How My Brother and I Got Through Our Parents' Divorce
[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.
Rory, my younger brother by four years, afflicted by cerebral palsy and in high school at the time, was subjected to all of this daily. I felt an inability to help him deal with what the family breakdown was putting him through. He too withdrew into music, and we bonded over Every Time I Die.
We'd spend hours when we should have been studying watching videos of the band's hijinks, like vocalist Keith Buckley walking in on his underwear-clad band replacing his vocals in the studio, or cameraman Doug Spangenberg interrupting Buckley's candlelit writing process. We eagerly anticipated the release of New Junk Aesthetic in September 2009, even postponing listening to the single "The Marvelous Slut" until we could do so together in person. Clocking in at just under two minutes, it was the perfect melding of angular guitar riffs and self-deprecating lyrics.
As for the album itself: Even after just hearing opener "Roman Holiday," I knew the work would be one of my favorites. Featuring just four chords and an octave shift, it was about as heavy as anything I'd heard, brilliant and simple. Its catchiness lies in its stripped-down melody and driving tempo like a battle march. The record flies by in just 38 minutes: The violent "The Marvelous Slut," the blistering "For The Record," the philosophical "Turtles All The Way Down"...
Yet Rory and I kept coming back to "Roman Holiday."