Friday Discussion: The Best Album Openers

by Zack Zarrillo - Apr 12, 2013

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There’s nothing better than a strong album opener. It can set the mood for the next 40 minutes of the album you’re listening to, or even your day. We thought it’d be great to do a PropertyOfZack Friday Discussion on The Best Album Openers from multiple albums in our scene. We put the openers together in an Rdio Playlist to listen to as you read the Discussion as well. Check out our list below and feel free to reblog with some of your favorite album openers!

blink-182 - Feeling This
"Feeling This," to me, is the song that captures most of what blink-182 is in every sense: pop-punk, sex, back-and-forth vocals, an incredibly catchy chorus. Not only is it an excellent opener for the band’s best album, but it sets a tone of uplifting excitement and exuberance. Whether it’s your favorite blink song or not, it shows them at their best. - Zack Zarrillo

The Menzingers - Good Things
For all its wide-eyed nostalgia for American muscle cars, the Paupack Cliffs, and a waitress named Casey, shake The Menzingers’ On the Impossible Past to its core and you’re left with the story of a slowly disintegrating American youth. But it’s hard not to feel hopeful in the face of that crushing notion, especially when the opening riff of “Good Things” and plaintive declaration of “I’ve been having a horrible time pulling myself together” sound so damn hopeful.

The sing-along chorus is as lyrically depressing as it is deeply catchy, and the nostalgic imagery of an American muscle car quickly decays into “I felt American for once in my life / I never felt it again.” On the Impossible Past is an album grappling with the idealism of nostalgia pitted against the reality of growing up, and “Good Things” perfectly captures that battle.  - Erik van Rheenen

Say Anything - Belt
…Is a Real Boy is one hell of a psychologically damaged opus, and there’s no shortage of unique and shocking moments throughout the record, so what better way is there to be introduced to the insanity than with an overheard phone conversation with Max Bemis in which he states, flat-out, his anxiety about starting? “And the record begins with a song of rebellion” is a heavy-handed battle cry, leading off into a snarling, kick-ass song that seems to contradict Bemis’s expressed nervousness and doesn’t let up into softness or vulnerability — that comes later on. “Belt” is a unforgettable, steadfast song with unbridled power, and its place at the front of …Is a Real Boy is rightfully earned in its dichotomy between anxiety and confidence. - Adrienne Fisher

Saves The Day - All-Star Me
"All-Star Me" is the perfect song. It’s melodic, frank, compact, and steady, while simultaneously delivering classic Chris Conley lyrics of real life situations mixed up into metaphor. It’s a wonderful taste right off the bat of the progression that Saves the Day saw from Can’t Slow Down into Through Being Cool, even possibly deflecting skeptics by stating immediately that "this isn’t the way we planned." Not to mention that quiet buzzing of guitar feedback right before the first chords kick in - for anyone who knows what an amazing trip they’re in for with Through Being Cool, the sound of plugging in is the most exciting sound in the world. - Adrienne Fisher

Brand New - Tautou 
In just one minute and forty-two seconds, Brand New managed to accomplish what takes most bands years: without warning, they threw out any semblance to the band that recorded Your Favorite Weapon, prepared the listener for the intensity ahead, and set a precedent of dark and brooding brilliance for albums for years to come. No segue. No transition. Just a declaration: “This is who we are now. Oh, and here comes the catchiest bass line of the decade. Go.” - Marc Gary Gray 

Lydia - This is Twice Now
As time progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that Illuminate will forever be the record that the rest of the Lydia’s catalogue getscompared to, and “This Is Twice Now” is easily the most iconic song on the increasingly iconic album. Disturbingly haunting never sounded so beautiful as it did in 2008, and five years later, it’s still evident that it never will again. - Alyssa McKinley

Jack’s Mannequin - Holiday From Real
When Andrew McMahon released Everything In Transit as a side project under the name Jack’s Mannequin, nobody was prepared for the album to be even more successful than anything he  put out with Something Corporate. “Holiday From Real” is the perfect introduction to the complicated, screwed up paradise that the songs which follow explore more deeply, inevitably leaving any reluctant SoCo fans happy to fall in love with the rest of the album. - Alyssa McKinley

The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
As a student of D.C., I feel like I can relate to this song more than anyone who lives elsewhere. “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” is one of the best album openers of all time, because it introduces us to everything that The Postal Service is and was about. We’ve got Jimmy Tamborello on the catchy electronic beats and keyboards, as well as Benjamin Gibbard and Jenny Lewis’ breathtakingly haunting vocals. The Postal Service was one of the first bands to craft the ingredients for synth pop and those who followed in their footsteps have not matched up in the past ten years since ‘Give Up’ surfaced. “The district sleeps alone tonight after the bars turn out their lights / And send the autos swerving into the loneliest evening / And I am finally seeing / Why I was the one worth leaving,” Gibbard croons. As charming as the dismal words may be, they are still profound and heartfelt. This song also serves as the perfect set up for The Postal Service’s most popular hit that immediately follows on the track list: “Such Great Heights.” - Sydney Gore

The Academy Is… - Attention
“Attention, attention / May I have all your eyes and ears / To the front of the room? / If only, if only for one second.” When The Academy Is… opened its debut album, Almost Here, with this earnest plea for (you guessed it) attention, you can bet all ears were on them. Eight years later, “Attention” is still a smoothly catchy track that draws listeners in and makes them want to stick around for the next nine tunes. - Becky Kovach

Midtown - Just Rock and Roll
"God I wish I could hate you for the rest of my…" Jeez, Gabe, tell us how you REALLY feel. "Just Rock and Roll" kicks off Midtown’s most emotionally raw record with that clear statement of desire, followed immediately by an undeniable guitar riff. It might be a little over the top, but you have to respect the chutzpah, especially since it’s so, well, AWESOME. The chorus is blistering and catchy, the bridge boasts a heightened amount of continuous intensity - the song simply bursts the hell out of the gates and dashes out in righteous rock and roll glory. And they know it - amidst all the mildly ambiguous lyrics, some statements ring transparent: "They say always the first one is never as good as the next / Hey, it’s just rock and roll." And don’t even get me started on that guitar pluck that goes into the next song. - Adrienne Fisher

Fall Out Boy - Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today 
Fall Out Boy is making a triumphant return with Save Rock And Roll, but Take This To Your Grave will always be the album that put them on the map. Opening track “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today” is a timeless anthem for all the broken hearts, complete with caustic chords and a biting chorus: “Stop burning bridges and drive off of them / So I can forget about you.” - Becky Kovach

The Wonder Years - Came Out Swinging
“My mind is made up. There’s going to be trouble.” When I first played this record, I had no idea what was going on with the intro, but I absolutely loved it. I don’t know if any record opener from 2011 — the year every band ever released an album — even came close to beating this one. The outro, with Soupy screaming his lungs out, will always give me chills. - Justin Graci

Alkaline Trio - Private Eye
Who the hell starts an album with a song that’s second verse is the same as the first, and whose lyrics include phrases like, “I watched flies fuck on Channel Eleven?” Alkaline Trio does, goddammit. Private Eye, the track in question, serves as a warning: if you don’t like witty yet dark lyrics sung over fast, driving, and simple punk rock, get out now. However, if you are ready for what have been famously referred to as “alcohol-fueled love songs and love-fueled alcohol songs,” stick around and enjoy yourself. - Marc Gary Gray

Polar Bear Club - Pawner
It’s hard to comprehend just how good this song is sometimes. It opens up “Clash Battle Guilt Pride” flawlessly and it’s almost impossible not to sing along with Jimmy Stadt. This is the best that Jimmy has ever sounded, and probably the best the band has ever sounded in general. Seeing them play it live is such a treat. - Justin Graci

The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations
Rife with snappy references to beatnik Jack Kerouac and tragic poet John Berryman, the Boys & Girls in America opener is a colossal love letter to good old fashioned Jersey Shore rock ‘n’ roll. Craig Finn waxes poetic through wordy musings on growing up in Minnesota, clinging to youth, and Sal Paradise. As Finn rambles, Tad Kubler lays down some meaty guitar riffs and Franz Nicolay tickles the ivories with some fabulous flourishes on the piano. 

It’s a literary, nerd-tastic throwback to Bruce Springsteen, but it took Kerouac and Salinger full books to tackle the same idea of coming-of-age that The Hold Steady rollick through in a matter of minutes. Pick up Berryman’s The Dream Songs, take off your beret, and jam to “Stuck Between Stations.” - Erik van Rheenen

Kevin Devine - Cotton Crush
In music, there are moments when a career shifts. Bob Dylan went electric. The Beatles went psychedelic. Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines. Cotton Crush represents that crossroads for Kevin Devine. It is that intersection where his “kid with his guitar” career slammed directly into his “Favorite Gentlemen” future.  Starting with a straightforward and simple singer-songwriter intro, the song escalates into a noticeably more aggressive set of verses. 
 
It is at this moment that Kevin Devine the solo career becomes Kevin Devine and the God Damn Band. His career would  begin an uphill climb and sync into cahoots with the modern indie version of the rat pack featuring Brand New and Manchester Orchestra.
 
Equally as impressive as the effect the song would have on Devine’s career is the manner in which it would be written. Composed of a collection of extremely raw and revealing lyrics, the song represents coming to terms with the need to start coming of age. Devine candidly confesses:

“The quiet can scrape
all the calm from your bones,
but maybe it should.
Maybe we need to be hollowed
to get up and grow,
and stop fucking around,
to kick off our braces and startstraightening out.
 To shift through the static for a simpler sound
Than the shit that’s clogging our head now.” 
 
In my decade of music journalism and lifetime as an audiophile, no set of lines has stood out to me as impressively in collecting the emotions regarding the transition of letting go of your troubled and angst-filled youth to overcome the ghosts in your closets and barroom lifestyle. The road to becoming an adult runs right through growth.

Devine captured that flawlessly in his timeless opening to Split the Country, Split the Streets. - Josh Hammond

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    such a great list :3
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    Reblog for most of these! Mainly brand new.
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Ernie Ball