Hudson's Best of 2009, Part 1: EP's, Reissues, Etc.

Best EP

1.      1. Paul Westerberg, PW & The Ghost Gloves Cat Wing Joy Boys. Once again, the reclusive genius snuck another collection of home-recorded songs onto Amazon with zero notice. Once again, the crudely recorded tunes are chock full of quirky twists of common phrases that has become his specialty.

2.       2. Superchunk, Leaves In the Gutter. After a seven-year hiatus, the owners of Merge Records returned to celebrate their 20th anniversary with this short collection of the joyous guitar clatter that made them such an iconic presence in the 90’s.

3.      3.  Modest Mouse, No One’s First and You’re Next. As a bit of a teaser while they continue to record their next album, Modest Mouse released this set of newly recorded outtakes from We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank and Good News For People Who Love Bad News sessions (along with a couple of rare b-sides).

4.      4.  Yim Yames, Tribute To. My Morning Jacket leader Jim James’ tribute to George Harrison was actually recorded way back in 2001 immediately after Harrison’s death, and his haunting vocals are perfect for the somewhat mournful melodies of “All Things Must Pass” and “Long Long Long”.

5.      5.  Spoon, Got Nuffin’. While we wait for the release of Transference in early 2010, this EP indicates that the band isn’t straying too far from their lean, biting sound. Why fix something that clearly isn’t broke?

Best Reissues

1.     1.   The Beatles Stereo and Mono Catalog. The much hyped reissue of rock and roll’s richest catalog is well worth the praise, as the meticulous handling of the master tapes brings out nuances never previously heard. The White Album, in particular, is a completely different album now that we can actually experience what the band intended for us to hear.
      2. The Radiohead Catalog. Yes, EMI reissued the Radiohead catalog to cash in on a band no longer on their roster. At least they did it right, though, as each of their albums was accompanied by a bonus disc of outtakes, remixes, radio sessions, and live tracks.

3.      3.  The Feelies, The Good Earth/Crazy Rhythms. Two of the most underrated albums of the nascent indie rock scene of the early 80’s are given the treatment they deserve. Heavily influenced by The Velvet Underground, this Hoboken band set the template for almost every indie band who claims to love VU.

4.      4.  The Who, Sell Out. Tommy gets all the credit for being the Who’s first concept album, but this tribute to pirate radio preceded it by two years and is sadly overlooked by most fans.

5.      5.  The Stone Roses, S/T. The “Madchester Scene” of the late 80’s/early 90’s was jump-started by this wonderful set of rhythmic pop-rock. Without The Stone Roses, there would have been no Oasis, Blur, or Pulp…but don’t hold that against them.

Best Box Set

1.     1.   Big Star, Keep An Eye On the Sky. The old cliché about the Velvet Underground is that everybody who heard them formed a band. The same could be said about Big Star – Alex Chilton and Chris Bell created a body of Beatles-influenced-yet-soulful guitar rock that stands proudly next to anybody who came before or after them. Besides the majority of their three albums, this box also includes the usual demos and live material, along with a handful of recording made by Chilton and Bell before Big Star’s formation.

2.       2. 13th Floor Elevators, Sign Of the 3 Eyed Men. Limited to 5,000 copies, almost every note ever recorded by Roky Erickson’s legendary band is crammed onto these ten discs. Sure, it’s a bit of overkill but much deserved for any band that can somehow inspire both R.E.M. and ZZ Top.

3.       3. Neil Young, Archives. This giant package has been promised for well over a decade, but Young has continued to tweak this compilation of the first ten years of his career. It’s well worth the wait, however, as we not only get remastered versions of his Buffalo Springfield, CSNY, and solo highlights, but even a handful of demos recorded as a teenager in Canada.

4.       4. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Live Anthology. It says a lot about Tom Petty and the members of the Heartbreakers that the recently recorded tracks on this five-disc box are indistinguishable from those recorded way back in the late 70’s. Besides the obvious hits, obscure covers and album tracks are sprinkled throughout the 62 tunes, and few of them don’t deserve an airing.

5.      5.  Lloyd Cole, Cleaning the Ashtray. The title is pretty accurate – the veteran British songwriter went through his personal collection of DAT’s, reel to reels, and cassettes for demos, outtakes, and other tracks that he reportedly barely remembered recording. Yet the four discs are full of gems.

Best Compilation

1.     1.   The Jayhawks, Music From the North Country. Two discs – one a “greatest hits”, the other outtakes and rarities – of Minneapolis’ legendary alt-country heroes.

2.       2. Morrissey, Swords. Although he’s distanced himself from this collection of B-sides, there is no doubt that Morrissey has always understood the collecting aspect of singles and EP’s. Many of his best songs have been hidden away on these types of releases, so it’s great for us non-collectors to be able to nab them all in one purchase.

3.       3. V/A, Score! 20 Years of Merge Records. To celebrate their twentieth anniversary, Merge Records recruited the likes of Ryan Adams, The Shins, and Broken Social Scene to cover the highlights of their catalog. There’s a dog or two on this double disc set, but overall this is a pretty great modernization of 90’s alt-rock.

Best Live Album

1.     1.   R.E.M., Live At the Olympia. While recording last year’s Accelerate, R.E.M. booked a handful of dates in Dublin to try out their new, more rocking material in front of a live audience. Freed from the usual demands of their greatest hits, they also tore into plenty of gems from their back catalog, most notably tunes from Chronic Town, Murmur, and Reckoning.

2.      2.  Tom Waits, Glitter and Doom Live. Recorded on his 2008 tour, this live collection relies primarily on wacky, carnivale-esque tunes from the handful of albums he’s released on Anti.  Obviously, that means some of his greatest tracks from the 70’s and 80’s are missing, but the set also highlights the high quality of his sometimes overlooked recent material.

3.       3. The Hold Steady, A Positive Rage. Today’s best bar band recorded in a bar. Nothing more needs to be said.


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