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Best Album Ever

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Best Album Ever

Neil Young Is Coming! This Is His Best Album Ever

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Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 4:00 AM
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[Editor's Note: Neil Young just announced three shows at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, March 29 and 30, April 1, and April 2. Tickets go on-sale today at 10 am. To celebrate, as part of our Best Album Ever series, critic Kai Flanders talks about his favorite Neil Young album.] 

When we were good and drunk, we would put Neil Young's American Stars 'n Bars on the record player.

It was the fall of 2011 and I was living with two of my best friends in a dilapidated cottage with a huge ranch-style yard in the middle of Los Angeles. Most of the place was outside - the doors of my bedroom opened out to a big gravel-covered yard full of overgrown trees and beer cans shot to pieces by our pellet gun. The landlady was an elderly German woman who used to be an avant-garde filmmaker in Berlin. To retain the place she kept the "services" of a wet-eyed, weather-faced old man with a long gray beard, whose idea of maintenance was to aimlessly wander around our orange-less orange tree.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Best Album Ever

Jay-Z Taught Me Not to Be Bitter About My Dad

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Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 3:30 AM
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[Editor's Note: In Best Album Ever critics talk about their favorite records and what was happening in their lives when they discovered them.]

The first time I heard "99 Problems" I was in the passenger seat of my mom's car, departing my orchestra concert in fourth grade.

It may sound dramatic, but at the time I was longing for a father figure. It was a big deal, this show. I was a young violinist who had just started playing. Sure, they were pretty basic chords, but damn if I hadn't played them well. 

The parents in the crowd were absurdly proud. But when my wide eyes looked out among them, my dad was nowhere to be found. 

Truth was, I never really knew the man, and I still don't. Even now, I don't know why things took the turn that they did - with him and my mom, or with him and me. Even though he doesn't live all that far away, I never hear from him. 

My mom appreciated my performance, but on that quiet ride home I still debated my self-worth. If your own father doesn't want you, why should anyone else?

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Bottle Rockets in 1993 - COURTESY OF BLOODSHOT RECORDS
  • Courtesy of Bloodshot Records
  • The Bottle Rockets in 1993
[Editor's Note: Best Album Ever is a column where critics talk about their favorite records and what was happening in their lives when they got into them.]

I started at tony St. Louis liberal arts college Washington University in 1995, fresh from an upper-middle class St. Paul, Minnesota upbringing where I'd spun alt-country like The Jayhawks. But I had no idea this anachronistic, melancholy music would soundtrack my formative years -- when I lost my virginity, found my calling, tried drugs, and otherwise engaged in growing up awkwardly.

My freshman year music dork conversations focused on local alt-country heroes Uncle Tupelo, who broke up in 1994. Everyone was forced to choose a splinter act -- Wilco or Son Volt. I took Son Volt, of course, as Jeff Tweedy's new outfit sounded too much like the Replacements, and was too concerned with catchy tunes. As if those were bad things.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Best Album Ever

How My Brother and I Got Through Our Parents' Divorce

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Tue, Oct 22, 2013 at 7:06 AM

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[Editor's Note: Best Album Ever is a column where critics talk about their favorite records and what was happening in their lives when they got into them.]

It was 2010 and I was pulling out of our family's driveway, headed to my summer job at a grocery store. My dad was coming home from his nine-to-five. We pulled up next to each other and rolled our windows down. With the succinctness of a weather report, he informed me that he and my mother were getting a divorce. I stared at him for a beat too long, drove off, and began playing Every Time I Die's New Junk Aesthetic as loud as I could.

You may not have heard of the Buffalo-born band, nor of New Junk Aesthetic, but it was like my personal In Utero: Brutal, whip-smart discontent to a metalcore soundtrack, full of breakneck drumming, blistering guitars and larynx-shredding screams. It sounded like how I felt in these years, before and after my dad's announcement, when I was hundreds of miles away at college at the University of Arizona. Every time I returned home, my familial life had disintegrated even further. There were more cracks in the foundation.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Best Album Ever

Best Album Ever: Kanye West's The College Dropout

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Fri, Oct 11, 2013 at 9:09 AM

COURTESY OF DEF JAM
  • Courtesy of Def Jam
[Editor's Note: Best Album Ever is a column where critics talk about their favorite records and what was happening in their lives when they got into them.]

The Northern Tennessee breeze was crisp that December afternoon as I rode shotgun with my stepfather toward Hardee's when Twista's "Slow Jamz" came on the radio. What may seem like a pithy couplet from a guest on the song -- "She got a light skinned friend look like Michael Jackson, got a dark skinned friend look like Michael Jackson" -- nonetheless hooked me. At the tender age of 12, I was ready to join team Kanye West. But I wasn't yet truly moved by his gospel.

See also: Sorry, But Kanye Is the GOAT

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Best Album Ever

Bob Marley's Legend Let Me Know My Mom Loved Me

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Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 3:30 AM

Bob Marley - EDDIE MALLIN
[Editor's Note: Best Album Ever is a column where critics talk about their favorite records and what was happening in their lives when they got into them.]

When I was in fourth grade my family lived in a small apartment a block from the ocean in Hermosa Beach. At night we kept the windows open and I would often fall asleep to the sound of the ocean crashing softly onshore. One night, however, some music from the living room kept me up, and the next morning my mother showed me the CD case: Bob Marley and The Wailer's Legend. She told me that Marley was a man from Jamaica who wanted everyone to be kinder to each other. From then on she played Legend for me every night while I fell asleep.

Legend is a compilation album released in 1984, three years after Marley's death and six years before my birth. Every one of its 14 songs has become a standard, from "Three Little Birds" to "Redemption Song."

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Best Album Ever

Best Album Ever: The White Stripes' Elephant

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Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 4:00 AM

TIMOTHY NORRIS
  • Timothy Norris
[Editor's Note: Best Album Ever is a column where critics talk about their favorite records and what was happening in their lives when they got into them.]

When I was a junior in high school in 2001, my boyfriend took me to see Almost Famous. As the credits rolled, he opined that it was "pretty good" -- I knew then things wouldn't work out between us.

To me, Almost Famous was the life I aspired to, full of great music, groupies, glamour, good vibes, and rock hedonism. I wanted to be a rock star; I wanted to be a Band-Aid, but mostly, like the film's hero William Miller, I wanted to be a music journalist.

But wait, was I too late? "It's over," the Lester Bangs character tells Miller, about rock music generally. "You got here just in time for the death rattle."

Fast forward to college where, naturally, the people who loved me encouraged me to study something different than journalism. I took their advice, as the internet was clearly killing both the music and journalism industries. But then, in 2003, The White Stripes' Elephant came out.

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