Best Reissues of 2011

Why is it that the older you get the more old music you buy? Probably because as you get older you start to realize how little you know about music. Here’s to all the labels that do the crate digging for you, because there is no way in hell you could have found all of this stuff on your own. Here are the top 15 reissues that I crossed paths with this year.

1. El Rego – El Rego (Daptone)

I was vaguely familiar with El Rego and his infectious African soul from a couple of his songs being on the Analog Africa compilations African Scream Contest and Legends of Benin, but really I bought this record based soley on it’s eye-catching cover and it didn’t disappoint. You might think that tiny Benin is to small to have its own godfather of soul. Wrong, and after hearing this, I’mu hoping that this only volume I. The vinyl version comes with a bonus 7-inch to further entice you.
mp3: El Rego – Hessa

2. Groove Club Vol. 1: Le Confiserie Magique (Lion)

There’s a ton of great French psychedelic pop spread across 22 tracks on this compilation. When you talk French pop, the first thing you probably think of is the ye-ye girls, but this compilation argues that you should open your mind.
mp3: Bernard Chabert – Il Part En Californie

3. Martin Newell – Songs for…A Fallow Land (Fixed Identity)

Martin Newell is a prolific fellow. His band the Cleaners from Venus released treasure troves of albums to virtually no acclaim. Songs for…A Fallow Land was released as a cassette in 1985 while the Cleaners were still going. This record is further proof that Newell’s songwriting talents are as deep as he and his band the Cleaners from Venus are obscure.
mp3: Martin Newell – Gamma Ray Blue

4. Pakistan Folk and Pop Instrumentals 1966-1976 (Sublime Frequencies)

It’s kind of amazing how many of these instrumentals sound surf inspired.  Dick Dale and the Ventures have got nothing on bands like the Panthers, the Aay Jays and the Blue Birds. They effortlessly mix the east with the west making for a wild ride.

mp3: The Panthers – Malkaus

5. The Sound of Starke Adolf vol. 1 (Plastilina)

This is the sound of Goteburg, Sweden circa 2001 and the club Starke Adolf that a few bored indiepop geeks decided to start. The Sound of Starke Adolf is a mouthwatering sample of jangly twee/indiepop songs they played at the club. Nineteen obscure pop gems that are just waiting for someone to rediscover in their little corner of the world.

mp3: The Danny Says – The Boy Formerly Known as Me vs. The Girl Formerly Known as You

6. Bay Area Retrograde Vol. 1 (Dark Entries)

This compilation unearths some excellent archealogical finds from the obscure and little known Bay Area synth, new wave and dark wave scene of the 80’s. There’s is the aggressive post punk sounds of Nominal State and Batang Frisco, the silly sounds of Necropolis of Love, the new wave of Los Microwaves and the gay sounds of Danny Boy and the Serious Party Gods. A lot to discover and little something for everyone.
mp3Nominal State – Middle Class

7. Index – Black Album + Red Album + Yesterday & Today (Lion)

This came out at the very end of last year, but too good to leave off of this year’s list. Index formed in Detroit in 1967 and recorded two records that went unnoticed until 80’s. By then their records were impossible to find. This two disc compilation gathers both albums and an additional 17 songs. It’s dark, bleak and droning garage psych and they reinvented the Byrds’ Eight Miles High long before Husker Du ever set hands on it.  Fans of the Sonics, Spacemen Three, 13th Floor Elevators and the like will not be disappointed.
mp3: Index – Israeli Blues

8. Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown’s Mowest Story (Light In the Attic)

Compared to Motown, Mowest (Motown’s effort to set up a west coast operation) was a giant failure, but as a compilation Mowest is a complete success. The best stuff here is from Frankie Valley and Four Seasons and Odyssey. There are echos of the classic sounds of Motown, but it’s filtered through Ray-Bans. There is also some great psychedelic folk on here courtesy of Odyssey, who’s song Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love loans itself as the title of this album.
mp3: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – The Night

9. Bambara Mystic Soul (Analog Africa)

Analog Africa only put out a couple records a year using the quality not quantity rule.  Every release is extensively researched, comes with a thick booklet of interviews with the musicians and labels that originally released the records in Africa. This compilation focuses on Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta. It makes a great companion to the Ouaga Affair compilation that was released on Savannahphone in 2009. This record will shake the dust off of any preconceived notions you may or may not have had about sub-Saharan Africa and will get any party jumpin’.
mp3Issouf Compaore – Dambakale

10. Chicas – Spanish Female Singers 1962-1974 (VampiSoul)

Chicas is one quirky and enlightening compilation that documents the feminine side of Spanish pop in the 60’s and 70’s. Like any good history lesson there is good and bad, but the good here outshines the few head scratchers. There’s a little bit of everything here: soul, garage, folk, pop and some choice covers like Lia Uya’s version of Three Dog Night’s Liar which totally reinvents the song. London and Paris weren’t the only cities swinging in the 60’s.
mp3: Lia Uya – Mientes

11. The June Brides – London, England 1984-1986 (Social)

Walking into a record shop and seeing this in the bins gives one the feeling of comfort similar to still being able to buy a newspaper at a coffee shop. This vinyl only retrospective is beautifully packaged, contains liner notes courtesy of Phil Wilson and Simon Beesley and is chock full of jangly horn laden pop gems for fans of the Go-Betweens and Orange Juice who want to dig a little deeper.
mp3: June Brides – In the Rain

12 Dalek I – Compass Kum’pas (Medical)

Seattle’s Medical Records seems to keep diving down into the depths and resurfacing with sunken treasures on a very consistent basis. Dalek I was the collaboration of liverpudlians Alan Gill and Dave Hughes.  This minimalist synthpop classic came out 1980 but you can hear it’s influence in countless records in the DFA catalog of today.
mp3: Dalek I – Destiny (Dalek I Love You)

13. Left Banke – Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina & The Left Banke Too (Sundazed)

Where did baroque pop originate? Who knows, but a good place to start your search would be with the Left Banke. If you’re short on cash, go for the debut Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina for those obvious two reasons, but the follow up has it’s charms that you don’t want to deny yourself. I can pretty much guarantee that whichever one you choose, you’ll be back for the other one pretty soon.
mp3: Left Banke – Pretty Ballerina

14. Pale Saints – The Comforts of Madness (ORG)

1990 was a long time ago in indie years, but when you place the needle on this record it sounds as fresh and exciting as it did to a know-nothing college kid way back then. You could call it shoegaze, but it’s too strange and off kilter with it crazy rhythms and raw production to be so easily pigeonholed. It kind of defies categorization as all the best records do. Featuring Ian Master’s delicate voice, Graeme Naysmith’s slashing guitars and Chris Cooper’s amazing drumming, the Pale Saints debut album is a record of which I never tire.
mp3: Pale Saints – Sight of You

15. The Resonars – Bright and Dark (Burger)

Burger is mostly known for releasing cassettes, but give them a record they really like and they’ll give it the vinyl treatment. The Resonars second album Bright and Dark came out in the middle of CD golden age, 1999 to be exact, on the Get Hip Label.  I missed it in 1999 and probably so did many others. Not happening this time. This psych gem plucks from the Hollies, Byrds, Beatles, Long Ryders and the Rain Parade to make a stone cold classic that virtually nobody heard the first time around.

mp3: The Resonars – The Golden Age

A Few More if that wasn’t enough:
Ishilan n-Tenere – Guitar Music from the Western Sahel (Mississippi/Sahelsounds) | The Psychedelic Aliens – Psycho African Beat (Academy Records) | Lou Champagne System – No Visible Means (Medical) | Jeff & Jane Hudson – Flesh (Captured Tracks) | The Servants – Youth Club Disco (Captured Tracks) | Chalk Circle – Reflection (Mississippit/PPM) | Radio Dept. – Passive Aggressive (Labrador) | Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust (Yep Rock) | Fac. Dance (Strut)