14 Albums That Helped Me Get Through High School

All I ever wanted in high school was a respectable rack and maybe a boyfriend. Since neither of those things really happened, I had to compensate. If I wasn’t at school or eating my best friend’s frozen chimichangas from Costco on her couch, I was in front of my old computer, making playlists. Or I was at Lou’s Record Store, lusting after old records and uncrumpling dollar bills so I could buy the newest Death Cab CD. I was always listening to my iPod. I remember my neighbor’s mom would give me a ride to school and she and her daughter would listen to the shitty morning talk show and I would be like, “fuck that, I’m listening to Muse this morning!” like a total bad ass motherfucker. It was extremely anti-social of me. Honestly, I just now have started to learn how to be in the car with people and not drown their conversations out with music. Like any real teenager, music was my way to digest cruel high school, and here are my top choices that guided the way, cradled me at my lowest crying-in-my-pillow-all-day low. Also, I originally thought I had 15, but it turns out only 14. Which is a weird number. Oh well.

14. Kimya Dawson-Hidden Vagenda

YES to feminism and HELL YES to cute Kimya in her panda costume and sweet little baby she took pictures with for her Myspace music page. I loved the way Kimya’s scratchy voice and scruffy lyrics spoke to me. They were all, “life’s tough, girlfriend, but you can do this.” This was my favorite album of the two that were out at the time. I’m not sure where she is now. Being cute and punk and wonderful somewhere?

13. Death Cab For Cutie-Plans

Half of this album was always in my Fall Playlist. There was this sense of hope underneath all the finality, it was so beautiful.

12. The Shins-Oh, Inverted World

I became instantly obsessed with this album (and The Postal Service, too) after Garden State came out, and my friend and I watched it and were like, “wow, that was so meaningful, I totally don’t get it.” Which basically sums up life, so there you go. I love the way this album is so whimsical, dorky in spite of reality, but lyrically and aesthetically gorgeous.

11. Radiohead-Hail to the Thief 

I first started listening to Radiohead in 9th grade because I thought it would make me more musically knowledgable. Kind of like forcing yourself to eat kimchi for the first time because you know it will be a good experience as well as tasty in its own, unique way. I liked this album especially because I worked so hard at “getting into it.” Like, I worked double shifts at this album, listening to it constantly for months on end as I studied for my Geometry tests and avoided humans.

10. Jeff Buckley -Grace

This album was just so pretty. And wistful. Jeff’s version of “Hallelujah” is one my favorite songs of all time and makes me cry every single time I listen to it.

9. Blonde on Blonde-Bob Dylan

I bought Blonde on Blonde when I was in my Borders phase. Does Borders still exist? Probably not; damn you Amazon! (JK, I buy fucking everything from Amazon) I would wander the music section (which was far superior to Barnes & Noble’s) and buy at least one CD a week. I think there was this one week where I decided I absolutely HAD to get into Bob Dylan. As though I was not a real person unless I listened to Dylan and that was that. Oh, I felt so cool listening to him. I felt like I suddenly belonged in a elite club. This was when I started reading Nabokov and started to regret painting my room lime green.

8. The Cranberries-Everyone Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? 

Somehow, this album encapsulated my first break-up. I was sad all the time, and Dolores O’Riordan’s Irish sorrow was just so empowering. I don’t think it empowered me; I was way too much of a whiney asshole to absorb that. But I understood. I understood that I had to experience certain things and feelings so I could appreciate others. Like my relationship now, which is just all happy songs.

7. Arcade Fire-Funeral

Okay, this is really weird, but I was reading Isabel Allende’s House of Spirits and listening to Funeral in English class and suddenly, the world’s turmoil and anguish and political fuckery just popped out at me, like any epiphany would for a fifteen year-old. This also might have happened because I was reading House of Spirits, a book about the post-colonial social and political upheavals of Chile. So. I don’t know. I definitely made a connection at the time.

6. Metric-Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?

Emily Haines was the woman I desperately wanted to be. Deep, personal, and hot. I never put this album down, ever. I still love Metric, except what happened with their last album? Kind of a let down. Were they like, “oh, Lou Reed says a few words in one song, so the rest of the album can be kind of whatever.”

5. Of Montreal-Satanic Panic in the Attic

I’m not even sure what is going on with Of Montreal. I know very well I could Google this and I would get an answer within milli-seconds, but I won’t. I’ll just leave them where I left them; a world of fun dance-all-night concerts that I would look forward to every year. Have you ever been to an Of Montreal concert? SO. MUCH. FUN.

4. Mirah-Advisory Committee 

For some reason, I remember listening to this album while learning how to drive with my brother. That particular day, I accidentally almost turned on to oncoming traffic and he screamed at me and punched the radio off and turned the car around for me because I was too stunned and paralyzed from stupidity to do anything myself. Oh, and the album is beautiful and perfect for all trying times.

3. Lily Allen-Alright Still

My friends and I thought Lily was just so hilarious! We would mouth her lyrics in a fake British accent and sing her sass to invisible boys who never hit on us because we still wore colorful Chucks.

2. The Hold Steady-Boys and Girls in America

This album was our “drinking album” by the time senior year (or was it junior?) came around and we felt very bad ass and solely drank whiskey and secretly chugged Diet Coke in between sips of our whiskey cocktails. At least I did. The point is that we had some massive nights (waahh-ohhhhh!)

1. Rilo Kiley-The Execution of all Things

THIS ALBUM. This album was pure growing up. Pure I-Don’t-Know-Who-The-Fuck-You-Are-But-This-Who-I-Am. Pure cluelessness, loneliness, sexyness, beauty and lack of direction. This album described all the times we just hung out in parks and canyons and talked shit. It’s about the times we felt shitty about ourselves because we realized we weren’t great people, but could be. Jenny Lewis was our spirit animal before spirit animals became a “thing”. I give Rilo Kiley all the credit for helping me get through high school alive and helping me become the sensitive, go-getting weirdo that I am today.