saddest-records-cover

The 35 Saddest Albums Of All Time

I recently decided to ask all of my colleagues at Discogs which album they considered the saddest of all-time. We had tapped into the deep music knowledge of Discogs staff in that past for the best music for a BBQ and the best Halloween records, so why not explore sad records too? What surprised and intrigued me was the massive amount of replies and comments we received on the Blog and social media accounts after publishing the article and sharing it with the Discogs Community. By pure chance, I clicked the right button: Everybody loves sad music. I’m confident that the opposite subject, covering happy music, wouldn’t be as relatable and popular. It’s taken me forever but it’s finally happening, I’m sitting down in front of my computer deciding how to speak about sad music and albums that you, our beloved community, have mentioned.

The main disagreement with our previous blog post was that we “forgot” about a lot of the saddest albums in history. In defense of the Discogs staff, there are only so many of us. The rules for our Staff Picks are clear: one release per person. Trust me on this one, it would be much easier for each of us to pick 50 than just one. The rules that apply are similar to those at your nearest casino roulette table: If you bet all of your money on just one number, the odds are incredibly high that you won’t win anything. So this time, without those limitations, I’ll cover much more sad music, spanning a diverse set of genres, artists and moods.

Before I jump into the usual list format, I wanted to reflect on why sad music has such an impact on listeners’ lives. I easily found two great pieces in Psychology Today. The first one, written by Dr. Robert Berezin, is called Why We Love Sad Music. As straightforward as it sounds, Dr. Berezin explored the different reasons why sad music is a great companion under many different life circumstances. The second one, written by Ph.D. Shahram Heshmat, is called 6 Reasons Why We Enjoy Listening To Sad Music and it points out reasons that you might have never thought about before, such as the production of prolactin or the role of empathy. I recommend you read both since I admit my inability to put into words so precisely the reasons why we, as humans, use sad music as such an endless resource.

Now that the doctors have covered the psychological reasons why we turn to sad music under so many different circumstances, it’s my time to do what we do best at Discogs, cover the music side of things. I wanted to send a heartful “thank you” to my colleague Jess Thompson for the beautiful texts she’s written to accompany Sea Change, Either/Or, Pink Moon, White Chalk, Dummy, Purple Mountains, and Carrie & Lowell.

35 Albums That Will Hit You Right In The Feels

Beck - Sea Change album cover

BeckSea Change (2002)

When news broke earlier this year that divorce was on the cards for Beck and his wife of almost 15 years, a small, petty part of me that Only Cares About The Music™ (whatever, you have that part too) was stoked. Another Beck breakup record was sure to follow! Sad-Beck might be Beck at his finest.

If you’re looking for proof of that, look no further than Sea Change. It’s an unrivaled masterpiece of a breakup album. Where its predecessor, Midnite Vultures was all “Peaches & Cream” and “Nicotine & Gravy,”” Sea Change was “Lonesome Tears” and “Lost Causes.” Heartbreak radiates from this record and his breakup with a longtime girlfriend was the major influence for the dramatic shift in tone. You’d be upset too; a few weeks before his 30th birthday he learned of his fiance’s affair with a member of Whiskey Biscuit.

Sea Change provides plenty of opportunity to wallow, but as a whole it’s also strangely uplifting. You also get the sense that he’s going to come out of the other side of this record exorcised and ultimately all right. What Beck delivers with Sea Change is catharsis. Through his despair into this album, he’s also provided an outlet for anyone who has felt similarly lousy at the end of a relationship. BYOTears.

Saddest moment

It’s only lies that i’m living,
It’s only tears that I’m crying,
It’s only you I’m losing,
Guess I’m doing fine

Big Star 3rd / Sister Lovers album cover

Big Star3rd / Sister Lovers (1975)

Part of what makes the third and last album by Big Star such a heartbreaking one comes with knowing the details of its recording and release. After not succeeding commercially with #1 Record and Radio City, 3rd / Sister Lovers was recorded in 1975 and then slated by the company until it was finally released in 1978. By that time, Big Star was no more and, to add insult to the already ill-starred career of the band, their third album was met with apathy by both audience and critics back in the day. If you’ve ever listened to this record, even just once, you’ll understand how unfair this is. 3rd is an aching, extremely beautiful collection of songs. It’s not all gloomy, the beginning of “Kizza Me” gives a hint of cheerful power-pop glory before the album sinks into some of the most depressing lyrics and sounds ever produced in the seventies.

Saddest moment

It’s hard not to weep when Alex Chilton sings these lines in the devastating, “Holocaust”:

Your mother’s dead, you’re on your own
She’s in her bed

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago album cover

Bon IverFor Emma, Forever Ago (2008)

In 2008, it was hard to foresee the huge success that Bon Iver had with this intimate, small miracle of a record. But sometimes, luckily, the music that connects with the masses can be this gorgeous. For Emma, Forever Ago has been labeled by many as THE breakup album. And while it’s not the only one out there on the subject, it might be indeed the most popular of them all. Justin Vernon recorded it in a cabin between 2006 and 2007 starting, if you ask me, a weird trend for many other musicians to do exactly the same with – obviously – unequal results. Few albums out there feel as healing and empathetic as this one when you’re going through a breakup.

Saddest moment

In an album full of those moments, it’s safe to say that “Skinny Love” hits all the right buttons.

Bonnie Prince Billy - I see A Darkness album cover

Bonnie “Prince” BillyI See A Darkness (1999)

I remember listening to this album obsessively in the early 2000s. Just to give you an insight into how heavy I See A Darkness feels, I didn’t speak English – or at least decent English – at the time and I could still perceive the great sadness that flows through it. It’s a magical record. To me and to many others, the highest peak of a career filled with incredible music. Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s honesty and lyrical quality can be felt in every corner of this masterpiece. And just in case you didn’t get it from the artwork: Yes, this is an album about death. And about many more things. Please, listen to it right now if you haven’t before.

Saddest moment

“I See A Darkness,” the song, is not only one of the saddest songs of all-time, but also one of the most beautiful and fragile ones.

Cat Power Moon Pix album cover

Cat PowerMoon Pix (1998)

How much devastation are you able to stand? This question is an important one to ask before playing Moon Pix for someone. For many, the best collection of songs by Chan Marshall, and that’s a lot taking into account the unparalleled brilliance of the singer-songwriter’s career. Written in full after a hallucinatory nightmare, Moon Pix showed Cat Power at her most vulnerable yet, and on the way delivered some of the most achingly beautiful songs ever written. But be prepared because nobody crosses through Moon Pix unharmed.

Saddest moment

To many, the saddest story told in the album is “Cross Bones Style.” Rightfully so. These verses on “He Turns Down,” a song about being rejected by God, have always stuck with me:

It’s not me, I am pretending
I’m not saved,
he turned me down.
He turns down

Codeine - Frigid Stars album cover

CodeineFrigid Stars LP (1990)

Sometimes I feel like Codeine will never get as much appreciation as they deserve. The pioneers of slowcore released this incredible album in 1990 and cleared the path for many bands to follow. Not many understood that rock music could be this slow and this powerful at the same time. Emo much before emo existed. Raw, emotional, and evocative. Frigid Stars LP still remains as one of the best albums of the genre and it will keep bringing us down for many decades to come.

Saddest moment

For an album with the emotional depth of Frigid Stars LP, it’s impossible to pick just one moment.

David Bowie - Blackstar album cover

David Bowie★ (Blackstar) (2016)

Everything around the last record of David Bowie is designed to make you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. Released days before the death of David Bowie, ★ (Blackstar) immediately took on a new and deeper significance. It’s the final statement of one of the most important artists in history. 7 songs clocking in at 41 minutes were enough for this album to become one of the most important in a triumphant career and also the second most collected album of the decade by the Discogs Community. If this was goodbye, what a way to say it.

Saddest moment

The first lines of “Lazarus” always hit like a punch in the gut of the stomach:

Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

Elliott Smith Either/Or album cover

Elliott SmithEither/Or (1997)

Sad and Elliott Smith are two inextricable companions. Picking the saddest of his albums is a futile exercise, but here we are.

Where some of his later albums, XO and Figure 8 leaned further into electric guitar and piano arrangements – even flirting with orchestras on Figure 8 – Either/Or is primarily Smith with an acoustic guitar and fragile, whispery vocals. Either/Or runs us through a spectrum of emotion, pushing off slowly with “Speed Trials,” raging against “Pictures Of Me,” plunging into full-scale despair on “No Name No. 5” and tentatively reemerging on “Cupid’s Trick.”

For such a despairing album, Elliott leaves us on a bright note of hope with “Say Yes,” albeit typically Smith-style muted hope. Don’t take it personally, that current of sadness is never too far from the surface.

Saddest moment

No contest – the whole of “No Name No. 5”, but especially:

Got a broken heart and your name on my cast, and everybody’s gone at last

Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump album cover

GrandaddyThe Sophtware Slump (2000)

Few albums, if any, captured the technologic disappointment awaiting us with the energy of the sophomore album by Grandaddy. The Sophtware Slump was released soon after the turn of the millennium and it combined traditional elements of the American underground with unexpected themes for the time. This is not science fiction, this is an utterly sensitive author opening up in infinite new creative ways and letting us have a look at his anxiety. Jason Lytle was quoted at the time saying, “…I just remember everything out there was dusty. Humidity and dust,” and that he made the recordings “…in my boxer shorts, bent over keyboards with sweat dripping off my forehead, frustrated, hungover and trying to call my coke dealer.”

Saddest moment

“Jed The Humanoid” is a huge tearjerker.

Grouper - Ruins album cover

GrouperRuins (2014)

I was about to write in here: everything ever released by Grouper. Liz Harris has built one of the most wonderfully unique careers in the industry since she started releasing music in the mid-2000s. Her music exists outside of time and trends, and what you feel the first time you listen to it is very similar to finding hidden treasure from a past civilization buried in the soil.

Mysterious, atmospheric, and haunting, Ruins was released in 2014. Because of how stripped down her songs are after years of heavy layering, it felt like her most direct and impactful release. Liz Harris, her piano, a portable 4-track recorder and a Sony stereo microphone were enough for her to capture the enigmatic and gloomy atmosphere that persists through the album.

I remember reading an interview back in the day in which she mentioned that this album represented “living in the remains of love.” It feels that profound.

Saddest moment

It’s impossible to choose, this whole album carries such a nostalgic and regretful mood.

Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights album cover

InterpolTurn On The Bright Lights (2002)

The debut album by Interpol is a whole mood in itself. Recorded only two months after 9/11 and released in August 2002, the record connected with a whole generation in a moment of collective existential dread. The line between oppressive and sad isn’t always clear, and that’s where Interpol found their voice in the new generation of rock bands at the turn of the millennium. To most fans, Turn On The Bright Lights remains their best effort almost 18 years after.

Saddest moment

This might be a very personal pick, but the whole melodic mood of the opener “Untitled” and those last two lines are devastating.

James Blake - James Blake album cover

James BlakeJames Blake (2011)

James Blake took the world by storm with this debut album. Not that we weren’t unaware of the immense talent of the British artist, all of his previous EPs were incredible. A new way of making music showcased his sensibilities to the world and the album was an instant hit. It wasn’t as easy as it looks like, his self-titled debut is still a demanding listen. Not only sonically, but the lyrics also dig deep into the soul of a tortured crooner. In his most recent release, Assume Form, James Blake deals with very different feelings, a much happier and fulfilled Blake is in front of our eyes. He made it.

Saddest moment

His rendition of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love” is simply perfect.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures album cover

Joy DivisionUnknown Pleasures (1979)

In our previous blog post, we got roasted pretty hard for not including one single album by Joy Division. I agree, probably no other band will ever achieve this level of sadness and depression while at the same time delivering good (even catchy) melodies and profound lyrics. At 40, Unknown Pleasures is still one of those albums that you come back to over and over each year, and few albums can stand the test of time with such grace.

Saddest moment

The whole album.

Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Love And Hate album cover

Leonard CohenSongs Of Love And Hate (1970)

Few albums out there evoke winter both in a metaphorical and literal way as Songs Of Love And Hate does. That’s not everything this record does right, it’s hard not to fall in love with its melancholic quality and with how Leonard Cohen even puts himself in the skin of Joan of Arc. Most of the time, when you think of sad albums, you think of minimal instrumentation and naked songwriting. That’s not what you’ll find here, Song Of Love And Hate is complex, lush, poetic and full of evocative images.

Saddest moment

It’s close to impossible to set the tone of a whole album the way “Avalanche” does.

Lisa Germano - Geek The Girl album cover

Lisa GermanoGeek The Girl (1994)

Let me start out by thanking the Discogs Community for pointing me to this album. I was familiar with Lisa Germano probably thanks to the fact that she was part of the roster of 4AD during the nineties. But I never listened to any of her albums, and Geek The Girl feels like a revelation. While not necessarily sad at all times, whenever Lisa Germano tried to get there, she delivered stunning results. I can’t wait to listen to the rest of her discography.

Saddest moment

The beautiful instrumentation of “Cry Wolf” right before the horror of “… A Psychopath” (a song that even she had trouble recording due to the nature of the real 911 call used in the background)

Lou Reed - Berlin album cover

Lou ReedBerlin (1973)

A lot of our users were quick to claim that Berlin is the saddest album ever recorded. Lou Reed released Berlin in 1973 as a rock opera recalling the story of a couple – Jim and Caroline – whose lives spiral out of control while covering subjects as rough as drug addiction, prostitution, depression, domestic violence, and suicide. While each and every song doesn’t feel so heavy, certain parts of the album still feel dreadful.

Saddest moment

All the B-side of this album, when things get really ugly for the couple, is super sad. This includes kids crying in “The Kids.”

Low - I Could Live In Hope album cover

LowI Could Live In Hope (1993)

In our Staff Picks post, I used my pick to choose Things We Lost In The Fire as my number one saddest record of all time. I didn’t know we had so many Low fans in our audience, and many of you pointed out how you actually preferred their debut record, I Could Live In Hope. I’m not here to establish a weird self-competition on which album is sadder (or better for that matter.) In my book, both are fantastic examples of the endless talent of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, one of the most beloved and iconic couples of the American underground. I Could Live In Hope is still revered as the most representative slowcore album and one that opened infinite doors to other musicians by slowing down the rhythm.

And now that we’re here… this album also deserves a proper reissue.

Saddest moment

All of you probably have your own, it’s an album worth listening in its entirety every single time.

Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me album cover

Mount EerieA Crow Looked At Me (2017)

No list about sad albums can do without A Crow Looked At Me. None. But this time, happily, we already included it in our previous list. For those unfamiliar with the story behind this album, Phil Elverum’s wife, Geneviève, died in 2015 four months after the birth of their first child of pancreatic cancer. I don’t know if you already feel like crying, but I do. As devastating as this all sounds, Mount Eerie took all of that sadness, grief, hopelessness, and disorientation and turned it into A Crow Looked At Me. A collection of songs so raw, so authentic, so deeply personal that it’s impossible to escape its sadness and, in a way, making it ours as well. Because empathy is one of the reasons why we all love sad music, A Crow Looked At Me is an album that relentlessly asks us to join Elverum through the dark path of grief.

Saddest moment

It’s literally impossible to choose one, but if these lines out of “Real Death” don’t make you weep, you have a problem:

A week after you died, a package with your name on it came, and
inside was a gift for our daughter you had ordered in secret, and
collapsed there on the front steps. I wailed.
A backpack for when she goes to school a couple years from now.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Ghosteen album cover

Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsGhosteen (2019)

Nobody can be emotionally prepared for this album. After the incredibly sad and unforgettable Skeleton Tree, Nick Cave continues mourning and takes us along with him. Even though officially it is not just about the tragedy, at times this album requires an insane amount of emotional stamina to stand. This double album is as beautiful as it gets, but be ready to get a lump in your throat throughout.

Saddest moment

I haven’t wrapped my head around it yet, I recommend you to listen to this album now and decide by yourself.

Nick Drake - Pink Moon album cover

Nick DrakePink Moon (1972)

Although Nick Drake’s catalog is often associated with his struggle with depression, Cally Calloman of Bryter Music states that Drake was incapable of writing or and recording during periods of depression.

The music Drake manages to create with just his voice and an acoustic guitar is a testament to both his immense skill as a songwriter and guitar player. While Pink Moon will never be considered an upbeat album, it’s not especially dismal or bleak, and it’s not going to plunge you into depression.

Saddest moment

It’s hard not to be moved when he sings in “Place To Be”:

Now I’m darker than the deepest sea
Just hand me down, give me a place to be

Nico - Desertshore album cover

NicoDesertshore (1970)

Desertshore is such a raw, at times desperate, piece of music history. For Nico, the easiest would have been to simply remain as an appendix to The Velvet Underground history. But she was much more than that and she was ready to prove it to the world. After releasing the equally stunning Chelsea Girl and The Marble Index, Desertshore felt like her true leap of faith into unknown territory.

Desertshore is so passionate and so magnetic that once you’ve started playing it, there’s no way back. She dedicated “Janitor Of Lunacy” to her recently deceased friend Brian Jones, sang with her little child Ari in “Le Petit Chevalier” and collaborated with her then-boyfriend Philippe Garrel in the experimental film La Cicatrice Interieur (featuring music from the album as its soundtrack).

A legendary album by an artist who proved to be much more than a femme fatale. Also, how many other artists out there got their albums reworked by Throbbing Gristle?

Saddest moment

This album absolutely always brings me down when Nico sings achingly in “Afraid”:

You are beautiful and you are alone
You are beautiful and you are alone

PJ Harvey - White Chalk album cover

PJ HarveyWhite Chalk (2007)

The album is so affecting I can only listen to it when I’m in the most stable genius of moods. It’s a sharp departure from its predecessor, Uh Huh Her (and every other album she’s ever released), trading guitar and full band for an eerily stripped back piano and austere arrangements. Harvey also tries out a different vocal style for this album, moving into the higher end of her range, allowing her voice to take on more vulnerability, fragility, and precariousness at the edge of her register.

Where some of the albums on this list offer a contrast of upbeat instrumentals with despairing vocals, or glimpses of light at the corners of depression, White Chalk is unyieldingly grim. Sometimes you just want to revel in your sadness, and it’s comforting to have Harvey’s hand to hold to edge further into those depths.

Saddest moment

There’s a plethora to choose from here, but here’s one to launch your ship across those dark seas:

Please, don’t reproach me for just how empty my life has become 

Portishead - Dummy album cover

PortisheadDummy (1994)

Portishead’s genre-bending, widely revered debut album is often attributed with taking trip-hop mainstream. Even 25 years after it was released, nothing really sounds like Dummy. It gets under your skin and feels like being deserted on an alien planet. It’s lonely, but at the same time there’s so much to keep you occupied that you barely really notice. The effortless blend of hip-hop, soul, jazz and blues, topped with Beth Gibbons’ dazzlingly chilling vocals, it all works together so well.

Despite being a critical darling, the sad core of this album really creeps up on you. Pitchfork pointed out the irony of the title – more commonly referred to in the US as a pacifier – going on to describe the album is “discomfort food: curl-up-and-die music, head-under-the-covers music”.

Saddest moment

“Roads” is a strong contender for the most heartbreaking song of all-time, and also one which will bring you down each time.

Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains album cover

Purple MountainsPurple Mountains (2019)

After a long absence from music, fans rejoiced the welcome return of Silver JewsDavid Berman to the music scene under the moniker, Purple Mountains. It was his first studio album since SJ disbanded in 2009. While the self-titled debut is a stunning album in its own right, sadly, it’s become one of those albums whose listenings has been irrevocably colored by following tragedy after Berman took his life less than a month after the album was released. Although Berman had long struggled with treatment-resistant depression – compounded with the death of his mother and separation from his wife of 20 years – the completion of Purple Mountains seemed to buoy his spirits.

Musically, Purple Mountains is pretty upbeat and lively for a ‘sad’ record. I defy you not to dance around your living room to a song like “Margaritas at the Mall.” It’s like plastering a happy face shattered soul to face the world. Lyrically, poignant and bleak but with still brimming with Berman’s characteristic wit and uncompromising sense of humor.

It’s a beautiful, if painful, parting message from a man who was trying but couldn’t bear the weight of the world anymore.

Saddest moment

Starts at 0:01 and relents at the end.

Red House Painters - Down Colorful Hill album cover

Red House PaintersDown Colorful Hill (1992)

Here we go again. Officially nobody was happy to see that none of the Discogs staff picked a record by Red House Painters for the saddest album of all-time. Well, again my friends, you were very right. Down Colorful Hill is and will forever be in my top five, at least.

Red House Painters, the band fronted by Mark Kozelek (aka Sun Kil Moon) released their debut record in 1992 and it doesn’t get much more depressing than this when you’re 24. Only six songs and 43 minutes were enough for Red House Painters to establish themselves as one of the most revered bands of the nineties. Very few times the artwork of an album matched so perfectly the mood of its music. Don’t stop here, we have to thank Mark Kozelek for a whole career of heartbreaking music. So no, we haven’t forgotten about Benji.

Saddest moment

I don’t know exactly why, but the opener “24” absolutely always gets me.

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool album cover

RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

Don’t take me wrong, it’s not like we wouldn’t expect a certain dose of sadness in a Radiohead record. But A Moon Shaped Pool definitely caught many of us off-guard after The King Of Limbs. A Moon Shaped Pool explored thoroughly the dark corners of the soul, and it did it in such an orchestral and spectral way that at times it makes it hard to cope with it. It’s not an album I want to listen to when I’m feeling down, and you probably shouldn’t either.

Saddest moment

“Daydreaming” is the saddest Radiohead song ever, an absolutely devastating post-breakup statatement.

Smog - The Doctor Came At Dawn album cover

SmogThe Doctor Came At Dawn (1996)

With a career spanning three decades, Bill Callahan (fka Smog) is one of the greatest American singer-songwriters. The Doctor Came At Dawn is Smog at his most slowcore. Looking back, 1996 was a great year for this. And yet again, with such beautiful music coating it, the lyrics of the songs remain the true star of this release.

Saddest moment

Even though “Hangman Blues” is the most devastating song in its simplicity, I think the post-breakup heartache depicted in “All Your Women Things” is the song that really brings me down.

Songs: Ohia - Ghost Tropic album cover

Songs: OhiaGhost Tropic (2000)

I just can’t put it better to words than my colleague Jason did in our previous blog post, so here you go:
Lumbering and somber, but somehow effortlessly incorporates tropical birdsong. The lyrics are bleak, even for Jason Molina, and they hang suspended for perusal. A harrowing, gorgeous meditation on an ending.
I asked him to pick as well his saddest moment of the record:

Saddest moment

I picked Ghost Tropic over other Molina records with bleaker lyrics mostly because of “Not Just a Ghost’s Heart.” The record feels like a single unbroken mood, for which that song is a microcosm. It’s a giant messy dirge that invites wallowing; in fits of melancholy I have listened to that song repeatedly for days.

Sparklehorse - It's A Wonderful Life album cover

SparklehorseIt’s A Wonderful Life (2001)

Music media always loves a tortured soul, and sometimes that’s unfair. The tragic circumstances of Mark Linkous weren’t something to be thrilled about. As much as it’s easy to get detached from the circumstances of artists creating these masterpieces, it’s also unfair the high rate of mental and physical health issues among musicians.

The life of Mark Linkous wasn’t an easy one and, sadly, he killed himself in 2010. A true loss for the music world, he left behind a bunch of incredible albums worth everybody’s attention. It’s hard to pick just one album representing that beautiful sadness that covered his whole career, but I feel confident in putting in front of you It’s A Wonderful Life. A full hour that sums up what made Linkous such a great composer, I hope you enjoy it.

Saddest moment

The references to death in “Eyepennies” are hard to look away from.

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell album cover

Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell (2015)

A memorial to Stevens’ late mother, Carrie & Lowell was never going to be a happy event. Referring to his mother and her second husband, Lowell, the songs were inspired by family trips they took to Oregon in Stevens’ childhood. By all accounts, Stevens’ relationship with his mother was complex; she suffered from depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse and abandoned him and his brother on more than one occasion as small children. This record is Stevens’ means of processing his grief, not just from his mother’ passing, but also the myriad complex emotions we’re left with from people who are difficult to love but we can’t help but loving, regardless.

Carrie & Lowell is atmospheric and evocative of the pain and loneliness in the wake of loss, and the need to retrace familiar territory for evidence of the person you love, the need to reinforce they were really here.

Saddest moment

What could I have said to raise you from the dead?
Oh could I be the sky on the Fourth of July? 

The Antlers - Hospice album cover

The AntlersHospice (2009)

In their breakthrough album, The Antlers told the story of the relationship between a hospice worker and a female patient suffering from terminal bone cancer. If this line already sounds bleak for you, you’ll be happy to know that the whole plot of this concept album also plays as a metaphor for an emotionally abusive relationship. Not exactly a party. All the hospital and cancer references give a raw edge to it, too. Even if from the melodic side of things the album reaches pretty sweet heights.

Saddest moment

There are so many heartbreaking moments in this record that there’s even a Reddit thread about it.

The Cure - Faith album cover

The CureFaith (1981)

I always have trouble choosing which is the saddest The Cure album. I guess for a lot of people it is Disintegration, but I’ve always read part of that album as more of a nostalgic vibe than straight up sadness. Pornography, sure, super dreadful and meditative at times. But if you ask me, Faith is the one I’ve always found the saddest one. The atmosphere of the record feels like the closest you can get to a coma as a listening experience. Slow, gloomy, gothic…everything about this album after “Primary” is black. Blackest ever black.

Saddest moment

The self-titled song captures perfectly the spirit of the album and is an incredible ending for this record.

This Mortal Coil - It'll End In Tears album cover

This Mortal CoilIt’ll End In Tears (1984)

The debut album by This Mortal Coil could have been quite a Frankenstein. Created by 4AD head honcho Ivo Watts-Russell in collaboration with 4AD producer John Fryer, the idea was to cover the favorite records of Watts-Russell but adapted to the sonic aesthetics of the label.

Performed by some artists of the label such as Cocteau Twins, Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance,) Kim Deal…then assembled with instrumentals created purposedly for the album. Funny enough, a couple of those songs were straight out of 3rd / Sister Lovers by Big Star, another one of the sad albums on this list.

The results of this experiment gave us one of the most beloved records from the eighties. A record that somehow anticipated some of the key elements of shoegaze but with the sound of rock from the seventies still fresh.

Saddest moment

Very few times a cover outdoes the original, but the cover of “Song To The Siren” included in this record sang by Elizabeth Fraser is one of the purest moments in music history.

Vic Chesnutt - About To Choke album cover

Vic ChesnuttAbout To Choke (1996)

As much as the comments section of most social media these days are a dumpster fire. Sometimes, only sometimes, the comments section of Youtube videos can become a celebration we’re all invited to join. This is what I’m finding with a big smile on my face while revisiting About To Choke: everybody leaving their recollections attached to the incredible legacy of Vic Chesnutt, who sadly left us back in 2009.

The greatest ability of Chesnutt’s music was to take you from the darkest depth to a burst of laughter within seconds. I doubt he would like to be remembered as a tragic figure, he was so much more than that. His major label debut, About To Choke, is solid evidence of this.

I’ll join the Youtube choir: Vic, I still miss you.

Saddest moment

“See You Around” is just pure emotion.

William Basinski - The Disintegration Loops album cover

William BasinskiThe Disintegration Loops (2002)

It hasn’t been too long since we spoke about The Disintegration Loops. But, that was for a different reasons, and here we are again. Don’t get me wrong, I could talk for the rest of my life about this masterpiece and never get tired of it.

The story behind these loops are well known, but just in case you’ve never heard of it: William Basinski intended to transfer different tapes he recorded in the 1980s to digital in order to preseve their content. When he started with the process, he realized that the tapes were already deteriorated but, instead of trying a different approach, he played those tapes over and over again in order to further contribute to their disintegration. By pure chance, he finished the project on the morning of 9/11 in Brooklyn from where he and his friends watched the twin towers collapse. He filmed video footage of the attack during the last hour of daylight from a roof, and the following morning he played “Disintegration Loop 1.1” as a soundtrack to the aftermath.

Whether it happened unexpectedly or not feels irrelevant when listening to this music. Listening to these tapes disintegrate is a transcendent and unforgettable experience. And thanks to its context, one of the saddest ones as well.

Saddest moment

The moment when you read the history behind the album.

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Javi Gómez Martínez
Javi is a Spanish immigrant currently living in Amsterdam and our social media and blog guy. When he's not working 9 to 5 (what a way to make a living), he spends his days obsessing about music, spending his Discogs salary on attending gigs and festivals, and going to the movies more than any doctor would recommend.
68 Comments
  • Dec 6,2019 at 21:35

    Sister Morphine by Marianne Faithful is not on her “Broken English” album. It’s a bonus track on the 2013 CD reissue.

  • Dec 6,2019 at 04:08

    Where is Joy Division – Closer?

  • Dec 4,2019 at 23:14

    R.E.M. – Automatic For The People

  • Dec 4,2019 at 21:43

    I’d like to add Marianne Faithfull- Broken English ( every time i hear Sister Morphine fells hard to not cry) also there supposed to be Lebanon Hanover – Tomb for Two ( a bit too obvious, but dark, gloomy, depressive, suicidal, post punk’ly …how its supposed to be)

  • Dec 4,2019 at 16:54

    Oh, and how’d I forget Season of Glass by Yoko Ono?

  • Dec 4,2019 at 16:52

    Magic and Loss by Lou Reed is sad, profound, and absurd. As for breakup albums, The Proclaimers’ Hit the Highway isn’t necessarily slow-sad, but raucously sad. And don’t forget Wilco’s Blue Sky Blue.

  • Dec 4,2019 at 03:16

    Where is Townes Van Zandt on this list. It can’t be complete without him. Almost everything he recorded is manically depressive folk.

  • Dec 3,2019 at 22:33

    First post on this blog, just thought you should consider this one as it is the first album that came to mind when I read the title: Low Roar by Low Roar.
    https://www.discogs.com/Low-Roar-Low-Roar/master/602513

  • Dec 3,2019 at 14:04

    I miss the most desperate song there is:
    MARIE by TOWNES VAN ZANDT. Best song ever!

  • Dec 3,2019 at 07:17

    The 35 saddest albums of all time
    all by white people
    lmfao

  • Dec 3,2019 at 05:06

    Anything by t.k. bollinger, with my recommendation being “Shy Ghosts”. Imagine Morricone and Eno collaborating on a sadcore watershed moment. Brilliant beyond measure.

  • Dec 3,2019 at 02:32

    sick of this blog only posting about rockist white bullshit put some z-ro on this list or i’m starting a reverb account

  • Dec 2,2019 at 23:35

    I’m surprised none of these releases made the list

    Sneaker Pimps – Splinter
    Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing
    Sea Oleena – Shallow
    Moddi – Floriography
    Ampop – Made for Market

    This list could be a few thousand bands long… heh.

  • Dec 2,2019 at 21:19

    Surprised that California by American Music Club is not on this list. Mark Eitzel is often a poster child for sublime, heartbreakingly sad music.

    Dan Matz — Carry Me Home
    Gene Clark — White Light
    Tim Hardin — 1 and 2
    Mark Lanegan — The Winding Sheet
    Damien Jurado — just about any album, but partial to Where Shall You Take Me for these purposes.
    The Apartments — A Life Full of Farewells
    Mia Doi Todd — Manzanita
    Jackson Browne — Late for the Sky
    Miles Davis — Blue Moods
    Neil Young — On the Beach

    I’ll think of another dozen as soon as I submit this.

    Cheers?

  • Dec 2,2019 at 14:46

    sky of no stars – john galm
    11/22 – john galm

  • Dec 2,2019 at 14:40

    nice list but… where is Sophia’s Fixed Water?

    • Dec 3,2019 at 10:29

      It almost made it! Definitely a great album, might include it in the future if we decide to grow this list. Thanks for reading us!

  • Dec 2,2019 at 14:35

    Interesting read. I was expecting Born to die by Lana del Rey, but PJ Harvey’s White Chalk is so appropriate for this list. It always gives me the chills, like said here so many sad or unnerving lyrics, just the beginning of the album: “As soon as I’m left alone, the devil wanders into my soul”.

  • Dec 2,2019 at 12:41

    ‘Grace & Danger’ John Martyn, there

  • Dec 2,2019 at 11:48

    This list is nonsense, where is Kind of Blue? Where is Scott Walker? Where is sadness?

  • Dec 2,2019 at 03:56

    Yet another list that leaves out Richard and Linda Thompson’s ‘I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight’. So, OK, not the whole album is a *total* bummer and this is a list of albums, not songs, but come on – “The End Of The Rainbow” is THE most brutally sad piece of music a human being will ever write and for that reason alone the whole LP should be here, dammit.

  • Dec 2,2019 at 03:43

    Great list! Usually I can’t stand “Top Whatever” lists but yours is very much on-point. If I could throw two cents in, I’d add Cowboy Junkies “Trinity Sessions”

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:25

      It’s such a beautiful record. The most complicated thing with these lists is actually narrowing down your selection, but if I ever grow the list, this album will be there for sure. Hope you enjoyed reading us!

  • Dec 2,2019 at 01:58

    Judging from this list, it would appear that only white folks get the blues

  • Dec 1,2019 at 20:46

    Thanks for this. I’ve got and like most of these albums. I’ve just realised I’m a miserable fuck.

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:27

      Oh wow! Thanks a lot for reading it. And not at all! Listening to sad music can actually cheer you up and as you can see, it has a very universal appeal. Also… if you listen to most of these records you have some great taste going on in there. Cheers!

  • Dec 1,2019 at 17:05

    I would add “The Holy Bible” from Manic Street Preachers to the list. For me it´s the most depressing album of all time

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:28

      It’s a quite heavy album, indeed! Thanks a lot for reading us, hope you enjoyed it.

  • Dec 1,2019 at 15:35

    Joni Mitchell’s Blue is literally the blueprint for this.

    “Today, Blue is generally regarded by music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time; the way Mitchell’s songwriting, compositions and voice all work together are frequent areas of praise. In January 2000, The New York Times chose Blue as one of the 25 albums that represented “turning points and pinnacles in 20th-century popular music”.[9] In 2012, Blue was rated the 30th best album ever made in Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, the highest entry by a female artist.[10] It was also voted number 24 in Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd Edition (2000). In July 2017, Blue was chosen by NPR as the greatest album of all time made by a woman.[11]”

  • Dec 1,2019 at 12:57

    Coil – Is Suicide A Solution, admitedly not an LP but a meer 7″. Easily the most affecting piece of music I have ever experienced.

    https://www.discogs.com/Coil-Is-Suicide-A-Solution/release/194325

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:29

      Thanks for sharing it with us! This time we were sticking to albums but Coil has created some of the saddest music ever, indeed.

  • Dec 1,2019 at 10:04

    Some Sad Classical Titles-Britten-Sinfonia De Requiem
    Gorecki-Symphony no 3
    Berg-Violin Concerto
    Mahler Symphony no 9

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:30

      Thanks a lot for your recommendations. I admit I don’t listen to classical music that much, so it’s always welcomed. Hope you discovered some nice artists through our list as well. Cheers!

  • Dec 1,2019 at 06:20

    Nice list. One record I would add – you tiked the Nico and Reed boxes, but the bleakest and saddest of all the post VU records is without question Music For A New Society by John Cale. Take a listen. Tell me I’m wrong. It’s a virtual suicide note on wax.

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:31

      I’ll listen to it right away. Really happy to receive recommendations from all of you, much appreciated!

  • Dec 1,2019 at 03:44

    The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” has long been at the top of my own such list. Not the most bleak one out there, certainly not the darkest, but no other album about the loss of innocence is as heartfelt as this one. Like separate rivers flowing to one ocean, the mournful closer “Caroline, No” sums up the undercurrent of every song on the album.

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:32

      It was definitely included in the first list I created, but then I had to narrow it down so that I wouldn’t spend a year writing this piece and I decided to go for other albums. But it’s a great choice and I absolutely agree there are some heartbreaking songs in there that are among my favorite ones ever. Hope you enjoyed the list!

  • Dec 1,2019 at 02:56

    The Cherubs “Heroin Man” man is pretty depressing, hell its an album about one’s best friend dying of a drug overdose. The last 3 tracks really make it clear. I’d also list Husker Du’s “Zen Arcade” too. A kid running away from home, discovers the various horrors of the world, realizes the world sucks either way, awakes from a dream but further realizes its all true. Sounds sad to me.

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:36

      “Zen Arcade” is on my Top 10 albums ever. I’m such a huge fan of Hüsker Dü overall, I guess I didn’t read the album in such sad ways because it joined me through some of the best times of my life. But now that you mentioned it, indeed a heartbreaking album. I’ve never listened to The Cherubs’ album but I’ll do as soon as I can, thanks a lot for sharing your recommendations with us and hope you enjoyed the list. Cheers!

  • Nov 30,2019 at 23:10

    No Ola Bell Reed? Clarence Ashley? Dock Boggs? Gorecki? The Body? This looks like a list of (mostly) middle class indy bands. Pretty boring.

  • Nov 30,2019 at 21:14

    There’s, overall, only one style of music on the list. there is no grunge, no gothic metal, no classical… so it should be called the saddest lo-fi post-punk records.
    for the record, for a great melancholic grunge/alternative album, listen to Aberdeen’s Dark Sparks or especially Homeless.

  • Nov 30,2019 at 20:42

    great list overall. I would nominate Daniel Johnston – 1990 and Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It as honorable mentions

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:37

      Those two albums are so incredible! The more I read all of your suggestions, the more I realize how 35 albums weren’t enough. Hopefully one day we’ll grow that list including many more. Thanks a lot for your kind words, glad to hear you enjoyed it :-)

  • Nov 30,2019 at 19:29

    “The Madcap laughs” is as sad as sad can be.

  • Nov 30,2019 at 18:15

    Type O Negative’s 1999 depressive masterpiece “World Coming Down” should definitely be on this list. If you look past the band’s signature “joke” opener, everything on the album is dark, gloomy, and sad. dealing with the death of loved ones and a drug addiction is pure hell…

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:38

      Wow, that sounds really heavy. I will definitely listen to it soon, thanks a lot for sharing your recommendation with all of us.

  • Nov 30,2019 at 17:24

    This by Cassandra Miller. Sounds like a descent into hell 😉. Enjoy
    https://m.soundcloud.com/cassandra-miller-composer/large-house-premiere-full

  • Nov 30,2019 at 15:02

    David Ackles – American Gothic

  • Nov 30,2019 at 14:32

    Here’s another one, completely unknown. A close relative of mine recorded it in order to deal with his disorders.

    https://drewdormis.bandcamp.com/album/red-eyes-red-blood-red-wine-2

  • Nov 30,2019 at 12:18

    And of course we may continue with Q Lazzarus “Goodby horses” for instance.

  • Nov 30,2019 at 12:09

    Hi there,

    What about Aztec Camera “Stray” and focused on Notting Hill Blues, this is one of the tracks I used on that moments……

  • Nov 30,2019 at 11:46

    This list is incomplete without a Nick Talbot album, aka Gravenhurst. Probably “Flashlight seasons”…
    Nick Talbot left us five years ago 2nd december 2014. RIP.

    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:40

      I love Gravenhurst too, I’ll make sure to add him to the list if we grow it in the future.

  • Nov 29,2019 at 23:48

    Add

    Alban Berg: Violin Concerto – Anne-Sophie Mutter, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine

    Jean Sibelius: Symphony nr. 4 – Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan (DG, 60’s)

  • Nov 29,2019 at 20:36

    Explosions in the Sky: The World is Not a Cold Dead Place. (Mic drop)

  • Nov 29,2019 at 01:05

    May I add Sneaker Pimps: Splinter to this list because holy shit dude, it needs to be.

  • Nov 28,2019 at 23:07

    Blue Magic was from a different era and style than anything mentioned. The cuts “Chasing rainbows”, “Loneliest house on the block”, “Looking for a friend”, “Three ring circus”, “Talking to myself”, and the hit “Sideshow” all reflect a deep sadness about lost love, loneliness, and even death.

  • Nov 28,2019 at 21:58

    “Asleep” is possibly the saddest song ever written in the history of music. It’s a total suicide song. I’d challenge anyone to find a sadder, more depressing song. I’ve searched long and hard, and I haven’t found one that can compare. This song just might be The Smiths at their purest.

  • Nov 28,2019 at 19:37

    I’m going to add King Crimson’s Red and Starsailor’s Love is Here. The new Beck album is not worth your time, by the way. Incredible how somebody who created Mellow Gold,Odelay, Midnite Vultures, and Guero can have everything go wrong
    for him. Paper Tiger is the only good one on sea change.

  • Nov 28,2019 at 16:07

    Corinne Bailey Rae’s “The Sea” (written and recorded after the passing of her husband, is always the first that comes to mind for me. It’s hard to hear such a beautiful voice be so sad.

  • Nov 28,2019 at 15:20

    I believe this one was missed from the list…

    Damien Rice “O”

    [|;^)>

  • Nov 28,2019 at 09:37

    Add: Dead Man’s Bone.

  • Nov 28,2019 at 00:47

    Steven Wilson’s “Hand. Cannot. Erase.” It has to be in this list.

  • Nov 27,2019 at 19:35

    Clearly, you forgot one: Pink Floyd – The Final Cut
    https://www.discogs.com/Pink-Floyd-The-Final-Cut/master/19698

    Saddest Moment: “Two Suns In The Sunset”

  • Nov 27,2019 at 16:46
    • Dec 2,2019 at 12:43

      One of the most heartbreaking soundtracks ever created, I absolutely agree.

  • Nov 27,2019 at 16:36

    I certainly would have included SRSQ – Unreality. The entire album is written by Kennedy about the sudden death of her bandmate and friend, and the her experiences afterwards. Makes

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