in the Attic's Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985. Assembled by Vancouver music historian Kevin "Sipreano" Howes, the 34-track, 23-artist comp effectively shed a much-needed light on Canada's sadly hidden musical history, giving us an excellent collection of songs in the process. Whether exploring Arctic garage rock, political folk or psych-tempered rock'n'roll, Native North America offered a hell of a journey, with Howes' insanely in-depth liner notes making the package all that better. But not only was Native North America a wonderfully assembled reissue, it was an important one. (Brock Thiessen)

3. Craig Leon
Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1
(RVNG Intl.)

Few reissues past and present (and likely future, too) are quite like Craig Leon's ambitious Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1. After all, not many re-releases involve the actual artist recreating an entire album note for note, preset by preset — right down to every exact tape delay, patch and synthesizer setting — but that's exactly what Leon did for the reissue of his cult classic 1981 electronic album Nommos, giving a stellar remastering job to its Visitor followup to boot.

While this may have seemed like a risky endeavour, the albums now sound bigger, brighter and better than ever packaged together as Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1, showing how Leon (often best known as the studio whiz behind breakthrough releases by the likes of Blondie, Suicide and the Ramones) was years ahead of his time. These electronic landmarks were essential before, and now they're even more so. (Brock Thiessen)

2. Lewis
(Light In The Attic)

Who is Lewis? Where is Lewis? Why isn't Lewis playing Coachella in 2015? A mysterious Albertan who simply went by the name Lewis recorded an album of sweet, minimal synth-pop ballads that was released via private press in 1983. And no one really knew about it until 30 years later.

The questions about Lewis were fun to ask, but even when some answers were given (he's alive, in hiding, with at least two more albums accounted for and available), they didn't destroy the fact that we still had this jaw-droppingly gorgeous album called L'Amour to obsess over till the end of time. (Cam Lindsay)

1. Sleater-Kinney
Start Together
(Sub Pop)

Sleater-Kinney had already recorded No Cities To Love when they were putting together the reissues for their seven albums, so it's not as if Start Together instigated the reunion. But with the remastering, the fancy coloured vinyl, the endearing book of career-spanning photographs, and the secret-killing seven-inch of brand new song "Bury Our Friends," S-K came back the way any band gone for nearly a decade should.

Not that we needed reminding of their magnitude, but having the complete set — from the scratchy, pissed off self-titled debut, to the expansive, booming rock of The Woods — made their return that much more sensational to witness. (Cam Lindsay)

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