25 Going on 14

Three Albums for A Quarter-Life Crisis   

By margaret DAVENPORT


The horrifying truth is that being 25 often feels like you are 14 years old. Which feels like an intense regression since being 21 felt like 25 and 19 felt like… well, 19. Which is five years older than 14, if you aren’t mathematically inclined or seven years old. Which, in that case, congratulations on your reading skills. You must feel like you’re 12.

On the afternoons when I don’t feel like I’m 14, I feel like I am three, barely concealing the urge to pound clamped fists into carpeted floors and fling my legs in the air like a sky screamer on cocaine. I am convinced, given the self-permission, I could throw a temper tantrum so fabulous a preschool classroom would give a standing ovation. But I am not three, I am 25. So instead, I allow my 14-year-old self to win by picking out the perfect quarter-life-crisis album. Then, I lie on my bedroom floor: staring at the ceiling, airpods in, noise canceling on. Or I turn my car stereo up so loud that the rearview mirror begins to shake and the music screams at the traffic surrounding me. Then, I just really fucking let go.

I am humble enough to admit that I may not be the only person experiencing the painfulness of individuation and an adulthood coming-of-age (going through The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not enough and you will eventually become The Worst Person In the World). So in search of comradery or at least the sweet relief of absolute vulnerability on the internet, I have compiled a list of my top three quarter-life-crisis albums. Some are meant to make you feel better, but mostly they’re here to remind you that you are appropriately terrible at being a person (and you’re not alone). If you don’t agree with me on any of these, please do not let me know. I am going through a tough time.

Gone Now, Bleachers (2017)

Few albums capture the petrifying desperation for change like Gone Now by Bleachers. It is optimistically poppy while chaotically toeing the line between self-forgiveness and self-deprecation. Jack Antonoff confesses there’s “this dream I keep having where I'm begging / just to get myself a break” while simultaneously refusing to let himself forget that “Everybody Lost Somebody.” There is also a level of franticness in each song that echoes what I often fearfully ask myself in the worst and best moments of my days: “Can it stay like this forever?” Of course, it won’t. I’m so thankful for time, but I could never forgive it. I could write an entire article on this album but, since I’ve already written one love letter to Jack Antonoff for COPY, I felt two might be a bit redundant and I’ll stop here.

Notable crisis songs on Gone Now include: “Don’t Take the Money,” “Everybody Lost Somebody,” “All My Heroes,” “I Miss Those Days,” “Foreign Girls,” and “Let’s Get Married.” 

Most relatable quarter-life-crisis lyric from Gone Now: “I know I’ve been a stranger lately.”

Impossible Dream, Patty Griffin (2004)

Impossible Dream by Patty Griffin played repeatedly in my home growing up. When I listen to it, I often feel like I am walking through a graveyard or a dark house full of sleeping people. Its soft folk lyrics are full of deep sadness and reverence and solitude, which all culminate in the sound of screaming quiet. I’ve spent too long trying to pull just a lyric or two worth writing about just to end up pasting entire songs into this article, so I will just share this: while reflecting on the album, Griffin stated, “More than anything I’ve done, Impossible Dream feels like me, right here, waving my arms, ‘Hello, I’m here, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing or what I’m talkin’ about—can you listen?’”

Notable crisis songs on Impossible Dream include: “Kite Song,” “Useless Desires,” “Top of the World,” “Rowing Song,” “When It Don’t Come Easy,” “Florida,” “Mother of God,” and “Icicles.” 

Most relatable quarter-life-crisis lyric from Impossible Dream: “I live too many miles from the ocean / and I'm getting older and odd.”

Ram, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney (1971)

I’ve included Ram as a breath from the increasingly depressing list I’ve curated. If Paul McCartney’s strict, parented years was his time in The Beatles, Ram is his reaction to moving out and realizing he can have ice cream for dinner every night. It’s witty, psychedelic rock that makes you want to go to the grocery store stoned. Yet, while Paul and Linda’s playful singing sometimes seems borderline goofy, Ram isn’t naive. Lyrics hold a warning for self-regulation: “Don’t get left behind,” “Don’t stay out too long,” “And maybe when you look too hard, dear boy / you never do become aware.” Nonetheless, the McCartneys don’t let the responsibility of self-determined fate take over the album. I’ve been told the fruit grown from a quarter-life crisis is trusting yourself to make the right choices, and Paul ends Ram reminding (yelling at) you, “We believe we can’t be wrong.” 

Notable crisis songs on Ram include: “Too Many People,” “Ram On,” “Dear Boy,” “Monkberry Moon Delight,” “Long Haired Lady,” and “The Back Seat of My Car.”

Most relatable quarter-life-crisis lyric from Ram: “That was your first mistake / you took your lucky break and broke it in two / now what can be done for you?”


In addition to these albums, Lorde’s “Ribs” (2013) and Simon & Garfunkel's “Keep the Customer Satisfied” (1970) have carried a significant amount of weight during my quarter-life crisis. I would include a whole paragraph about them but that’s not how I’ve structured this essay and (this is the truth about your twenties) I’m scared to break the rules I’ve made up myself.

There is one more thing I want to note about these three albums: they all share a longing for home (and pretty solid horn sections). Antonoff repeats, “Just gotta get home soon,” on Gone Now. Griffin notes, “The further I go / more letters from home never arrive,” on Impossible Dream. Ram tells us, “Lady, let's eat at home.” Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? To be at home: in our bodies, in our apartments, and at the coffee shop on the corner? I’m beginning to realize a quarter-life crisis may be just the neverending longing to sit with our eyes closed and think, “Yes, this is where I am supposed to be.”