I think it’s odd how easily we can be obsessed with a band, but then, after a year or two (or less), we barely listen to them. This also happens with entire styles of music as our listening habits shift over time. This phenomenon has happened to me multiple times over the course of my life as a music fan and especially within the last decade. While the predominance of streaming services and the constant discovery and consuming of new music that lies therewithin has at least somewhat contributed to this, I think there is another culprit that influences my everchanging listening habits.

Often, artists, and indeed, even entire styles of music I have listened to this decade seemed to mark temporary or permanent shifts in my priorities, emotional wellbeing, and/or worldview. It’s the cliché (and probably even cliché to say that it’s a cliché) that music is the soundtrack to our lives. If I retrospect (and perhaps even retcon to a degree), it’s more than just certain artists or albums conjuring memories of specific events or periods of time. It’s the ways in which the music has matched my broader mental and emotional shifts on a broader scale and the music tells the story of these shifts.

With this in mind, this particular list of albums, especially compared to my list from the previous decade, tell a similar story. I think it’s safe to say that my emotional relationship with metal has changed significantly. Most of the metal albums I loved most in the past decade don’t really serve as markers of personal shifts as much as many non-metal albums listed here do. On the other hand, metal albums from the first decade of this century like The Inalienable Dreamless, Oceanic, and Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise resonated with me on a deeply emotional level as a brooding, depressed teenager as I laid out in this post. In my formative years as a metalhead, I took a lot of emotional solace in those aforementioned albums as well as other metal albums from previous decades.

What I’ve realized is that most of the metal albums you will find on the list below I’ve enjoyed more for the sensory experience rather than the emotional experience. I still really enjoy the technical proficiency of the musicians and the delightfully challenging aural experience that metal provides. I also enjoy the way that the genre continues to explore the darker sides of the human experience. And there’s certainly something to say for the anger management therapy that metal continues to provide me. There’s nothing like having JR Hayes scream in my ear while lifting at the gym. Having said all that, the majority of my need for emotional fulfillment and solace has moved to my non-metal listening habits, but I don’t perceive that significantly affecting my love for metal anytime soon.

To bring it back to focus, the following are albums that have stayed with me from the time I heard them this decade up until now. I might have listened to some albums obsessively for a year and then barely listened to them after that, but these are albums that have transcended shifts in my life and continue to be part of my life’s soundtrack.


10. Below the House, Planning for Burial

Honestly, #10 here could have been A LOT of different releases. The reason why I chose Below the House is for a number of reasons.

For one, it transcends genre. Dubbed “shoegaze” by elements of the metal media, Below the House is about as difficult to pigeonhole as any work by Have A Nice Life, a band with which Planning for Burial have several common aesthetic qualities and is similarly difficult to categorize. There are aspects of post-rock, sludge, shoegaze, and gothic rock that are tastefully and artfully integrated into a singular musical vision.

Second, this has been one of the first albums I listen to when the weather starts to turn dreadfully bleak in the winter. The album art and music both conjure claustrophobia brought on by being relegated indoors by oppressive winter weather. That’s not to say that there isn’t an aspect of coziness to that image, but the comparable isolation from the outside that we face in the winter can easily engender rumination, depression, and even hopelessness.

Third, this album is expressive of melancholia and world-weariness in a way that most metal artists approach from a different angle. While many metal bands express bleakness and hopelessness in their music, it is often not tragic nor so human as it is on Below The House. That’s what makes it so appealing.

9. Värähtelijä, Oranssi Pazuzu

I’m fairly fickle when it comes to avant-garde black metal. I’m into Abigor but could do without Dødheimsgard. I’m into Ved Buenes Ende but Arcturus is just too cheesy. I like Hail Spirit Noir but am very tired of Sigh’s theatrics. There seems to be a point where bands like Dødheimsgard, Arcturus, and Sigh lose sight of their black metal roots. And, I mean, fair enough — the tendency for many avant-garde black metal bands is to free themselves of the shackles of subgenre dominated by kvlt elitists.

However, Värähtelijä is one of those black metal albums that perfectly balances the avant-garde and black metal influences. Not only that, the album’s approach to experimental black metal is without precedent. With Värähtelijä, Oranssi Pazuzu integrated elements of psychedelia, krautrock, and jazz fusion to create a mesmerizing collection of hypnotic black metal freakouts.

Metal is meant to be a style of music that assaults the senses. Listening to Värähtelijä assaults the senses in a way that most metal does not. Instead of endless blasting and tremelo picking, the assault is something much more psychological built on rhythmic repetition, strategic use of space, and a keen sense of dynamics. Overall, it’s a formula that makes listening to Värähtelijä the aural equivalent of taking a heroic dose of acid.

8. No Absolutes in Human Suffering, Gaza (2012)

While melodic death metal influenced hardcore and deathcore dominated the mid-late 2000s, No Absolutes in Human Suffering (NAHS) at the time had more in common with the left-of-center hardcore and noisecore that dominated the late 90s/early 00s with bands like Converge. However, from my vantage point, NAHS would be the harbinger of an entire generation of 2010s hardcore bands playing an exceedingly nihilistic version of an already pissed-off sounding genre that incorporated elements of sludge and grindcore. This sound was then further explored by Cult Leader, a band that features three out of four former Gaza members.

To paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk, we have no purpose or place, and Gaza is very, very pissed off about it. NAHS explores the bleakness of human suffering that we bestow on one another and the false narrative we’ve told ourselves as Americans. While there are mostly moments of rage and desperation throughout NAHS, there are some positively beautiful moments, namely the endings of “When They Beg” and “This We Celebrate” and the middle section of “The Crown” — moments that we gaze down in reflection at the mammoth mess that we’ve made.

7. You Will Never Be One Of Us, Nails (2016)

Merciless. That’s the first adjective that comes to mind when describing this album. As is de rigueur among all of the best grindcore albums, You Will Never Be One Of Us barely exceeds a 20-minute running time clocking in at 21:43. But, in those roughly 22 minutes, Nails never gives the listener a moment’s rest during the onslaught of their extremely pissed-off amalgam of hardcore, grindcore, and powerviolence.

While Nails and the title of this album were the butts of many an internet joke (I’d like to think most of the jokers were doing it out of love and not out of derision), there is no denying the crushing impact of this album.

6. All We Love We Leave Behind, Converge (2012)

I liked Converge for a long time before All We Love We Leave Behind (AWLWLB), but I didn’t consider myself a full-fledged fan until this album was released. Songs like “Concubine” from Jane Doe and “Plagues” from No Heroes really piqued my interest, but a lot of their other material didn’t for whatever reason. I think whereas two of my favorite bands (and two of Converge’s peers and then-contemporaries), Coalesce and The Dillinger Escape Plan, really existed far outside of the periphery of standard hardcore and were just more technically interesting, Converge still very much kept their hardcore roots and continue to do so today. At an earlier age, those hardcore roots just didn’t really appeal to me.

AWLWLB is when that changed for me. Even now, AWLWLB is my second favorite Converge album (behind You Fail Me) and it seems like the album came out at a time when the band entered a creatively refreshed resurgence after two relatively mediocre albums (by Converge standards), No Heroes and Axe to Fall.

A lot of the songs on No Heroes and Axe to Fall were hard to distinguish, but on AWLWLB, I think every song has its own unique character. This is as much a result of the rhythmic complexities in songs like “Tender Abuse” as it is with the off-kilter melodicism of “Aimless Arrow” and the military march in the middle of “Empty On The Inside”. Essentially, what Converge did well on AWLWLB was simultaneously refocus their songcraft and subtlely expand it.

Nowadays, much of the heavy music I listen to is hardcore-influenced. Although I can’t say for sure, I believe this album did more to shape my current heavy music tastes than any other album this decade.

5. Only Love, The Armed (2018)

I think I covered this album pretty well in my 2018 write-up, so there’s not much more I can write about it. The Armed took everything to the next level on Only Love, but not in the way you would normally expect a noisy hardcore band to do. Instead of writing Untitled again (a great album, btw), the band expanded their sound by experimenting with an analog modulator and adding a healthy, albeit off-putting, dose of grandiose pop music optimism.

With Only Love, The Armed truly broke away from any preconceived notions about what noisecore should be or even could be.

4. Voices, Wormrot (2016)

If there is one grindcore album that can claim to be a musical forebear The Inalienable Dreamless (TID) by Discordance Axis, this is it. Considering my love for TID and considering that Voices is my most-played grindcore album of the 2010s, it’s more like TID in more ways than one.

With Voices, Wormrot integrated an element into their sound that I think is often missing from most grindcore: emotional complexity. This is the real reason why I think Voices can be compared to TID. Sure, this album is still fast and heavy, but there is a layer here not explored by ninety-nine percent of grindcore bands.

While Arif’s lyrics lack the literary and introspective power of Jon Chang’s abstract poetry, there is palpable existential hopelessness that bleeds through. Nonetheless, coupled with Rasyid’s forlorn chord progressions and melodies against more brutal riffing in songs like “Hollow Roots”, “God’s in His Heaven”, and “Compassion is Dead”, there is visceral, heart-wrenching power in these tracks. Voices is for the grind freaks who are tired of the political sloganeering that pervades the genre and instead. Rather, it’s for the grind freaks who are ever vigilant of the increasingly anxious voice within us that speaks to us in emphatic tones about the unrooted meaningless that dominates our internal lives in the modern age.

3. Colored Sands, Gorguts (2013)

Considering that Obscura and From Wisdom to Hate are two of my all-time favorite death metal albums, I was thrilled to hear that Luc Lemay was reforming Gorguts. But that he was recruiting three of my favorite metal musicians to join him in doing so? I was ecstatic.

Jon Longstreth (drums), Kevin Hufnagel (guitar), and Colin Marston (bass) were chosen to round out this particular manifestation of the legendary Quebecois death metal outfit. Being quite familiar with Hufnagel’s and Marston’s other work in multiple projects, I knew they would perfectly compliment Luc Lemay’s writing. What I was most surprised about on this album was Longstreth’s versatility. I am used to hearing Longstreth blast to the end of the vast expanses of the universe as drummer extraordinaire for local heroes Origin, but as the battery man in Gorguts, Longstreth has an innate sense of the dynamics that embody space and momentum.

While Longstreth does his thing, Lemay’s and Hufnagel’s guitars cacophonously twist and turn around each other like two vipers in mortal combat and Marston as the snake charmer holds down the snakes at points by keeping a steady groove. But at other times, his tasteful yet off-kilter bass runs seem to add to the chaotic twisting and turning of the metaphorical vipers.

Compositionally, I think this is Luc Lemay at his best. Whereas a lot of death metal is compositionally stilted with seemingly disconnected riffs and stop-on-a-dime rhythm changes, Lemay has an instinctual feel for fluidity throughout this album. He’s not afraid to simplify and slow things down, which serve to make the explosive moments more powerful if nothing else.

Simply put, this is my favorite death metal album of the decade and easily one of the decade’s best by all measurable standards.

2. Dodecahedron, Dodecahedron (2012)

I might characterize the majority of Deathspell Omega’s 2010s output as the “most labyrinthine” music I listened to in the last decade, but it is more often the adjectival phrase I apply to this album.

First of all, the music on this album seems exploratory. While maintaining a black metal foundation, the guitarists’ riffs twist and turn over each other with melodically complex and off-kilter dynamics. The band as a whole explores different dynamics: slow and plodding breakdowns, electronic walls of noise, and sparse atmospherics. With all these elements and the progressive flourishes, this isn’t your average black metal album.

Second of all, I’ve always associated this album as the metaphysical version of Daedalus’ Labyrinth for some reason. The lyrics seem to be exploring the metaphysical relationship between man and God and the resulting aimless, drifting existentialism when man rejects that relationship. This hopeless search for God results not in the confrontation with the Minotaur but only in the confusion of being lost in the eternal Labyrinth.

  1. Paracletus, Deathspell Omega (2010)

Deathspell Omega’s (DsO) output this decade was relatively sparse but phenomenal. However, I think it’s Paracletus that stands out as the most accomplished, fully-realized, and influential out of their 2010s releases.

I was so obsessed with Deathspell Omega in the early part of this decade, that I wrote an entire post after the release of Paracletus dedicated to exploring their ideology based purely on one interview they did. I dipped back into this obsession in 2019 as I combed over another philosophically convoluted and opaque interview they gave in preparation for the release of 2019’s The Furnaces of Palingenesia. As I mentioned in that write-up I did for my top 10 albums of 2019, I am a sucker for esoteric high-minded art.

After Fas-Ite Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, it was hard to imagine where else DsO could go, musically speaking. How could they POSSIBLY take their sound any further than they already had?

At points, Paracletus is even more unhinged than Fas-Ite Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum. At the beginning of “Devouring Famine”, it sounds like the band is barely keeping it together and that they may just tumble into complete unstructured chaos. On the other hand, songs like “Dearth” are deaccelerated, ruminating, and generally more subtle.

What DsO did with Paracletus was create an album that was conceptually and musically fluid and where their inhuman musical predilections were tempered with newfound subtleties. This makes Paracletus one of the most-realized albums of the decade and my overall favorite.

Honorable Mentions
all 2010s releases, The Dillinger Escape Plan
Melting Sun, Lantlôs
The Formulas of Death, Tribulation
Exercises in Futility, Mgła
Retrocausal, Cleric
Qliphoth, Cloud Rat
Longhena, Gridlink
Nihil Quam Vacuitas Ordinatum Est, Ad Nauseam
My Game Doesn’t Have a Name, A Pregnant Light
Lightless Walk, Cult Leader
Obsian, Castavet
You’re Not You Anymore, Counterparts


10. Cranekiss, Tamaryn

Just like with my metal list above, I honestly had a VERY hard time choosing number ten here. In terms of the impact that an album had at me at a specific period of time, Cherish The Light Years, mbv, and ESPECIALLY Crush would all take the proverbial cake. Those albums are all very emotionally meaningful to me based on the specific periods of time in which they were heavily present in my listening habits. However, if I am choosing albums that have had a longlasting impact on me and continue to appear in my regular rotations, Cranekiss is the obvious choice.

I absolutely love the sounds of shoegaze and dream pop, but I find that there are few artists who actually can perform interesting shoegaze and dream pop. Most artists in those genres seem uninspired to write anything that doesn’t sound like My Bloody Valentine (MBV) or Mazzy Star. Even then, they fail to have the dynamics of either band as their songs just drone along. Having said that, Tamaryn is very adept at writing songs that are distinct from one another. Not only that, she writes songs that are GOOD.

The best shoegaze and dream pop artists are excellent in conjuring the ethereal. By doing this, it’s an effort in describing the ineffable. It’s an attempt at transcendence through an aural experience. That’s why MBV plays the way they do and why their concerts are so goddamn loud: they’re reaching for the beyond and they want their listeners to experience the same. Tamaryn accomplishes this not with the woozy sine waves or the sheer volume of MBV, but by expert songwriting and a subtle, yet layered, production that reaches for the heavens.

9. Smother, Wild Beasts

Admittedly, I haven’t listened to this album that much in the last five years or so, but I can’t deny the impact that this album had on me during the first half of this decade.

At the time, I was really interested in sexuality as an academic topic, and I gorged myself on the literature. As the arguably the sexiest album on this list, this album most definitely complimented that exploration.

However, this album isn’t sexy in a way that your typical R&B album is. I think there are far too many songs and albums that superficially explore love, lust, and longing — an especially grotesque example being “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran. However, this album really complicates the way that we sexually understand and explore each other but especially ourselves.

One aspect of that complication is the lyrical exploration of power within relationships and sexual encounters. When I think about flirting or showing interest in a woman, I often feel like the entire pursuit comes off as predacious and it makes me feel really uncomfortable. Opening track “Lion’s Share” and “Plaything” seem to be about that: the idea of the hunter and the hunted. But I also think of it in terms of having the power to sexually enrapture your partner in a way that they give up complete control to you. “Invisible” is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite songs now. The narrator and his lover exist in a dream world where their surroundings gradually vanish and only they are left before likewise vanishing.

It’s these kinds of intimate and complex lyrical concepts played with a subtle sensuality that make this album so incredible.

8. Celebration Rock, Japandroids (2012)

Remember that night you were already in bed
Said “Fuck it” and got up to drink with me instead
– “Younger Us”

Yes. I, for one, remember those nights.

When the discussion turns to my wilder party-filled 20s, I often paraphrase a friend by referring to that period as my “reckless days of abandon”. Lots of wild times with lots of wild ups and downs.

More than any other style of music, it was the Midwestern desperation I found in heart-on-your-sleeve rock bands like The Hold Steady and The Replacements that most resonated with me during this period of urgency in finding my place in the world while lost in a haze of beer-soaked self-destruction. Along with those two bands and a smattering of others, Celebration Rock was the soundtrack to the last few years of those feckless days.

While the whole album is good from front-to-back (except the cover of Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” – whyyyy?), it’s really the last half of the album that captures the aforementioned feelings so well: “Adrenaline Nightshift”, “Younger Us”, “The House That Heaven Built”, and “Continuous Thunder”. The first three are certified bangers in which the band conjures their best Springsteen observations filtered through a Replacements musical acumen. However, in contrast, closing track “Continuous Thunder” is a song that never fails to give me goosebumps as the narrator describes a tender snapshot in time between two lovers. The opening line “the heart’s terrain is never prairie” gets me EVERY time.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but I think the Japandroids approached these feelings of fleeting youth and “reckless abandon” with a heart-on-your-sleeve sincerity that I think is lacking from today’s music. It’s enough to sing along, “Oh, oh, ohhhh!”

7. Saved, Now, Now (2018)

The most recent album on my non-metal list. There aren’t many albums in the last five years I’ve listened to as much as this one. This is in large part due to the near-infinite musical abundance of Spotify, so I think it’s noteworthy to mention the way this album captured my eardrums.

Of all the albums here, this album most resembles straightforward pop music, albeit, with some indie flourishes. The album verges ever so closely to the edge of dream pop, but the driving beats and instantly catchy choruses it more toward pop music. Furthermore, it also features my favorite aspects of certain strains of pop music: hazy 80s-style synths, hushed vocals, and nostalgic lyrics that together sound like the perfect carefree summer driving album to play when you have your windows down and the sun is enrapturing you with its rays.

The songs here are unbelievably simple but never cease to tug at my heartstrings.

6. The Wild Hunt, The Tallest Man On Earth (2010)

I don’t listen to a lot of folk guitar. There is just something about the twang of the traditional artists like Leo Kottke, John Fahey, or even Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. I appreciate their musicianship, but the sounds they produce just don’t appeal to me. But The Wild Hunt just exists on a deeper emotional plane of existence than anything released by those previously mentioned artists. In this way, I think Kristian Mattson can claim Nick Drake as a musical forebear much more than he can anyone else in folk music.

There is no other album on this list that more playful or more tender than this one. Songs like “King of Spain” and “Burden of Tomorrow” bounce and frolic through fields with a cheeky wink, but to this day, “Kids on the Run” can bring tears to my eye more than almost any other song. Whether playful or tender, what this collection of songs have in common are Kristian Mattson’s vivid and evocative lyrical imagery, complex fingerpicking, and emotional engagement.

Lastly, this album alone almost completely inspired one of my RPM (Record Producing Month) Challenges in trying to develop my fingerpicking skill on an open-tuned acoustic guitar, which in turn inspired my exploration into other folk and weird Americana guitarists like William Tyler, Ryley Walker, and Daniel Bachman.

This album was released and was with me during an existentially tumultuous period of my life, and I took great solace in the vivid rustic imagery and the pastoral yearning for simpler times of Kristian Mattson’s work on The Wild Hunt.

5. Needs, Giraffage (2013)

If there is an album that kickstarted my appreciation for electronic music, it’s this one. Of course, I enjoyed some of Richard D. James’ work with Aphex and there, and I had started to get into dorky progressive house from labels like Ajuna Beats, but it’s this album that really opened up my doors to the world of electronic music.

I was first introduced to Giraffage by a friend in Chile who sent me the song “Eschaton”. I don’t know how I found out about Needs, but before I heard this album, I had never heard an electronic album that had so much emotional depth. Musically, the album was littered with oscillating synthesizers, nostalgia-inducing melodies, chill beats, and a generally narcotic production.

As far as I could find, there is nothing that confirms that this album is a break-up album, but it does indeed sound like one. On the Giraffage Bandcamp page for Needs, there is a short note that reads “I went through the worst time of my life and also the best time of my life while writing the songs for this album.” This is reflected in wistful tracks like “All That Matters”, “Feels”, and opener “Close 2 Me”, but also in the bouncy, ethereal optimism that permeates tracks like “Home” and “Before You Go” that promises sunlight after weathering the storm.

Needs defined a time when I was letting go and reconciling a lot, but also when I was living fully in the present and enjoying the aforementioned sunlight that peaks in after the storm.

4. Standards, Into It. Over It. (2016)

There are two things that stand out to me about the context of the album’s lyrics, one for how I view the Evan Weiss’ work and one for how I view Evan’s work in terms of my own life:

1. One thing that frustrated me about PROPER, and a lot of Evan’s lyrics in general, is that they are often outwardly directed. It seems like it’s easy for him to criticize other people, but I always wondered if he had the ability to analyze himself. I thought his writing lacked some sense of self-awareness that would have made him a better, more introspective lyricist in a genre that values that approach. I think that he starts to remedy that on Standards.

2. This album came out when I was 31 and still dealing with the emotional and mental fallout of departing my 20s (yes, it was that dramatic). Considering that Evan is the same age as I am, I can only imagine that a lot of these songs were written from the same perspective that I had at that time. This is one of those albums that felt like it just came at the right time for me in terms of what I was going through. A perfect example is the opener “Open Casket”. Though ostensibly about how several of his friends from his hometown were going through divorces at about the same time, it is also a reflection of his own feelings toward “divorcing” his past and forging his own path. Not many of my friends have been divorced, but I feel like I had to leave my hometown to forge my own path and coming back to my hometown at the age of 30 to pursue my master’s degree just felt…well, weird.

This album seems to harbor feelings of being adrift in existential listlessness and not knowing exactly how to proceed. Knowing that other people seem to think that they are paths that are all figured out, but that can implode rather easily. But also knowing that you’re forging your own path and the future also seems unclear. I know that feel, bro.

Overall, this album is more somber and restrained than PROPER, but I think that’s a sign of deeper introspection in terms of the former and a sign of respectful maturity for the latter. Both come with age and experience.

4. Trouble Will Find Me, The National (2013)

Although The National’s characteristic broodiness still saturates Trouble Will Find Me, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. It’s still desperate, anxious, and ruminative but not as hopeless. Similar to my relationship with Needs by Giraffage, this is an album that reflects a time when I was healing and starting to return to living in the present (as much as I can, anyway).

Trouble Will Find Me is more musically focused than High Violet. Comparatively, the experimental fat has been cut off as these songs are lean and more straightforward rock songs.

3. Keep Doing What You’re Doing, You Blew It! (2014)

I started listening to Keep Doing What You’re Doing at about the same time that I started listening to PROPER. And boy, did I listen to them a lot! According to my last.fm profile, this album is my most listened to and PROPER is my second. Both albums served as soundtracks to what I think was a “golden age” for me from the ages of 27-29 while teaching English in South Korea. It was a period where I was largely over the angst of my 20s but before I entered my professionally-obsessed 30s. I had one of the closest groups of friends I’ve had outside of my hometown. I had a fairly stress free job with great colleagues and (mostly) great students.

Nevertheless, Keep Doing What You’re Doing is not a happy album. It’s a break-up album. Whereas PROPER was the more optimistic older brother of these two personally pivotal albums, Keep Doing What You’re Doing is the mopy younger brother. It’s an album that I took more emotional solace in as I was still recovering from a breakup that admittedly occurred several years earlier. Tanner Jones’ lyrics take the listener through the roller-coaster ride of the requisite post-breakup feelings: dejection, desire, and indignation among many others.

2. PROPER, Into It. Over It. (2011)

Musically speaking, this is my favorite album on this list. The way that Evan Weiss and co. effortlessly weave complex songwriting with memorable hooks is infectious. And infectious is no exaggeration because I have listened to this album more than any other album on this list aside from Keep Doing What You’re Doing by You Blew It!. Furthermore, it was PROPER and Keep Doing What You’re Doing that almost single-handedly revitalized my interest in emo and influenced me to start my own emo band while I was in grad school.

What differentiated Evan’s style of emo from sad bastard emo that I listened to as a teenager (e.g. Sunny Day Real Estate) is that this was actually kind of…happy? Despite a few bare-boned, ruminative numbers like “Midnight: Carroll Street” and “Connecticut Steps”, the songs explode out the speakers in gleeful rejoice even if the lyrics don’t necessarily. Evan’s excoriating indictment of those around him in songs like “Write It Right” and “Fortunate Friends” are balanced by his self-deprecation in songs like “Embracing Facts” and “No Good Before Noon”.

This album played an integral role in defining the transition from my late 20s to my early 30s when the shift from externalizing my own insecurities onto others shifted to recognizing and becoming responsible for my own insecurities.

  1. High Violet, The National (2010)

I would argue that no other album on this list emotionally resonates with me to the extent that High Violet does. I discovered this depressing, brooding album at a depressing, brooding time in my life. I had just gone through a break-up. I was also feeling static personally, professionally, and existentially. I felt unfulfilled with just about everything. I vividly remember drunkenly feeling sorry for myself while in the kitchen of my shared house listening to “Sorrow” on repeat for a good 20 minutes.

Yea, it was THAT kind of low point.

This album was my companion through the break-up recovery and well into the reevaluation of my priorities and my life in general. This album has continued to remind me of that dark period of my life and it continues to come up in my listening rotation at the times since then that I have felt hopelessly existentially adrift. That description doesn’t make it sound like an appealing piece of art to return to, but I think it’s a serious mistake to ignore and repress these feelings. High Violet helps me to engage and then analyze and evaluate those kinds of feelings to eventually overcome them.

Honorable Mentions

Cherish The Light Years, Cold Cave
LP2, American Football
Never Hungover Again, Joyce Manor
Crush, Abe Vigoda
mbv, My Bloody Valentine
Kill for Love, The Chromatics
Lenses Alien, Cymbals Eat Guitars
The Demonstration, Drab Majesty
Pala, Friendly Fires
Patagonian Rats, Tera Melos