A title track can define an album.
They come in many forms: the intro, the outro, instrumental, hidden within the song, or not even mentioned in the song itself. One thing they all have in common is that they stand out. The artist chose to attach the name of the album to the song because it has some importance that the other tracks do not possess.
Radiohead – “Kid A”
The 2000 album “Kid A” defined Radiohead as the reputable experimental band that they are known for today.
The raindrop-like drums on the title track compliment the lullaby piano intro. Thom Yorke’s robotic vocals at times make it nearly impossible to understand his words. The drums pick up as if the rain gets heavier and Yorke’s vocals ironically become clear.
“Kid A” does not remotely sound like any other song on the album, but it ties together the overall dismal tone of the album.
Television – “Marquee Moon”
The eleven-mintute title track “Marquee Moon” may be the most epic title track ever. The powerful opening lines, “I remember how the darkness doubled. I recall lightening struck itself,” are enough to realize that “Marquee Moon” does not mess around.
The infamous guitar solo lasts longer than almost every other track on the album. Just when you think the song has ended, the drums kick in and it goes right back to where it began.
The Beach Boys – “Pet Sounds”
“Pet Sounds” embodies everything we love about The Beach Boys most acclaimed album.
The song starts with quirky, unconventional percussion and blossoms into a borderline psychedelic instrumental track that could only come from Brian Wilson’s ingenious mind. The horn section comes in and transforms the song into something truly alluring and unexpected.
“Pet Sounds” is placed toward the end of the album, but the music sounds like a huge party that nobody wants to leave.
Neil Young – “After the Gold Rush”
Young’s harmonies and acoustic guitar dominate the album, but the song “After the Gold Rush” takes a different route. With only a piano, a French horn segment and Young’s haunting voice, Young chose this as the title track with no utterance of the title anywhere in the song.
The song is straightforward and made up of three verses and three unique refrains. The simple piano is careful not to outshine Neil’s cryptic message, whatever that may be.
Dirty Projectors – “Useful Chamber” from “Bitte Orca”
“Useful Chamber” may not be the title of the album, but frontman Dave Longstreth repeats “bitte orca” in the chorus making it the album’s unofficial title track.
“Useful Chamber” consists of several different themes that Longstreth wove together to create the longest and most unique track on the album. It builds until the guitars drop out, leaving only a simple beat, a consistent bass note and three powerful female vocalists harmonizing the chord progression of the intro.
Wilco – “Theologians” from “A Ghost is Born”
Another unofficial title track, “Theologians” shines light through the overcast feel of Wilco’s “A Ghost is Born.” The song is perfectly placed after some of Wilco’s darkest songs including “At Least That’s What You Said” and “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” in which Jeff Tweedy uses his guitar emulate the feeling of having a panic attack.
As the chord progression descends at the climax, the song somehow sounds uplifting as Tweedy sings, “No one’s ever gonna take my life from me. I’ll lay it down, a ghost is born.”
Paul Simon – “The Rhythm of the Saints”
Simon saved the title track for last on “The Rhythm of the Saints.” The Brazilian percussion drives the song, the bass creeps in the mix and a guitar riff quietly comes and goes. Nonetheless, the simplicity makes it the strongest song on the album.
The title of the song refers to the South African and South American rhythm that Simon holds so closely to his heart. After the first chorus, Simon steps back to let the percussionists ride it out for a while. Every song proceeding “The Rhythm of the Saints” was meant to set the listener up for this moment at the end of the album.
Collegian reporter Jonny Rhein can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jonnyrhein.