Devin Townsend – "Tall Latte" (Ziltoid, the Omniscient)
Ziltoid is an impeccably funny album. Not only is the premise itself spectacularly silly (an alien destroys Earth because our coffee sucks), but Townsend peppers his humour throughout in the most subtle of ways, making the album an absolute delight to listen to from beginning to end. But what really makes this album is how it closes. As the anthemic final chords of the penultimate track start to fade out, Townsend's powerful singing voice seems to change--instead of fading entirely, they shift in quality, until they come to rest on a tone that's clearly unpracticed, informal, and disconnected. Then the background clamor slowly fades in, with Townsend continuing to sing in a distant and startlingly drone-like manner, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the noise growing around him. But before there's time to figure out what's going on, a different voice quickly interrupts: "Hey Slacker! Wake up!...We got two venti white chocolate mochas, a tall Americano and a grande cappuccino! C'mon, get your butt in gear!" And then, the album suddenly makes sense. The entirety of this comedic, nonsensical space rock opera was the fantastical daydreaming of a hapless Starbucks barista! Sure, the trope is older than balls and twice as played out, but Townsend, with a knowing smile, turns it into a final joke, making sure this memorable album ends fittingly.
Bright Eyes – "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and Be Loved)" (Lifted...)
An album closer is only as good as the album it's closing. One of the most prominent themes on Bright Eyes' remarkable album, Lifted..., is love, what it means to be loved, and loving what you're doing no matter what anyone thinks. "Lets Not Shit Ourselves," rounds out the theme with such clarity and the occasional abrasiveness. It's the perfect conclusion to the album. Musically, the tone of the song is hopeful and upbeat and lends its melody to the theme being played out. Oberst's emotional account in the final verse feels like a turning point not just in his life, but in his career as well. I've always felt like "Lets Not Shit Ourselves" is the midway point in Bright Eyes' discography (it pretty much is in a literal sense). While it brings Lifted... to a close, it acts as a perfect doorway into what became I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. It's one of Conor's best and most important songs and easily one of the best album closers.
Faith No More – "Just A Man" (King For A Day...Fool For A Lifetime)
For FNM fans at the time, 1995's King For A Day...Fool For A Lifetime was the group's most polarizing release to date. The band's previous effort Angel Dust became the first album to ever be labelled "commercial suicide", thus becoming the litmus test to see how many fans had hopped on board just to hear another "Epic". As far as tempo, King For A Day had its share of peaks and valleys, but what a trip it was. And at the end of the journey, was "Just A Man" - a lounged-out, flourishing epic (in the true sense of the word) show-stopper of a song that had many questioning just how long they had to indulge the insincere whimsy of this Patton guy?
Little did they know of course, that there was nothing ironic in anything that Mike Patton did on that album. This was a culmination of his true influences laid bare for all to see. There were detractors to be sure, as we've found out increasingly through the years with Patton and his plethora of projects (apologies for the alliteration) that he truly doesn't give a shit what you think. You're either along for the ride, or you're not.
Queen – "Bohemian Rhapsody/God Save the Queen" (A Night at the Opera)
It'd be silly for us not to include one of the greatest songs of all-time. A Night at the Opera is such a diverse record from hard rock to piano ballads. How they were going to be able to hold it all together must have felt like a challenge. Well, Mercury's masterpiece manages to fit it all into the classic, "Bohemian Rhapsody," before the British national anthem, "God Save the Queen," brings the album to its end. There's not much to say about "Bohemian Rhapsody," that hasn't been said a million times. It has everything! Beautiful orchestration. Beautiful lyrics. Mercury's incredible voice. Brian May's undeniable guitar tone. It's the ultimate sing-a-long. I can only imagine how many minds were blown the first time the song was released. Going from a sweet ballad into a surprising operatic section which transforms into an explosive rock out? The twists and turns are ridiculous. Then it comes back full circle to Mercury and his piano. Slowly the song transitions into the anthem and it couldn't work any more perfectly. There's still nothing like it and there never will be.
Atmosphere – "Always Coming Home to You/Say Shh" (Seven's Travels)
Atmosphere went through something of an identity crisis after Seven’s Travels. Don’t get me wrong, he was 3 albums deep and it was probably time for a mix-up in the general style, but I’m sure a fair amount of that can be attributed to “Always Coming Home to You/Say Shh,” a closing track proper and its well-partnered bonus track hidden after some empty airspace. In a total of just 7:00 rapper Slug had summarized what his previous releases had all been hitting at. I guess to be complete it would need a Lucy diss, but “Always Coming Home to You” is a song about south Minneapolis, Slug’s home and a clear, driving creative force behind both his own personality and that of his group’s. Detailing the story-song with a clear urban environment and his distinct ability to showcase different character traits during a simple a walk down the street, the song is a shameless hometown plug while mixing in bleeding heart observation over a peaceful acoustic strum and emphatic beat.
While “Always Coming Home to You” is a punchy finish, calm in just the right way to tell Slug’s distinct perspective, “Say Shh” is as brazen as it gets—a self-proclaimed “big up to my state.” It’s one of Minnesota’s finest humble brags and it repeats the themes of “Always Coming Home…” but without the subtlety. When the disc stops spinning, it feels like the closing of a book.