10 Best Album Closing Tracks
Just as an album’s opening song plays a pivotal part in a record’s cycle, the closing track serves a similar and not totally unrelated purpose.
In a way, the final song is the summation of an LP’s musical and thematic themes, a final word on the past 45 or so minutes. The best discs aren’t collections of singles and filler; they’re complete experiences from start to finish. All of the songs on our list of alternative rock’s Top 10 Album Closing Tracks make great records even better.
“New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”
LCD Soundsystem‘s epic second album ends with this five-minute hymn to the group’s hometown. The entire Sound of Silver record plays like a requiem for friends, memories and a city that are no longer around. “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is a somber close to both the album and the bummer feelings.
Like LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver, PJ Harvey‘s excellent fifth album is an ode to New York City. The British singer-songwriter recorded the album in the U.K., and it sounds like it. But the themes running throughout Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea are undeniably influenced by New York. The anthem-like “We Float” hovers like a quiet victory above it all.
“Fillmore Jive” starts with a typically noise-blasted chunk of art-rock by Pavement that slowly evolves into a slow-burning jam, a fitting tribute to the classic hippie rock venue name-checked in the title. It even stretches out to almost seven minutes — positively Dead-like compared to most indie rock. It’s an epic performance, and an awesome ending to one of the genre’s greatest albums.
“40” became even bigger as the concert-ending number at U2 concerts, where entire halls, arenas and stadiums of fans would sing along. But the song was always destined for greatness, showing up at the end of their breakthrough War album as a sort of prayer after the rest of the LP’s songs about bloodshed and damaged souls.
A career-defining concept album as majestic as Radiohead‘s OK Computer demands a closing track that brings it all down to a human level in the end. “The Tourist,” like many songs on our list of the 10 Best Album Closing Tracks, clocks in at more than five meditative minutes and brings perspective to the record’s main theme.
There’s nothing subtle about Oasis‘ breakthrough album, its closing track or even, well, Oasis. And that’s what makes the grandiloquent “Champagne Supernova” such a perfect finale to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? It’s more than seven minutes of crashing waves, a face-melting guitar solo and an epic ending.
“Train in Vain”
“Train in Vain” wasn’t even supposed to be on London Calling. It was added at the last minute, tagged on to the band’s breakout double-album. The song isn’t listed on the vinyl copies, since the covers were already printed when it was added. But it’s a natural fit to the Clash‘s genre-jumping record, a glorious pop closer to one of the greatest records ever made.
“Here Comes a Regular”
From Let It Be‘s “Answering Machine” to “The Last,” the last song on the Replacements‘ final album, Paul Westerberg always tucked away his most sensitive songs at the end of the punk band’s records — like he was ashamed of them. “Here Comes a Regular” almost serves as a coda to the great Tim, a sad acoustic ballad about wasting away days in the corner bar. It’s not a pretty life, and Westerberg knows it.
Nine Inch Nails‘ second studio album is brutal, cathartic, grim and exhausting. And positively brilliant at times. “Hurt,” like so many other songs on our list of the 10 Best Album Closing Tracks, plays like a much-needed coming down from everything that preceded it. And you really need it after The Downward Spiral. Fans swear by Johnny Cash’s spare end-of-life cover version of “Hurt”; we prefer the every-bit-as-crushing original.
Sure, the live version of “All Apologies,” from the MTV Unplugged in New York album recorded a few months before Kurt Cobain‘s death, is more poignant. But the original take from In Utero is just as moving. And it feels like one last glimmer of hope for Cobain, even though its mournful tone and sighing resignation reflect otherwise. Unplugged may serve as Cobain’s requiem, but his elegy begins here.