It's a miracle enough when a regular album flows cohesively and tells a story. But when a collection of rarities and b-sides from an artist's entire career gels like the "real" thing, it's utterly divine.
Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie is the latest bard to pull off this feat with Former Lives (Barsuk). Though compiled from scraps of unfinished works not suitable for his main gig or his lauded side project, the Postal Service, these numbers sound fresh. Fans and critics are trying their damnedest to pair Gibbard's solemn lyrics with his split from ex-wife Zooey Deschanel, but a lot of these songs were written prior to their union.
Here are four more hodgepodge albums that have wings of their own:
SMASHING PUMPKINS - PISCES ISCARIOT
The Pumpkins have never done anything on a small scale. (They're currently in the midst of a 44-song years-long suite that included the full-length release Oceania this year.) So when it came to a 1994 b-sides compilation, they spared no expense. Epics like "Starla" and a tender cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" stand among the Chicago's band's most-beloved classics. A re-release in 2012 included a copy of the cassette the Pumpkins gave out at their late '80s concerts.
GREEN DAY - SHENANIGANS
A title befitting these Bay Area pranksters, Shenanigans spanned their emergence as punk-pop overlords to the well-oiled rock operatics preceding American Idiot. Any album that re-imagines both the Ramones and the Kinks is all right in our book.
BELLE & SEBASTIAN - PUSH BARMAN TO OPEN OLD WOUNDS
The twee Scots were chock full of hidden gems - so much so that their b-sides and rarities album was spread across two discs. From the celebratory "Lazy Line Painter Jane" to the mod sendup "Legal Man," Barman pushed the envelope of traditional band compilations. Not one track is a throwaway.
WEEZER - DEATH TO FALSE METAL
In tandem with singer Rivers Cuomo's dual solo releases, which introduced a huge back catalog to Weezer fans, this 2010 comp was a logical followup to the pop-laden Hurley. It included the crowdsourced tune "Turning Up the Radio," which Cuomo wrote via submissions devotees uploaded on YouTube. Quite the revolutionary idea for an odds-and-ends record.