There’s a difference between my favorite album and my favorite vinyl pressing of the year. The Bear’s Den pressing is good, but it’s not mind-blowing when compared to some of the other things that came out this year. I wanted to pick just one favorite vinyl pressing, but it just wasn’t possible. There were just too many.
So here, in order of their release, is my top 5 vinyl pressings of 2016.
Paul Simon — Stranger To Stranger
I did not expect to like this album. In fact, I wasn’t even going to listen to it when it came out. I mean, when’s the last time Paul Simon made a good album? But then I read Ted Gioia’s great review called Still Paul Simon After All These Years:
Stranger to Stranger is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and it makes no concessions to prevailing trends, retro or otherwise. Simon instead continues to pursue the dominant vision that has guided him since his huge success with Graceland, 30 years ago, when he married the poetry of the singer-songwriter craft with the rhythmic inspiration of world music stylings.
Those words convinced me to give it a go. I liked it, so I bought the vinyl, and holy cow it sounds good. There’s so much space in this album, and the pressing is amazing.
Radiohead — A Moon Shaped Pool
I’m not going to say much about the album itself — I have mixed feelings about it. I’m late to the Radiohead game. So I like some of the album. I didn’t like all of it.
But man, is this a great pressing. So alive. A lot of highly anticipated albums had disappointing pressings this year, in my opinion. So I was really happy to see that a giant release can have a high quality vinyl release to go with it. Not sure how they pulled it off considering all the complaints about backups in vinyl factories.
Dave Matthews Band — Crash
This is the first of a whole bunch of reissues that really impressed me this year. Last year Dave Matthews Band re-released Under The Table and Dreaming, and it was a very good pressing, so I had a high hopes for this.
Luckily it delivers. Everything sounds clear and crisp and alive. I’ve always been in love Carter Beauford’s snare drum sound, and these re-issues really bring out the distinct “crack” in his drum sound.
Sting — Mercury Falling
I’m biased but I really love this album. I think it’s the best work Sting has ever done. They’re a bunch of musicians at the top of their games, each legends in their own right, and no one ever overplays. They manage to avoid the ego trap, and the result is an understated, spacious, gloriously complex album.
So when the Sting Studio Collection (Amazon link) came out on vinyl this year, there was no way I wasn’t going to get it. And wow, does it sound great. My other favorite Sting album is Brand New Day, and it’s an amazing pressing too, but this reissue is the one I can’t stop listening to. So well done.
Mutemath — Mutemath
Saving the best for last, I think… I’ve written about this album before. It’s a masterpiece, and one of the albums I’ve most wanted on vinyl. But it was just impossible to get. Until Mutemath announced a surprise re-issue of 1,000 copies. So I got up at midnight on release day and ordered one.
It’s a very good pressing. At first I was a little surprised as it appears to be mixed with a lot more bass than the CD version. But I got used to it, and realized that this is probably much closer to how they wanted it to sound in the first place. It’s dirtier and rawer, but somehow manages to retain the polish that is so central to their sound.
These are all sold out, but if you can get your hands on a copy, don’t hesitate.
Oh, also Phil…
I do want to give an honorable mention to the the Phil Collins reissues that came out this year, particularly …But Seriously (Amazon link). They all sound very good. But not significantly better than the older copies I already had. So I couldn’t find a place for them on this list.