This album is breathtaking. I nearly wrote a whole thing about separating art from its context. About how my appreciation of BWPS really has very little to do with the music itself. About how Smile plays more like a great documentary about the making of a great piece of art that was never actually made. About how it all feels a little nostalgic, a little "Disney." About how there's a quality to the mix and production of BWPS that I find unpleasantly nostalgic, stale, flat, over-produced. There's an element certainly that feels like a museum piece—the ornate stitching around the album art helps hit that home, as does the word "presents" in the album title. Not too mention the fact that there are far better recordings of many of these songs scattered across various post-Smile-sessions Beach Boys' albums, and that BWPS doesn't feature any other Beach Boys members. But—now that I've gotten those asides out of my system—I can reaffirm that this album is truly breathtaking. I think those struggles I have with BWPS are accurate, but the truth is listening to this album is an experience unlike any other I can think of in modern music. Recorded and released nearly 40 years after the 24-year-old originally sat down and attempted to record it, had a nervous breakdown, and ultimately abandoned the project, Smile is packed with so much emotional drama, so much story, so much humanity...it really makes me want to cry just thinking about Brian Wilson's personal struggle and ultimate success with this piece art. Sure, a part of me wonders constantly about the version of Smile that might have been recorded in 1967 as originally envisioned (and I can't help but miss the younger Brian Wilson's falsetto in these songs, either). But that doesn't take away from my thoroughly enjoying the version that the elder Brian Wilson released in 2004. In fact, it's an essential part of the experience of listening to BWPS. Listening to this album is to reflect on time, art, and age. To wonder about our younger selves and older selves, and if they're really the same person. To wonder if the art that we might have made in our youth could ever truly be re-created in our middle-to-old age. And to marvel specifically about the emotional journey Brian Wilson took in revisiting this material; reflecting on his younger self—a younger self in the throes of his traumatic, emotionally wrought, defining hours no less—and reclaiming a forgotten dream. I admire this album a great f***ing deal. This album is as great a champion of the human spirit as I can think of. And actually listening to the music, only heightens the emotional pull of that experience. Many moments on this album seriously make me want to cry in the same way I almost always cry listening to "God Only Knows." It's the music itself, but it's also the tragic, heartbroken figure of Brian Wilson inside of it. To hear him struggling through his music. Expressing his deepest feelings and personal anguish and doing it through the traditionally rigid confines of a 1960s pop format. Not to mention, there are some wonderful melodies and great pop experiments here. The whole album has a wonderfully cohesive, downriver flow to it. It's a very strange storybook sort of experience to actually sit down and listen to it. To unpack its movements, its textures, its characters, its geography, and musical histories. It's magical. But I'm also a Brian Wilson fanatic. In the liner notes for this album, author David Leaf asks, "Does Smile exist?" It's a legitimate question. And as an album that I think requires knowing some backstory to appreciate, it's hard to argue that this album really stands on its own in the way it might have in 1967. But does anything? BWPS is the realization of dream. It's music that soars well beyond the confines of music. It exists in our cultural unconscious; in our minds and in our hearts. Of course Smile exists. It always has. I was going to give them album a 4 but screw it, it's a 5.