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The Mostly Definitive Break Up Album List

Screen shot 2015-03-29 at 1.50.32 PMEd note: Today, something a little different. My date from Maine, Sean, and I have stayed in touch since we met in a little brick bowling alley. His passion for music keeps me coming back to his Facebook page because I know hanging around there will introduce me to new bands I’ll probably like. Sean and I also occasionally chat dating (it’s impossible not to, really) and have cheered each other on through relationships since our date. Recently, Sean went through another break up, and in working on moving forward, wrote this very personal account of his favorite break up albums. Grab a cup of coffee and maybe a banana for sustenance, sit back, and enjoy. Oh, and you can totally read his mostly music/movie blog over at Notes from a Genius.

It’s no secret that I’ve had my share of heartbreak, be it from an unrequited love interest through all four years of high school, when as a Freshman I laid eyes on the most beautiful girl I had ever seen (as a 15 year old teenage boy). She would soon become the epitomized and pedestal version of my “perfect” girl. Not only did she have the classic, girl-next-door look (the kind of look that makes you wonder how fair it is that she probably woke up looking beautiful, naturally), but what I think I adored about her most was how generally likable she was, she was funny, personable, smart, and I don’t think she had a “mean bone” in her body (at least I never saw that part of her. Anyway, I developed a crush on her immediately, never attempting to really pursue a relationship, because I never thought it would be possible. Then, Senior year, we worked together and I made my intentions and feelings known, only to get crushed, politely, and let down easy (it could not have hurt more, but she did it in such a way that it looked like an art form; and I couldn’t help but still be her friend). That being said, I never “dated” until I was 24 years old- perhaps that’s how long it took me to recover (although, there were other girls, for sure, in those 6 years. In fact, another girl who stole my heart and still definitely has a piece of it, even though we never became anything close to an item (rather I was her confidant, her best friend, during a significant time in her life, when she really needed someone, and I was there). I’m not sure if it qualifies as unrequited love, because I know that she loved me, just not the same way I did, not the way I wanted her to. I would hate to quantify it as my being a convenience for her, but that’s how it felt at times. My first girlfriend came at a time in my life when I was not expecting anyone, because I was not really looking, but when she appeared, she swept me off my feet and stole my heart, almost instantly. I fell hard. I fell fast, even though we were both being cautiously optimistic. We made future plans (of marriage, even) that never panned out, because we ended up being polar opposites and arguing more than regularly. We seemed to fight more than we did not and it was taxing. It didn’t help that we were at different points in our lives, either. She met someone else, while asking me to change, and then she just gave up. I guess it stings less knowing that the guy she left me for, became her husband and they’ve been together ever since that fateful weekend that we broke up (I discovered recently, through investigating Facebook, that they even just had a baby). Well, this isn’t supposed to be a recounting of my failed relationships, so I won’t carry on, journeying through the map of my past relationships. This is supposed to be a cathartic act of how to deal with the hurt, sadness, pain, loss of love. For it is during the aftermath of relationships that I think I become the most self-reflective and introspective. Part of my healing process involves thinking, a lot. I think about the lessons I have learned from loving someone and losing them, and the lessons I’ve learned about myself. And, although I hurt, I make it through the period of mourning and come out feeling good about myself and decisions I made.

I started thinking about this list of break-up relevant albums about a month and a half ago, because my girlfriend and I ended our relationship. I ended it actually, for a multitude of reasons, which I won’t get into on here, and I did not really want to get so personal as to even tell you that information on here either, but alas, I did. We have not been together for exactly 2 months, as of today, and it was extremely hard for a month and a half (even though I was the one who ended it). I tried to get her back, saying things several times, trying really hard, but ultimately, I realized it was all for naught, because I broke this girl’s heart, as much as she broke mine, too. Full disclosure, this was the girl I was prepared to marry, have babies with, everything. It was supposed to be her, until it wasn’t. We had been together for almost a year and a half, we lived together for six months, and it has been very true (in both instances for me) that in living together, you truly discover who each other are, you find out a lot of things about each other and you learn, you love, you get upset, you fight, you get over it, etc. You mince words. It’s hard. Being in a committed relationship and building a life with a someone you didn’t know until they walked into your life and ultimately changed your life, for the better, hopefully. I remember something my best friend had told me years ago: a relationship is work, but it shouldn’t feel like a job. So true. And I’ve always believed that, as well as “when things are no longer fun, you should stop doing them,” which is something my father shared with me when I was in high school.

The concept of “love” has always intrigued me and I believe I know this about myself: I fall fast. And I fall hard. It’s who I am. And so, when it hurts, regardless of who causes the end (one could argue that it takes two to end a relationship, not just the person admitting it’s over), it’s very painful. And, that’s why I look to music, essentially, to help me. And it does.

 There are always constant musical playlists of songs and albums I find myself listening to during these times of need and sadness, to help myself feel better, because it’s always nice to know that someone else has gone through the same thing, and musicians seem to somehow find the perfect words for the perfect feelings during the perfect times. I know that heartbreak and love and loss are universal experiences and feelings, so I’ve asked several friends about their crucial “break-up” albums and I’ve done my own research as well as the albums that I listen to. And so, here’s what I’ve come up with (with a little help from my friends, of course).

BREAK-UP ALBUMS————–

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

This is perhaps the quintessential break-up album and the best of all-time, because every single song on the album deals with separation, love, loss, optimism, pessimism, etc. that goes with a break up. That’s what you get when all the members of your band date or marry/divorce each other, I suppose, and you still somehow manage to stay together as a band and make the best music possible (the sweetest revenge, perhaps). “Songbird” is perhaps one of the most romantically heartbreaking songs ever recorded. So beautiful it breaks your heart just listening to it, yet, still manages to give you a sense of hope. My first introduction to Fleetwood Mac was the song “The Chain,” so I have a deep, emotional connection to it and I can remember sitting on our living room floor listening to my father’s Fleetwood Mac boxed set from which this song was included. Hey, it was the closest thing I had to sitting on the floor in my bedroom, in the dark, listening to vinyl records!

https://youtu.be/z7kmw31nRDU

Second Hand News

Dreams

Never Going Back Again

Don’t Stop

Go Your Own Way

Songbird (my personal favorite on this record)

The Chain

You Make Loving Fun

I Don’t Want to Know

Oh Daddy

Gold Dust Woman

Beck-Sea Change

This is my favorite Beck album, hands down, because he replaced his trademark intriguing musical style/mixing and bizarre and ironic lyrical content for simpler, mostly all acoustic songs with a bit of orchestral arrangement for the songs whose lyrics included themes of heartbreak, desolation, solitude and loneliness. The album came as a result of the ending of his nine-year relationship, after discovering that she had cheated on him with another musician. I remember when I first got this album, I was disappointed by his seemingly 360 degree turn in musical style, and I actually appreciated the fact that these lyrics meant something to me and I didn’t have to sit and decipher them like I found myself doing with his album “Odelay!” (or just singing along and pretending to know what I was singing). This album’s melancholy hit me hard from the first listen and it still does.

https://youtu.be/bp8BVO7z_38

The Golden Age

Paper Tiger

Guess I’m Doing Fine

Lonesome Tears

Lost Cause (a perfect piece of music and my favorite, although it was a single)

End of the Day

It’s All in Your Mind

Around the Bend

Already Dead

Sunday Sun

Little One

Side of the Road

 

Kanye West- 808s and Heartbreaks

Love him. Or hate him. You have to appreciate the man that seems to constantly and consistently spin the rap genre on its head and make stellar albums, musically and lyrically. I have to admit that when I first bought this album, it took awhile for it to grow on me, but then I really appreciated it for everything that it was. It could be considered the hip-hop version of Radiohead’s “Kid A” album, for its genre-bending approach and introspective lyrical content, which is what I love the most nowadays about this album. It was conceived in the wake of a tumultuous year for him. On the album Kanye West “sings” instead of raps the songs, with themes of love, loneliness, and loss/heartache. In the previous year, his mother died; and he and his fiancee ended their engagement and long-term intermittent relationship- both topics heavily put under a microscope by Kanye, as he also struggles with his fame and becoming the subject of public scrutiny (mostly due to himself).

https://youtu.be/HZwMX6T5Jhk

Say You Will

Welcome to Heartbreak

Heartless (great)

Amazing

Love Lockdown (my favorite)

Paranoid

RoboCop

Street Lights

Bad News

See You in My Nightmares

Coldest Winter

 

Bob Dylan- Blood on the Tracks

This is perhaps the most autobiographical and yet ambiguous album that Dylan ever made (even though he admits, it has nothing to do with his personal life and the turmoil he had been going through because he doesn’t write confessional songs, instead, he claims the songs were inspired by short stories of Anton Chekhov). Many people equate the lyrical content being linked to the tensions in his personal life, namely the estrangement from his then-wife and one of their children (Jakob Dylan, who went on to front the band seminal to the 1990s, the Wallflowers- who has also said, when he listens to the album as listening to his parents talk, in song. It has been called the “truest, most honest account of a love affair from tip to stern ever put on magnetic tape.” It’s the kind of album that almost makes you feel like a Peeping Tom, as you feel like perhaps you are peeking in the windows of their house, listening to their relationship.

https://youtu.be/aExyyaNdutU

Tangled Up in Blue

Simple Twist of Fate

You’re a Big Girl Now

Idiot Wind

You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Meet Me in the Morning

Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts

If You See Her, Say Hello

Shelter From the Storm

Buckets of Rain

 

Mandy Moore- Wild Hope

I’ve made it no secret that I have an affinity to female pop singers (there’s just something inexplicably awesome about the music), but I really appreciate Mandy Moore, because she saw her career trajectory as a pop star and did not want that for herself. After releasing two (what she calls embarrassing) pop albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s, she scoffed at the mainstream media and record industry. She released an amazing album called “Coverage” after she found inspiration in her mother’s record collection (re: vinyl) and knew that was the sound she wanted to perfect afterwards. She disappeared from the music industry for awhile and became quite the film star (mostly of either indie films like “Saved!” or romantic comedies that are not that good, but I remember her from “A Walk to Remember” mostly, because, again she did want she wanted and spent the majority of the film not wearing make-up). In 2007, she released a personal album of break-up songs, thanks in large part to the ending of her relationship with Zach Braff (from “Scrubs”). She co-wrote every song on the album and it’s filled with songs that someone can just connect with, perfectly. The album’s music finds her in a new comfort zone as a sophisticated songwriter that could easily be compared to reputable musicians like Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor. The album is full of musings about love and life, with a personal touch. I just happened to catch a live show from her small, short tour of this album as well. She opted to play small clubs on this tour and played at the Paradise in Boston. It was a great show.

https://youtu.be/CIrYL9z0R1Y

Extraordinary

All Good Things

Slummin’ a Paradise

Most of Me

Few Days Down

Can’t You Just Adore Her?

Looking Forward to Looking Back

Wild Hope

Nothing That You Are (my favorite and a great send-off)

Latest Mistake

Ladies’ Choice

Gardenia (easily the best, stripped down track)

Bon Iver- For Emma, Long Ago

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this might be(come) my generation’s “Blood on the Tracks” and I know that’s a bold statement, but this is a perfect album for a break-up thanks to Justin Vernon’s own personal experience with heartbreak. I have to admit it took me several listens to fully get into it and understand his accomplishment with this album, but once I was into it, I found myself returning to it often. Following the end of a relationship with his girlfriend (and also the disbanding of his band), Vernon set off for a cabin in the woods of Medford, Wisconsin. At the time, he was also suffering from mononucleosis and he decided to seclude himself in his cabin, in the hopes of hibernating for three months, and what resulted was a perfectly crafted album, that really gives the listener the sense of feeling of being in this secluded cabin as well. All of his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss, and guilt which he had been packing away come purging out thanks to his solitude. This guy is a hipster’s dream, but seriously, one of the greatest musicians of our time (and I mean, Kanye West has recognized this and picked Vernon to help write and sing on some of his songs, as well). Turn this album on when you’re feeling depressed and you probably won’t feel any better once it’s done, but at least you’ll know that someone else knows what it really feels like to feel that way, too. And you might be a bit jealous because he makes it sound better than you ever possibly could. And then, I have also included his painfully honest and perfectly crafted version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” from a web series he did a few years ago, because, well, you just have to listen to it and then you’ll know why I posted it here.

https://youtu.be/JfAS6nwYc9g

Flume

Lump Sum

Skinny Love (yes, my favorite, cliche as it is now)

The Wolves (Act 1 and 2)

Blindsided

Creature Fear

Team

For Emma

“re: stacks”

 https://youtu.be/8MJio3s2wFI

 

Ryan Adams- Heartbreaker

This is the kind of album that I think a lot of alt-country musicians have strived to make, because of it’s brutal honesty with how it feels to love and to be loved, and then to lose it all. The songs were inspired from Ryan Adams’ break-up with his music-industry publicist girlfriend. It also happens to be his first solo album, coming off the heels of his alt-country band’s (Whiskeytown) demise. I discovered Ryan Adams as a solo artist first, thanks to my sister and her gig as station manager at her college’s radio station (Bates College). She allowed me to listen to the album and I was instantly hooked to the raw sound and emotion. I think it’s also a bit ironic that he got the album title from a Mariah Carey poster, almost as famous as the Farrah Fawcett poster from the 1970s. Look it up. She’s wearing a t-shirt with “HEARTBREAKER” written across it. And how fitting that the album begins with an argument that Ryan Adams is having about Morrissey, perhaps the godfather of emo as a musical genre. This is another album that really is hidden gem and it’s a bit unfortunate that Ryan Adams gained popularity right after 9/11 because of his song “New York, New York,” although I’m glad he became a mainstream name. I hope people went backwards in his catalogue and found this album, because it is everything you want an alt-country album to be, especially if you found yourself a fan of The Smiths in the 1980s, because it’s almost like Ryan Adams took his love for Morrissey lyrics and put them in the form of alt-country songs, minus the megalomania and narcissism.

 

To Be Young (Is To be Sad, Is To Be High)

My Winding Wheel

AMY (great track)

Oh My Sweet Carolina

Bartering Lines

Call Me On Your Way Back Home (probably my favorite)

Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains)

Come Pick Me Up

To Be the One

Why Do They Leave?

Shakedown on 9th Street

Don’t Ask for the Water

In My Time of Need

Sweet Lil Gal (23rd/1st)

 

Sleater Kinney- Dig Me Out

This album is defining for so many reasons. It has been an album I lean on in times of trouble, on repeat, because it’s only a brief 36 minutes long, but it hits so hard and so honestly. It can sort of be seen as my generation’s own “Rumours” album in a way, because of the history behind the album. Carrie and Corin used to date, while playing together in the band, and somehow were able to continue to play music together and made a masterpiece of an album. The lyrics deal with issues of heartbreak and survival (which seem to go hand-in-hand, one preceding the other in most cases). Specifically, the song “One More Hour” (one of my favorites) is about their break-up, and you can almost hear Corin Tucker crying through singing the lyrics, “I needed it,” while the vocal interplay (throughout the whole album, really, but specifically here), Carrie Brownstein is offering consolation in the background. They play off each other really well as a duo and I couldn’t imagine continuing to play in a band with an ex-lover, so kudos to these two ladies! This is my quintessential break-up album, for sure. This was my first Sleater Kinney album (and then I went back and found their first two albums of more punk-infused songs and riots) and so I definitely have that emotional attachment to it. It certainly helps that I discovered it right around the time of my first experience with unrequited love.

https://youtu.be/tS3JUDO7USE

Dig Me Out

One More Hour (perfect song)

Turn It On

The Drama You’ve Been Craving

Heart Factory

Words and Guitar

It’s Enough

Little Babies

Not What You Want

Buy Her Candy

Things You Say

Dance Song ’97

Jenny (my absolute favorite and perhaps the most emotional one could get from listening to a song)

 

Joni Mitchell- Blue

Joni Mitchell had relationships with two very famous musicians, Graham Nash, whom she shared a tough break-up with and forced her to take a vacation around Europe, during which she wrote a few of the songs that appeared on the album. But, the majority of the album is devoted to the intense relationship she shared with James Taylor. It served as the pivotal experience in Mitchell’s life that arguably helped her make the best album of her career. There are many references to the relationship with James Taylor, including a very specific one regarding a sweater Joni had knitted him, as well as his heroin addiction. Despite such a difficulty as drug addiction, she felt like she had found the person she could “pair-bond” with and was absolutely devastated when he broke it off with her). Heartbreak breeds some of the best art, sometimes, and in this case, I would say, yes, absolutely. Mitchell even stated in an interview a few years later that, “there’s hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period in my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn’t pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defenses there either.” Perfectly stated.

 

All I Want

My Old Man

Little Green

Carey

Blue

California

This Flight Tonight

River

A Case of You

The Last Time I Saw Richard

 

Elliott Smith- Either/Or

This man should have been way bigger than he ever was (1998 Oscars Performance and subsequent major label singing aside). His voice just oozed pain and suffering, which could have been in the form of heartbreak, but who knows. His music was the type that you could put on and instantly know that someone understands you’re pain and he’s singing you through it. This is his 3rd album and truly his most perfect and expertly put together album, from start to finish. The ending track has always been one of my favorite songs of all time, “Say Yes,” just listening to it, makes you feel instantly bad for the man singing, but also helps you get over any pain you feel. If only his song “Miss Misery” from the “Good Will Hunting” soundtrack could have been included on this album. Unfortunately, Elliott Smith took his own life, having suffered enough, in 2003 from self-inflicted stab wounds (probably one of the most painful ways to go out). At times, happy and poppy songs, mixed with equally depressing low-fi songs that just pull you down and under, but also up and over, which I think is one of the main objectives of music. It’s an album that definitely shines with Smith’s influences of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, with his own spin put on their sounds.

https://youtu.be/f8oLojgTMVA

Speed Trials

Alameda

Ballad of Big Nothing

Between the Bars (one of my favorites)

Pictures of Me

No Name No. 5

Rose Parade

Punch and Judy (nice pop culture reference)

Angeles

Cupid’s Trick

2:45 A.M.

Say Yes (one of the best songs from the 1990s)

 

The Cure- Disintegration

Believe it or not, “Disintegration” is The Cure’s 8th album and by far the pinnacle of their long, long career and, hands down, their best album. The band had gained mainstream success a couple of years prior to this album, thanks in large part to their “poppier” sounding songs, and Robert Smith had gathered a distaste for their popularity. It’s no surprise, especially coming from the godfather of gothic, emo rock. Apparently Smith slipped into using hallucinogenic drugs (which you can even tell just from glancing at the album cover, but then, listening to the songs, you get that sense as well) while making the album. Robert Smith was riddled with a heavy and almost crippling case of depression that hit him when he turned 29 years old and realized he would turn 30 the year after, which filled him with professional/career anxiety, feeling like he had not accomplished what most relevant musicians had before they turned 30 years old. The songs on “Disintegration” are full of themes of depression, displeasure, loneliness, but also love, as seen in the song “Lovesong” (aptly titled, nonetheless), which he wrote as a wedding present. The lyrics in this song are noticeably different in mood and tone, but it is an open show of emotion, one Smith admits he had never been comfortable with expressing openly ever before. I found this album as a teenager, which is probably equally the best and worst time to discover such gloomy music; as well as a bit too cliche, but it has stuck with me as one of the most poignant albums that can transcend any decade and the meaning behind the songs sort of matures with you over the years, while still remaining relevant, which definitely makes it a classic album.

https://youtu.be/rZzN5ofCzHI

Plainsong

Pictures of You (definitely my favorite)

Closedown

Lovesong

Last Dance

Lullaby

Fascination Street

Prayers for Rain

The Same Deep Water As You

Disintegration

Homesick

Untitled

 

Liz Phair- Exile in Guyville

I certainly want to include this fantastic, low-fi, indie record because it is just so raw and full of emotion that the minute I heard Liz Phair’s voice I fell in love. She was just everything that the indie, female rock scene needed/wanted in the 1990s, and the fact that she delivered such a brutally honest album about what it feels like to be a women in the 1990s just solidified like legacy. Although it is not necessarily a break-up album, it certainly cuts to the core of how females could/would feel about themselves in a male-dominated society, hence the title “Exile in Guyville.” Her explanation for the concept of the album is as follows: “for me, Guyville is a concept that combines the small-town mentality with the Wicker Park indie music scene, plus the isolation of every placed I’ve lived in. All the guys have short cropped hair, John Lennon glasses, flannel shirts, unpretentiously worn, not as a grunge statement. Work boots. It was a state of mind and/or neighborhood that I was living in. Guyville, because it was definitely their sensibilities that held the aesthetic…this kind of guy mentality, where men are men and women are learning. Guyville guys always dominated the stereo like it was their music. They’d talk about it, and I would just sit on the sidelines.” Although, she also said that the songs were not necessarily about her. “That stuff didn’t happen to me, and that’s what made writing it interesting. I wasn’t connecting with my friends. I wasn’t connecting with relationships. I was in love with people who couldn’t care less about me. I was yearning to be part of a scene. I was in a posing kind of mode, yearning to have things happen to me that weren’t happening. So I wanted to make it seem real and convincing. I wrote the whole album for a couple of people to see and know me.” God! I know exactly how she feels/felt, because I’ve been known to do the same thing with my own (poetry) writing.

Not to pigeonhole myself into a gender battle here, and perhaps to avoid sticking my foot in my mouth, but for a lack of better terms (that I can think of at the moment), I would say this is the quintessential early-20-something female album- and with that being said, I still thoroughly enjoy it every single time I listen to it. It was also interesting to find out, later on, that she wrote the album, as an almost song-by-song response to The Rolling Stones’ album “Exile on Main Street” (which is heavy on exactly the kind of man mentality she spoke of), even going so far as to sequence her compositions in an attempt to match their songlist and pacing, which makes the album even more intriguing to listen to, several times.

https://youtu.be/eelviLDxrto

6’1”

Help Me Mary

Glory (great, super sexual song)

Dance of Seven Veils

Never Said

Soap Star Joe

Explain it to Me

Canary (awesome song)

Mesmerizing

Fuck and Run (one of the best songs she’s written)

Girls! Girls! Girls!

Divorce Song (so biting and honest)

Shatter

Flower

Johnny Sunshine

Gunshy

Stratford-On-Guy

Strange Loop

 

Death Cab for Cutie- Transatlanticism

This used to be a little, indie band from the great Northwest, who have over the past decade really gained a mainstream momentum, thanks in large part to their performance on the Fox television show “The O.C.” First, I remember seeing them in the basement of the Middle East in Cambridge, MA back in like 2001 with my sister (whom I can again give credit to for helping me discover this band). They were playing with the Dismemberment Plan and touring under the perfect moniker of “The Death and Dismemberment” Tour. Their songs are an emo-kid’s dream and especially this album, which is a concept album, featuring a theme set around long-distance love. I mean, it’s almost as perfectly matched with Weezer’s “Pinkerton” album. The music is just beautiful and poised, rather mature for a still budding and young band who were obviously still trying to find their niche of musical style. Ben Gibbard’s lyrics are poignant and poetic as he tells the story of this long-distance love that just makes you want to hug him and tell him to go to her, whomever she is. The standout track for me has always been the title track (Transatlanticism), because of its slow build up and length (stretching out over 8 minutes), with one of the most beautiful lyrics “I need you so much closer” that just, for some reason strikes right at my heartstrings.

https://youtu.be/O5pyjRhlndY

The New Year

Lightness

Title and Registration

Expo ’86

The Sound of Settling

Tiny Vessels (such a beautiful, sad, tragic song)

Transatlanticism (one of my favorite songs, ever)

Passenger Seat

Death of an Interior Decorator

We Looked Like Giants (great song)

A Lack of Color (beautiful, acoustic closing track)

 

Brand New- Your Favorite Weapon

All right, so Brand New had the unfortunate coincidence of coming out with the giant wave of early 2000s emo bands the likes of Taking Back Sunday (who have easily earned more mainstream airplay, perhaps solely based on their musics accessibility), Panic At the Disco, Fall Out Boy, etc. Given, their original sound was the exact thing of emo, the sharp-cutting, short, power chord heavy, pop-punk songs that radio and teenagers alike were eating up like delicious cookies. With that being said, there’s a reason why this kind of emo music is popular- It’s very vulnerable to expose yourself and your emotions so completely for an audience. It’s as if these songs were just pages ripped from Jesse Lacey’s journal and put to music. There’s something to be said for the honesty in heart-on-your-sleeve poetry and songs. And I have to give Brand New (and Thursday and Taking Back Sunday) credit because I was inspired by them in a lot of my earliest poetry and I can thank them perhaps for getting me my first girlfriend, who heard/read my poetry and fell for me (we last almost 2 great years). The songs on Your Favorite Weapon certainly tackle and expose the highs and lows of teenage relationships and experiences (from lovers’ quarrels to fights with friends) so sharply it sounds too easy. And you definitely get a sense that these guys, especially Jesse Lacey (singer/guitarist) is deeper than the cookie-cutter emo musician the album designed him as, when you listen to the lyrics and understand the background behind some of the songs (and titles). For example, “Seventy Times Seven” is a reference to a story in the Bible about the time Jesus told Peter he must forgive his brother “seventy times seven times” (which is actually referring to a factual disagreement he had with John Nolan, of Taking Back Sunday). There’s also a reference to a Malcolm X speech in another song; and then the infamous unrequited love song dedicated to supermodel Laetita Casta). This is what it’s like to be a teenage (boy), at least.

https://youtu.be/gfsZJ33fK4A

The Shower Scene

Jude Law and a Semester Abroad

Sudden Death in Carolina

Mixtape (one of the best scathing, write-off songs)

Failure By Design

Last Chance to Lose Your Keys

Logan to Government Center

The No Seatbelt Song

Seventy Times 7 (one of my favorite songs)

Secondary

Magazines

Soco Amaretto Lime (capturing adolescence)

 

Brand New- Deja Entendu

The title is French for “already heard” which is ironic and a bit satirical, given that the band had become well-known for their sharp, pop-punk songs on their debut album and this sophomore record was perhaps a bit of a response to that and a reaction of not wanting to be put in a corner as just another emo band. And it strikes me kind of funny that Jesse Lacey wrote these songs about different things other than “I just broke up with my girlfriend” because it is definitely an album I have found myself looking for solace in after a break-up. Their sound is more mature. The songs are longer. The lyrics rely heavily on film references throughout the album. You can hear the inspiration from being on the road for an extended period of time (almost two years) and how jaded Lacey had become of it all, including the effect it had on relationships. It’s very interesting to listen to their first album back-to-back with this one, because you can almost hear the story of maturation through the songs and the thoughts and feelings that mature along with the person. “Deja Entendu” is like twenty-something that was on the first record, only grown up and lived through it all to tell us more. I have always been a fan of Jesse Lacey’s lyricism, anyway.

https://youtu.be/aELfNtnTLoc

Tautou

Sit Transit Gloria…Glory Fades (great song)

I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light

Okay I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t

The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows

The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot (awesome acoustic song)

Jaws Theme Swimming

Me. vs. Maradona vs. Elvis

Guernica (one of my favorite songs of theirs)

Good to Know that If I Ever Need Attention All I Have to Do is Die

Play Crack the Sky (I always find myself playing this on repeat at certain points in life)

 

Taking Back Sunday- Tell All Your Friends

Like the great hip hop, East-West Coast wars of the 1990s, this album found members of the band at a sort of war-with-words with New York/New Jersey, emo band- Brand New. It is believed that Brand New’s track “Seventy Times Seven” is about a fight between Lacey and two members of Taking Back Sunday, John Nolan and Adam Lazzara (who has continued his war of words for over a decade now, claiming Lacey is just not “a nice guy”). A lot of the tension can be boiled down to a girl and probably just teenage boy stuff. Taking Back Sunday’s song on this album, “There’s No ‘I’ in Team” is a response to the Brand New song. The rest of the album is pure, emo/relationship gold. The lyrics are at times biting and sweet when talking about ex-lovers and romances. The way they are delivered, in rapid fire, back-and forth, make it seem like you are listening to conversations and really give you a sense that you are eve’s dropping on them; but also because of their brutal honesty, as a listener you can really attach yourself to the lyrics and you cannot deny the raw emotion felt in each verse/chorus. Being a quintessential emo album of the early 2000s, you can still listen knowing everything about these guys (at the time) is absolutely genuine and not at all contrived, rehearsed, or relying too heavily on formula. Nowadays, it could be considered a bit over-the-top and sappy, but for the time period, and especially if you’ve ever felt how these songs feel, it doesn’t come off that way. The album definitely gained them more mainstream attention and they skyrocketed in fame and fortune, which led to a lot of personal and in-band problems, but I will always remember the simpler times, when I discovered them as a budding band, thanks to their video for “Cute Without the E (CUt from the Team)” on M2 (back when MTV dedicated its brother channel to only playing videos, nowadays, you watch videos on YouTube). I always listen to this album, repeatedly for a couple of days when I’ve gone through a break-up, and knowing that someone else gets my pain helps dissipate my own pain, while still keeping it relevant. I’ve also seen them maybe 6X in concert (one of which they performed this album in its entirety- with my most recent ex-girlfriend- and the second time I saw them was with my very first girlfriend, so their music has remained a constant in my life).

https://youtu.be/CJax-i5uhZA

You Know How I Do

Bike Scene

Cute without the E (Cut from the Team)

There’s No “I” in Team

Great Romances of the 20th Century

Ghost Man on Third (my favorite track)

Timberwolves at New Jersey

The Blue Channel

You’re So Last Summer

Head Club

 

Taking Back Sunday- New Again

It’s hard for me to include two albums from the same band, but I did it with Brand New, and this Taking Back Sunday album is a break-up album, for sure. This is sort of TBS’s version of Weezer’s “Pinkerton” album in that Adam Lazzara has never been satisfied by it and felt like it was a giant step backward for the band, but it might actually have his most confessional and deeply-rooted lyrics to date, perhaps because they ring too close to his reality. He very rarely performs any of these songs live, which is too bad, without ever really giving any explanation. It really feels like he used this album as his soap-box and confessional, having gone through a bitter release of two band members back in 2007 (he waited a few years to release songs related to the fighting) and also went through a roller-coaster ride of a relationship with fellow musician, Chantelle Duprees (of the family-band Eisley), whom Lazzara met while touring with her band. They dated, became engaged, and soon after broke up, in what one can only assume was a bitter break-up, sort of orchestrated by the fact that she came from a very religious family/background, plus Lazzara had become quite the drug addict/alcoholic. They were together for a good, solid 2+ years, so one can imagine the pain felt, especially when you listen to a few choice tracks on this album (aptly titled “New Again”): “Catholic Knees” and “Everything Must Go,” which is the stand-out track for me and one I particularly connected with after the emotionally difficult and bitter break up with the first girlfriend that I decided to live with about 4 years ago this April. Lazzara seems to have gone through the same story as me, only he was able to write it down way more eloquently than myself. This is probably my favorite album of theirs, simply because of what it represents to me, even though their first album is certainly a classic.

https://youtu.be/P9TaVOA_6SA

 New Again

Sink Into Me

Lonely, Lonely

Summer, Man

Swing

Where my Mouth Is

Cut Me Up Jenny

Catholic Knees

Capital M-E

Carpathia

Everything Must Go (definitely my favorite song)

 

PJ Harvey- Rid of Me

This can be a hard album to listen to because of its rawness, but she is the kind of artist who can explore the darker(est) sides of human nature with a sense of humor put into her lyrics. It’s the kind of album that forces itself on you and your subconsciousness. She has been known to write songs exploring people’s relationships with/to each other. “I am fascinated with things that might be considered repulsive or embarrassing. I like feeling unsettled, unsure.” You can tell that some of the lyrics were based on personal experiences, the ending of a bad relationship, in particular, really shines through on this album. Her feelings exposed in these songs almost present her as a bit of that psychotic ex-girlfriend, but it also makes the album relatable, because who hasn’t felt that they’ve lost a sense of who they are during or after a break-up. You can put this album on to just shake the crazy out of you and then carry on with your life knowing you are better for it all happening.

 

Rid of Me

Missed

Legs

Rub til It Bleeds

Hook

Man-Size Sextet

Highway 61 Revisited

50 ft. Queenie

Yuri-G

Man-Size

Dry

Me-Jane

Snake

Ecstasy

 

Dashboard Confessional- The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

All right, I know I’ve said it before, but this album from Chris Carrabba under the moniker of Dashboard Confessional (which, the name alone makes some music fans cringe with its obvious emo tendencies), is probably the perfect break-up album, especially good for listening to alone, in the darkness of your bedroom, so that you can unleash your inner-teenager and just have a good cry about/over another one that got away. From start to finish, the album has enough heartache, in the form of catchy songs, to help anyone who feels like no one understands them and their heartache and pain. Rest assure, Chris Carrabba gets it, and he has made lots of money from it. His vocal style, of pure whining, might take some getting used to, and for traditionalist like myself who heard his first, all acoustic album, the fact that this album finds him back by a (solid) band is a bit hard to swallow, but the songs and his pure genius of poetic words cannot be denied. It is certainly filled with songs that are very self-involved and down-on-your-luck mentality, but isn’t that how we all feel when we have a relationship that goes sour (for whatever reasons). The album is only about 30 minutes long, which might force you to listen to it repeatedly, especially if you are not done crying over your ex. This album is always perched and ready for me whenever I feel upset about a girl. Chris Carrabba got me when I was in my early 20s and his songs have had me at “Hello” ever since. I’ve enjoyed everything he has put out (aside from the sing-along MTV Unplugged album). This album covers everything that could possibly go wrong with a relationship from the fights and words to infidelities and loneliness.

https://youtu.be/BiaF9iDHW_w

The Brilliant Dance

Screaming Infidelities

The Best Deceptions

This Ruined Puzzle

Saints and Sailors

The Good Fight

Standard Lines

Again I Go Unnoticed

The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most

This Bitter Pill (my favorite track, probably of all his songs)

 

Weezer- Pinkerton

This has always been my favorite Weezer album, ever since I first heard it in 1996, and I honestly didn’t understand why it was not more successful. It has since gained significant cult status as the best Weezer album and the quintessential start-up emo band’s most influential of albums. It is always sort of funny and bizarre to me when albums (like this) which feature the most inner-personal lyrics are seen as critical disasters, because it’s these albums that seem to really connect with an audience. Rivers Cuomo (singer/guitarist) has refused to play any of this album live because of the major backlash it received by critics and because he claimed it was far too personal of an album to perform in front of thousands of fans. The concept and lyrical content of the album was inspired by Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly and contained a darker, more visceral and exposed style of songwriting. The songs sound harsher and brash, yet are honest and true. The songs feature Cuomo’s feelings of loneliness and frustration, which makes it a great break-up album, even though many of us have not experienced the same things as Cuomo (exactly), re: being a rock star and feeling utterly alone, being a student at Harvard University, etc. This is quite the confessional, because it exposes his darker side, which might come off as mean and/or sexist, but the fact that he was brave enough to confess these things should make him a hero to listeners (and I think that’s why so many people grew to love the album, in the years following its initial release). I know, for myself as a writer, I go through periods of writing darker poetry like these songs, but I also definitely rely on heart-on-the-sleeve/sappy poetry as well, but I think the knowledge and acceptance of the existence of these two sides of the artist make them an even whole(r) person to everyone else. I have always loved everything about this album, even though it’s again another album that barely cracks the 30 minute-mark. It is so hard hitting that by the time the finally, acoustic track plays, you feel a slow release and find yourself ready to begin again, from wherever you left off.

https://youtu.be/HjCdFW2du_U

Tired of Sex

Getchoo

No Other One

Why Bother?

Across the Sea (my favorite Weezer song, hands down)

The Good Life

El Scorcho

Pink Triangle

Falling for You

Butterfly

 

The Antlers- Hospice

These guys have been like my new version of Neutral Milk Hotel, especially since NMH hasn’t released any new music in over two decades. The Antlers was borne out of Peter Silberman’s bedroom, the the same way that Bon Iver became something through Justin Vernon’s self-imposed isolation in a cabin in the woods. Their sound is unique and although frontman Peter Silberman’s vocals are hard to decipher at times throughout the album (which forces you to read the lyrics or give the album several listens to fully understand and take in), this is one of the best albums released in the last decade. It is a concept album that tells the story of a relationship between a hospice worker and a female patient suffering from terminal bone cancer and includes part of their story including: their ensuing romance and their slow downward spiral as a result of the woman’s traumas, fears, and disease. Such a heartbreaking story, told through songs, really has the power to destroy a listener, emotionally, meanwhile allows the listener to also put their own stories of woes into perspective. It has a realism not often heard in music (re: I find myself thinking back to Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” for another album that captured realism so well). It features vocals from Sharon Van Ettan on several songs, as well, making it even better. It is definitely an album that I have rediscovered thanks to this last break-up.

For further evidence of its relevance, look to this interview:

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2009/08/interview_the_a.php

https://youtu.be/2IC1O328eXE

Prologue

Kettering

Sylvia

Atrophy

Bear

Thirteen

Two

Shiva

Wake

Epilogue

 

The Airborne Toxic Event- The Airborne Toxic Event

I have to admit that I discovered this band through VH1 as their single “Sometime Around Midnight” helped feature them as an Artist to Watch…and so I did, and I immediately fell in love with their crunchy guitar chords and poignant lyrics about relationships and seemingly what life and dating is like in Los Angeles, yet the songs are relatable. Singer/Lyricist Mikel Jollett knows how to tell a story through songs (even briefly many of the songs on this album fall under the 3-minute category. It’s the perfect kind of kiss-off record and should be listened to immediately following a break-up. The band got its name from a Don DeLillo’s novel titled “White Noise,” which might mean they are a bit pretentious, but their sound definitely makes them sound like a modernized version of U2 (even though U2 has become a modernized version of themselves) and many of their songs have an orchestral feel to them, including a violin player will help that (and enhances their live shows, for sure). This is the type of band that demands to be heard live.

https://youtu.be/MMwUzcQe1KU

Wishing Well

Papillion

Gasoline

Happiness is Overrated

Does This Mean You’re Moving On?

This is Nowhere

Sometime Around Midnight

Something New

Missy

Innocence (my favorite track because of its build up and crescendo)

 

ZZ Ward- Till the Casket Drops

I cannot really tell you how I can to find or hear ZZ Ward, but it suffices to say I was instantly hooked by her unique sound and ability to blend several different musical styles into one solid album from start to finish. The blend of hip hop, blues, rock, R/B, and pop should probably be a disaster but she does it so well that you cannot help but sing and dance along, even with yourself while listening. She is another artist that I have seen several times in concert and her live performance really is the heart and soul of who she is as an artist. She commands the stage and demands the audience’s attention from the minute she steps on stage, and she’s so comfortable doing it. All of these songs seem inspired by one or two or several relationships/men who have wronged her and yet, as the title may suggest it to be a dark tale, it is actually a profession of her undying love. Although I enjoy the R/B/hip hop aspect of many of these songs, I find that her acoustic ballad, “Last Love Song” (which mourns the end of a relationship in one of the most beautiful ways possible) is the best track on this album.

https://youtu.be/SlU4HJleg-o

Til the Casket Drops

Put the Gun Down

Blue Eyes Blind

Home

Cryin’ Wolf

Save My Life

Last Love Song (one of the best, “that’s it” songs)

Lil Darlin’

Move Like U Stole It

Criminal

If I Could Be Her

Charlie Ain’t Home

365 Days

 

Cursive- Domestica

I discovered this album in my early 20s while doing a radio show at Bates College (thanks again to my sister who was the Program Director). I was instantly hooked by Tim Kasher’s voice. It has a certain tone to it that begs the question of how many hours he’s spent drinking at the bar and chain-smoking outside. “Domestica” is a concept album (I’m finding a theme here among my list of break-up albums) that tells the story of a relationship between two characters named “Sweetie” and “Pretty Baby.” And, even though they are mentioned by name in several of the songs, which would led the listener to think its a story being told by an outsider, the story unfolds as sort of a movie playing out before us, with the two characters having a dialogue through these songs. Each track plays out like a chapter in this couple’s story. The ending track leaves the story rather ambiguous, but Tim Kasher has been known to explain that the couple stays together despite their differences and fights. As with most art, it can be presumed that Kasher’s real-life divorce crept its way into the correlation of this album’s story and certainly adds another dynamic to the lyrics. Another short album, just over 30 minutes long, I have certainly rediscovered its brilliance after my most recent break-up, perhaps because of the connection I can make to being with someone for an extended period of time despite our differences and fights.

https://youtu.be/cGMQEVXbSnA

The Casualty

The Martyr

Shallow Mean, Deep Ends

Making Friends and Acquaintances

A Red So Deep

The Lament of Pretty Baby

The Game of Who Needs Who the Worst

The Radiator Hums

The Night I Lost the Will to Fight

 

Spain- She Haunts My Dreams

Another band I found thanks to my radio show at Bates College, after the first listen, this album haunts you in your dreams like you never wanted it to, but somehow the nightmare is welcomed because of is smoky-lounge feel and singer Josh Haden’s vocals. The album is a gorgeous meditation on romantic dysfunction, equally mellow and dramatic, but not overly melodramatic, which could be seen as the fault with most emo bands songs. This is one of those perfect albums to listen to in the dark with nothing else to do but be consumed by the music.

I’m Leaving You

It’s All Over

Before It All Went Wrong

Hoped and Prayed

Waiting for You to Come

Easy Lover

Bad Woman Blues

Nobody Has to Know

Every Time I Try

Our Love is Gonna Live Forever

 

Sharon Van Etten- Because I Was in Love

Sharon Van Etten is one of the best (female) singer/songwriters of the best few years. Her confessional, scathing, yet poetic songs not only stand up against earliest Jewel and Liz Phair, but I would venture to say, far surpasses those and other Lilith Fair artists of the 1990s. Her choice of arrangement rely on her voice and guitar on this debut album that flew under the radar when it first came out. There’s an emotional fragility to each song Sharon sings on this album. As the title suggests, this is an album meant to chronicle the bittersweet ache and confusion that seems to so easily arise from the ebbs and flows of romance/romantic relationships. What makes this album so hard hitting is that Sharon Van Etten seems to be singing all of these songs to an audience of one, specific and particular, person; with nearly every single lyric directed straight at an unnamed “you” (which is something I can relate to, because it is something I do as well with my own poetry). This is a great album for anyone who is also trying to wrap their head around the complexities of the evolution of relationships. Even a couple of the song titles play out like lines from a conversation with a lover.

https://youtu.be/vsjM25eSkEY

I Wish I Knew

Consolation Prize

For You

I Fold

Have You Seen

Tornado

Much More Than That

Same Dream

Keep

It’s Not Like

Holding Out

 

Sharon Van Etten- Tramp

It’s almost a necessity to listen to Van Etten’s three proper albums in successive order, because it shows the evolution of the artist as a broken heart. “Because I Was in Love” is her confessional, her time of figuring out love and what it means to love. With “Tramp,” Sharon is exorcising some more demons, with an angry-tint to her songs now. It’s also no wonder that The National’s band member Aaron Dressner produced this album, which ended up putting her on the map and in front of a larger audience (thanks in large part to her performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon). Confession is still very much her niche, describing it as “self-therapy.” This album deals with themes of mistrust, isolation, and uncomfortable togetherness like a creeping fog that never dissipates from the road you find yourself driving on. It might not be surprising to find out that Sharon may have found a lot of inspiration from an ex-boyfriend in Tennessee (during her college days) who told her she was “shit” as a musician, hid her guitar from her, and sent her packing back home. On this album, she is not so much reminiscing as she is getting good and angry, proving she is ready to put up a fight and prove herself to whomever made her a scorned lover. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” I suppose.

https://youtu.be/SSpMAdgBG0Q

Warsaw

Give Out

Serpents

Kevin’s

Leonard

In Line

All I Can

We Are Fine

Magic Chords

Ask

I’m Wrong

Joke or a Lie

 

Sharon Van Etten- Are We There

With her third proper album, Van Etten seems to have created/completed a trilogy of heartbreak songs and she has done it again with such effortlessness that she makes it seem so easy. Here she continues to write about the depravations of romance and the contortions of the heart when it is either in love or broken. Confessing her deepest and darkest secrets on record have proven empowering for her as well as a bit unnerving, but she performs the task with the greatest of ease, helping those who have suffered along the way, too. This album finds Van Etten at her most comfortable and she sounds rather self-determined instead of self-destructive, and self-directed as opposed to living for someone else’s love and approval, which I think are all emotions and ways of being that we tend to go through when we find ourselves in and out of significant relationships. She is like a new person/artist, as she has come into her own self-awareness, while still writing excruciatingly confessional songs that are absolutely relatable to people the likes of myself.  Many of her lyrical choices are perfect because, not only does she sing them with conviction, but she sort of explains that it is not the big moments that define or doom a specific relationship, but the everyday routines, the small sacrifices that add up over time, and the stark realities of sharing your life with another person. Never has this seemed more relevant to my life than now, after this last relationship that went sour after living together for six solid, torrid months with the woman I was sure would be my final relationship, the woman I was set to marry and start a life with, the woman who became my best friend, the woman I finally felt I could be brutally honest with at times. Never have I wanted to repeatedly listen to another woman croon about heartbreak than right now, and that’s why Sharon Van Etten is the perfect musical companion.

https://youtu.be/thU7OTMvEnc

Afraid of Nothing

Taking Chances

Your Love is Killing Me

Our Love

Tarifa

I Love You But I’m Lost

You Know Me Well

Break Me

Nothing Will Change

I Know

Every Time the Sun Comes Up

 

The Postal Service- Give Up

Perhaps one of the best one-off side projects ever produced, which simultaneously left everyone begging and pleading for more music, but never being satiated with another album, The Postal Service’s album is indie pure gold, combining the greatness of Ben Gibbard’s songwriting and experimentation with electro-pop music that he couldn’t satisfy with his band Death Cab for Cutie. The band’s inception and name came from the act of which the members created their songs by: individually and then sending each other CDs through the mail. The album’s songs deal with themes of love, fame, history, and friendship and has been an album I look to in times of heartbreak, perhaps solely because of songs “Clark Gable” and “Nothing Better” (which is a duet with Jenny Lewis about a couple about to break up). “Such Great Heights” has been covered multiple times, perhaps most famously by Iron and Wine, who stripped it down for the soundtrack to “Garden State” and is one of the few songs that Ben Gibbard has admitted to writing with a positive view of love. Everything about this album is perfect and certainly leaves you wanting more.

https://youtu.be/0wrsZog8qXg

The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

Such Great Heights

Sleeping In

Nothing Better

Recycled Air

Clark Gable

We Will Become Silhouettes

This Place is a Prison (my favorite songs here)

Brand New Colony

Natural Anthem

 

The National- High Violet

This is the kind of band who make music you can drink to. Matt Berninger has the kind of voice that makes you think he’s been at the bar far longer than you, scribbling lyrics on napkins of sordid, miserable encounters, while each song has a lived-in feel to them. You don’t get the sense that he, himself, is miserable, but rather that he enjoys writing about characters who are seemingly everyday people who have real jobs, have uninteresting sex (lives), get drunk (often), and lie to each other, all during the regular work week. But The National craft their songs in such a perfect way to avoid being considered “dad rock.” This is not an album to put on and listen to if you are looking to be cheered up after a relationship, instead Berninger allows you to commiserate with him, while avoiding the self-destruction theme. Berninger’s lyrics are prophetic and poetic and he sings them with a smoker’s and drinker’s croon that eases your pain by welcoming it. Each instrument has its glory in each track making it a triumphant album that is equal parts grandiose and morose. They have a big sound that could fill arenas, but you certainly get the sense that they are a band way more comfortable playing small venues so that their songs can really pound in your brain.

https://youtu.be/yfySK7CLEEg

Terrible Love

Sorrow

Anyone’s Ghost

Little Faith

Afraid of Everyone

Bloodbuzz Ohio

Lemonworld

Runaway

Conversation 16

England

Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

 

The National- Trouble Will Find Me

Another band I cannot help but include two stellar albums from on my list of break-up albums, simply because of singer Matt Berninger’s voice and lyrics. Following up “High Violet” would have proven a harder task for any other band, but it’s almost as if The National are soaking in their musical niche without really feeling comfortable cruising along. This album really focuses on the visceral power of Berninger’s vocals, while he still tells stories of similar subjects (re: everyday people and their woes). This album is far more accessible to listeners because the songs seem simpler and contain instantly memorable melodies, but if you listen to the lyrics, they still tell interesting stories that rely on themes that are relatable and make it a great post-break-up album. It seems like Berninger’s slips in purely autobiographical songs into each, or at least could pass as a comedian for his timing of one-liners that rely on self-deprecation and the idea of his own self-image which seemed formed in his earlier, angst-riddled years of his youth (something perhaps we can all identify with, which begs the idea of who we become is instilled in us at an earlier age than perhaps we would like to admit to). On this album, Berninger uses metaphors to explore themes of substances, sex, and depression with his characters being either medicated, missing, or incapable of justifying their means and ends. This is one of the best modern-day break-up albums and one I have found myself listening to on repeat, almost on a daily basis while trying to avoid the self-pity and wallowing that comes with breaking up (even if it was orchestrated by me).

https://youtu.be/A-Tod1_tZdU

I Should Live in Salt

Demons

Don’t Swallow the Cap

Fireproof

Sea of Love

Heavenfaced

This is the Last Time

Graceless

Slipped

I Need My Girl (love this song)

Humiliation

Pink Rabbits (a great song)

Hard to Find

 

The Good Life- Album of the Year

Another project for Tim Kasher to put his stories on record. Another concept album, too (following Cursive’s, his other band, albums “Domestica” and “The Ugly Organ”). This time, Tim Kasher spends an entire album chronicling the rise and fall of a relationship. It sort of follows a calendar year, with the first track occurring in April. It’s interesting that the first track summarizes the entire story, and then the rest of the album dives deeper into the couple’s story, given each person a voice. The male character is dating a bartender. The first 3 songs talk about the couple at the beginning of their relationship. “You’re No Fool” is a song about the ridicule the woman bartender faces, as everyone around her speculates about her boyfriend’s infidelity, while another song lists several of these supposed and assumed unfaithfulness, as he cheats on his girlfriend with an ex-lover and other girls he has met at the bar. Everything is left up to the listener, in regards to whether or not you think/believe he has actually ben unfaithful. Further into the album, songs act as documentation of the growing dissatisfaction of each person in the relationship, from the point of view of the woman and the man, giving them each a distinctive voice. The relationship falls apart. There is even a spoken dialogue halfway through the album, and then the tone shifts to the man defending his actions and feeling like he is on trial, and Kasher relies on the metaphor of lawyers and trial. “Inmates” is my favorite track, featuring Jenny Lewis as the girlfriend and this ultimately the end of their relationship. The last 3 tracks deal with the man’s life, post-break up. The ex-girlfriend has moved on and they haven’t spoken in over 2 years. This is one of the best relationship concept albums thanks in large part to the genius of Tim Kasher, who never seems to disappoint.

https://youtu.be/MOTcVpO5ipE

Album of the Year

Night and Dry

Under a Honeymoon

You’re No Fool

Notes in His Pocket

You’re Not You

October Leaves

Lovers Need Lawyers

Inmates (a great, culminating song, about 9 minutes long)

Needy

A New Friend

Two Years This Month

 

Glassjaw- Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence

This might be one of the best post-hardcore/screamo/punk/hardcore album of the past 15 years (having been released in 2000, just as I was graduating high school). The raw emotion and power behind the words (sometimes a bit misogynistic sounding) and singer Daryl Palumbo’s singing/screaming is unbelievable. It’s an album you might listen to after being treated badly by someone and need to get some aggression out, without hurting someone or yourself. There’s something to be said for angry-sounding music being therapeutic. The lyrics are angry and definitely feed into the myth behind them of someone being cheated on. They seem very personal, and still relatable. There’s even a point at the end of one song where you can actually hear Palumbo drop the microphone violently, as if disgusted, in the studio at the end of the recording. There’s a perfect blend of in-your-face hard, fast songs and soft, beautiful songs (I especially love the last (hidden) track which is just him and a piano where he repeats the lyrics “Take my memories of her with you, pack your shit and leave…” This was an album I discovered when I was 20 years old, I believe, having never experienced relationships or dating, per se, aside from the unrequited/almost love stories that my past is riddled with, so I did not necessarily connect with the raw, angry emotion of the album; but now, having had my share of relationships that have gone sour and seen better days, I can certainly put this album on and scream it out for therapy’s sake. This is a classic post-break-up album that is significantly underrated and under the radar to music fans and I urge and strongly suggest checking out.

https://youtu.be/gxxjktq482U

Pretty Lush

Siberian Kiss

When One Eight Becomes Two Zeroes

Ry Ry’s Song

Lovebites and Razorlines (such a great, break-up song)

Hurting and Shoving (She Should Have Let Me Sleep)

Majour

Her Middle Name Was Boom

Piano

Babe

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence

Motel of the White Locust (my favorite on here)

Losten

 

A Fine Frenzy- One Cell in the Sea

A Fine Frenzy (aka Alison Sudol) is the kind of raw and open and honest and exposed artist that comes along once in a while. The kind of artist whose subtle voice demands your attention from the first seconds of hearing it. Her piano playing (self-taught) is simple yet commanding, as well. But, for me, when I discovered her (again thanks to VH1’s Artists to Know spotlight for her heartbreaking song “Almost Lover”), it was her honest lyrics that I connected with. And full disclosure, I will admit that I fell in love with her on a surface level as well because she might be one of the most adorable, cute looking ladies ever, with her red hair, dimples, and full-face smile and expressive eyes. She seemed like the whole package, at least what was conveyed to me through the TV screen (and I’ve seen her multiple times in concert, so I know she’s humble). Her introspection was something I attached to when listening to her lyrics. This was definitely an album that got me through the break-up with my first girlfriend, thanks in large part to songs, “Almost Lover” and “Near To You” (which also took on a completely new meaning with another ex-girlfriend- interesting how that happens). The title of the record “One Cell in the Sea” is a bit existential as well, and Alison Sudol has explained it as such: “It’s the beginning of something, it’s the loneliness that I felt when making the record…when everyone else was out doing their own thing. I wouldn’t have wanted to be out, but it was a feeling of everybody being someone else, and you are lonely. And also it’s the unity that we all have from basic human emotions and we all came from somewhere, so we’re all connected.” It’s a beautiful record. This is an album you can listen to in the morning, over coffee and breakfast when you perch yourself on the windowsill of your apartment/house and look out at life happening around you and be comforted by the idea that although it hurts to grow old(er) and experience heartache and pain and love and loss, it shapes who you are. There are no tracks that you find yourself skipping past either. It’s a complete work of art.

https://youtu.be/I_S_TbD1XFM

Come On, Come Out

The Minnow and the Trout

Whisper

You Picked Me

Rangers

Almost Lover (the single on here, but the best song, too)

Think of You

Ashes and Wine

Liar, Liar

Last of Days

Lifesize

Near to You (such a beautiful song about why it can’t work out)

Hope for the Hopeless

Borrowed Time

A Fine Frenzy- Bomb in a Birdcage

I seem to have broken a rule I set out from the beginning for myself (don’t include more than one album from each artist), but it’s a hard rule to stick to when specific artists seem so expertly able to craft albums that help ease the pain of the loss of love.

First off, let’s say this right out of the gate: Alison Sudol’s explanation of the album is perfectly stated- “It’s about two totally messed up people trying to stay afloat despite all the odds.” That’s exactly what you feel as you listen to the progression of the album, and it might ring a bit too close to home for me, personally and emotionally because I have found myself in that position with at least two girlfriends, so that might be why I love this record. Watching and listening to Sudol perform these songs, which have a hint of pop-ness to them more so than her first album, you get the sense that she is a quirky girl who flirts without knowing it. Her poetic lyrics have a subtleness to them, so that you don’t necessarily feel like they are contrived. Her bread and butter on this album is being smartly sweet and endearing while spinning tales of of heartache and triumph, for seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel. She holds her own when put up against other female pianist that would be classified in the same genre and with this album ventures out a little further with the pop sound, which gives the listener hope that although things might seem tough in the moment, they will get better, and she’s here to help you along. I love how she chronicles the emotions felt from the start of a relationship (at the beginning of the record) through the troubled waters and eventually termination of the courtship. Perhaps that’s why she added the extra pop and synth-heaviness at the beginning of the record (as a sort of way to evoke what it sounds like to be newly happy and excited about a budding relationship) and then progresses to a slower sound towards the end of the record/relationship.

https://youtu.be/xcqqCIAGRpo

 What I Wouldn’t Do

New Heights

Electric Twist

Blow Away

Happier (a pop-song about moving on)

Swan Song (my favorite one)

Elements

The World Without

Bird of the Summer

Stood Up

The Beacon

Silent War

Coming Around

 

The Get-Up Kids- Something to Write Home About

This is the perfect emo, pop-punk record that takes the formula of how to write sappy, heart-on-your-sleeve songs that cut straight to the heart of what it means to be emo. And if, by now, you do not know what genre of music “emo” is described as, I cannot really help you. Each song on this album is about missing, wanting, or needing a girl who is “a world away” (perhaps physically or metaphorically speaking). When the songs are not pop-punk infused, with the insertion of keyboards, the Get-Up Kids write melodic songs, following the same formula that just doesn’t really tire, especially if you feel the need to satiate your inner teenage-self. It is an album that defines the struggles of being a young men and all the struggles and stumbles (in relationships) that come with it. It is hard to be a young man. But, because they write pop-punk tunes, there is a sense of optimism after listening to this album. This is my late-teenage into early-twenties album. Hell, I even had a Get-Up Kids jacket that was my favorite jacket and wore all the time, like every day, when I worked at a record store for a couple of years.

https://youtu.be/EW-GWL1mopk

Holiday

Action and Action

Valentine

Red Letter Day

Out of Reach

Ten Minutes

The Company Dime

My Apology

I’m a Loner Dottie, A Rebel

Long Goodnight

Close to Home

I’ll Catch You

 

The Magnetic Fields- 69 Love Songs

This was my introduction to Stephen Merritt. Sitting and listening to an ambitious, albeit maybe a little pretentious and self-indulgent, but it’s hard to argue with a piece of art like this when it is so masterfully crafted together. The songs are casual put together. All the songs are not necessarily about love, as Merritt would tell anyone, but rather just effortless pop songs meant to lighten the mood and lift you up onto clouds. The songs are meant as refractions of emotion into an array of emotions; and also they are meant to split the defining characteristics of love songs, in particular, which is a bit refreshing, because, here, they do not necessarily make you feel a certain way about love or about being in love. It’s an almost-full 3 hours of music, so you should be prepared to sit down for a few hours and let the songs consume you; or perhaps you could put on the three albums, consecutively, and just go for a long walk somewhere. I am not going to include the track list for all 69 songs, but rather just make the suggestion that they are all worth your time.

Rilo Kiley- The Execution of All Things

Here’s an album that sneaks up on you. I remember buying it when it came out in 2002 and listening to it a few times and being intrigued by the story told throughout the album. It’s sort of a concept album, with one song broken into pieces played at the end of each song (which requires a few listens to really get it)- the original song is titled “And That’s How I Choose to Remember It,” which is an apt title given the subject/story that Jenny Lewis is recollecting on this album. The album’s songs tell the story of her childhood and her parents’ divorce. The themes her lyrics explore include a child’s perspective on loss, displacement, anger, and hopelessness. Now, speaking as a teenage-product of my own parents’ divorce these are topics and themes I have known and experienced very well. That said, this album speaks to me and about my own deeply-rooted feelings surrounding the events of my parents’ divorce and how that felt as a teenager who could understand more about the situation. This is an interesting album to delve into after a break-up, but still worth it.

https://youtu.be/Vx0mihxueBo

The Good That Won’t Come Out

Paint’s Peeling

The Execution of All Things

So Long

Capturing Moods

A Better Son/Daughter

Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You

My Slumbering Hearts

Three Hopeful Thoughts

With Arms Outstretched

Spectacular Views

And That’s How I Choose to Remember It

 

Dido- No Angel

Full disclosure at the beginning of this one: Dido’s first album, “No Angel” is one of my all-time favorite albums. The story goes like this: It was 1999 and I was in a cellphone store with my sister and they for some reason had a music channel playing on their several TVs and I was transfixed by what I saw- Dido’s original video for “Here with Me” (which would come out again, about a year later- after being featured as the theme song for the WB show “Roswell” and also, she became pretty well known and famous after Eminem used samples of her song “Thank You” for his own song “Stan” about a crazed fan). I was so entranced by this album that I gave it to everyone I knew for Christmas that year, because I just wanted everyone to hear and appreciate the album as much as I did and still do. I am also slightly attached to the album, because I had one of my first experiences with unrequited love due to Dido and her music. I was working at a record store and one of my co-workers/friends tried setting me up with his sister, whom I hit it off with. We ended up hanging out a few times, and I invited her to come with me to Dido’s concert in Mansfield, MA. I remember holding her and smelling her hair as we danced along to the music in the warm June night. It happened to be one of my most significant nights because it was my first, real, official date (milestone!) and we even kissed at the end of the night. It still holds up as one of my favorite, most memorable nights of my somewhat-young life.

There was just something haunting about her lyrics, and the electronic sound was something I had not heard before. Dido’s voice is very ethereal. Everything song on this album is fantastic. It is an atmospheric, seductive, and beautifully sounding album. Even the sequencing of the album is perfect. With her lyrics, you can tell she’d been through some of her own pain and heartache, her lyrics focus mainly on love, lust, and almost all aspects of relationships (good and bad). So, I always end up listening to this album several times when I go through a relationship, ups and downs.

https://youtu.be/B_Z02QLCiGk

Here with Me

Hunter

Don’t Think of Me

My Lover’s Gone

All You Want

Thank You

Honestly OK

Slide

Isobel

I’m No Angel

My Life

Take My Hand

(Worthless)*

(Me)*

 

Dido- Safe Trip Home

This is not necessarily a break-up album, per se, but it is an album whose theme centers around loss. The songs are overwhelmingly focused on the death of her father (in 2006), but a few of the songs can certainly be interpreted to be about the loss of a lover (weird to say, but that’s what is great about music, the listener’s individual interpretation). This album is much more mature, musically and emotionally. Dido sounds very reflective as she centers herself around themes, albeit familiar, of longing, absence rooted deeper than the caverns of romantic love (hence, her father’s death). Listening to many of these songs once, you kind of miss the points, but if you keep listening, you will probably cry. There’s an honesty and depth to these sets of songs that helps the more mature version of yourself deal with loss (much like Dido). You can feel comforted by the sound of Dido’s voice, as it is so soothing. My two favorite tracks to play are the acoustic songs, “Quiet Times” and “Burnin’ Love” which features Citizen Cope. I absolutely love finding calm and reserve with this album. It’s hauntingly beautiful as it reminds us that life is finite and it is indeed better to have loved and loss than to have never loved at all.

https://youtu.be/SOd-rz8lDXQ

Don’t Believe in Love

Quiet Times

Never Want to Say It’s Love

Grafton Street (my favorite song on here)

It Comes and It Goes

Look No Further

Us 2 Little Gods

The Day Before the Day

Let’s Do the Things We Normally Do

Burnin’ Love (a close second favorite)

Northern Skies

 

Fiona Apple- Tidal

First, I have to say, I cannot believe this album will be 20 years old next year, which means right now it’s as old as Fiona Apple was when she burst onto the alternative/adult contemporary balancing act (a mere nineteen years old) as a New York art waif who would have been very comfortable in the budding hipster generation of the past decade (amazing that she has managed to stick around and stay relevant, releasing amazing albums every few years, just enough to satiate our hunger and desire for heartfelt, confessionally honest songs). I have also had the pleasure of seeing her live, which is probably the best way to consume her music (a couple of years ago, for her latest album “The Idler Wheel..”). I can still remember seeing her video “Criminal” on MTV, and being a teenager myself at the time, I was more focused on the fact that it showed sullen teens, bathing in ennui, at a party in their underwear. As I grew up and matured, I focused more on her lyrics, and with this debut album, Fiona Apple comes off as a sullen girl, quite moody. Although only a teenager, there is something about her lyrics that make her sound quite mature and not simply composing songs from pages from her diary. The album floats along several different lines, a different times and all at the same time. It can be dark, with songs about heartbreak. It can be beautiful, with heartfelt lyrics. It is sultry. It is emotional. It is an album that pop music should be more like, unfortunately, bubble-gum pop music became far more relevant and popular around the same time. It far surpasses expectations of what you think a teenager is capable of producing (emotionally, without being too woe-is-me; and introspectively). This album stands the test of time, though, and isn’t just for sullen girls. You could light some candles, either put on a robe or get in a bubble bath, grab a cigar or a bottle of wine, and let Fiona’s voice and sweet piano playing carry you away for the night, with this album. It’s like being in a jazz lounge, without the embarrassment of people seeing you feel bad for yourself.

https://youtu.be/FFOzayDpWoI

Sleep to Dream

Sullen Girl

Shadowboxer

Criminal

Slow Like Honey

The First Taste

Never is a Promise

The Child is Gone

Pale September

Carrion

 

Fiona Apple- When the Pawn…

A lot was said about Fiona Apple up until this album came out (and subsequently after, she took some criticism as well). She seemed to be coming off to everyone (who turned into a critic) as a naive, hipster-ish (did that word really exist back then the way it does now?), pretentious, upper-middle class girl, born slightly with a silver-spoon, as well as being a white girl- what did she have to complain about and/or just be miserable about? None of it seemed justified, to people. Oh, and she also clearly seemed to be suffering from an eating disorder (which I could relate to back then, as I suffered my own version for a couple of years, and after). So, all that happened. And then…Fiona Apple put this album out. And, she had to be just a bit more pretentious by creating an album title that contained 90 words (and held the world record for awhile), being a 90 word poem as a reaction to the criticism she’d received. The title alone is a beautiful piece of art and really sets the tone for her album, which is slightly angry and more mature. (I encourage you to look up the entire album title and read it.) The whole album sounds like an angry response and sort of middle finger to an ex-lover (or anyone who claims to dislike her), but also she wants it to stand as proof that she just doesn’t care, even though she’s obviously upset. She sounds way more confident, which comes from experience. She’s not a self-conscious teenage girl anymore. Her songs are still personal and seem to come from the heels of a relationship that ended badly, leaving her sour and bitter. Fiona Apple grabs her attention right away, and it’s really hard to stop listening, especially because of her use of words and phrases, as well as the twisted way she composes many of these songs (with a jazz-pop tinge), with stops and starts. It’s hard to believe a woman of only 22 years made such an amazing, dare I say, career-defining album.

https://youtu.be/BK30r_SIZ-g

On the Bound

To Your Love

Limp

Love Ridden

Paper Bag

A Mistake

Fast As You Can

The Way Things Are

Get Gone (my favorite on here)

I Know

 

Fiona Apple- Extraordinary Machine

This is the kind of album born from musical myth and became the unfortunate victim of a music industry (studio-heads, mostly) who clearly did not understand. The album and artist were among the first (in a long line of others to come) which fell victim to the online leak that has nowadays become more common than not, unfortunately. Back in 2003, Fiona Apple had been working with her longtime collaborator, Jon Brion (who seems to really know her, musically, and get the best out of her) on a set of songs that followed along the same themes she was so familiar with. When the album was leaked, Apple took it as an opportunity to get a do-over, this time working with Mike Elizondo, who ultimately helped reimagine almost every single one of the original songs (leaving only two like their originals). In the same vein as “When the Pawn…” was a responsive album, “Extraordinary Machine” is a break-up album, in the wake of her split from film/music video director Paul Thomas Anderson. She continues her expertise in the mastery of wordplay (with a hint of hip-hop inspired delivery throughout some of the songs) and focuses her clever angst on the topics of anger and anguish. She has never really been so direct in her subject and it works perfectly. This is my favorite Fiona Apple album because of its subject matter and her creative exploration. The songs structures are different than before, yet remain beautiful even riddled with anger and frustration. It proves that Fiona is an artist unwilling to compromise her artistic integrity, thank God! Her songs reveal a resilience inside of her that we can all benefit from, especially after a painful break-up.

https://youtu.be/u09s0uz0tEU

Extraordinary Machine

Get Him Back

O’ Sailor

Better Version of Me

Tymps (the Sick in the Head Song)

Parting Gift (love this song)

Window (one of my favorites)

Oh Well

Please Please Please

Red Red Red

Not About Love

Waltz (Better than Fine)

 

Fiona Apple- The Idler Wheel is Wiser…

As the album artwork (self-drawn picture of her head dissected) suggests, this album allows us to dive further into her mind, and as we might have known it can be scary, ugly and rather vivid inside of there. Now being 34 years old, older wiser, she is still struggling with her own naivety and cynicism, like any tortured artist, except on this album she is not really projecting the blame on someone else. Instead, she is focusing on herself, even as much of a master at the art of the kiss-off as she is, this is an introspective album. This is not an album you put on to simply be in the background as you do other things. It’s sparseness and simplicity demands your attention and her vocals are straining throughout much of the album because it seems like she’s almost had enough. She has really grown up and matured right before our ears and this is truly an adult album, with reflective lyrics that admit mistakes she’s made and has been forced to face the consequences of, but she is still strong enough to handle it all. It’s a brave album from a brave soul for other brave survivors of self. I love the raw emotion that also makes it feel like you are intruding on her inner thoughts.  The album title again comes from a poem written by Fiona Apple, but is not as long as her sophomore album’s title. And by the end of the album, you will be left with the feeling that you wished Fiona Apple would put out albums with more frequency than she does, but you can also rest assure that she takes her craft seriously and makes her albums well worth the wait (even if it is 6 or 7 years, sometimes).

https://youtu.be/VG1VVFfOnYQ

Every Single Night

Daredevil

Valentine

Jonathan

Left Alone

Werewolf (quickly was my favorite track)

Periphey

Regret

Anything You Want

Hot Knife (such a great song)

 

Tegan and Sara- The Con

Say what you will about these sisters (who also happen to be lesbians and Canadians, not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things), maybe you think they sold out a little bit with their latest album (sound, in particular) and the fact that they collaborated with the Lonely Island for the “Lego Movie” theme song: “Everything is Awesome,” but all of that aside, they sure know how to write a great break-up album with a lot of heart and soul. It’s an album that was written during a period of intense emotional turmoil for both sisters. Tegan was coping with the end of a 5 year relationship; and Sara was dealing with the struggle with Canadian immigration to get her American-born girlfriend a working visa. They were also, both, dealing with the death of their grandmother who was basically a second mother to them. The songs range in theme to talk about the reality of getting older, long-term relationships, and the end of things. There’s a harsher tone to the songs, as well as a darker element, but that comes with growing up (musically) and maturing as songwriters. And hey, it also helps make these songs more relatable to the listener, if you are dealing with your own struggles to cope. If your heart feels like a stone, in times of trouble, this album is a perfect companion to help keep you afloat. It’s bookend songs are perfect, as well, with “I Was Married” and “Call It Off” almost like a beginning and an ending, with all the in-between emotions.

https://youtu.be/soJtF3F5t2k

I Was Married

Relief Next to Me

The Con

Knife Going In

Are You Ten Years Ago

Back in Your Head

Hop a Plane

Soil, Soil

Burn Your Life Down

Nineteen

Floorplan

Like O, Like H

Dark Come Soon

Call It Off

 

Rachel Yamagata- Happenstance

Here is the kind of artist that never really got her due accolades, because she had the unfortunate timing of releasing her first album, “Happenstance” around the same time as other piano-fueled, female artists like Norah Jones, Fiona Apple, etc. which she definitely has a similar feel and tone in her musical styling, but there is something different in her approach to songs. It’s elegance in approach (as pop radio friendly/ready) is balanced with a willingness to admit it might seem like an overreach, emotionally, but for people who’ve had the same feelings, it works, because the listener can connect. Her lyrics on these songs are relevant poetic loops of ghosts haunting around. The ghosts include: unrequited love (a subject I am all too familiar with), dislocation, desire, loss, and anger, as well as a hint of acceptance, which can be a gauntlet of emotions during or after a break-up. I’ve been a victim of my own idealism, but I do not find it to necessarily be a flaw; knowing this I have been an equal victim to my own disappointment when things or people do not live up to my expectations. Sure, it can lead to a sad, worrisome lifestyle (but don’t feel too bad for me just yet, because I’ve certainly learned from my past mistakes and changed my expectations), and the feeling of love or the act of love can almost feel like it plays out like an assault on your oft-betrayed heart once a relationship doesn’t work out- but that’s life. But, what Rachael Yamagata does with her album is show and tell that there’s a beauty in the memories and a glimmer of hope in all the brokenness of your broken heart.

 https://youtu.be/PDuXmkVFyAw

Be Be Your Love

Letter Read

Worn Me Down

Paper Doll

I’ll Find a Way

1963

Under My Skin

Meet Me by the Water

Even So

I Want You

Reasons Why

Moments with Oliver

Quiet

 

Adele- 21

It might seem a bit cliche at this point, and perhaps a bit like beating a dead horse, but I cannot help but include this album from Adele because it perfectly encompasses the emotions one person feels when their relationship ends. I think it helps that Adele came out at a time when the radio was dying for a female singer/songwriter/chanteuse who could just pierce your ears with the pureness of her voice, which also echoes the pain she was obviously feeling singing these songs. This album, “21,” signifies her age at the time of its making (21) (much like her debut album, aptly titled “19”), and it was composed in the aftermath of her separation from a partner and explores themes of heartbreak, self-examination, and ultimately forgiveness, in almost a consequential order. It could almost be considered a concept album in the sense that it goes through the entire emotion gauntlet that someone feels when a relationship ends: anger and bitterness, loneliness, heartbreak and regret, and then a final push towards acceptance (like a 12-step program through songs). These songs are like the epitome of channeling all your inner heartbreak into songs. With this album, she has expertly crafted songs that examine her own failed relationship, but in a completely relatable fashion, from the dueling perspectives of vengeful ex-lovers, heartbroken victims, and nostalgic old flames. You get a rush of emotions from the old-soulful sound of Adele’s voice as it teeters on the edge of cracking and breaking with certain notes, but she somehow holds it and herself together and makes it through the entire album, without breaking down and crying- which might not be the case for you (especially after listening to “Someone Like You” on repeat). This album is certainly probably the most repetitively played break-up album, in our modern times and it works.

https://youtu.be/hLQl3WQQoQ0

Rolling in the Deep

Rumour Has It

Turning Tables

Don’t You Remember

Set Fire to the Rain

He Won’t Go

Take It All

I’ll Be Waiting

One and Only

Lovesong (a cover of The Cure that fits in nicely)

Someone Like You (and anthemic break-up song)

 

Blur- 13

I knew of Blur thanks to their U.S. branded one-hit-wonder of a song, “Song 2” which is a powerful, short 2-minute assault that dominated alternative radio in the 1990s, but delving deeper into their eclectic catalogue, I began to find the genius, albeit slightly narcissistic attitude of Damon Albarn (who has gone on to do several other projects, most notably perhaps Gorillaz). Blur also had the unfortunate coincidence of hitting radio right around the same time as Oasis (the other other British band that was allegedly “bigger than the Beatles”). Blur had the same pop-tinged songs early on, but then with this album, “13,” their sound began to take a sharp turn and departure from pop and was seen and heard as more experimental- as Albarn’s lyrics on the album explored his feelings about life and relationships thanks in large part to the ending of his long-term, on-again-off-again relationship with another British band of the 1990s, Elastica’s frontwoman Justine Frischmann (who perhaps was not as kind in her remembrance of their courtship through her songs). It’s definitely one of those darker, more innovative albums, and you might want to listen to it in the dark, alone, but be prepared to not really feel any better about your own situation. The album includes great bookends, in song form, as well as lyrically. “Tender” sets the stage with lyrics, “love’s the greatest thing that we have” yet you can hear the sarcasm in Albarn’s vocals, as he simultaneously admits that his heart has screwed up his life. As someone who often follows his heart and lets his heart make decisions for him, I can’t help feel connected to this song, in particular. Then, “No Distance Left to Run” brings the album and concept of life and relationships to a close, at least for these artists, with resignation to the facts, “it’s over, you don’t need to tell me, I hope you’re with someone who makes you feel safe in your sleep,” what a beautiful sentiment to someone who basically ripped his heart out, apparently, and a nice send-off.

https://youtu.be/SaHrqKKFnSA

Tender

Bugman

Coffee & TV

Swamp Song

1992

B.L.U.R.E.M.I.

Battle

Mellow Song

Trailerpark

Caramel

Trimm Trabb

No Distance Left to Run

Optigan 1

 

Bruce Springsteen- Tunnel of Love

This is kind of a “lost” Springsteen album, given that in his epic live performances he has very rarely played any of these songs, perhaps the reason being twofold: 1) they are deeply personal, introspective songs and 2) he had decided to part ways, musically, with the E Street Band when recording this album. It’s a beautiful record though. It came out in 1987 (when I was merely 6 years old), but I found it later on in my adult life. Springsteen has always been a great songwriter, mastering the art of storytelling with compelling, relatable, American characters in his songs, but for this album, The Boss decided to turn inward. This set of songs ponders love gone wrong, having gotten the inspiration from his failed first marriage. The album’s title seems a bit tongue-in-cheek, “Tunnel of Love” since the album is mainly about the promises people make to each other and the way people (inevitably) renege on those promises. It’s about romantic dreams and the individual, internal demons that stifle those dreams. “Brilliant Disguise” is probably the most recognized song from the album and can be considered a diatribe in the heart-wrenching idea of never really being able to know someone. You cannot fault The Boss for wanting to explore internal thoughts and feelings, because he’s just so damn good at what he does. Here, though, the character is “self” and it still works.

https://youtu.be/idnJnjV_8rg

Ain’t Got You

Tougher than the Rest

All That Heaven Will Allow

Spare Parts

Cautious Man

Walk like a Man

Tunnel of Love

Two Faces

Brilliant Disguise

One Step Up

When You’re Alone

Valentine’s Day

 

Bjork- Vulnicura

This is a brand new album (released in February of 2015, at the time of this writing) and yet a perfect break-up album as it chronicles a relationship, her own, suggestively. It is more most human, emotionally candid albums (which is saying a lot if you are familiar with Bjork’s music), while at the same time is nothing like what she claims it to be (re: a traditional singer/songwriter type of album). The songs focus and reflect upon certain times of a relationship: the period before the break-up, the dazed moments after, and the slow recovery that ensues. It gets so close in its examination of the relationship that you almost feel like an exhibitionist at the precise time of the relationship’s death. There’s an unmistakable sense that the relationship is expiring and nothing will help revive it. Bjork accomplishes something here with this album that perhaps she’s missed in her other explorative albums: there’s a note of hope, even after staying in a relationship past its expiration date; there’s a future even when you can’t feel like there is; and you will survive the emotional wringer brought on by the death of a relationship, even if you feel worse for the wear. It’s interesting to hear her words, especially when she asks the rhetorical question: “Did I love you too much?” Haven’t we asked ourselves the same question? Or maybe, not enough! There’s only two songs on here that barely break the 3-minute mark, every other song surpasses 6 minutes.

 

Stonemilker

Lionsong

History of Touches

Black Lake

Family

Notget

Atom Dance

Mouth Mantra

Quicksand

 

Noah and the Whale- The First Days of Spring

Here’s a little known British indie band’s narrative album describing the break-up of a relationship, strictly through the perspective of the man (notably because of the absence of female vocals supplied by Laura Marling- who crafted her own solo career after splitting from the band’s leader). This album is rife with heartbreak and moping, with a somber sound that is completely different than their first album. The change in tone and sound leads one to believe these two people must have done a number on each other, in reality. It’s an album about finding meaning with the end of a relationship that seemed to define you, so it’s perfect for someone who has lost a sense of themselves because they put their whole self into a relationship that didn’t pan out. It’s a bit melodramatic and self-effacing, but isn’t that how we all feel right after a break-up? It’s a folk version of something that maybe Chris Carrabba (re: Dashboard Confessional) would put out- mopey and very emo, which could potentially be polarizing, but it’s still worth listening to, even though I like and appreciate Laura Marling as a musician more than this band. In fact, it would be interesting to hear her side of their story, which I think she has sort of steered clear of doing on any of her four albums.

https://youtu.be/i7YJHct_V0Y

The First Days of Spring

Our Window

I Have Nothing

My Broken Heart

Instrumental 1

Love of an Orchestra

Instrumental 2

Stranger

Blue Skies

Slow Glass

My Door is Always Open

 

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- The Boatman’s Call

This is Nick Cave’s version of a confessional, as he looks for redemption, coming out of a divorce and highly publicized affair with fellow musician, PJ Harvey (who had her own say in the matter). With this album, Cave comes clean and reveals his skeletons and demons with a sparse sound, mostly relying on piano and voice. There’s a sense of loneliness that gets magnified from the ambience of the album, which really makes it feel like you are alone with Nick Cave in a room while he sits at his piano and confesses his sins and secrets to you, in private. It’s a very open-hearted album with a true sense of sorrow, but also catharsis. And it’s Nick Cave’s abilities to transcend the idea of this being a strictly personal, for-the-artist-only album that makes you feel connected to his hardships (even if they were self-imposed). We tend to be our own worst enemies, especially when relationships don’t work, because we think (perhaps too much) about what it is/was about ourselves that was not relatable to the other person. Nick Cave helps our demons subside as he sings his own demons away on this beautiful album. His voice has always been one that sticks with me and forces me to listen. It’s interesting to have one album explore two separate, seemingly unequal relationships, but they also tie in nicely to his exploration of religious doubts. There are songs specific to PJ Harvey and those are the ones I enjoy the most.

https://youtu.be/QEjz5hNZF-A

Into My Arms

Lime Tree Arbour

People Ain’t No Good

Brompton Oratory

There is a Kingdom

(Are You) the One that I’ve Been Waiting For?

Where Do We Go Now but Nowhere?

West Country Girl

Black Hair

Idiot Prayer

Far From Me

Green Eyes

Marvin Gaye- Here, My Dear

First, it amazed me that this happened to be Marvin Gaye’s 15th album. The subject he chose to focus on with these songs was dedicated to the marriage to his first wife, which fell apart. It was a personal crisis that he needed to put out of his head, so he decided to put it on record, instead. It happened when his estranged wife decided to sue him for divorce, claiming irreconcilable differences and also wanted palimony. But, anyone who’s had a relationship with an artist, especially a singer, should know that the artist will have the last word or perhaps the best revenge. Marvin Gaye decided to tour (with the money going to the lawsuit) and when he got back from the tour he went into the studio to record a “quickie record” with nothing heavy, nothing even that good, because his wife was going to receive the money, anyway. Best laid plans, it ended up becoming a very hands-on project for Marvin Gaye; one for which he wrote the lyrics (which he usually did not) and played keyboards on. The album is a bit all over the place, in terms of emotions, ranging in things like, self-serving attitude, self-justifying, and self-pitying; as well as moments of tenderness, fear, anger, regret, and then ultimately self-retribution. The album comes from the perspective of a much needed catharsis to a perhaps much more needed escape. It’s an album that reveals the sound of divorce, exposing all its tender-nerve-splitting glory for the whole world to consume. It’s a risky album, because of its deeply personal content, but it’s also quite relatable, especially for at least one person’s perspective and explanation of why the relationship failed and ended. This is a record the defines what soul music is supposed to be about, with the strain in his voice allowing the listener to hear his agony.

 https://youtu.be/yvckEuos0is

Here, My Dear

I Met a Little Girl

When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You

Anger

Is That Enough

Everybody Needs Love

Time to Get it Together

Sparrow

Anna’s Song

When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (Instrumental)

A Funky Space Reincarnation

You Can Leave, But It’s Going to Cost You

Falling in Love Again

When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You (Reprise)

 

Spiritualized- Ladies and Gentleman, We Are Floating in Space

This is a beautiful, not very well-heard album, at least here in the States, written and made shortly after the break up of band members Jason Pierce and Kate Radley (who married The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft soon after the break-up). There’s no real salvation or redemption with this album, but it makes love and hate/loss, restraint and excess, attachment and separation, addiction and isolation, all sound so beautiful and magnificent, worth the cost, as you listen through his wrangled, torn voice. The album is ripe with the idea of power in conflict. “Spiritualized is used to treat the heart and the soul,” per order of the liner notes that accompany the album. But, at it’s core, this is an album about wanting something you don’t have until it’s too late and it brings you to your knees (physically and metaphorically). Within the first minutes of the album, you really get hit over the head that Jason Pierce is in pain, “All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away,” such a perfect way to mend your own broken heart, someone else’s pain. I see this album also as using drug addiction as a metaphor for the feeling of the highs of love and the lows of loss. This is an atmospheric album and it spans just about 70 minutes, and it’s worth listening to every single minute of the album, because it’s important to catalogue your pain and recognize it for what it is and what it is doing to you, but to ultimately not let it defeat you. It’s an album that will treat your heart and soul.

https://youtu.be/j9G7n8DBpO8

Ladies and Gentleman, We Are Floating in Space

Come Together

I Think I’m in Love

All of My Thoughts

Stay with Me

Electricity

Home of the Brave

The Individual

Broken Heart

No God Only Religion

Cool Waves

Cop Shoot Cop…

 

The Good Life- Novena on a Nocturn

I am always in awe of Tim Kasher’s ability to tell a story through his own pain. He might be the master of concept albums inspired by his own life. With his side project’s (The Good Life’s) debut album, he took inspiration from his failed relationship and bitter divorce and turned it into a beautiful lament and reflection for our own enjoyment. A “novena” refers to the Catholic devotion consisting of nine separate days of prayers, which reflect in the albums brief nine songs (each related to one of those days). The album starts with the main character in the middle of a failing relationship and being exhausted from trying to save it. Who hasn’t been there before? I know I have. The rest of the album includes introspective reflections into the relationship and the character’s evaluation of it. The album ends with an uplifting, positive song meant to be a conversation between the estranged lovers, as they look forward to a bright, new beginning for each other, away from each other. It’s one of the best stories told through songs to help someone get through their own ideas as they face the dissolve of a significant relationship. I remember when I first bought this album, it was one that I listened to a few times, but lacked the ability of relating to, at the time, but now, I get it and it works for me as a masterpiece.

https://youtu.be/PPC0xBOKve4

A Dim Entrance

The Moon Red Handed

Your Birthday Present

An Acquaintance Strikes a Chord

Twenty Two

What We Fall For When We’re Already Down

Waiting on Wild Horses

The Competition

A Golden Ticket

 

The Good Life- Help Wanted Nights

Yet another bruising, visual yet auditory delight of storytelling from the brain of Tim Kasher. On this album, he takes another approach to the concept album, choosing to stay in one location and examine the locale and people through the eyes of one character, stuck there. Each song plays out like a vignette. The story is as follows: a man spends roughly a week in a bar in a small town because his car broke down; and he fraternizes with the regulars at the bar and finds himself wrapped up in their sordid lives, as he simultaneously becomes one of them, trapped. With these songs, Kasher is focused more on the big ideas these characters and their lives present, as he plays more with language and metaphors that almost come off as trite, but you know they are coming from an honest place. It’s an interesting idea for an album, getting an outsider’s perspective of the people he meets and thinks he knows much about. Where Bruce Springsteen has mastered the art of storytelling through individual characters and their points-of-view, Kasher takes the outsider’s perspective on the people that perhaps populate Springsteen’s narrative songs. This album still deals with relationships, broken mostly and perhaps one of the best songs Kasher has written (and one of my favorites) is on this album: “You Don’t Feel Like Home to Me.”

https://youtu.be/HloBUqjY7HI

On the Picket Fence

A Little Bit More

Heartbroke

Your Share of Men

You Don’t Feel Like Home to Me

Keely Aimee

Playing Dumb

Some Tragedy

So Let Go

Rest Your Hand

Death Cab for Cutie- Kintsugi

Well, I feel like you cannot gloss over the title of Death Cab for Cutie’s brand new album and not talking about its meaning, is like forgetting a big part of what the album is about- I mean, there’s obviously a reason why they (Gibbard, most likely) decided to name it as such. Kintsugi refers to the Japanese art of fixing fragmented ceramics with precious metals, giving broken art more value than it had when it was whole. If that’s not a metaphor for a broken heart and/or break-up, I don’t know what is! And leave it to this band to do such a thing. I think it’s crucial for the understanding of this album to know that it is also the band’s first album since Gibbard’s highly public divorce from Zooey Deschanel (even though, he seems to have slightly addressed the issue with his own, solo album). Where “Codes and Keys” was a happy album thanks to his newfound romance with Deschanel, this album acts as the bookend to their relationship. I think of Death Cab for Cutie’s song catalogue as almost an analogy of what it’s like to grow up and be in love. Each of their songs seems to touch on themes and points in someone’s life like, inflated meaning of tiny gestures, over-thinking and over-analyzing, the hunger of longing felt more during your twenties or early thirties, giving way to adulthood and divorces and the act of drifting apart. Each album is like a new, clearer perspective of what it means to grow up and the self-discovery that comes with each stop along the journey of life. Upon listening to this album a couple of times, it is very clearly a break-up album, chronicling the dissolution of his marriage with specificity perhaps Gibbard only knows about, but is making public knowledge. It also explains his frustrations with life in Los Angeles, which he never seemed to be able to grasp, and honestly who can blame him, because it’s not a fitting home for someone like him. If you want to listen to an almost complete coming-of-age story told through a myriad of songs, you can do no better than Death Cab for Cutie’s albums, capping off with this brand new album.

https://youtu.be/eTbVIfqeDq0

No Room in Frame

Black Sun

The Ghosts of Beverly Drive

Little Wanderer

You’ve Haunted Me All My Life

No Holds Gun

Everything’s a Ceiling

Good Help (Is Hard to Find)

El Dorado

Ingenue

Binary Sea

 

Ben Gibbard- Former Lives

Let’s be honest, Ben Gibbard can wrote some really mean songs, but he does it in such a way that makes you feel like you cannot get mad at him (like a guy who is nice and honest when he breaks up with a girl and they truly do remain friends). I look to the Death Cab for Cutie (his band) song, “Tiny Vessels” for one of the best, honest, mean songs. This solo album is an interesting contrast to Death Cab for Cutie’s preceding album “Codes and Keys” because that album was actually one of their happiest set of songs (thanks in large part to his relationship and marriage to Zooey Deschanel); and this solo album comes after their public split as a couple, and the tone of his songs has completely changed. The album encompasses “eight years, three relationships, living in two different places, drinking and not drinking,” as stated by Gibbard. The songs are self-conscious attempts to remain selfless in the face of tragedy. Gibbard’s poetic use of words and phrases help personify sadness. At a time when Ben Gibbard could have or perhaps should have been writing very personal songs, he remains to rely on metaphors and rhymes because he knows those are the songs that people can relate to, not just his specific story of love and loss. His solo songs on this album are a decent reminder of the decent human being he attempts to be through all his relationships and perhaps he keeps his own personal story slightly insulated because he wants to protect himself. That’s okay with me, because his words are beautiful, and they bring a lot of meaning into my own life and tragedy.

https://youtu.be/90ocplIH7I4

Shepherd’s Bush Lullaby

Dream Song

Teardrop Windows

Bigger than Love

Lily

Something’s Rattling (Cowpoke)

Duncan, Where Have You Gone

Oh, Woe

A Hard One to Know

Lady Adelaide

Broken Yolk in Western Sky

I’m Building a Fire

 

Frightened Rabbit- The Midnight Organ Fight

Here’s a band from Scotland that really knows how to write a break-up album. I discovered them thanks to a friend of mine who actually made me a copy of their albums several years ago. I listened to the albums then and just simply forgot about them, until this most recent break-up that I have gone through. I pulled out the album and listened to Scott Hutchison’s biting lyrics and somehow found myself feeling better. It has been written up as one of the finest break-up albums of recent times and it actually took Hutchison about a month after its completion to listen to it because it was such a familiar, immediate rush of emotions in the songs. It’s a personal album that can help others. The album’s title is said to be a euphemism for sex, which makes the album even more interesting, if you think about the fights had in relationships and the connection with sex. Hutchison has stated that when he writes the lyrics, it is important to “move the listener… to make another human feel something,” and you cannot help but feel with this set of songs. It could be difficult to listen to an album this frank and honest, with desperation and flat honesty in the lyrics, but that’s one of the reasons why I love music like this. It’s bleak and depressing, but at the same time, uplifting. It’s definitely an album to listen to during an existential moment in your life, subsequently in the aftermath of a break-up when your heart is feeling sad and twisted up in knots. The album will feed your heart and soul, as it helps to get you through a rough patch in your life, because it’s approachable and relatable.

https://youtu.be/Onb8uOudYuE

The Modern Leper

I Feel Better

Good Arms vs. Bad Arms

Fast Blood

Old Old Fashioned

The Twist

Bright Pink Bookmark

Head Rolls Off

My Backwards Walk

Keep Yourself Warm

Extrasupervery

Poke

Floating in the Forth

Who’d You Kill Now?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

And then, there’s Taylor Swift. This girl knows heartache, love, loss, regret, anger, the whole gauntlet of emotions when it comes to relationships, good and bad, before, during, and after relationships. This girl knows how to write a perfect, and catchy song. This girl knows how to write relatable music. When I first discovered her, I was with my first girlfriend, who really only listened to country music. I happened to start listening to it myself and one day I found myself watching CMT (basically the Country Music Video channel to counter MTV) and I saw Taylor Swift’s video for “Tim McGraw” and I was instantly hooked into her. She had a presence and a sound, not to mention the lyrics, that just told me right away she was going to be a huge star. This was in 2006. And I have been a huge fan of hers ever since, following her moves, listening to her music almost constantly, but especially during hard times. She just seems to get “it.” Her album “Fearless” really put her on the map and that’s when she became larger than life, almost, and it seems to have just gotten bigger and bigger for her, yet she has remained grounded and a decent human being, to her core. She is just a nice person, which is refreshing. She writes about what she knows, and what she knows best is heartbreak, having been through several, highly public relationships. She has even come out and said that guys should be cautious about dating her and/or subsequently breaking her heart, because songs are her best revenge. Here are some of my favorites that deal with break-ups for her 5 albums.

 

Taylor Swift- Taylor Swift (2006)

Tim McGraw

Pictures to Burn

Teardrops on My Guitar

Cold as You

Should’ve Said No

A Perfectly Good Heart

 

Taylor Swift- Fearless

Come in with the Rain

The Other Side of the Door

Hey Stephen

White Horse

Breathe

Tell Me Why

You’re Not Sorry

The Way I Loved You

Forever and Always

 

Taylor Swift- Speak Now

Mine

Sparks Fly

Back to December

Dear John

The Story of Us

Enchanted

Better than Revenge

Haunted

Last Kiss

Ours

If This was a Movie

 

Taylor Swift- Red

State of Grace

Red

Treacherous

I Knew You Were Trouble

All Too Well

I Almost Do

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Stay Stay Stay

The Last Time

Sad Beautiful Tragic

Everything Has Changed

Begin Again

The Moment I Knew

 

Taylor Swift- 1989

Blank Space

Style

Out of the Woods

All You Had to Do was Stay

I Wish You Would

Wildest Dreams

This Love

Clean

You Are In Love

 

And there you have it. My ultimate break-up albums list.

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