Sometimes you have to finish before you start. While streaming and playlists have killed the album experience for some, there are plenty of other music fans who still clamor for the full record. The bands below found creative and inspiring ways to end their LPs with a song so strong, it remains the perfect closing statement to their batch of standout tracks. But why not start a listen with the last song first?
All 20 songs here are standouts from their respective albums and deserve to open the show sometimes. FYI: Bonus tracks and reissues don’t count toward this list as we’re purists over here. Enjoy!
Against Me! – “The Ocean”
Ardent fans of Against Me! have noted that this song’s revealing second verse foreshadows vocalist/guitarist Laura Jane Grace coming out as transgender several years before. Easily one of the most emotional and jarring AM! tracks, “The Ocean” provides a vivid water journey vibe from the start and doesn’t stop its powerful current until each listener figuratively drowns with the music. And so, the band’s major-label debut successfully crashes into your senses forever.
Alkaline Trio – “Radio”
Both casual and hardcore Alkaline Trio fans agree: This is by far the band’s premier song. It’s sonically lo-fi and lyrically biting enough to justify opening or closing any Alk3 album. The verbatim lyric repetition of the first verse after the first chorus hits just as hard after each and every listen. We can only imagine the number of requests for this song Matt Skiba must get from the crowd at blink-182 shows.
The All-American Rejects – “The Last Song”
Clocking in at exactly five minutes, the All-American Rejects closed their debut record with the best (and most accurately) titled track on this list: “The Last Song.” With three albums and many more songs since, the band still end some of their sets with this classic AAR number, proving the power of this particular closing track. And just one full-length later, AAR were one of the biggest bands in the world. Fun fact: This song is tuned to dropped C#, so it’s the band’s most metal tune.
blink-182 – “Anthem”
Though they may not have known it at the time, blink-182 created the most anthemic pop-punk album of all time with the perfect dozen song combo known as 1999’s Enema Of The State. So, it’s no coincidence that this particular song ended that album and that “Anthem Part Two” opened the follow-up LP, Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. While this track would totally make sense during the closing credits of American Pie, it would have just as much power kick-starting Can’t Hardly Wait.
Dashboard Confessional – “This Bitter Pill”
If post-hardcore warrior Further Seems Forever fans were worried that vocalist Chris Carrabba would lose his edge when he started the acoustic project Dashboard Confessional, their fears must have been subsided when they heard his guttural screams in this song. Acoustic guitars and growls have never sounded so bitter and sweet together. With this song and the nine others on Dashboard’s breakout LP, The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most, emo was now both a mainstream movement and a new adjective/genre/word for many.
Every Time I Die – “Map Change”
Usually fans clamor for a band’s older material when they go to a live show. This isn’t the case with Every Time I Die. This track is from their latest effort, Low Teens, and it remains a crowd favorite for ETID fans of all ages. If you still haven’t heard the band yet, you’re nuts, but you can fix that immediately with this gateway drug of a song. We can’t wait to see what chaos comes next from Buffalo’s finest.
Green Day – “Whatsername”
There’s video footage from American Idiot’s awesome 2015 documentary, Heart Like A Hand Grenade, that showcases Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day’s prolific vocalist/guitarist, crying when the band finished recording this track and album. That’s all you need to know about this number—it’s powerful enough to make a grown man justifiably cry tears of passion and gratitude. Plus, this song is one of Green Day’s most underrated tracks, so start your day with it right now.
letlive. – “27 Club”
2013 was a loud year for the scene, and few bands mastered merging art with chaos half as well as letlive. did. Clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes, it’s among one of the longer tracks on this list, but not a second is filler or waste. We have no idea how letlive. vocalist (and future frontman for FEVER 333) Jason Aalon Butler had a voice in 2014 and beyond, as he absolutely wrecks the speakers for this entire LP, but we’ll take what we can get.
My Chemical Romance – “Famous Last Words”
“The End.” is a clever way to open a record, but how badass would it have been if My Chemical Romance kicked off The Black Parade with a song called “Famous Last Words”? MCR graduated from the punk world to arena superstardom with this now-classic LP, and “Famous Last Words” is 100% one of the standout tracks.
Paramore – “Future”
Paramore cemented their own bright future with this song and album by outgrowing their past in the most beautiful way. Vocalist Hayley Williams’ recent solo career probably wouldn’t have existed without this experimental and multifaceted song in her band’s catalog resonating so strongly with their fans and beyond. So why not start their hugely successful self-titled album with a near-eight-minute banger? It certainly would’ve set a different tone.
Rise Against – “Survive”
Some bands end LPs with somber ballads. This isn’t the case for Rise Against on their second major-label release. On RA’s The Sufferer & The Witness, the band chose to go out in frenetic punk-rock action, complete with guitar finger tapping and screams via the closer “Survive.” In addition, Rise Against proved that they were true rock survivors, as they have released four albums since and show no signs of slowing down and fading away.
Saves The Day – “Firefly”
Saves The Day officially stepped out of the sweaty basement with 2001’s Stay What You Are, and closing track “Firefly” assisted greatly in lighting the way. To this day, it’s a staple STD setlist song, and that’s extra impressive considering it’s been in the band’s catalog for 19 years. blink-182 and Green Day even took Saves The Day out on half of the Pop Disaster tour during this era of the band, and Jimmy Eat World got the other half. Sequel, gents?
Set Your Goals – “our ethos: a legacy to pass on”
Set Your Goals’ Epitaph Records debut, This Will Be The Death Of Us, was chock full of songs in lowercase letters and melodies that flurried the punk-rock message boards in 2009. You had to see it to believe it, as the band had a lot of buzz. SYG’s punk-rock ethos and overall brash yet fun attitude soaked this album, but none more than the final track, “our ethos: a legacy to pass on.” At four-and-a-half minutes, it’s the longest song on the LP. The track metaphorically works as a digital hype man capable of pumping anyone up for eternity.
Something Corporate – “Globes & Maps”
“Globes & Maps” could have successfully opened any Something Corporate show, album and/or greatest hits release. It’s that melodically strong and lyrically powerful. And while we’re here, let’s give props to one of the best and most underrated major-label debut albums to ever arrive in the scene: 2002’s Leaving Through The Window. We’re patiently waiting for a follow-up to the follow-up, North.
The Spill Canvas – “Lullaby”
A lullaby is sometimes the last thing that a baby hears before he or she falls asleep, so why not start your day with the same calming feeling? It may work better for you than the coffee can. The Spill Canvas are known for their catalog of beautifully haunting anthemic songs, and “Lullaby” hits the nail on the head for this task in perfect form. Also, the string section and arrangement can knock any hardcore dude on his ass.
Sum 41 – “Pain For Pleasure”
Earlier on All Killer No Filler, Sum 41 perfectly nailed a then-modern rock take on Beastie Boys with “Fat Lip.” So why couldn’t they do the same later on with a Judas Priest influence on “Pain For Pleasure”? Well, the band can do it all, and quite well. The song (with costume changes into ’80s metal warriors) remains a live favorite to this day. If you’re in the mood to laugh, check out this “documentary” on the fictional band who played the tune.
Thrice – “Red Sky”
In addition to guttural screams and intricate guitar parts, Thrice should also be associated with anthems to end all anthems because of Vheissu’s powerful rock ballad “Red Sky.” Their second (and last) major-label release was full of many departures for the quartet, but it definitely helped supplant their career as the scene’s version of the genre-bending Radiohead. After this song and album, the word “screamo” would rarely be used to describe Thrice, and we believe the band were more than fine with that.
VersaEmerge – “Lost Tree”
VersaEmerge’s “Lost Tree” can and should be listened to in the same fashion as an overture for a popular Broadway musical. The song references several tracks and melodies from the first 10 songs of their sole album, Fixed At Zero, while creating a much lusher and fuller finale. Honestly, if you only have the chance to listen to one VersaEmerge song, make it this catchy, majestic and powerful tune. But you should listen to ’em all.
The Used – “I’m A Fake”
A spoken-word angry rant that gets more and more biting with each syllable perfectly supplants the building cacophony from the frenetic instrumentation… And then it explodes. The Used have been making their avid fans scream along with them for nearly two decades, and “I’m A Fake” is among the pack of absolute bangers. The song closed the band’s second album, In Love And Death, and it’s one of the many reasons why that release is the band’s top-selling record.
The Wonder Years – “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral”
If the 1983 classic film The Big Chill can start with a funeral, then why can’t the Wonder Years end an album with a song about one? The band truly grew up with their fans, and no sonic work showcases said thought more than The Greatest Generation’s epic closer “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral.” Pop punk isn’t dead—it’s just getting older.