Posted by: Jamie | October 16, 2013

Top Ten October: Closing Songs

tumblr_m1dmxn2dQ61qhnkvco1_500The final track of a good album is often overlooked or perhaps never reached by a casual listener. It’s a shame really, because just as much care is applied by an artist to end his/her work as it is to begin it. There is something special about a closing song that either allows you to drift off peacefully, or provide that last bang of energy to drop kick the listener into the atmosphere. We at this blog love and deeply appreciate a good final track and here our favorites:

10. “Leif Erikson” from Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002, Matador Records)

This dark, enigmatic closer signs off one of the best debut albums of the last decade. Many critics dubbed Interpol the new Joy Division upon their arrival. Truth is they are way more melodic and musical. On this track, lead singer Paul Banks seems to channel Jim Morrison more than Ian Curtis. The glacial moodiness of Leif Erikson reverberates in your mind long after the last chord is strummed. I have no idea what to make of it lyrically, but you can’t help deny the mystery is beautiful.

9. “When the Levee Breaks” from Led Zeppelin – IV (1971, Atlantic Records)

The greatness of this track boils down to one undeniable element: John Bonham’s drums. This is a groove that doesn’t quit and should never quit. Granted this album packs more classic rock radio fodder per square inch than most LPs, but this final track, clocking in at a little over 7 minutes, is the point where your ears realize that is album is a gift from above. Keep Your Stairway. Give me Levee. When the Levee Breaks makes me wanna wrestle a tornado to the ground and kiss it square on the mouth. “Go to Chicago”, you dummies!

8. “All Apologies” From Nirvana – In Utero (1993, DGC Records)

Somehow this seemed like a final letter from Kurt to the world. “What else can i say?” You can hear the pain in his voice that we all would later come to understand after his untimely death in April of 1994. The riff, the production of Albini, the vocal tracks…it’s all tops. Still, every i time i hear this, either on my own playlist or the radio, i still feel the only respectful response is to turn the stereo off for a moment and let silence give some space for whatever sound comes next. Anything else but Kurt’s voice will always feel wrong.

7. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from The Who – Who’s Next (1971, Polydor Records)

I could try and break this down mathematically or philosophically or whatever. The truth just remains that this song is simply bad ass. This is quintessential Who, all cylinders firing and caps off one of the best rock albums ever recorded. And Daltrey’s sceam at the end will forever be the best last word any band could ever hope to get in. Well, before he says “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss”. I mean, c’mon! If you aren’t doing Pete Townsend windmill air guitar by the end of the song, stop reading this blog. Go read something else because you probably will never get what we will ever talk about.

6. “Sweet Shine” from Sonic Youth – Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (1994, DGC Records)

No one talks about this record because the world is ignorant. I got this on cassette when i was 13 years old and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. Not much has changed as I approach age 32. Like they took up the fallen mantle of indie chic from The Velvet Underground, Experimental Jet Set sounds like the ultimate after-party soundtrack. Everybody is passed out, the color lights are still flickering, and you are just trying to sneak one kiss from the girl you’ve been eyeing all night before you have to go home. This is the album for that electrifying moment. And this last track is pure indie bliss. Kim Gordon’s speak-sing approach has never been sexier or more alluring.

5. “Everything’s Not Lost” from Coldplay – Parachutes (2000, Capitol Records)

Whatever. I know we might lose some cred here because there is a faction that will say Coldplay is weak. And i hear you, I do. But this debut record was great. We aren’t going to try and deny it. And Coldplay was a much more special band when Chris Martin was a sad sack. Not sure if it’s the millions of dollars he’s raked in by now, or his Hollywood wife, but he seems to be a much more jovial guy and to us that has had a profound effect on how we relate to his music. This final track is an anthem for hard pressed optimist. “When I counted up my demons/ Saw there was one for every day”. Preach it, brother. By the time we get to the sing-a-long ending, you know Chris understands your pain and has got a way for you to express it by singing along to his whiny falsetto.

4. “Desolation Row” from Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965, Columbia Records)

This milestone of a recording is probably best known for its opening tune. And yes, I get about as excited as a schoolgirl at Sadie Hawkins dance when I hear that snare shot and opening C chord of Like A Rolling Stone. But one of the true poetic gems of Dylan’s entire catalog lies on the flip side in “Desolation Row”. The gentle acoustic guitars coupled with Dylan’s weary dustbowl snarl meet you with the first lines “They’re selling postcards of the hanging…”. You know you are in for a journey. Dylan, like a sinister tour guide, takes you through a land of misfits, cracked fairy tales and imagery only this master poet was capable of at the time. I mean, my goodness, this was in ’65 don’t forget. This is one good track that puts a nightcap on one of the most celebrated records of all time.

3. “I Dream A Highway” from Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator) (2001, Acony Records)

This song deserves an essay from a real writer and not my ramblings. Its simply some of the greatest musical poetry ever penned. The verses get more and more obscured into the ether as Gillian and Dave meld their voices close together returning again and again to the chorus that lays down rail after rail hoping to build a road back to lost love. My favorite line:

“I’m an indisguisable shade of twilight
Any second now I’m gonna turn myself on
In the blue display of the cool cathode ray
I dream a highway back to you.”

Nearly 15 minutes long, fade out with this slow burner on a summer night and you’ll see things. Beautiful things.

2. “A Day in the Life” from Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967, EMI/Capitol Records)

Do I really have to defend this one? Probably the most important recording ever released and the bow on this Heavenly gift is found in the closer as John’s piano chimes in as he reads us the tales from the daily paper. I’ll just let production genius Sir George Martin tell you about it:

1. “Find the River” from REM – Automatic For The People (1992, Warner Bros. Records)

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my favorite song. Not just #1 on this list. But, my favorite song period. It sends you off after treading through a complicated album centered around loss and nostalgia. Its lyrical poetry, melodic structure and overall aesthetic never ceases to get me little weepy. Shut it. Not afraid to admit that. But seriously, this track is special to me, so if you don’t agree this belongs at the top of this list, then you can politely keep it to yourself. 🙂

“The river to the ocean goes,
A fortune for the undertow
None of this is going my way
There is nothing left to throw
Of ginger, lemon, indigo,
Coriander stem and rows of hay
Strength and courage overrides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river poet search naivete
Pick up here and chase the ride
The river empties to the tide
All of this is coming your way”

Honorable mentions: “Holland Tunnel” off of  John “The Wolfking of LA” Phillips S/T, “Simonize” from Pete Yorn – Musicforthemorningafter, “Train in Vain” from The Clash –London Calling.
What are some of your favorite closing tracks?

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Responses

  1. I’ll make a case for All Those Yesterdays from Yield. When you put the album into the context of Pearl Jam’s entire career to that point, it comes after the unimaginable fame explosion of Ten and Vs., after the furious response of Vitalogy, and the obstinate subversion of expectations in No Code. 7 years inside the crushing fame machine, trying to both make the music they wanted to make while simultaneously fighting the endless expectations for them to make Vs. part IV, V, and VI before it goes out of style and boy bands make their appearance. After all that angst, they make a solid, straightforward rock record with Yield and at the end when Eddie Vedder begins ‘Don’t you think you ought to rest?’ it’s pretty clear they’ve earned the right to ‘wash away all those yesterdays.’ It’s the pivotal moment in Pearl Jam’s history. They’ve won the battle of expectations and the rest of their career they’re free to explore.

    That and the Stone Gossard riff is nicely off kilter. The whole feel is loose. I also think Yield is the peak recording of Eddie Vedder’s voice hands down and the closer covers almost his whole range.

  2. […] “Skink”, “Self-Obsessed and Sexxee”, “Androgynous Mind” and one of the best closing tracks ever, “Sweet […]


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