Sometimes life throws us flaming curve balls, leaving an aftermath of loss and sadness. And sometimes, this pain is transformed into powerful and expressive art. Many musicians have trudged through tragedy to created intimate and unforgettable music. Here is a list of great albums that would not be in this world if it wasn’t for their artist’s pain.
The Antlers – Hospice
Released in 2009, Hospice is a concept album that tells the detailed story of a relationship that forms between a hospital employee and a terminally ill patient. The patient is dying from cancer—something that most people can directly or indirectly relate to. Hospice was recorded during a time that Antlers frontman Peter Silberman describes as “social isolation.” The album’s lyrical journey becomes so personal at some points that it’s hard not to wonder how autobiographical the LP really is.
The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
One of their best (if not the best) Flaming Lips albums, The Soft Bulletin was released in 1999, a little over two years after Wayne Coyne’s father died of cancer. This experimental, psychedelic, drum-and-bass heavy album marked an emotional turning point in The Flaming Lips’ career.
David Bowie – Blackstar
When Blackstar was first released, many were confused and slightly disturbed by the tone of the album, as well as the images that haunted the music video for “Lazarus.” Two days after the album was released, Bowie passed away. After realizing that Bowie had been keeping his ongoing struggle with cancer a secret, the album’s themes of death and immortality became more apparent.
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Named after his mother and stepfather, Carrie & Lowell was released in 2015 and hones on Sufjan’s despair that followed his mother’s death. The album is raw, free, and extremely
intimate, serving as a kind of reflection on Sufjan’s relationship with his mother. Though painfully sad and heartbreaking, Carrie & Lowell is one of Sufjan Stevens’ most beautiful works.
Pink Floyd – The Wall
A classic concept album, and often referred to as a “rock opera”, The Wall tells the story of a detached rockstar known as Pink. Pink’s character is based off of Syd Barrett, who struggled heavily with drug addiction, and Roger Waters, whose father died in the Second World War. Themes of isolation, death, and abandonment are explored in this album, and were brought to life by the musical film that was released in 1982.
Arcade Fire – Funeral
Before Funeral was released, the members of Arcade Fire were hit by a chain of deaths that forever altered their perspectives. The band turned their pain into a career-bending album that had a huge impact on indie music. Full of emotion, the most interesting part about Funeral is that despite its morbid name and painful origins, the album manages to wrap its death-fuelled themes in positivity.