Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

Reissues & Rarities

With December in full, terrifying swing (my god, there is so much due), newspapers and blogs like Pitchfork will start to publish their annual end-of-the-year lists: the best of the best movies, music and television released (according to some overly-analytic nerds who aren’t like me in the slightest).

It’s fun to go back to these lists a couple years down the line, to see if these pretentious bloggers captured the zeitgeist of that year or if they accurately predicted some measure of influence. Usually, they’re not far off — though Pitchfork has notoriously gone back and changed their reviews to match current perceptions.

Notably lacking in most of these listicles, however, are reissues. Some of the best labels active now operate solely on crate-digging and reselling, and the best releases constitute a distinct challenge to the idea that a year’s musical landscape must only include tunes made that year. Rediscovery, reevaluation and recontextualization of historically influential (or, better yet, forgotten) music is a significant bit of the active music listener’s activity. Essential canon is not a static notion.

With that in mind, here are a few of the best releases of 2017, not of 2017:

Morteza Hannaneh — “Tchasm-E-Del”

Persian composer Morteza Hannaneh co-founded the Tehran Symphony Orchestra and was its principal conductor from 1952-54. He also made iconic scores for classic Iranian films, and this lost recording feels just like that: cinematic. The swelling strings complement an epic Arabic ghazal. Though I don’t understand the narrative tale (supposedly about “the founding principles of Sufism and monotheism through a love story between Hatef and a Christian girl”), raw emotion bleeds through.

Zabelle Panosian — “I Am Servant of Your Voice: April-May, 1917”

Released on Baltimore label Canary Records (who specialize in reissues of “early 20th century masterpieces (mostly) in languages other than English”), “I Am Servant of Your Voice” is one of the most gorgeously devastating things you’ll hear all year. Panosian’s celestial voice cuts through the recording static artifacts (this was recorded before the invention of microphones, after all), and she gives a heart-wrenching performance. It’s only enhanced by the history (included by Canary) as an Armenian immigrant dealing the ongoing genocide of her people back home and her eventually forgotten career, making the record seem like the beautiful wails of a ghost.

Metro Area — “Metro Area”

In relative terms, Metro Area’s self-titled 2002 album might feel just as ancient as the other two on this list. This nu-disco classic provided the template for the likes of LCD Soundsystem, evident in the precise and extremely danceable compositions on undeniable cuts like “Miura” and “Piña.”

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