“More than any other branch of the pop-culture tree, music is associated with childhood. It’s something many of us discovered as we were discovering ourselves, providing a set of attitudes, poses, and even clothes for us to try on during our formative years. It was like acquiring an instant personality kit. Music made us feel like individuals, and yet also part of a group with people we could instantly relate to, or wanted to relate to. Just as important, music drew a line in the sand against everything we didn’t want to be, which was usually easier to figure out than who we really were.
Eventually, everyone grows up, and hopefully sheds whatever costume they wore to make it through puberty. But the power of those early music experiences remains. It’s telling that most of the entries in our My Favorite Music Year series—including some that are coming down the pike—are about years that took place at a turning point in the writer’s youth. Even for a lifelong music fan, it’s hard to top that initial impact of an artist, song, or album hitting you in just the right spot for the first time. (I certainly can’t argue against that after writing a sprawling 10-part series on the music of my teen years.)”