5. Explosions in the Sky – “The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place”
“A bold move,” might say the renowned critics of my lists, “to start this list with an instrumental album.” Yes, it’s true; Explosions in the Sky is a Texas-based post-rock band (post-rock being a genre generally devoid of vocals). “The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place,” however, is one of the finest and most beautiful pieces of music you may ever hear. It doesn’t push the envelope in wildly interesting ways or assault your mind with otherworldly noises in a bedraggled attempt to make “deep” music, no. It’s rather just straightforward post-rock, and it’s extremely well done. There’s swells, climaxes, crescendos — it’s essentially a modern take on classical music.
And like the best classical concertos, this one tells a story. A concept album, “The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place” takes the reader on — to use a tired term — a journey. It’s true, if you close your eyes, lie back and listen along, you can almost see a narrative transpire before your eyelids. Vague hints of first love, a fall from grace and a reunion. All of these themes are present and entirely perceptible.
Moreover, I have cried to this album an embarrassing amount of times.
4. Wilco – “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”
Wilco is great because their discography is such a diverse ocean of emotion. They have albums like “Summerteeth,” which can pick you right up, and then they have albums like this, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” which can sink you deep into an armchair as you stare at a wall. True, this album is nothing short of a musical masterpiece. Also true, it’s an emotionally wrenching piece and should only be heard in confined, personal spaces.
The title of the first track “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” should be enough proof as to its melancholy, but another (and wildly popular) track from this album, “Jesus, etc.,” is pretty bluntly about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This album is most certainly a grower, as it took quite a long time for me to get any emotional punch from it. Perhaps I merely imprinted my own experiences on the songs, or perhaps they are genuinely genius pieces of music that creep up on you. I believe it to be the latter.
3. Built to Spill – “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love”
This one is truly a diamond in the rough. Built to Spill is one of those wonderful west coast bands that helped trailblaze the Washington state post-grunge/indie rock scene: potentially my favorite music scene. “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love” is a rare album in that nearly every song is memorable and standout in in its own way. The record is inventive, it’s different and it’s emotional at its very core. Perhaps it’s not the somber, quiet music that you’re used to crying to, but it’s an explicitly charged album that can serve that purpose well if you just let it.
From the softly sung “Fling” to the hilariously nostalgic “Big Dipper,” this album scratches all the right itches. With perforated themes of childhood, lost loves and general unhappiness, it cleverly hides the base emotions beneath amazing guitarwork. Before moving on, I should inform the reader that I have never been able to listen to “Twin Falls” without crying, and that’s genuine.
2. Modest Mouse – Entire Discography
Choosing an album from Modest Mouse’s discography is far too difficult for this, so I have left it up to the reader to decide what they want to cry to. Modest Mouse has a song for every emotion out there, I swear. What’s your poison? Angry tears? “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine.” Sad tears? “3rd Planet.” Happy tears? “Float On.” Despondent tears relating to the poor socioeconomic state in which you were raised? “Trailer Trash.” I mean, they’re a band that covers their bases very well. I’ve heard all there is to hear from them, and the most convincing thing I can say to the reader is that if you want to feel, and I mean really feel, hold your nose and dive into this band. Swim through every square foot of that pool and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Tears. It’s tears that you’re looking for.
1. Frank Ocean – “Blonde”
The real reason that it took Frank Ocean so long to drop this album was because his equipment kept malfunctioning from the sheer amount of tears he shed onto it. Listening to this album is almost dirty; it feels like I’m gazing directly into a man’s soul, like I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be in some deeply private place. Frank Ocean has made something truly special with this record; it has a quality that shows through every track.
Need I mention more than the fact that Frank Ocean recorded fifty different versions of “White Ferrari” before finally settling on the version present in the album because it’s the one that “brought him peace?” This album is a landmark; it’s something that should not and will not fade from the public eye for a long time, and that is for the overwhelming best.
You didn’t think I’d forget, did you?
0. Neutral Milk Hotel – “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”
I LOVE YOU, JESUS CHRIST.