Thursday, March 29, 2012

Don't give away the end: My favorite opening and closing tracks

Following a viewing of High Fidelity late last fall (one of my favorite films, thanks to John Cusack's honest and funny portrayal and Bruce Springsteen's brief cameo), I got into a bit of a list making furor. In the film, Rob, Cusack's character, has a tendency to compile everything into top five lists, including, at one point the film, his "top five side-one, track-ones." It got me thinking, for perhaps the hundredth time, about what my favorite opening and closing tracks would be, but I let this list fall by the wayside for a long time, until I actually read High Fidelity and got it going again. Needless to say, it's taken me awhile to sit down and actually write this all out, but the goal remains the same as it was last fall. A great opening track can turn a good album into a classic, a solid set of songs into a personal soundtrack. So many opening tracks have an anthemic quality to them, a mood that just sets the tone for the record so well that it's impossible to imagine it opening any other way. On the other side of things, many artists always save their best song for last, and I think that's the way I will do things when I make a record (someday). There's just something so profoundly emotional about a great album going out on it's highest note: it makes you feel like you can do anything, and maybe more importantly, it makes you want to listen to the entire thing again. Sometimes, an album can feel like it's just been building to the climactic moment of the closing track, and when that moment finally arrives, it's nothing short of cathartic. Whenever I listen to a new album, I always await that closing track: it's what separates the boys from the men, and every single one of my favorite albums goes out with a resounding high note. Keep in mind that this is not science. There are so many classic candidates for both of these lists, and trimming them to five for each was murder (and didn't really happen...), but what remains represents not only my favorite tracks in a (somewhat) narrow category, but some of the greatest songs ever put on record.


1. One song per artist, per category. Otherwise Bruce would fairly easily have two in each, and Butch and Jimmy would both stand a fairly good shot at grabbing two of the slots in the album closer section.
2. The album in question has to be at least a year old, and I have to have been listening to it for at least a year as well. You never know what's going to stand the test of time.
3. Intros or outros don't count. A closer is a closer, even if there's an epilogue afterwords (though I will never understand the band who tacks on a lame outro track). Hidden tracks, if they were featured on the actual CD do count, however. Why? Because I want them to.


1. Bruce Springsteen - "Thunder Road" from Born to Run (1975)

I don't know how many times I've gone on about how perfect a song and how perfect an opener this masterpiece is, but rest assured, I could go on for much longer. From the chilling piano/harmonica intro to the deeply poetic lyrics (especially the first verse), there's nothing about this song I would change. I'm not sure Bruce has ever sounded better than he does here, and I still get chills when I hear him sing "show a little faith, there's magic in the night." The song just builds and builds, eschewing the normal verse/chorus dynamic of most pop and rock songs, and just flowing in a way that I still can't describe, even after I've listened to it hundreds of times and played it myself on countless occasions. No album has ever opened with a more powerful or inspirational song: it sets the scene for what is to follow, gathering steam as it goes, with Bruce's vocal line getting higher and the band closing in, until it all collapses, in a cascade of piano keys, into Clarence Clemons repeating sax solo. I don't think there could possibly a more fitting introduction to the greatest album of all time.

2. U2 - "Where the Streets Have No Name" from The Joshua Tree (1987)

The opening minutes of this 1987 classic, still one of the greatest albums of all, brought this band from good to great, from a force in the music industry to an icon, and in this track, you'll find every reason for why U2 has been the biggest band on the planet for so many years. When the Edge's unforgettable guitar riff echoes through the intro about a minute in, it's one of the most chilling moments in all of rock music, and the way Bono sings this song is incredible: he sounds hungry, and it's that quality that makes him one of the finest frontmen in rock. The song is at once forcefully inspirational and completely moving, a massive, life-changing kind of rock song that has soundtracked countless personal victories for me over the years. When they played the Super Bowl halftime following September 11th, it was this song that they used to unite those in the stadium (and those watching all around the country), immediately delivering one of the most iconic television performances of all time. And even though Springsteen and Butch will always be my favorite artists and dominate my top live shows list, I don't think I've ever been as excited to hear a song live, or as thoroughly elevated seeing one as I was when U2 finally pulled this song out during the first encore when I saw them last summer. It sat a number one on my "songs I need to see live" list for a solid year, and when I finally witnessed it, it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

3. The Wallflowers - "One Headlight" from Bringing Down The Horse (1996)

"One Headlight" introduced The Wallflowers to the world via the sound of the couple of ringing guitar notes that echoed through the speakers of car radios everywhere in 1996. Next to the harmonica wail that kicks off "Thunder Road," I don't think there's a moment that's ever drawn me into a song, and album, or an artist as fast than the first few seconds of "Headlight" do. But where those notes were merely introducing the world of mainstream music to the presence of Bob Dylan's son (Jakob Dylan, who fronts the band), for me, it was where this whole big, messy, all-consuming obsession with music began. Back in '96 or '97, whenever my older brother got his hands on Bringing Down The Horse, I had him make me a cassette tape copy of it, and "One Headlight" soon became my first ever "favorite song." A decade and a half later, it still wouldn't be far off. Jakob Dylan tackles death and broken hearts, all in a killer five minute pop song, surrounded by a bed of rootsy-rock glory (to this day, I find myself comparing similar bands to the Flowers' performances on this record). I love the song for all of those things: for the lyrics that continue to confound me to this day, for the stellar musicianship on display, but especially for that hook, which never fails to take me back in time.

4.  Bob Dylan - "Like a Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Rolling Stone called it the greatest song ever written, and there are days when I've felt inclined to agree (though I've probably committed some sort of blasphemy by putting it below his son's song). Springsteen described the song's opening as "the snare shot that sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind," and the song as a whole shattered the boundaries of the pop song, dragging onto six-minutes, electrifying Dylan's sound, and delivering verse after verse of impossibly good poetry (his best) before exploding into that iconic chorus. "How does it feel? To be on your own? To be without a home?" he asked, over and over, destroying Dylan's folk roots, sending the world of pop music reeling, and bringing rock 'n' roll to a height that Lennon and McCartney (and all who came after them) never reached or matched. It is not my "favorite" song of all time, but objectively, it's almost certainly the greatest.

5. Matthew Ryan - "Return to Me" from Regret Over The Wires (2003)

What can I say about the song that has probably landed itself on more of my mixtapes and playlists than perhaps any other in my collection? This slow burning track, juxtaposing a lurching electronic drum beat with a gentle acoustic swell to create an atmosphere that is both hopeful and relaxing, and Ryan's low, soothing vocals sound rich and warm from beginning to end. In my collection, I don't think there's a single song that I've returned to (no pun intended) for comfort, time and time again, like I have this one. In turns, it's been a lullaby, a soundtrack for thoughtful drives, a farewell to important things in my life, and even a victory anthem, and for that reason, it's become one of the most played songs and best kept secrets in my collection. I love it today as much or more than I did the first time I ever heard it, and while I think it would have worked just as well as a closer as it does an opener, it remains one of my all time favorite songs, and therefore deserves a slot on this list.

6. Chad Perrone - "Blinded" from Wake (2008)

I discovered Chad Perrone two summers ago, on a recommendation from a guy on a message board I frequent. He's an independent artist out of Boston with a knack for writing killer pop hooks, and the perfect voice with which to deliver them. This song was my introduction to his solo material, and I'm honestly not sure if there has been a more perfect pop song written this millennium. The hook feels so effortless, and yet so completely flawless, that it attached itself to my brain on first listen and has yet to let go. And Perrone sings with such emotion and conviction that it's hard to believe that he's a complete unknown. The level of talent on display here, especially in the way he sings the song's massive bridge, is infectious, and I honestly believe that this song could have been a huge hit had it been marketed correctly. It's a shame it wasn't, but as it stands, it's my own personal treasure, a perfect opener to a ridiculously varied set of songs that has quickly risen up my list of favorite albums over the past two years. But even after he took my album AND song of the year titles in 2011 (with his album Release and the song "Under Different Circumstances," respectively), this one perfect song is still him at the peak of his powers, and still manages to blow me away every time I listen to it. If you need an opening track for your summer playlist this year, I don't think there's a better one than this.

Honorable Mentions: The Who - "Baba O' Riley" from Who's Next (1971)

"Baba O' Riley," next to "Born to Run," is probably the biggest anthem in music history. Is there a more satisfying chord progression in music than the one that explodes at the start of this song? Roger Daltrey gives one of the all time great vocal performances, and Pete Townshend's bizarre electronic textures create an atmosphere that is impossible to resist. Few things scream rock 'n' roll as loud as this song's massive, crashing verse sections, subsiding eventually into an Irish, folk-tinged violin solo that carries the song out. For me, it was one of the songs I found myself blasting at maximum volume on my way to my high school graduation. When you listen to this song in that situation, you feel immortal, and the song is immortal because of that. It's so good, in fact, that I've never been able to love Who's Next as much as I would like because it just cannot live up to the impossibly high standard set by this song. 

Counting Crows - "Round Here" from August And Everything After (1993)

Counting Crows are one of those bands that undeniably peaked with their debut album, and it's hard to think of many opening tracks that establish a more immediate impression, not just for an album, but for an entire career, than "Round Here." Legend has it that the recording that ended up on the album was the the only time the song was ever played in that arrangement, so this is a rare case where the live versions of the song (which go on for ten minutes, with singer Adam Duritz singing variations on a melodic line, with a bunch of alternations, extra lyrics, and emotional build thrown in for good measure) are actually the signature versions. If that's the case, then the band stumbled upon something genius when they recorded that take, because the album version is one of the most beautifully understated openers on any album. Duritz is clearly the star here, delivering some of his most poetic lyrics with what is perhaps his best vocal performance today. His delivery is at once yearning and heartbreaking, and the song's arrangement showcases a full range of emotion, building to an incredible climax 3/4 through. The 10 seconds of silence that kick off the record only add the breathtaking intimacy and power of the song when it finally hits.

But how can I have an opener list without at least mentioning Augustana ("Hey Now"), The Beach Boys ("Wouldn't It Be Nice?"), Beck ("The Golden Age"), Black Lab ("Mine Again"), Butch ("The Weight of Her"), Cary Brothers ("Ghost Town"), The Damnwells ("Soundtrack"), Dashboard ("Hands Down" or "The Brilliant Dance"), Bowie ("Five Years"), The Fucking Eagles, Man! ("Hotel Calfornia"), Elton John ("Tiny Dancer"), Fastball ("The Way"), The Gaslight Anthem (a wash between "American Slang" and "Great Expectations"), Goo Goo Dolls ("Big Machine"), any of the Jack's Mannequin openers, most of the Jimmy Eat World ones (especially "Futures"), Lennon ("Imagine"), Jon McLaughlin ("Industry"), Josh Ritter ("Girl in the War"), The Killers ("Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"), Lydia ("This is Twice Now"), any Marvelous 3, Mat Kearney ("All I Have" or "Undeniable"), Matt Nathanson ("Car Crash"), Oasis ("Hello"), Pete Yorn ("Life on a Chain"), Ryan Adams ("New York, New York"), Ryan Bingham ("Southside of Heaven"), Safetysuit ("Someone Like You"), Sister Hazel ("Your Mistake"), either Something Corporate opener, Switchfoot ("Needle in Haystack Life"), Third Eye Blind ("Faster"), Valencia ("Better Be Prepared"), Will Hoge ("Hard to Love"), William Fitzsimmons ("It's Not True"), 1969 ("Why the Suspense"/"Wreck Me"), or extra Springsteen ("Badlands"), U2 ("Sunday Bloody Sunday"), Wallflowers ("Days of Wonder"), Dylan ("Tangled Up In Blue"), Chad Perrone ("OK") and Counting Crows ("Hard Candy").


1. Bruce Springsteen - "Jungleland" from Born to Run (1975)

 Just as "Thunder Road" is the flawless introduction to this record, "Jungleland" is the only appropriate closer: an epic, 9 minute and 38 second masterpiece that, at times contends with the opener as my all time favorite song. Springsteen bid farewell to this type of extended, freewheeling narrative song after Born to Run (he'd attempt another on 2009s Working on a Dream, with mixed results), but the last one was by far the greatest, showcasing some of his best lyrics to date. But even as Bruce's characters progress and his words weave themselves into your brain, "Jungleland" thrives most on the strength of the performance of the E-Street Band, which is the best band performance ever committed to tape. Take Roy Bittan's powerful, expressive playing throughout; Danny Federici's explosive organ noise at the song's key moments; Bruce's rousing guitar solo at the halfway point; Max Weinberg's torrential downpour of drums; and then, of course, the granddaddy of all Clarence Clemons sax solos, a two and a half minute outpouring of emotion that has, at many moments, taken my soul to a higher place and brought tears to my eyes. Following his death last summer, I found many entire essays examining the "Jungleland" sax solo: how it saved lives, how Clarence Clemons' playing somehow tells a story of a million words without anyone saying anything at all, how when the solo collapses back into the sound of a broken organ and Springsteen's more broken vocals, we feel as emotionally exhausted as he does. It's arguably the single greatest moment in the history of recorded music, and that, along with Bruce's wordless wails that close the song out, makes "Jungleland" the undisputed BEST closer of any album, all time.

2. Jimmy Eat World - "23" from Futures (2004)

It's almost unfair that Jimmy Eat World have to contend with "Jungleland" here, because each of their albums sports the perfect closer, and most of them (the exceptions being Clarity and possibly Invented) save their best track for last. There have been days since the release of Chase This Light in 2007 where I've thought that "Dizzy" was the best thing the band ever wrote, but ultimately, I always end up coming back to "23." And it makes sense that I do, because Futures might have been the single most pivotal album in my musical evolution. When it came to me in the fall of 2004, it was the first album to show me the huge effect that music could have on me, to show me how an album could become something completely personal, could help me through the hard times, serve as soundtrack for the good ones, and become a part of me. And the best thing about Futures is that, over the seven and a half intervening years, it has never stopped growing and changing with me: I can still listen to it on cold fall nights and feel the same way I did the very first time. And as the sweeping chorus of "23" closes out that titanic record, it reaches through the crashing finale and wraps itself around me, swelling and exploding into one of the most gorgeous finales I have ever heard: one that has never failed to move me. It seems appropriate that Futures ends on its highest note, because it makes the message of the album that much clearer: that there’s no sense in waiting for life to come and find you, because you just have to get up and go after it. It’s a hell of a wild ride, and staring off into the great unknown can be the scariest thing in the world, but when Jim Adkins sings "Don't give away the end/The one thing that stays mine," I can just relax and know that, after all, that's part of the fun.

3. Butch Walker - "Stateline" from Letters (2004)

Here's a somewhat controversial (for lack of a better word) choice, since it's a hidden track rather than the album's proper closer. But like I said, a closer is a closer, and few reach the heights of this one. Butch made what is probably his strangest choice ever in relegating this track to hidden track status, as it is absolutely one of his two or three best songs, and provides a fitting emotional climax to a very emotional record. With little more than his acoustic guitar (and some tasteful reverb effects) to keep him company, Walker delivers one of his rawest and most emotional vocal performances ever, building, much like "Jungleland," to a cathartic wordless wail to finish it out. Walker channels every last ounce of his sadness and pain into the lyric (which depicts a man who never gets to see his kids) until it overwhelms him. As the crashing noise of that wordless bridge subsides, the song fades to silence and the guitar vanishes, making way for Walker's last words: "thinking of you with my last breath." Sung a cappella, the line is one of the most cutting and chilling moments of the record and the perfect encapsulation of the journey the record represents. And just for the record, had my rules been different, had I not allowed myself to choose hidden tracks, Butch would have been in this slot anyway, for the songwriting showcase of a singalong that is "When the Canyons Ruled the City."

4.  "Cigarette Lighter Love Song" from Readysexgo! (2000)

 Here's a stretch, since the Butch Walker-fronted band pretty much served as his personal musical vehicle, but since the artists are technically different, and since this song is simply too good to leave off, here we go. Marvelous 3 fractured and broke up after releasing Readysexgo!, their power-pop-meets-arena-rock masterpiece, which functioned as both a prophetic farewell to fans and a major "fuck you" to Elektra Records, who cut of the band's promotion and left them for dead after a single hit. Butch still plays this one today though, and when he does, he often describes it as "the last song we ever wrote, the last song we ever played as a band, and the last song we ever put on a record." It's not just a finale too a terrific record, it's the coda of the band's entire journey. The way it builds from a hushed piano opening to an explosive, guitar layered bridge (concluding with Walker's shout of "I guess this is the end"), is nothing short of chilling, and over ten years later, the song still stands as one of Walker's very best. For a long time, I thought it was the best song I'd ever heard; when I heard Walker perform it last fall, in an almost completely a cappella arrangement, I thought, for a few minutes at least, that I might have been right.

5. The Dangerous Summer - "Never Feel Alone" from Reach for the Sun (2009)

Reach for the Sun, for me, is an album thoroughly entwined with my final months of high school, my graduation, and the summer that followed: there's not a song on the record that I don't adore, not a single one that doesn't take me back to a moment or a feeling from my past. But every song on the record pales in comparison to "Never Feel Alone," which, even after The Dangerous Summer landed easily on the top of my favorite albums list for last year, will probably always be their definitive composition. By this point, the entire record has passed as a series of intense emotions: of love and loss, hope and fear, regret and nostalgia, happiness and heartbreak, and it all leads, in perfect design, to this crushing finale. "Never Feel Alone" is the purest kind of love song, and it hurts to listen to because it's so honest, so raw and naked. It describes so perfectly that moment in a relationship where you realize you're about to fall in love and let your guard down completely, for better or worse. And the way A.J. Perdomo sings the bridge and final chorus, surrounded by the band's customary wall of guitars, it just rips right through me, because the "better" and "worse" are really there. Because when he sings them, it feels like, even despite all the hardship and tragedy on this record, if he can just have this girl, maybe everything will be okay, like he's laying everything on the line and gambling it on a single possibility. As the Beatles sang, "All you need is love," and this song, with its ideas of falling in love, of giving all of yourself to another person, of finding refuge in that love, is one of the most perfect depictions of a single, distinct moment that I've ever heard, and one of the most beautiful and cathartic album closers I've ever heard.

6. The Killers - "Why Do I Keep Counting?" from Sam's Town (2006)

I've always found it incredibly irritating how Sam's Town, otherwise my favorite Killers album, is hampered somewhat by the way it is framed as a record. The "Enterlude" is strange enough, since it comes after the opening title track and is, as a result, pretty pointless. The "Exitlude," on the other hand, isn't such a bad song, but it does hamper the effectiveness of "Why Do I Keep Counting?" as a finale, and even makes it a questionable inclusion on this list. But there aren't a whole lot of songs that are more climactic or as innately, irrevocably final as this one, nor are there many "closers" that sum up their album's so perfectly. "Why Do I Keep Counting?" also come from a guy (Brandon Flowers) who has closed his other three records with what are arguably their weakest tracks, and is, as a result, all the more magnificent. It's a song that plays like a mini "Jungleland," at the end of a record that is so enthralled in Springsteen's influence that the band's sound is transformed entirely (something that earned the record decidedly mixed reviews back in 2006). But Sam's Town is actually the better record overall than Hot Fuss was, and "Why Do I Keep Counting?" is a climactic masterstroke, building to a bridge so huge and so vocally stratospheric that it wouldn't have been out of place on Born to Run. And while I wish the record really did end with the big drum hits at the end of this song, "Exitlude" ultimately plays like an extension of it.

(one) Honorable Mention: Green Day - "Whatsername" from American Idiot (2004)

There will never come a day when people stop giving Green Day crap: crap for the pop-punk hits they scored in the early 90s, crap for the cultural ubiquity that "Good Riddance" earned as "that one graduation song," and especially crap for American Idiot, which spawned five reasonably successful singles and was termed, in different circles, as sell-out garbage and as a masterpiece. I'd be in the latter group on that one: I will never be able to discount the massive personal importance this record had on my musical evolution back in 2004, and while it hasn't aged as well as a few of the albums I was listening to at the time (Jimmy Eat World's Futures being the obvious pick), it's still a record I still love and revisit fairly often, still spawned some of the absolute finest radio rock singles of the decade, and still has one of the best album closers I've ever heard. Sell out bands don't make records as deep as American Idiot, records where the album tracks trump the singles and where the thematic elements are as important as the musical. "Whatsername" is the realization of everything American Idiot actually is, even if people didn't quite get it at the time: American Idiot got saddled, rather unfortunately, with being the "Bush protest album," released around the time of the 2004 election, but at it's heart, it's Born in the U.S.A. all over again: the politics are there, but they serve as subtext for the story, which is just about friendship and love (and their later disintegration) in a fucked-up modern America. "Whatsername" is the epilogue, a break-up anthem for the ages where the end of a whirlwind relationship also symbolizes the end of youth and innocence for the protagonist, and the realization of the cruelty the world can throw. Years later, I appreciate the album so much more because it's basically a condensation of the arc Springsteen pursued across five or six records, and this song is what makes that so evident. "Forgetting you," Billie Joe Armstrong sings in the song's final moments. "But not the time." Could there be a more apt or honest statement about youth?

The "they don't quite count in the ways I want them to, but are still killer ways to close an album" category

Third Eye Blind - The last three songs on Third Eye Blind (1998)

While a band going out on their highest note is certainly something I appreciate, I could hardly have gone through a post like this without acknowledging the perfectly executed beauty that surrounds the last fifteen minutes of Third Eye Blind's masterful debut album. While much of the album was full of bratty, high energy, tongue in cheek pop rock, the final trinity ("The Background," "Motorcycle Drive-By," and "God of Wine") showed just how deep and hard the band could hit, and all three of those songs rank amongst my personal favorites ("Motorcycle Drive-By" would be in the top ten). These songs explore death, fractured relationships, and every stage of grief, and in doing so, they join to form one of the most powerful and emotionally exhausting conclusions to any record I own. When the band hit it big with "Semi-Charmed Life" (which could be the catchiest pop song of all time), I doubt many listeners expected the band had songs like these three in them. I certainly didn't, and I can't remember actually listening to the full record until about 2004 (though I loved all the singles as a kid). Still, I remember listening to "Motorcycle Drive-By" on some summer evening, and having it hit me right in the gut. Over the next few years, the song would earn a massively personal spot in my heart, but it was just one piece of three, and both "The Background" and "God of Wine" are songs that knock me down and blow me away whenever I listen.

Dashboard Confessional - "Dusk & Summer" and "Heaven Here" from Dusk & Summer (2006)

"Heaven Here," as the proper closer, could have made its way onto the list proper, but I figured by doing that, I would be doing a disservice to the truly impeccable juxtaposition between it and the penultimate title track. I've already written about these songs in regards to the summers they have soundtracked, but I'll say a few bits of it again. That Dusk & Summer ends up being, rather surprisingly, my favorite Dashboard record (and at least two others would stand a good chance of scoring a spot on my all time top 50). But here, in the space of a mere nine minutes, Carrabba captures a single feeling, a single atmosphere, as well as I've ever heard any songwriter do it. It's that feeling I get at the end of every summer, looking back over the season, sitting on the beach with the girl I love as the sun goes down and trying to hold onto the brilliance of summer and of youth, even as it slips through our fingers and out the door. The summer I fell in love for the first time, those two songs immortalized themselves and became a part of who I am: the former played as I realized that I loved this girl, and the latter the next morning, as we said goodbye to each other and began a long distance relationship. Carrabba's voice soars at the climactic moment of "Heaven Here," reaching impossible heights as he sings "Heaven is here, and tonight we are the only ones who feel it." Hearing that song, as I kissed my girlfriend goodbye, as the entire season and our entire romance flashed before my eyes, as tears poured down my face, was the most intensely emotional connection I have ever felt with a person or with a song. In that way, I guess "Heaven Here" should be number 1, but I just wouldn't have felt right listing without the title track, since after all, I couldn't have had one without the other.

I could go on all night listing honorable mentions for closing tracks. More often than not, the closer ends up being the peak of the album (or at least one of them), and there are so many songs that could have made it onto this list easily. Springsteen has more great closers than I could ever have fit on here, even if I had allowed for more than one per artist. "Darkness on the Edge of Town," all of side two from The Wild, The Innocent ("Incident," "Rosalita," and "New York City Serenade" could have easily made it into that last category), "Valentines Day," or certainly "My City of Ruins." As I said, every Jimmy album sports a great closer, same for Butch (including the Marvelous 3 material). I love closers that reprise bits and pieces of their albums' earlier songs, like Chad Perrone's "Keep Us Around" (all of his closers are incredible, including "Goodnight, Goodbye" from his old band Averi), or Valencia's "Free," and could have easily swapped them in for that fifth slot. And even then there's Will Hoge ("This Highway's Home"), The Gaslight Anthem ("The Backseat"), Anberlin ("*Fin"), Arcade Fire ("Sprawl II"), The Beatles ("A Day in the Life," the Abbey Road Medley, "Twist & Shout"), Ben Folds ("The Luckiest"), Billy Joel ("Everybody Has A Dream" OR "Miami 2017"), Black Lab ("Circus Lights"), Bloc Party ("Ion Square"), Bon Iver ("Re-Stacks"), Counting Crows ("Walkaways," "A Murder of One"), David Bowie ("Rock 'n' Roll Suicide") Death Cab For Cutie ("A Lack of Color"), Doves ("Caught by the River"), Fastball ("Whatever Gets You On"), The Format ("If Work Permits"), Guster ("Parachute"), Idlewild ("In Remote Pt. 1/Scottish Fiction"), ANY of the Iron & Wine closers, The Injured List ("Wait"), Jack's Mannequin ("Into The Airwaves" or "Caves"), Jesse Malin ("Aftermath"), Lifehouse ("Everything"), Matchbox Twenty ("The Difference"), Michael McDermott ("Carry Your Cross"), Motion City Soundtrack ("Hold Me Down" OR "Even If It Kills Me"), The New Frontiers ("Who Will Give Us Love?"), Oasis ("Champagne Supernova"), Peter Gabriel (the iconic "In Your Eyes," thanks to ANOTHER John Cusack movie), Radford ("How Does It Feel"), Ryan Bingham ("For What It's Worth"), Safetysuit ("Life Left To Go"), Something Corporate ("Miss America"), more Third Eye Blind ("Good Man") Van Morrison ("Slim Slow Slider"), The Who ("Won't Get Fooled Again") and Yellowcard ("Back Home").

Even with that exhaustive list, I'm certain I've missed more than a few of my favorites, and if you asked me the same question next week, any of the above could jump up even higher in the conversation. This list was also made, in accordance with rule number two, by completely ignoring 2011, which took more than a few terrific songs out of the conversation on both sides. Ultimately though, these songs represent some of the greatest, most emotionally moving, and most lasting music in the world, at least to me, and really, what else even matters?


  1. Great post. I ask myself this question fairly often.

    Although we're not on the same page when it comes to Bruce Springsteen (I explained myself over on in the recent discussuion on who's better, Springsteen or Lennon/McCartney(/Harrison) :D), I completely agree with you on JEW (Futures all the way, although I also enjoy the hell out of Big Casino), Oasis, Sam's Town (I also love its two bonus tracks, so for me, All the Pretty Faces is the actual closing track :)), The Who, The Beach Boys (you could also count Good Vibration as the closer of Smile), The Beatles (A Hard Day's Night, Help, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Come Together), Green Day, Anberlin (fin, Miserabile Visu), "the fucking Eagles" (:D) or Dylan...

    And if I had to throw in some of my favourites: Arcade Fire (Sprawl II), My Chemical Romance (Na Na Na, Famous Last Words) Nada Surf (Imaginary Friends, Blizzard of '77, See These Bones), Muse (Take a Bow, Knights of Cydonia (!!!), Apocalypse Please, New Born), Ash (Meltdown), The White Stripes (Seven Nation Army), The Raconteurs (Steady As She Goes), Idlewild (You Held the World In Your Arms), M83 (Midnight City), Foo Fighters (Walk), Fightstar (Unfamiliar Ceilings), Boston (More Than a Feeling), Journey (Don't Stop Believing :D), Linkin PArk (Numb - for old times' sake), Story of the Year (And the Hero Will Drown), RATM (Testify), RHCP (By the Way, Dani California), Tenacious D, Nirvana (obvious choice), Basil Poledouris (Anvil of Crom - Conan the Barbarian soundtrack), just to name a few...

    1. JEW could have had any number of openers or closers on this list. "Futures" was the honorable mention I went with on the former side, and "Dizzy" on the latter, but the openers to Bleed, Chase This Light, Clarity, and Invented are all fantastic. Love that band so much. I know what you mean about The Killers: my version of Hot Fuss sometimes ends with "Glamorous Indie Rock n Roll."

      And I knew I would forget a few things on the closing side: "Sprawl II" is perfect, as is "Imaginary Friends" (though I think I like "Paper Boats" even more. M83 and Foo Fighters weren't eligible by my rules, but if they were, "Intro" (I think that one has to be the opener, since it is a full fledged song) and "Walk" would both be on there. As for Idlewild, "In Remote Pt. 1/Scottish Fiction" is going on the list.