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The 15 Best Divorce Albums of All Time
'Til 3x platinum do us part.
by Alex Heigl
Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard is releasing his first solo album, Former Lives, today. And given his recent divorce from Zooey Deschanel, conventional wisdom seems to hold that the album will be more or less concerned with... that. That might actually be a good sign though, since some of the greatest albums ever were written post-divorce. For our look at same, we disavowed albums made after breakups (Beck's Sea Change, Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker, among many others) and stuck to albums inspired by honest-to-God call-the-lawyers marriage explosions. We kept it to non-fictional ones too, which meant excluding The Mountain Goats' Tallahassee, a harrowing but entirely fictional account of a dissolving marriage. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments.
15. William Fitzsimmons, The Sparrow and the Crow (2009)
Fitzsimmons chronicled his parents' divorce through his album Goodnight, and apparently it took such a toll on him that it destroyed his own marriage in the process. The Sparrow and the Crow documents that dissolution, with swooning, cinematic grandeur, nailing the "crying alone in an empty house" vibe of a wrecked union. A large, empty house, with lots of reverb.
14. Richard Buckner, Devotion + Doubt (1992)
Richard Buckner's music coats your living room in sepia-tinged regret. Signed to MCA in a portent of big things that never really happened, Buckner recorded Devotion + Doubt in the wake of his divorce, and it's a sadly underrated classic, with all the whiskey-soaked heartbreak of forebears like Townes Van Zandt and some distinctly modern touches, like the presence of avant-garde jazz guitarist Marc Ribot. "Lil Wallet Picture" is a vivid sketch of a man driving his rented U-Haul away from his cheating wife. It's dark, emotive, and like the best country, so real you can feel the wind-swept grit.
13. Bill Withers, +'Justments (1974)
One of Withers' lesser-known albums, and devoid of massive hits like "Use Me" or "Lean on Me," +'Justments was released following Withers' divorce from actress Denise Nicholas. The divorce was colored by unsubstantiated rumors of domestic abuse, and fittingly, +'Justments is a melancholic, creeping album. Though Withers could do heartbreak well ("Ain't No Sunshine"), +'Justments is something else: the cheeriness feels a little forced, and the sad songs cut deep. The album's cover depicts Withers writing: "We will help some situations and hurt some situations. We will help some people and hurt some people and be left to live with it either way." Hard to not read into that one.
12. Tammy Wynette, D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968)
It's not about her more celebrated marriage and divorce to George Jones, but it was recorded after her first divorce. Wynette practically established an entire genre with this album's title cut. And even though she'd set the divorce rate (and women's movement) back with "Stand by Your Man," D-I-V-O-R-C-E remains one of the essential touchstones in Wynette's weepy career.
11. Jack White, Blunderbuss (2012)
Though Jack White has contradicted virtually every interviewer who's asked him about it, Blunderbuss is hard to not take as a divorce record. For one thing, White elected to switch from his famously red-and-black color scheme to one of dark blue for the album's cover (and subsequent tour). And, for another, there was a freakin' vulture on the cover. Blunderbuss benefits greatly from a bigger sonic palette than the White Stripes ever had, and the song structures are more varied, but many of the lyrics remain focused on women and relationships. A lyric like "I want love to change my friends to enemies and show me how it's all my fault" on "Love Interruption" is nearly impossible to read as anything but a post-divorce sentiment.