CoS Exclusive FeaturesList 'Em Carefully

10 Artists Who Went Out on Their Best Album

on April 09, 2014, 3:57pm
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We’ve already chronicled bands that have destroyed their legacies, whether by soiling a too-perfect run with an ill-advised lineup shift or by disgracing a flawless send-off LP with a tepid reunion effort. So, here’s the other side of the coin. These bands and artists burnt out on their best note, leaving an indelible shadow of perfection in their wake.

First, some ground rules. To simplify things, we’re only considering full-length studio albums. That means EPs, compilations, live recordings, and reissues are all but invisible for the purposes of this list. Second, we’re only including acts that released three or more such records. The list of bands who peaked on a second — and final — LP is too vast and frankly too easy to chronicle. That means no Olivia Tremor Control, no Drive Like Jehu, no Slint (though for jump in quality between LPs, Spiderland wins any competition), no Joy Division (frankly, you could make a good case for Unknown Pleasures anyway), no Jellyfish (Spilt Milk kills), and no This Heat. Sorry. Release more albums.

Finally, we’re only considering acts who released their final album three or more years ago and have expressed no active interest in making another. That doesn’t mean the band has to have officially broken up. In the case of Fugazi, for instance, an “indefinite hiatus” is enough to qualify — even if we’re not-so-secretly holding out for another album.

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July 7, 2014 at 10:49 pm

I think The Lemon of Pink was the strongest release for the Books, hands down. That album was a masterpiece of ambience and sampling that amounted to a sonically perfect experience that had such a resonating aesthetic. I honestly haven’t heard an album since then that fit together so perfectly.

July 7, 2014 at 10:34 pm


Scott Kruger
July 7, 2014 at 10:19 pm

I wish the Cure would have been in here after “WISH”, but unfortunately they keep trudging through with half-assed crap.

Jeff Flinn
July 6, 2014 at 12:16 am

Uhhhh … The Police-Synchronicity???

April 27, 2014 at 11:04 am

i’m in disbelief over the absence of The Shape of Punk to Come

Brian Madden
April 26, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Good to The Birthday party get a mention, but it is Rowland S Howard who is responsible for most of those iconic brutal guitar riffs. At the Drive In’s performance on Later with Jools Holland is even more unhinged. Sleater Kinney really need to reform. One Beat and The Woods were classics

Brett Bennett
April 25, 2014 at 8:07 am

What no Weezer?

Mourad Ghareeb
April 13, 2014 at 7:10 am

you had me at Pink Moon

April 13, 2014 at 3:47 am

where the heck is Unwound’s Leaves Turn Inside You???

Christopher Peter Van Dyke
April 12, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Kinda surprised Neutral Milk Hotel isn’t on here.

April 11, 2014 at 7:26 pm

You realize that At The Drive In already did a reunion tour in 2012? There is no chance.

April 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

The Police.

Alex Cilley
April 10, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Good list. One really big omission, though: Odessey and Oracle by the Zombies!

Alex Cilley
April 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Though I guess their random modern album counts…drat. Also, agreed on the Police and Girls!

April 10, 2014 at 1:27 pm

The Police – Synchronicity: this, their fifth and final album, was by far the band’s best-selling, with 4 monster hits on it, but you could argue that Regatta de Blanc was just as good, but not as well known. Regardless, leaving Synchronicity off this list is a grievous oversight, if you ask me.

james greer
April 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

WOW – I had no Idea Benjamin Curtis of Secret Machines and School of Seven Bells passed away a few months ago. Just awful.

I was wanting a reunion badly.

April 10, 2014 at 11:06 am

Refused, the Shape of Punk to Come

james greer
April 10, 2014 at 9:38 am

Thanks for including Talk Talk, one of my favorites.

What about Secret Machines? I was really into them when they called it quits. Excellent live show

Mac Wilson (@cinatyte)
April 9, 2014 at 10:04 pm

Simon and Garfunkel!

April 9, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Father, Son, Holy Ghost

April 10, 2014 at 12:37 am

Came here to say that.

April 10, 2014 at 3:46 am

They said three albums minimum – Girls only had two albums and an EP.

April 9, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I’m happy to see that Fugazi and Sleater-Kinney made the list. However, I’m pretty disappointed that you didn’t include Unwound’s brilliant send-off, Leaves Turn Inside You. They put out album after album of terrific post-hardcore for the better part of the ’90s, each expanding on the sound of the last, but with 2001′s LTIY they stretched into sonic and atmospheric territory miles ahead of anything they had explored before. It’s the perfect final statement from a sorely unappreciated group.


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