Friday Discussion: The Best Album Closers

by Zack Zarrillo - Apr 19, 2013

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We posted a PropertyOfZack Friday Discussion on The Best Album Openers last week, so we’re following it up this week with The Best Album Closers. Album closers have the ability to leave a truly emotional mark on the listener, and we’ve experienced quite a few memorable ones over the years in our scene. We put the closers 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 closers!

Brand New - Play Crack the Sky
From the classic punk energy of Your Favorite Weapon to the dark intricacies of Daisy, the amount of things that Brand New have gotten right throughout their career is monumental. “Play Crack The Sky” is one of the few songs in the Brand New catalogue that showcase what each one of their masterpieces started out as poignant lyrics carried simply by a single guitar. If there is anything more impressive than their ever-present brazen musicality, it is the fact that even stripped down to bare bones, Brand New can evoke emotion like nobody else. - Alyssa McKinley

Death Cab For Cutie - A Lack Of Color
Death Cab For Cutie always has a way of making you feel both happy and sad at the same time with heartbreaking and heartwarming songs. “A Lack Of Color” is a tragically beautiful ending to close Translanticism, similar to the aftermath of a torrential downpour. It’s almost like the raindrops that slowly roll down the glass window on your wall as the sun fights to shine between the pockets of dark clouds. Moving at a serene tempo, Benjamin Gibbard perfectly sings every harmony with gentle conviction while the acoustic guitar repeatedly calls back to the piano chord. Ten years later and Translanticism is still considered one of the best Death Cab For Cutie albums of all time. “This is fact not fiction for the first time in years.” - Sydney Gore

Dashboard Confessional - Several Ways to Die Trying
A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar is Dashboard Confessional’s transitional album, the one that bridges the gap between Chris Carrabba’s deeply personal early work and the cinematic bombast of the band’s later LPs, and closing track “Several Ways to Die Trying” pinpoints the moment where that crossover happens. The six-minute epic swells seamlessly from ginger, cowering verses into a megalithic chorus  — one of the strongest in Dashboard’s songbook —with Carrabba’s meticulously planned delivery pushing the song over the top. His measured crumble in the refrain’s “dying to live” apex coheres into a laser blast at song’s end, searing its way from here to forever and soaring the ashes left behind to the heavens. - Jesse Richman

Thrice – The Beltsville Crucible
I used to believe that the closing track to Thrice’s brilliant sophomore release The Illusion of Safety should have been “To Awake and Avenge the Dead,” a fan-favorite anthem and perennial show closer.  Silly me. As any good storyteller knows, one does not end the story at the climax; a denouement is needed to resolve conflict and complete the story arc. Enter “The Beltsville Crucible.” Instead of ending the album with the lyric “to awake and avenge the dead,” Thrice was clever enough to end with, “and if you’re feeling all right, you’ve got to play it again.” The last two tracks of many lesser albums are just afterthoughts, but in this case, they’re just too damn good to be left out, and “The Beltsville Crucible” has the perfect intensity level to conclude this album and get the listener ready to let track one start all over again. - Marc Gary Gray

Fireworks - The Wild Bunch
“The Wild Bunch,” the final track on Fireworks’ 2011 album Gospel, is bold, unpredictable and wildly fun; splicing swirling finger-picked arpeggios, The-Who-via-Green-Day arena windmill riffs, double-time skate punk, gang vocals and love-your-friends-die-laughing lyrics into one of the most innovative punk songs in recent memory. Anyone who “grew up weird enough” to make a song like this grew up right. - Jesse Richman 

Hostage Calm - One Last Salute
Hostage Calm are the men with the message, and on Please Remain Calm, this song is their ace in the hole. “One Last Salute” has movements, and despite each movement feeling very distinguishable and independently alive, the song is easily cohesive with the intentions of keeping you surprised and racing all the way out. And the “out” is one of splendor, as the last minute or so is a big, theatrical, instrumental jam where every member of the band gets to showcase their talent. Lyrically, it operates to cap off the themes touched on by the record, and Cmar really clinches the finality and solidarity of Please Remain Calm’s message: “So please, one last salute / for the way that we lose.” A sweeping, majestic finale in the face of tribulation. - Adrienne Fisher

Mineral - Parking Lot
You know that Beatles song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps?” Well, the final track from Mineral’s 1997 The Power Of Failing could be retitled “While My Guitar Sobs Like A Fucking Baby.” I don’t know how the melodic-emo originators got that terrifying, heaving wail to come out of a musical instrument, but it’s positively soul shredding. It’s one of the most incredible sounds ever captured in a recording studio, and “Parking Lot” would force its way onto this list just for that, even if the rest of the song wasn’t great. (It is.) - Jesse Richman

The Promise Ring - Forget Me
"Forget Me" was the first Promise Ring song I ever heard and even then it felt like an ending. The poetic lyrics and the natural imagery upon which they draw are simple, yet absolutely beautiful in their ambiguity; not to mention that the wordplay between the title and the chorus - forget me, or forget-me-not? - is a fitting bookend to a record rife with ambivalence and uncertainty. It easily feels like the most desperate song to close out a series of desperate songs, and that chorus melody has got a design that cuts straight to the core and makes you feel with a potency that’s really only suitable as a last hurrah. It’s "emo" at its finest - stripped down, nostalgic, intense, raw and enticing all at once. - Adrienne Fisher

Neutral Milk Hotel – Two-Headed Boy Part II
Holy shit. If you don’t know this album by heart and worship at the altar of Jeff Mangum, you’d better turn in your indie rock street cred and move on to mid-tempo adult alternative and never look back. Every song on this album ruins my life and makes me reconsider every decision that I’ve ever made, so how exactly does one conclude an album like that? I guess one just writes a perfect five minutes of heart-wrenching brilliance with an overture of the best chorus of the previous ten tracks played at half tempo. Yeah, that’ll work. As a closer, this song does everything that it should and more: I feel a sense of closure, yet I can’t wait to listen to the whole thing again. And again. And again. And again… - Marc Gary Gray

Joyce  Manor - Constant Headache
Joyce Manor’s self-titled album is as close to perfect as an album can be for me. It’s such an in-your-face album, yet the lyrics are completely personal. The entire album goes from “I love you” to “Love fucking sucks” and “I hate the way you make me feel” in a straight beeline for self destruction. Yet the last song, “Constant Headache,” is not only completely emotionally unsettling, but also it ends this “fuck everybody” type album on a note completely different. 

“Constant Headache” goes from the other songs about getting screwed to admitting to doing the screwing, in the most gut-wrenching way.  As much as he seems to be in love, he gives an urgent warning to the apple of his eye in the verse: “I’m just a constant headache /a tooth out of line/they try to make you regret it/you tell them ‘no, not this time.’” It’s a classic case of “I’m no good for you, and I want you to know that, but I also love you” described in the best metaphor humanly possible. This song completely goes through all the motions of being in this situation: in the second line of the aforementioned chorus, it even brings up the always-present friends who are trying to warn you, but you don’t care, you won’t regret it, and it will be different this time.

“You having sex in the morning your love was foreign to me/it made me think being human’s not such a bad thing to be. But I just lay there in protest, entirely fucked/it’s such a stubborn reminder one perfect’s night not enough.” It also deals with the internal struggle of how badly he wants this to work, but at this point, he feels like nothing but a burden to the other person, no matter how perfect things can be when together. I think this is something we can all relate to, it certainly puts a knot in my stomach as I’m sure many others. It’s the perfect way to end the record because it’s just like, “Hey, I love you, but I’m no good for you. Sorry.”  -Brittany Oblak (@brittanyoblak)

Jimmy Eat World - 23
Futures is arguably the most important —as well as my favorite — album in the Jimmy Eat World discography. It does an implausible job of showcasing all the best elements that they have to offer as a band. You have a great upbeat opener (“Futures”) as well as songs like “Work” and the radio-popular “Pain.” But then there are the soft, harder hitters like “Kill” and “Drugs or Me.” But the most heart wrenching of them is album closer, “23.” 

I could just copy and paste all seven minutes, or even just one verse, of this song and get my point across, but I guess I’ll just fight through the tears and do my job.  As I had mentioned earlier, this album certainly has bipolar disorder (and I mean that in the best way possible) and is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster, but this song seals the deal. It actually almost seems like there’s two people in this song (I don’t know if that was JEW’s intention or not, but that’s how it feels). The person in verses is trying to explain themselves and make somewhat of an apology and give reassurance:” I won’t always love these selfish things/I won’t always live not stopping.” He’s saying when the time is right, he’ll grow up and get past the things that hold him back now, because they still clearly love that person: “No one else will have me like you do, no one else will have me, only you.” 

However, it’s a completely different person in the chorus, trying to fight and urge the “verse person” that there will probably never be a “right time” (as with most things in life): “You’ll sit alone forever if you wait for the right time/what are you hoping for? I’m here, I’m now, I’m ready, holding on tight/don’t give away the ending, the one thing that stays mine.” 

This song is a tough pill to swallow, especially if you can relate, which most of us can from either side of the “two people” in this song. But it’s a great coming of age song, it’s a fight between still growing up and being in different places in life, but still striving to end up with the right person. It encapsulates that element of growing up and emotion perfectly, and most importantly, ends this album on a perfect note, waiting for the future of Jimmy Eat World (and hopefully a good ending to this story). - Brittany Oblak (@brittanyoblak)

Alkaline Trio - Radio
The hard part with putting Alkaline Trio on a list of great album closers is picking which track to include. In a just world, From Here To Infirmary’s “Crawl” and Good Mourning’s “Blue In The Face” would have entries right here next to this one from 2000’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire. Still, anyone who’s seen the Trio in concert knows that there’s no better moment than shredding your vocal cords to dust, screaming, “I’ve got a big fat fucking bone to pick with you my darling” alongside a couple hundred other sad-sacks. If misery loves company, Matt Skiba is our CEO, and “Radio” is the employee handbook. - Jesse Richman

Motion City Soundtrack - Hold Me Down
Don’t be fooled by the perfect pop guitar and infectious hooks. Hidden beneath these plotted structures and radio-friendly riffs rest a collection of raw and almost too real tales of heartache. If you’re not paying careful attention and just giving Motion City Soundtrack a passing glance, it might never dawn on you that they are actually sad bastards. 

“Hold Me Down” for example, the closer to Motion City Soundtrack’s Commit This To Memory, lends a spotlight look into the scraped knees and bruised egos that come with trying to get your shit together. Presented in a candid, letter-received form, the song’s lyrics take on a confessional approach. The author of the Dear John death sentence admits to being in love, but also reflect on the sacrifices and restrictions that are required to remain in that state. The leaving party confesses after a list of changes and memories, “I love you, however, you hold me down.” 

The song manages to capture an angle of depression and addiction in a manner that few artists have the bravery to approach. There is absolutely no filter. The pain and vulnerability presented to the listener is as real and honest as it comes in music. This genuine approach to songwriting builds a bridge between Motion City Soundtrack and its listeners. Beautifully, this creates an almost “group therapy through audio” effect to the song, reminding the listener that they are not alone in their emotions. There is something extremely comforting in finding some light in that regardless of it stemming from the darkness in an artists life. Motion City Soundtrack’s ability to creation and stir such emotion in complete strangers is the exact reason that musicians butterfly into legends. - Josh Hammond

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    Some pretty good selections, I’d add letlive. - Day 54, Thursday - Tomorrow I’ll Be You and Pianos Become The Teeth -...
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    I love topics like these, here are some of my favorite album closers (in no particular order): Jimmy Eat World - 23...
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    I wrote about 2 songs that hit pretty close to home for me. All my emotions for the month have been expended on this.
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