I heard a song on my way home from work that sent me into a spiral to the mid-1990s, when angst was my middle name, according to my Uncle Terry, who apparently was worried about my mental health after reading some of my “dark” poetry.
Turns out I was just a teenage girl.
I will try hard to remember this in 15 years, this time period soaked in hopes and dreams for the future yet dampened by the invisible chains of my present age. The feelings of not belonging in the red state in which I was raised and the closed-mindedness of some of my peers. The suspicion that most boys my age were not adequate boyfriend material, yet being disappointed when I was right. The close circle of friends who were always there for me, and to this day are still my sisters, even if we go years without seeing one another. The agony and the elation and the melodrama. “You’re ruining my life!” was shouted at my parents more than once or twice.
I will try to remember this complex stage for Alexa’s sake.
We can mind-meld (or however you download music in 2026) via the music that spoke to me and I can share “selected” entries from my high school diaries. She will know I understand. I like to think that this femme-powered music will never seem too dated. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it will stand the test of time.
Six Albums that Changed My So-Called High School Life
Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?
Play when you are feeling: Sad. The forlorn tone of Dolores O’Riordan’s voice will match your mood, but the beautiful music will help lift your spirits. And with lyrics like “Oh, my life is changing everyday/In every possible way” you will feel like someone totally gets you.
Live Through This
Play when you are feeling: Pissed. Honestly, there’s nothing like a little hard rock to justify your emotions. Screaming along with Courtney Love will feel so good, trust.
Play when you are feeling: Depressed. Shirley Manson’s words are guaranteed to lift you out of your funk, even if you’re only happy when it rains.
Jagged Little Pill
Play when you are feeling: Betrayed. The quintessential breakup album, you can go through all the emotions: love, discontentment, anger, sadness, acceptance. From the anthem of “You Oughta Know” to the wise resolution of “You Learn,” it’s all there. Grab some tissue and get ready to sing along through your tears.
Play when you are feeling: Small. No one can keep you down. You won’t have to abide by curfews forever. You can become president (if you want that awful job). The ska beats are uplifting, and the messages in songs like “The Climb” and “Just a Girl” are empowering.
Play when you are feeling: Misunderstood. I’m not even sure what this record is about. Sex? Anger? Dismay? General frustrations? All I know is that it was played on repeat a lot, and my friends and I related. The lyrics are largely open to interpretation. Which, hello, is perfect for your angsty poet heart.
And then there are the runners-up. The albums that definitely registered, and would be good companions to the others: The Cardigans/First Band on the Moon (for when you’re feeling numb); John Osborne/Relish (for when you’re feeling moody); Natalie Merchant/Tigerlily (for when you’re feeling lost); Tori Amos/Boys for Pele (for when you’re feeling obscure)
Am I missing any? What was your go-to angst album in high school?