Breakup Albums That Were There For Me

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Meryl Williams. We’re lucky enough to have had her perform at Miss Spoken, and today she’ s contributing to February’s theme. 

I have long maintained that the only good part about a break-up is the music that goes with it. It’s one of many ways to wallow, and for at least a little while, your friends can’t say anything to you about the fact that you’re wearing pajamas at 2 p.m. and eating Trader Joe’s flatbreads and Little Debbie Zebra Cakes for most meals because hey, you’re in mourning over here. But carb-loading and non-showering aside, the only way I know how to get past a break-up is through it, and that process requires a heavy rotation of truly depressing music.

Some bands and albums I straight-up can’t listen to anymore because dudes have ruined them for me (Frightened Rabbit and Magnetic Fields, I’m looking at you). But while some others may bring out some pain, the work they do is cathartic. And so, just for you, here are the albums that have gotten me moving forward again when I needed it.

The Submarines, Declare A New State: My music-savvy friend Margaret shared this album with me a couple years ago after a break-up that involved breaking a lease, which is never pretty. This 2006 release was inspired by two of the band’s members splitting up (…and ultimately reconciling, but try not to think about that part). The song “Brighter Discontent” was especially helpful as I sat in my empty apartment, listening to this choice devastating line: “A breaking heart in an empty apartment was the loudest sound I never heard/But I’ll be fine if I don’t look around me that much for what’s gone.”

No Doubt, Return of Saturn: Gwen Stefani may be queen of the break-up album, and this is the crown jewel. From “Bath Water” to “Ex-Girlfriend,” this 2000 release (inspired by real-life heartbreak over Fool of The Year 2015 Gavin Rossdale) will get you from a puddle of tears to someone rocking a crop top and a mean red lip in no time. Still not cured? Check out its almost-as-devastating and more commercially successful predecessor: Tragic Kingdom.

The National, Trouble Will Find Me: This might not necessarily be an album about a break-up – but look, if you’re already super bummed, why not throw some National on top of your grief heap? Just listen to “I Need My Girl” a couple hundred times on loop and this whole album will have you weeping for sure. Nobody involved in any of these songs is very happy with each other. Just let it wash over you.

Best Coast, The Only Place: This 2012 album is a little trickster. It comes on like an upbeat beach pop album with its sunny title track – “The Only Place” talks about the ocean, repeating, “We have fun, we have fun, we have fun when we please.” But keep going! This album is dark AF and I am super into it. I especially recommend “Last Year” and “No One Like You” but don’t forget about the devastating runner-up, “Up All Night.”

Death Cab For Cutie, Kintsugi: If Zooey Deschanel broke up with you, you’d be bummed, too. This beautiful 2015 album shows Death Cab at some of its best, because that band works when Ben Gibbard is very, very sad. If you’re feeling especially bitter, start with “Black Sun,” the album’s first single. Otherwise, lean into the sadness with tear-stingers like “No Room In Frame” and “Little Wanderer,” and prepare to be destroyed by “You’ve Haunted Me All My Life.” Sorrynotsorry!

Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous: I’d be remiss to not have a Rilo Kiley album on here, since they got me through almost as many break-ups as Death Cab. Let Jenny Lewis speak to your heart and your brain with the acerbic, witty lyrics and scorching imagery of songs like “Does He Love You?” (especially if cheating was involved in your split) and “Portions For Foxes.” (Bonus Rilo Kiley tracks I can’t not mention: “Breakin’ Up” and “Silver Lining,” both from 2007’s Under The Blacklight.)

Taylor Swift, 1989: I have saved this one for last, because this baby is gonna be there for you when you’re coming out on the other side of suck. T-Swift’s 2014 album is FULL OF BANGERS that will make you feel ready to meet your next fling, so when you’re ready, queue up “Blank Space,” “Wildest Dreams,” and – my personal favorite in terms of catharsis – “Clean.”

With this arsenal of very sad music mixed with slices of optimism for the future, I wish you the best for your post-split journey. May the tissues be ever present, and the chocolate-covered pretzel supply bountiful. Happy (sad) listening!


merylMeryl (@MerylWilliams) is a Chicago journalist who now lives in Portland. Sign up for her awesome newsletter at


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2016 Freelancing Recap | The Sleeper HitDecember 19, 2016 at 9:53 pm

[…] Breakup Albums That Were There for Me (Miss Spoken, February) […]

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