Here Are 22 Albums For All You 22-Year-Olds

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There are albums you love because they’re good, but then there are albums you love because you discovered them in the right place at the right time. We love music because of its power of association and how it remind us of a special time or emotion, and we place certain albums above others solely based on how strongly they remind us of key memories from our lives.

Especially when you’re young, hearing a certain album can literally change your life. Ask any musician and they can tell you the first time they heard X and how it inspired them to start performing or writing music. Or just ask anyone else what their favorite albums were growing up. I’ll never forget the first CD I bought with my own money (Green Day’s American Idiot), the first time rock & roll literally blew my mind (It’s cheesy to say now, but the first time you heard “Stairway To Heaven” is truly an event), and what album helped me get through my parents’ divorce (Ryan Adams’s Heartbreaker). We all have albums like this; albums that helped us get through the pains of growing up and creating our own identity, and, even if we outgrow certain types of music (I tend to keep my still-passionate love of Green Day to myself), we will always love those few albums.

But what about the music we listen to when we’re 22, when, though still young in the grand scheme of life, we begin to make certain decisions that will affect the rest of our lives and when we aren’t as impressionable? We’re still in the middle of creating our identities, but we don’t have the safety nets of immediate family support or college to tell us that we can be anything we want to be when we grow up. At this age, we know that’s not true. This is the time when we begin to make big decision – where to work, where to live, whether to marry now or later – and each decision requires some type of sacrifice that we’re not used to. Through all the changes and adjusting, you’re going to feel more alone, trying to navigate through the world when you slowly realize how big it is and how small you are. And, as much as I hate to quote Taylor Swift, this really is the age when we’re happy, free, confused, and lonely all at the same time, and it’s a miserable and magical age.

Taylor Swift in 22

In this time of transition, certain music just feels more appropriate. It just feels so right to discover The Replacements and The Smiths when you’re in high school, but discovering Morrissey when you’re 22 doesn’t seem to have as strong of an impact. We need music that addresses the different themes of love, sacrifice, and loneliness in ways that aren’t as dramatic but more authentic and real for an older age.

Below are 22 albums that might help soundtrack this age of transition. You’ve probably heard of most of these albums while other might be new to you, but all of these albums have a specific importance that is more appropriate for 22. And who knows, maybe one of these albums could change your life.

Take this list with a grain of salt, because I myself am a 22-year-old telling you what music you should listen to in your 20’s. Some of these albums will click with you, and some won’t. Regardless, I feel that these albums speak to this unique period of change, and, at the very least, you should listen to these albums while you’re still young. And, though it should go without saying, this list comes from my personal tastes and should only be treated as such. I know that I’m missing plenty of great albums – this is just a starting point.

In alphabetical order:


The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds


You Need It Because: Under all that pretty surfer-pop (and man is it pretty), Brian Wilson has a lot to say about the loneliness of going your own way (“That’s Not Me”), the fickleness of love (“Here Today”), and of the questions we ask ourselves concerning faith and trust (“God Only Knows”).

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