A.J. Feather

Journalist, Developer

I'm a Missouri native currently seeking a dual masters in computer science and journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Every week I also host an awesome podcast called "Integrate" with my friend Mikah, which you can find at Integrate.FM.

Before moving to New York, I obtained undergraduate degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia. In Columbia, I hosted a weekly show called "Talking Politics" for KBIA, the local NPR member station and produced, wrote and anchored video for Newsy.com way too early in the morning.

There has never been a political column I did not enjoy reading or an Apple product I did not enjoy using.

11 Brilliant Albums

The Grammys are this Sunday.  So in the spirit of the great music awards show, here's some music that is important to me.

Blink-182 - Blink-182

Blink-182's final album before their split in 2003 was a more serious departure from pretty much anything that had every come out of Mark Hoppus or Tom Delonges' collective mind, which includes but is certainly not limited to... the pop music mocking "All the Small Things" and wittily titled "Take Off Your Pants and Jacket."  Tom and Mark's writing was in a new league, and Travis Barker really let loose on their self-titled album.  Since they reunited in 2009 following Barker's plane crash, they've tried to reinvent the album's commercial success, but their venture has been unsuccessful.  That may be more of a statement about the music industry than the ability of Blink to produced great music though.

Ludo - You're Awful, I Love You

Ludo is a group of Missouri natives, who play a wonky style of rock.  Their third studio album, "You're Awful, I Love You" was their first with Island Records, and their most commercially successful.  You'd be hard pressed to find a more entertaining and exciting live show than the one put on by Ludo frontman Andrew Volpe.  The band has been inactive for several years now.  Though there doesn't seem to be any official statement on the matter.  They've released four albums to date, including a rock opera, "Broken Bride."  I recommend all of the records.  They're fantastic.

The Who - Quadrophenia

This was one of if not the first great punk album.  The album walks you through the mind of Jimmy, a teenager with a split personality. (A Quardophenic personality.)  Much of the material is based on Pete Townshend's reflection on his childhood.  Though it didn't match the commercial success of Tommy, Quadrophenia is a favorite among the inner circle of Who fans.  It's loud, rebellious and relatable.

"A tough guy, a helpless dancer.
A romantic, is it me for a moment?
A bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags.
A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign over me.

Schizophrenic? I'm Bleeding Quadrophenic...."

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

This album needs little introduction.  It's been listed by Rolling Stone as the second-greatest album of all time. Pet Sounds is the essence of the Beach Boy's sound.  Without Brian Wilson's brilliance, what would we do?  I suppose God Only Knows.

Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux

Fall Out Boy found an totally new sound in 2008.  Sadly, few people were around to hear it.  It was the band's third consecutive top ten album, and it sold one million copies.  But it didn't experience the same sort of success Infinity on High or From Under the Cork Tree did.  The album remains my favorite FOB album, and it certainly doesn't hurt they feature Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie on several tracks.  I would argue it's some of the band's best writing and one of the best developed records of the last decade.

Streetlight Manifesto - Somewhere in the Between

Somewhere in the Between is a great summary of Streetlight's work to date.  It has sadness, hope and brilliant horn lines.  Conventional knowledge dictates ska music is still in the third wave, but I think Streetlight may have found the fourth.  Streetlight continues to make music, heavily influenced by - oddly enough - Paul Simon, as demonstrated on their "99 Songs of Revolution Vol. 1."  Anyway, if you're wondering where good music went, it's in the video above.

"So you were born, and that was a good day 
Someday you'll die, and that is a shame
But somewhere in the between was a life of which we all dream
And nothing and no one will ever take that away
"

OutKast - The Love Below/Speakerboxxx

This double-album was my introduction to hip hop.  With hits like "Hey Ya!," "Roses," and "The Way You Move," OutKast was able to take the crown for album of the year.  (It was the second hip hop album to do so.)  There's not much to say other than, OutKast is made up of some of the few actual musicians in their genre, and it shows.

Lupe Fiasco - Lasers

If you had a sneaky suspicion Lupe Fiasco was a conspiracy theorist, this album doesn't take long to confirm that thought.  The album includes political and social commentary throughout from one of the most publicly anti-establishment people in the music game.  He was actually removed from the stage by security after playing a 30-minute version the song posted above in January, 2013.

Green Day - Dookie

Aside from Pet Sounds and Quadrophenia, this is the most influential album on the list.  That may seem like an exaggerated claim, but I don't think half the albums on this list exist without Dookie.  Blink-182 almost certainly wouldn't have received a contract without Green Day, and without Blink, I'm not sure Fall Out Boy would have been picked up.  Not to mention an entire generation of musicians simply never would have decided to pick up a guitar or bass because the album that motivated them was never released.  Sure, Nirvana is signed and Nevermind changes the game from rock in '91, but it was Dookie that opened the door for an entire generation of mainstream punk and pop-punk bands.  Of course, it's unclear whether the existence of Boys Like Girls has improved or hurt the world, but that's beside the point.  The album has sold over 20 million copies and remains the band's best selling album.

Bomb the Music Industry! - Album Minus Band

Bomb the Music Industry! is the definition of "do it yourself."  Jeff Rosenstock, a former member of the Arrogant Sons of Bitches, started BtMI! after posting "Sweet Home Canada" online and receiving some good reception.  As the article the band's name links to states, Rosenstock didn't want to "sell stuff" anymore.  So he did what any 21st Century musician would do.  He gave away everything he recorded on the Internet.  (It's all available here.)  "Album Minus Band" was BtMI!'s debut album, and I would argue their greatest.  "Scrambles" and "Goodbye Cool World" fall closely behind, but nothing demonstrates the soul of Rosenstock and this project quite like "Album Minus Band."

Green Day - American Idiot

Crashing back in 2004, Green Day would release the first great rock album in years, and arguably the most successful rock opera since Tommy.  (Thought it was built much more closely to the framework of Quadrophenia.)  The album would later be adapted into a musical, making its way to Broadway.  It's politically charged message was wrapped in a story of disarray and followed the lives of three millennials in a post-9/11 world to drugs, children and war.  This is my favorite album.

"Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alien nation.
Where everything isn't meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We're not the ones who're meant to follow.
For that's enough to argue."

Albums that almost made the cut:

Fall Out Boy - From Under the Cork Tree

Yellowcard - Lights & Sounds

Sum 41 - Underclass Hero

My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade

Green Day - Kerplunk!

Green Day - Uno, Dos, Tre

A Day to Remember - Homesick

Kanye West - Late Registration

Bomb the Music Industry! - Scrambles

Blink-182 - Enema of the State