Music has the rare, extraordinary ability to transport us to a different time and place. It can be the soundtrack to some of our happiest and saddest times, often becoming the catalyst for profound personal revelations and emotional breakthroughs.
There are few things better than when you discover an entire album that speaks to your soul. In a quest to explore these transformative musical experiences, we asked Refinery29 Australia readers to share the album that changed their lives. Keep reading if you're interested in discovering an album that could soundtrack the next era of your life.
Maggie Rogers — Heard It in a Past Life
"This album soundtracked some of the toughest times in my life. Caring for a mentally unstable family member, then heading into the first year of covid. Maggie made me feel seen, and also made me feel hope." — Ash, 25.
Bon Iver — Bon Iver
"When I first listened to it, it’s like something clicked. No matter the mood I was in; sad, happy, anxious, it always seemed to help put things in perspective, resonate or put me at ease. It’s the perfect album for any moment in my life." — Maddi, 23.
Taylor Swift — Red (Taylor's Version)
"Got me through my first heartbreak/breakup. Helped me through the realisation that I was a lesbian." — Claire, 21.
Ashlee Simpson — Autobiography
"This album came out in 2004 when I was 11 or 12, when I guess I was discovering who I was. I thought I was super different being obsessed with Ashlee instead of Jessica Simpson — super alternative, I know. There was something about Ashlee's “rock girl” aesthetic that I was just so obsessed with — I wanted black hair and black singlets with coloured bras! I started painting my nails black and relatives were worried I was “turning goth”. Although it was definitely pop music, something about the heavier sound of the songs opened me up to more music afterwards, like Stevie Nicks, Debbie Harry etc. I guess it changed my life in a way that made me feel like I was starting to discover my own music taste, and I just loved every song so much." — Alison, 31.
Jack's Mannequin - Everything in Transit
"It kicked off my love and connection with music. Music has helped me understand my mental health and how to get through life, good or bad. This album started it all and has introduced me to all my fav artists." — Amy, 34.
Maisie Peters — The Good Witch
"I discovered Maisie about 12 months before this album came out, and was eagerly anticipating its release. It came out just before I went on my first big overseas solo trip, and effectively soundtracked it. That trip was so special, and I had so many life-changing experiences that have completely redirected my life and mindset. The Good Witch is a breakup album, and about rediscovering who you are after a rough time, and it was the perfect set of songs for this period of my life. The memories I have of every single song, where I was in the world and who I was with, the intricacies and double meanings behind her lyrics, is exactly what I needed at that time." — Grace.
Lorde — Solar Power
"It’s sunshine in sound! I can listen to it for something mellow, or nostalgic, or just joyous. I love everything about it!" — Cassie, 31.
Hozier — Unreal Unearth
"I’ve been a fan of Hozier for years and consider his whole discography to be something of a masterpiece, but ‘Unreal Unearth’ has particularly stood out for the way it has commanded my attention. Inspired by Dante’s ‘Inferno’, the album is philosophical, political, dark and hauntingly beautiful. It has provoked thoughts about how things have changed and continue to change both in my personal life and around the world. It has also deepened my understanding of some Irish language and history, and has built greater empathy because the lyrics are so vulnerable and rich. I am a person with a generally optimistic and sunny disposition, so the darkness of ‘Unreal Unearth’ has helped me to feel grounded and safe to embrace more sombre reflections. It has also stirred me up to sing again as an emotional outlet. I would absolutely recommend it!" — Elina, 24.
Sabrina Carpenter — emails i can't send fwd:
"There was a two-month period in my life where I was so consumed by a boy and I was becoming so detached from myself and I would listen to Sabrina’s album on my commute to and from work. I would look outside the tram window and have these lightbulb/aha! epiphanies because she was singing about things that I was actually feeling and experiencing and it made me feel seen and helped me overcome that hard time." — Alex, 24.
Taylor Swift — Speak Now
"Before I met my high school best friend, I just got given music (cds) that people thought I’d like. I remember Taylor Swift being one of the first albums she introduced me to. I went home, listened it it on the computer as I played sims or played with word fonts, writing my name over and over like a little girl with a crush. I was in my own little world. This ended up being my first ever concert which was made out to be a huge deal. It really was the start of my friendship that’s been present in my life for over a decade. Taylor now has so many albums that we all know and love but Speak Now changed my life because it gave me my first love —- my best friend. I can’t ever skip a song from this album, I can’t not think of Maddy when I hear it. I didn’t realise it changed my life until recently with the re-release. It’s crazy to think when I listen to it now how I can reminisce and think that I’ve grown with this album, related to it and one point hated it. I’m so fond of the experience that it’s given me and the attachment I have to it. My first love & my first album I ever loved. That’s a lot right?" — Cassidy, 26.
Weyes Blood — Titanic Rising
"The writing is so poignant and beautiful. The production is serene and other-worldly. Natalie’s ability to create such an all-encompassing narrative about the complexities of life in under 43 minutes remains utterly impressive to me. This record is a gentle hand on your shoulder. My favourite lyric from this thing (and maybe favourite lyric ever?) comes from Wild Time: “everyone knows you just did what you had to”. So comforting to me. I love this album to pieces! Put it on when you’re in a state of despair and it’ll all come together. I promise it’ll somehow make you feel better about it all" — Maddy, 23.
Lorde — Pure Heroine
"Sometimes I can’t even put it into words, but it’s the way it makes me feel especially Ribs ‘you’re the only friend I need’ makes me feel so much love to my friendships, and it’s something you can listen to quietly or SCREAM at karaoke nights (video available if you’d like hahah x). It makes me feel like I’m listening to the album for the first time whenever I listen and never gets old. The happy endorphins are BOOSTED when this album is on." — Mia, 21.
The Twilight Movie Soundtrack
"The Twilight movie soundtrack informed much of my music taste as a kid and throughout my life. It was where I discovered Paramore, Muse, Linkin Park and Lykke Li. Listening to those artists widened my music taste and I think really set me up to have the broad music taste I have now." — Laura, 24.
Halsey — Badlands
"It was the first body of work I encountered that spoke about the young female experience and dealing with mental illness, others' perceptions around that & navigating dating in early adulthood. It also helped me come to terms with my bisexuality and was the first time I felt truly represented in art." — Claire, 27.
Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
"I mean it's self explanatory but I was a late bloomer this year. I’m so into it that I ran 5km straight for the first time in my life because it was so motivating (I am not throwing away my SHOT)." — Anna, 26.
Lady Gaga — Artpop
"This album came out just as I was finishing my first year of high school and I think it was the first thing that made me realise I was queer. Gaga has always been a pillar of self expression, but this album had her singing about sex (G.U.Y.) and queer fantasies (Sexxx Dreams) in a way that felt so authentic and honestly, just fun. The entire Artpop era was so messy and ridiculous, it’s always a time that I feel super nostalgic about and it reminds me of when I started actually feeling like myself for the first time. I could honestly write an entire essay about this album and Gaga era, and the title track is just a fucking masterpiece in its own right. I will forever be in debt to this album and the fire it started in me." — Nikki, 22.
Sleater-Kinney — Dig Me Out
"I'm a musician who grew up in the pop punk, emo and heavy music scene in Sydney. Throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, non-male representation was limited to about two bands, so I always felt like an outsider, confused at how a scene that prided itself on being so inclusive could be so limited when it came to who was onstage. When I listened to Sleater-Kinney for the first time, it opened my eyes to a whole new world of punk music — riot grrl, to be exact — and I was transfixed. It is so raw, chaotic and *angry* in a way that only femme punk can express. It features some of the best guitar work in the genre, and established Carrie Brownstein as my all-time idol to this day." —Bianca, 25.
The Killers — Hot Fuss
"I bought it for myself when I was 13 with money from my first-ever job. I listened to it over and over, learning every word as it played on my little CD player. I still love The Killers and I credit that album to my life-long love of music and of listening to great albums from start to finish." — Caitlyn, 31.
Clairo — Sling
"Sling is my favourite album of all time! When it came out over lockdown, I was super uninspired and lost creatively. But the way the album discussed womanhood, domesticity and a reluctant motherhood is so fascinating and special to me. The songs are just beautiful, nostalgic and romantic. But also a bit tragic. The lyrics about her craving for a slow life with her dog really connected with me over lockdown. Also it helps that the songs and harmonies all sound so beautiful!" — Alex, 20.
Queen (Greatest Hits)
"As a child — I was no older than seven — I was obsessed with Queen, and I would request it over any of the ‘now’ albums. I think it solidified my taste in rock and alternative music. Not many kids would think Killer Queen was the best song on earth (the reality being that Queen probably has some of the best songs on earth!) " — Alice, 22.
Mitski — Be the Cowboy
"Made me realise it was time to break up with my high school sweetheart (of 5 years) and be my own damn cowboy <3" — Meg, 25.
Bon Iver — for Emma, forever ago
"It gave me an outlet to release teenage angst and big feelings in a healthy way. Allowed for introspection and processing of big teenage emotions." — Emma, 24.