Friday, September 12, 2014

25 Essential Album Closers

There's a reason 'save the best for last' is a phrase, because often times, especially in music, the finale is the grandest expose of all the work that went into the creative endeavor. Sometimes it takes the form of the climax through production exceptionalism, other times it's a resounding conclusion to the album's previous tour through the mind of its creator. In these 25 cases however, the finale is necessary to understanding the cohesive whole, with the epic scale that's showcased in the last breathing moments of the album's runtime a frontrunner and staple for the artist's career, their final touch on potential years of work. Here are 25 essential closers, with the accompanying song if you wish to click the picture. 

Dan Deacon
Get Older

Deacon's work, despite being grounded in one very simplified genre, is unlike any of his peers. His experimental approach to electronic dance is noticeable to the trained ear immediately. Take his 2nd album Bromst for example. A true tour-de-force in celebratory music, there's not a single down moment, sans the classically-tuned piano keys on Snookered and haunting womanly vocalizations on Wet Wings. Get Older turns his style, speed, and rhythm up to 11 as a final force into the outer level of human mind-melting as the self-induced temporary dance-coma reaches its pivotal peak. It's hard not to get washed up in the over-abundance.

Fiona Apple
Hot Knife
The Idler Wheel

Off one of 2012's most acclaimed albums, 'Hot Knife' doesn't astound using more of Fiona's intricate and metaphorical lyrics, nor does it relish in the soft, lavish instrumentation that adorns The Idler Wheel. Rather, it reduces itself to drudging drum sets and repeated recitations, all in the name of wrapping up yet another love record from the heart-broken queen herself. The addition of her sister, vocally harmonizing beneath her, adds a vital layer to the track, wrapping the album down under simplicity, not excess. It's cold, dark, and looming, with the drums never ending, and all-prevailing. 'Hot Knife' was the unexpected conclusion to an album that could have lived without it, yet blossomed because of it.

MF DOOM (As Viktor Vaughn)
Change The Beat
Vaudeville Villain

Never one to fail at pushing the boundaries of what constituted Hip-Hop in the mid-2000's, DOOM brought on his ensemble of personas to create distinct albums that, by the nature of the characters that helmed them, resembled a miniature superhero universe except, in this case, everyone was a villain. Viktor Vaughn was his finest creation, with Vaudeville Villain being, in my opinion, DOOM's finest work. 'Change The Beat' took everything VV had and mashed it into a 3 minute tromp through various beats, allowing DOOM to switch his style and flow on a dime. The pinnacle of this attempt is the final beat to grace the recording, with DOOM spouting at the fastest the grizzled-tongue rapper has ever conceived, tumbling over his own words, something so human the persona he carries seems to vanish.

The Roots
...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

The Roots' 11th studio album may have critically been lost on some with its brevity (not me however), yet something no one can deny is the stunning conclusion entirely devoid of any rapping, starring Raheem DeVaughn as he croons over the diminished lives experienced prior to his appearance. His arrival spells an end and a beginning for the citizens, as with wasted life sees the hope for a new tomorrow, seeking God for the retrieval of past failures. The production, so eloquently matching DeVaughn's cadence, brandishes itself as a departure from the darkness they've escaped. Included within this is the momentous cessation, complemented with swelling horns, dazzling percussion, and a room-filling piano piece.


There are few albums with as many high moments as Aquemini. Sprawling doesn't begin to describe the 75 minutes of near-musical perfection showcased here. And yet, as you feel it winding down, or feel your brain beginning to lose sensibility from the 9-minute liberation on 'Liberation', 'Chonkyfire' jolts one last bolt into the album using none other than the fiercest guitar riff heard on a Hip-Hop record, with an accompanying bass line to match. And yet, the most spectacular part of 'Chonkyfire' isn't the beat, nor Dre's exalted chorus, but Big Boi's jaw-dropping verse, as all aggression found previously plummets down an abyss, leaving only a piano for Sir Lucious Left Foot to stomp out the remaining critics who felt this thing wouldn't live up to the hype.

Beach House

Beach House never fails to put closure to an album. Both 'Home Again' off Devotion and 'Take Care' off Teen Dream could have easily taken 'Irene's' place here. Each play off the same con, relentlessly washing over listeners with the catchiest, most serene chorus they could have thought up. What 'Irene' accomplishes that the others don't though, and only from a gained maturity, is the realization that what they're doing works, deciding to run the gamut with "it's a strange paradise," thus becoming the group's longest song. Arguably more than any other Beach House track, Bloom's closer echoes the groups Dream Pop mentality the strongest, with a lush, deeply ethereal soundscape that renders the brain incapacitated as it dozes off into another realm of consciousness.

Odd Future
OF Tape Vol.2

I still remember the day the OF Tape leaked. Some rifled through the album, perusing the album's 17 tracks, while others, to impatient to ignore the 10-minute monster 'Oldie,' complete with the peculiarly featured "Odd Future," skipped everything else in hopes that the mythical return of Earl was to occur on the back of it. And sure enough, it happened, at roughly the 7-minute mark, with an earth-shattering 2-minute verse to surpassed any and all's expectations. What 'Oldie' was, especially the video that joined it, was a ragtag group of kids battle rapping for no reason other than that they could. Each brought their A-game, and rightfully so, because 'Oldie,' more than any other track or mixture of tracks the collective have released perfectly encapsulates the talents of each member across the board.

Rhinestone Cowboy

It was apparent from the get-go that Madvillainy was going to be a special record. DOOM in his prime, matched with the intrinsically-gifted producer MadLib could have only birthed a creative endeavor unlike anything surrounding it. While numerous tracks off the LP showcased the rapper's dexterity over unorthodox beats, none quite captured the emcee's straight lyrical ferocity as 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' Take the knockout blow to cap his presence "It's made of fine chrome alloy, find him on the grind, he's the rhinestone cowboy." 4, count em', 4 internal rhymes, all making reference back to the title and DOOM's mask. Never has a rapper been so technically skilled. Madlib's oft-kilter beat, melding multiple samples beautifully, along with a continuous applause, just shows how much the duo knew the record's potential to excel.

Arcade Fire
In The Backseat

No matter how often Win tries, Regine always ends up stealing the show. In one of the most emotionally-distraught songs ever created, Chassange tackles directly the prevailing message encapsulated throughout Funeral. That being the collapsing world surrounding a twenty-something as their elders slowly begin to parish. 'In The Backseat,' with its striking use of violinist Sarah Neufeld's emotive power through sound alone, strikes a chord with listeners delicately, before exploding into a volcanic belting as the soft-spoken mistress in the group relinquishes her subtlety, showing her true passion. Coming on the heels of the previous 42 minutes, 'In The Backseat' accumulates all the problems the group has faced thus far into a 6-minute revival of feelings long since contained.

It Ain't Hard To Tell

An album of such high-quality has to end at some point. While 'It Ain't Hard To Tell' feels more like an introduction to a rapper fresh on the scene, the reality of it closing Illmatic only sets into motion just how evident Nas' masterpiece was in terms of creating forever-treasured tracks. All 9 of them have maintained a memory resonating in the hearts and styles of a thousand rappers. 'It Ain't Hard To Tell' was possibly the most-gleaming jewel in the case. Straight from the initial vocal sample of Michael Jackson's 'Human Nature,' Large Professor's beat is nothing short of amazing, down to the synth line that fluctuates throughout the piece. Using this mix of eloquent street rap and jazz influences, Nas curated an ode to himself, taking the light off his projects for one last foul swoop at gritty, ego-boosting, braggadocios rap because, really, who wouldn't after creating Illmatic.

Joanna Newsom

Following Ys' extravagant portrayal of Shakespearean language in the 21st century, Joanna Newsom removed her guard for 'Cosmia,' an introspective look at the death of her friend. The song remains the only one on the 5-track album to constitute structure, with Newsom's sharp, yet fragile harp flourishes on 6 single repeated plucks. Yet, throughout the swelling instrumentation, the brightest star remains the lead and her tenuous voice. 'Cosmia's' chorus remains the most beautifully constructed segment on all of Ys, with its centerpiece "now in the quiet hour, when I am sleepin', I cannot keep the night from coming in" stealing the show, representing the artist's poetic genius in its grandest, must sublime fashion. The song's so beloved that underground Hip-Hop Producer Exile collaborated with Fashawn to create a Hip-Hop reincarnation of it, that's nearly as heart-wrenching as the original.

Son Lux
Lanterns Lit

There's something captivating about hearing Lanterns for the first time. Whether you like the experimental nature of Son Lux's third record, one that sports a range of influences from Rock to Hip-Hop despite sounding nothing like either, there's no denying the idiosyncrasy of his conceptual endeavor. Based from the hands of his own stewardship, a new world has been formed, and the finale guides you there with his trembling voice melodically chanting "I'll keep my lanterns lit." The rushing thump perpetrating the first half of the track is met with a grandiose celebration, complete with chimes and choir hymns, that signal in the dawn of the new age. It's one hell of a closer that packs a punch in the time it takes to soar off its feet, leaving the salivating taste of wanting more.

Danny Brown

There's only a handful of songs that perfectly encapsulate an artist's direction, talents, and tribulations stronger than Danny Brown's '30.' The purveyor of the two-sided coin, Brown capitalizes on Hip-Hop's two primary suitors; party anthems and gritty, hard-nose life stories. '30' remains one of the only tracks where his lewd humor ("sent ya bitch a dick pick, now she need glasses") weaves itself through the torment of his life thus far ("the thought of no success got a nigga chasing death, doing all these drugs in hopes of OD'ing next, Triple X"). It's a tantalizing portrayal of an artist conflicted with his own beliefs, unsure of not only his own life, but the direction his music shall take, since it would affect the former. Closing out his eruptive mixtape on this inconclusiveness only dictates his message further.


While the track may still be in its infancy, 'Alcohol' composes everything the supergroup of Sufjan Stevens, Son Lux, & Serengeti set out to accomplish, with each one respectively honing their talents in to the cataclysmic finale. Set against Son Lux's hauntingly warlike beat, that evolves into hideous monster after hideous monster, 'Alcohol' turns Sisyphus' self-titled debut into some dark, dark corners. Serengeti's painful unraveling of his alcoholic parents and their mis-treatment of him as a child benefits greatly from his direct, monotone delivery, as one defeated upon others' torment would do, much like the story of Sisyphus. And yet, trapped within himself lies his own breakthrough, in the form of Sufjan wailing "I am not my father" to close out the album, a beautifully horrific conclusion to a eerily real fantasy.

The Antlers
Putting The Dog To Sleep
Burst Apart

Masters of the tear-jerker, The Antler's put all their left over anguish into Burst Apart's stunning finale, with the title itself implying a struggle to meet an end over the eventual death of a loved companion. In this case however lead Peter Silberman metaphorically implants the phrase into his current, crumbling relationship, debating a mutual breakup before things become ugly. The addition of one lone, soul-squishing guitar pluck acts as a knife slowly protruding into the hearts of the two involved with each subsequent flair up. The overall simplicity of the track, along with Silberman's voice reacting to the realization that things are deteriorating around him, place 'Putting The Dog To Sleep' high on the list of emotional closers.

Demon Days
Demon Days

Finally a song that turns a potentially gloomy ending into an upbeat frolic through watery beaches on tropical islands, a staple of much of Albarn's creative endeavor. The theory is relatively straight forward; the bad days are upon us, the earth has turned cold, the air isn't safe to breath, and we numb ourselves with drugs and TV. And yet, midway through the disheartened tromp, a spark of instilled positively reaches us in the form of the London Community Gospel Choir, seeking refuge for a brand new day. Face yourself to the sun, embrace the positive elements of a crumbling society, and release the demons lurching on your back.  Demon Days laid its foundation on an alternate world pivoting itself as a critic to our society, only to relinquish the hardships that society causes us by devoting itself to finding the good in evil.

Animal Collective
Brother Sport
Merriweather Post Pavilion

While Merriweather Post Pavilion further succeeded in transitioning Animal Collective through yet another sonic shift, the real expansion that occurred was a mental one. Songs like 'My Girls' and closer here 'Brother Sport' attacked the future of remedial life, something Animal Collective previously strayed as far away from as possible. Now, whilst continuing on with their creative spirit in neo-psychedelia, the group foresaw their greatly changing lives, and 'Brother Sport,' covering Noah Lennox's father passing and his brother's inability to cope and move forwards, instills the fear of the future, while approaching it with selective content resolution. The progressively building track culminates with the calling of Matt (Lennox's brother) to "give a real shout out" in an attempt at moving past the past.

Life In A Glass House

While Amnesiac, recorded during the same time as fabled Kid A, was in radical contrast to the outfit's previous works, the finale to that album threw out all that experimentalism for some good ol' fashion instrumentation, complete with string and horns, which then made the whole record even weirder. The trumpet that softly mumbles to itself before climaxing during the chorus acts as a wake-up call, a jolt removed from the technological detours the group was making previously. Thom Yorke's whimsical approach to the invasion of our governments and the removal of our privacy, a la 1984, reeks of experience from his own inabilities to escape the public's eye. 'Life In A Glass House' was a departure from a departure, a tragic conclusion to an experimental endeavor unlike any others.

$4 Vic/FTL (Me & You)
Cancer 4 Cure

You know, I could make an argument that $4 Vic, the astonishing conclusion to Cancer 4 Cure, is one of the most underrated tracks since the new decade. It's an entire summation of El-P's work that spanned the aught's, tracing itself through 8 glorious, riveting minutes and numerous beat switch-ups. Everything comes together here; thunderous drum loops meet electric guitar riffs that mash-up against bubbling synths, all whilst El-P spits his heart out until it bleeds profusely. And just when the middle section fades downward with a tantalizing piano refrain, assuming C4C has reached its pinnacle, a final farewell seeps its way inwards, as instrumental screeches overtake the background as El-P repeats "there's nothing left here for you and me," symbolizing the end of his tenure with his companion.

Modest Mouse
Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice On Ice, Alright
The Lonesome Crowded West

To this day it continues to boggle my mind that The Lonesome Crowded West was written and sang by a 22-year old kid with a severe lisp. How? Furthermore, 'Styrofoam Boots' perplexes me even further. A tale told from the perspective of Peter the Disciple, Jesus, and an Atheist Brock as he reaches heaven? Blasophomy! And yet nothing on the spectacularly crafted previous 14 tracks sounds as remotely harmonious, sincere, and improvisational as it. Following the revelation that "God takes care of himself, and you of you," a section of mellow monotony tracks itself before Jeremiah Green's show-stopping drum breaks erupt into a fireball of released tension, an exhalation of sorts as Brock belts that "it's all nice on ice, alright."

Kanye West
Late Registration

From the initial piano taps Gone was poised to be a classic, and it surely lived up to it. Even Yeezy knew it when he squeaks "uh oh" right before he begins his bridge, fully aware of the dirtiness that will soon envelope the track. The swelling string sections that rise, dissipate and fluctuate throughout the song are indicative of the direction West aimed at taking during Late Registration, an orchestrally focused record. Cam'ron and Consequence join the Windy City rap star, pulling their weight, but it isn't until Ye's final verse, hyped by an instrumental breakdown that sees violins pairing with static drums, that the explosion occurs. Arguably Kanye's greatest verse ever laid to record, the 31 bars that encompass it are air-tight, packed with superfluous talk of his career thus far, ending with the statement "sorry Mr.West is gone," a callback to the opening skit.

13th Floor/Growing Old

During the mid-90's few were willing to push boundaries in Hip-Hop, often remaining stagnant in street rap, only 'improving' to mafioso banters, as the decline of the D.I.A.S.Y Age potentially spelled doom for a genre devoid of any friendly competition. Thankfully Outkast arose, and '13th Floor/Growing Old' was, at that point in 1996, thee greatest example of the duo's ability to create something unmatched by anything in the genre at the time. The powerful spoken word prophetic message by Big Rube is further expelled by the genuine piano melody that solemnly plays in the background, before Debra Killings takes over belting "my memories of yesterday." Nearly 2 minutes pass before we hear a 'Kast member, and when we do we're greeted with Dre pondering the life of those making more dough than him and the jealousy that overtakes him. Later on, the fear of growing old is present, as leaves fall from the autumn trees, symbolizing a new start. In '96 nothing did truly sound like them, Hip-Hop's outcasts. 

The Brave & The Snake
Never Better

Off the criminally under-appreciated Never Better, 'The Brave & The Snake' is a punctual showing of talents from an emcee who began with his interests fully invested in Punk Rock. While the songs contained within P.O.S.' 3rd LP pack a radical punch through his diverse wordplay and unique production qualities, its finale launches the final onslaught, with a bevy of hay-makers as a means to extinguish any remaining energy belt up inside the DoomTree collective rapper. What initially starts as a depressingly grueling instrumental that heaps of the last breaths of an artist whose already shown their 10, TB&TS takes a sudden, immediate departure into excess, reaching 11 in one action-filled, quick-tongued verse that tears down all construction built up around it, before once again dissipating back to its swollen abyss. Then, repeat, as P.O.S. regurgitates his previous verse before switching it all, echoing the screams of his past self, before collapsing upon his own ferocity with "And to the great escape!" repeated 8 times. It truly is a great escape.  

Blue Sky Black Death
Sky With Hand

Shoegaze has always been a hit-or-miss genre. On one hand, creating it in one's bedroom using the latest free audio software is easily accomplished. On the other however, is a dedication to perfection, with layers placed with specification that doesn't rely off guaranteed ahh's, but instead evokes a sincere emotion and conjures up thoughts of a time long since past. 'Sky With Hand' is possibly the greatest example of said feelings since Boards Of Canada entered the scene. The sparkling opening melodic synth, in coercion with seagulls gawking and a sample etched through a vinyl ruffled by years of collecting dust sets the stage for the masterpiece that Blue Sky Black Death created. Its movements, all distinct and equally memorable, flow through each other like waves crashing on an ocean, entirely different yet sonically similar. And yet, the final one sits apart, as everything previously heard mashes together in harmonious brilliance, a definite trait of the craft shown on display.

Arcade Fire
Sprawl II (Mountains Over Mountains)
The Suburbs

Technically not the closer, 'Sprawl II' is easily the symbolic ending to The Suburbs, as it signaled numerous colliding points at once. Regine's revivalism culminates all the messages, metaphors, and meanings on The Suburbs into a neat, glitzy package, while marking the end of one generation, Arcade Fire's grandiose Indie Rock with the beginning of a new one, their transition into a revival of modern-day 80's glam pop, something later found on Reflektor. Chassenge elegantly weeps over the changing guard of human society, as the conformists beg of her to give in, and yet, despite how bleak the lyrics are, the sound is the most uplifting Arcade Fire has to put to record. It's a moment of realization for the darling, that, maybe, seeing the truth isn't all it was cracked up to be, and our combined ignorance would rather be more fitting. However, I don't see the glitz and glamour of 'Sprawl II' implying a negation of that fact, but more a test to move past it. 'Sprawl II' could, as 'Wake Up' was to the 2000's, a song for a generation. 

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