10 of the Best Break-up Albums

Adele – 21
The sophomore release from Adele Laurie Blue Adkins is not just an album of heartbreaks and make-ups; it’s a record depicting the struggles of a hardly-worth-it relationship and coming through at the end to realise what you’re really worth. There’s no doubt that the London girl turned world superstar is one of the best when it comes to transferring thoughts to paper, as evidenced in ‘Turning Tables’, which turns a raging argument in a sushi restaurant in New York into a more glamorous, picturesque situation. Somehow Adele captures the very personal rage and anger she felt and shares this so that we go through it all with her. Of course, 21 is home to breakthrough song ‘Someone Like You’, which broke sales records around the world, arguably due to its honesty lending it universal appeal. Struggling to find someone as good as your ex, or setting out to find someone else can be the downfall of anyone – Adele captures this plight so beautifully and eloquently in not only this song, but across the entire album. Connor Willis

Blur – 13
If you were looking for an album to drown out your broken-hearted sorrow, this would not be it. From the opening twangs of aptly-titled ‘Tender’ it’s clear that 13 falls a little short of optimistic. And it’s no wonder. In 1999, the britpop genre that had seen so much success was practically over. Damon Albarn had sorrowfully separated from long-time partner Justine Frischmann, and the result is this: one of the best break-up albums of all time. Even the chart hits ache with an agony you can’t displace. Take ‘Coffee & TV,’ its optimistic refrain is a facade, driving anxious lyrics and a plea to be taken away from “this big bad world.” Then there’s the restless riffs of ‘Trimm Trabb,’ slowly building up to an agonising cry of pent-up emotion that will never fail to leave you cold. ‘No Distance Left To Run’ is one of the most exhaustingly heartfelt odes to an ending that you could ever hope to hear. It’s not easy listening. It’s not going to lift any sorrows. But it sure as hell can soundtrack a horrible time with something beautiful. Jess Goodman

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Break-ups can be a numbing and aching experience, and you’re often left with abstract feelings that can’t be summed up by Taylor Swift. If ever there was a remedy for such bewildering post-break-up emotions, it’s Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The beauty of this album comes from its somewhat unusual production. For three months Justin Vernon locked himself away in his Wisconsin cabin, recovering from a bitter break-up and a bout of mono, and let his troubles spill out into song. The finished product is ethereal and other-worldly, and takes you to an intangible place where things don’t feel the same anymore. Each track is a lyrical masterpiece, poems in their own right that can strike a chord with pain of every kind while helping you understand your own. It’s an album to get drunk to in your underwear, watching the rain, as you try and piece together the shards of a painful break-up. Eleanor Langford

Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours
The album cover says it all. Frank leaning against a lamppost, letting his cigarette burn away while he stares at nothing in particular. This is an album of reflection, regrets and all the other negative emotions that love can create. In The Wee Small Hours  was both a critical and commercial success and proved there was a market for misery. If you want to drown your sorrows in style, put this album on and let Frank talk you through it. With a string of disastrous relationships and messy divorces behind him, he’s more than qualified . Produced by Voyle Gilmore and arranged by Nelson Riddle, the album is considered the first concept album, with songs covering abandonment, failed relationships and unrequited love. Frank’s voice is almost broken as his thoughts lie very much with the demise of his marriage to Ava Gardner. “Like faded flowers, life can’t mean anything / When your lover has gone”. Taken from the track, ‘When Your Lover Has Gone, you won’t find these words in a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card. If your ol’ blue eyes aren’t crying by the end of it, you’re made of stone. Mary Brazil

Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
And so, it’s over. My relationship has displayed a degree of entropy that Brian Cox would get a six episode series out of. We have split three times before, I am determined that this should prove the last. Around the time I find somewhere to live, this album comes out. I listen to it constantly. The writer in me notices the modal nature of the music, the repeated phrases and melodies. Then I notice the break up elements. It’s tone is a raised eyebrow of the soul, a determination not to let this thing happen again. Cynicism, about the whole concept of love. And then, a last bitter farewell: “You were my curse, thank you naivety for failing me again”. I have walked away from two relationships since, as game-playing other than on a PS4 bores me shitless. I listened to this album just last week, as I walked across a stormy Crosby beach. It reminds me that I did the right thing. Ironically, I may have a choice of dates soon. I have a personal link to this music, but it may come in handy again. You never know. Kev McCready

Marvin Gaye – Here My Dear
Divorce, lawsuits, exile, obsession. If you can relate to the messier side of break-ups, this is definitely the album for you. Gaye’s fifteenth studio release entered the world as a critical and commercial flop, but has since grown to be recognised as among the best produced and soulful recordings of his wider catalogue. It doesn’t necessarily help that title track ‘Here My Dear’ sets the tone: once described by biographer David Ritz as ‘self-serving, self-justifying [and] self-pitying’, the song nonetheless captures the essence of what Gaye goes on to achieve in the numbers that follow: a flowing, heartfelt account of remorse for what was good turned bad. ‘Anger’, ‘Time to Get it Together’ (inspired by Stevie Wonder’s ‘As’) and ‘A Funky Space Reincarnation’ are some of the stand-outs here, and although obviously examples of a later phase in Gaye’s writing, they represent some of the best he had to offer. Pete Cary

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call
A departure from the singer’s post-punk sound, this entirely piano based album retains its status as one of Cave’s best. The beguiling opening track ‘Into My Arms’ is as mesmerising as anything he’s ever produced (‘I don’t believe in an interventionist god/ but I know, darling, that you do’), and others like ‘There is a Kingdom’ recall Lou Reed’s much-loved ‘Perfect Day’ in tone – minus the gloss of cheaper imitations. Legend has it that the record is a direct reaction to Cave’s breakup with P. J. Harvey, but it’s truer to say that a host of relationship experiences help make this what it is. ‘(Are You) The One I’ve Been Waiting For?’ reminds us that it’s possible to be longing without sounding like you’re made up entirely from wet Kleenex, and ‘Green Eyes’ adds a sense of the absurd which is refreshing for a context that is widely nauseating for anyone not directly concerned (‘Slip your frigid hands beneath my shirt/this useless old fucker with his twinkling cunt/doesn’t care if he gets hurt’). A great break-up album if there ever was one. Pete Cary

PJ Harvey – Rid of Me
“I might as well be dead / but I could kill you instead” she snarls; “Rest your head on me / I’ll smooth it nicely / Rub it better ’till it bleeds” she croons; “You snake / You dog / You fake / You liar / I’ve burned / my hands / I’m in / the fire” she yells. If PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me album was a social media post, the appropriate response would be “U ok hun?” Chronologically sandwiched between the end of a relationship and the disintegration of her band, Harvey’s 1993 LP is wilfully, crudely difficult from the outset, the opening track growling along at such a passive-aggressively low decibel count that when it finally kicks off about three minutes in, after you’ve risen to the bait and inched the volume up and up, it’s like a slap. But, perversely – what with that comically mangled human pleasure-pain spectrum, and all-round psychosis of attraction, that the record illuminates so well – you soak it up, and you keep coming back for more. And it’s horribly good. Rosie James

Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
Jason Pierce wrote Ladies and Gentlemen… after the break-up of his relationship with the band’s keyboard player, Kate Radley, who had left him to shack up with the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft. Out of heartbreak, came one of the finest albums of the nineties. J Spaceman poured every last ounce of pain and turmoil into these 12 songs, from the vacant minimalism of the Elvis referencing title track, through to the wounded confession of ‘Broken Heart’: “Though I have a broken heart… I’m too busy to be heart-broken…”. It’s a remarkable achievement, in so much as it not only crosses genres, but forges new ones, by using a disparate range of influences (The Stooges, Sun Ra, Stockhausen) to create a hybrid form of indie soul. The album ends with the epic ‘Cop Shoot Cop’, a 17-minute space blues odyssey that features a guest appearance from Dr John and sees Pierce (perhaps) find some form of redemption. Paul Sng

Stevie Wonder – Talking Book
I am pretty damn sure this is a break-up album. It should come in the proverbial Tesco carrier bag of ‘Your Stuff’. I’m not quite sure who this is for, but it contains all stages of a relationship in a waveform. The simplicity of true love (‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’), the powerfully foolish belief that it will last for ever (‘You And I’) and then the crashing, bruising gut-punch of ‘Maybe Your Baby’. This is Stevie walking tearfully into a music shop and saying: “Moog Synthesiser please.  Make it a big one”. Ignore the dire cover version of this song by All Saints (I do). His most nakedly political song ‘Big Brother’ is just a bump in the road. Your heart is in bits, Stevie knows how you feel.  You may even fall in love again. His next album Innervisions is about reincarnation. Be glad such a spiritual artist knows your soul so well. Kev McCready

Paul Sng

Paul Sng

Editor-at-large, Brighton. Likes: Lee Hazlewood, Lee Hazlewood songs and Lee Hazlewood's moustache Dislikes: Celery, crap nostalgia and people who raise their voice when speaking as if they're asking a question?