Here are the things that I love oh so much about High Fidelity, and miss in my current musical universe:
-knowing endless trivia and stories about every band and song
So for the Paper Crane Collective, I figured I’d combine all these things into a twice-monthly Top 5 list. Every other Tuesday, Those Who Dig will present a list on various topics, genres, themes, news stories, or whatever we feel like writing about that day – along with commentary, stories, and tunes!
I have a very specific idea of what I feel an album closer should be.
This probably stems from the fact that I’m the quintessential album purist. Since I was a youngin’ I’ve always insisted on listening to albums from start to finish in the order they were intended (shuffle is a sin!). Even if I only got through part of an album, the next time I listen to music I always start with that album exactly where I left off. Might be a bit of OCD coming through. A big part of the reason for starting Those Who Dig was to focus on and share music that brought back the album as an album. What this means is a thoughtful layout of track order, rhythm, mood, tempo, and structure. It doesn’t necessarily mean a concept album, just a group of songs thoughtfully strung together in a meaningful order. The opposite of, say, Teenage Dream.
A huge part of an album’s cohesive success is it’s closing track. Sometimes, though, the band just gets it wrong. That doesn’t mean the album is any less great or the song suffers, it’s just that moving the song down a few spots would have given a sense of completion, or would have saved the album from an early peak.
Here are five examples of brilliant songs on brilliant albums that would have been even more brilliant as the last track. The list will also give you an idea of characteristics I feel the perfect closer should have.
Wilco – “I Got You (At The End of the Century)” from Being There
“I Got You” is high energy, has a happy, sing-a-long chorus, and a head fake ending. It’s a grand, sweeping statement of love to perfectly close out an album. Except it’s track seven….on disc one.
Phoenix – “Love Like A Sunset” from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
This list may not exactly prove it, but generally I feel like the best album closers are epic, indulgent affairs. “Love Like A Sunset” is a building, brooding masterpiece that weaves it’s way to a climactic eruption of romance and subtlety. As it is, it serves as space in the middle of an album of tightly packed pop jams. It would have been better as a slow burning send-off.
The Avett Brothers – “Salvation Song” from Mignonette
The Avett’s best album was loosely based on the story of an English yacht whose crew was stranded after a shipwreck and ended up turning to cannibalism. The soon-to-be-huge band would have done well to end an album with such menacing undertones with a mission statement of sorts. “Salvation Song” is the perfect introduction to the boys’ emotional honesty and grand goals and would have perfectly set up everything that has come after.
Al Green – “I’ve Never Found A Girl” from Let’s Stay Together
An album aching with heartbreak and full of pleas to make the girl stay, this track drops in the middle of the sorrow and proclaims the girl found, the love won. Al was probably trying to pull up the listener amidst all the blues, but the effect of this song would have been more profound as a lingering hope closing out a dark period.
Bob Dylan – “Ballad of a Thin Man” from Highway 61 Revisited
This one is bound to piss people off. The undisputed king of perfect closing tracks (“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “I Shall Be Free”, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”) got it wrong on this one. Instead of the boring, meandering, reference-dropping 12 minutes of “Desolation Row”, he could have ended with the hazy, hallucinogenic manifesto of 60’s counterculture, “Ballad of a Thin Man”. I still love you, Bobby.
-Words by Kyle