Grand Finales: The greatest album-closers of all time

Finlay Holden and Dominic Lee debate the greatest album-closing songs ever.

multiple writers
25th June 2020
Image: Instagram (@declanwelsh)
The ending is always the hardest part of any journey. Some of our writers will have their final articles for The Courier published today and while that gets the tears flowing it gave us an idea for a wonderful send off in a way that only music could describe. So, to celebrate the end of The Courier's year and what should have been the end of the academic year, our writers have given us their picks for the best album-closers ever.

'Times'- Declan Welsh

While deciding what song to choose here, I was amazing at how rarely the last song on an album is a stand-out. On many of my favourite records, the best (or at least most energetic) songs are packed in the middle, and the momentum trails off towards the end. This is why ‘Times’ stands out to me provides a perfect ending to the unapologetic rock record Cheaply Bought, Expensively Sold by Declan Welsh & The Decadent West. It provides a heartfelt ending while also being an absolute banger in and of itself.

On a record of consistently punchy tracks, it should be no shock that the finale maintains this energy level. What may not be anticipated, though, is the bittersweet and well-phrased lyrical content; this song focuses on embracing your friends and appreciating the moment you are experiencing, not living in the past or thinking too hard about the future, because “when we are dead or, god forbid, we are older, it's moments like this we will all miss”. 

This band will always have a special place in my heart, especially as they were the poor victims of the first interview I ever conducted, and this debut record is all-killer, no filler (certified by yours truly). This song evokes a strange combination of emotions that just make you want to hug your pals and tell them you love them, a much-needed message that is less political than much of Declan’s writing, and the thrashing guitars and catchy riff make it ideal moshing material.

Just to listen to the introduction that was given before the encore of the band’s hometown Glasgow gig and you can see the way with words that Declan has (if you can understand his accent). He describes that it was written in memory of a friend that passed away, but was intended to not be a sad song, but to celebrate the joy that a single individual can bring to your life. Cringey, sure, but undeniably true.

Finlay Holden

'Say Yes'- Elliott Smith

Most of you were probably expecting a Radiohead song here from me and I'll admit than 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)'- which is my all time favourite song- is the track I consider to be the best album closer. However, I've written about that track so many times I can't even count so I decided to go with something else.

'Say Yes' is the final track on Elliott Smith's seminal 1997 album Either/Or. The song gives me a feeling which I can only describe as "happy sad" and it's a feeling that not many tracks have the power to give me. "Happy sad" is a complex feeling for me, where I remember troubling times with a smile on my face. In case you're thinking I've finally lost it I'll explain. 'Say Yes' is a "sad" song with "sad" lyrics which reminds me of a "sad" time in my life, but for some reason it puts a smile on my face.

Perhaps it is Smith's gorgeously picked guitar solo's tumbling over his strumming pattern. Perhaps it is his angelic double-tracked vocals which harmonise perfectly as Smith weaves his way through the song. It's probably a combination of a lot of things. 'Say Yes' while quite depressing in its subject matter- a breakup leading to an empty heart- is somewhat optimistic too. It has its own funny way of saying things don't always go to plan, with Smith singing "I'm damaged bad at best" and "situations get fucked up and turned around sooner or later".

Either/Or is easily one of my all time favourite albums, which owes a lot to 'Say Yes'. The song is stunning and evocative, with its lo-fi style giving it an inimitable soul. It's this soul that makes it such a great closing song. I come away from the track and the album feeling strangely whole. 'Say Yes' gives me and incredibly strange feeling that most other songs can't and that makes it the perfect curtain call for Either/Or.

Dominic Lee

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