No Hope, No Harm: 10 of Rock’s Saddest Final Albums


Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Strangeways, Here We Come, the fourth and final studio album by The Smiths, which brought us gems like “Girlfriend in a Coma,” “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish,” “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me” and “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before.” It’s also, in case you haven’t listened to The Smiths lately, irrepressibly sad, in the best of ways. To celebrate the anniversary of this great album’s release, and to mourn the fact that it marked the end of such a short and wonderful career, we’ve collected a few of of the saddest final albums in rock history. Have a listen after the jump, and let us know which we’ve missed in the comments.

Strangeways, Here We Come — The Smiths

The Smiths are the gold standard for teenage melancholy, and their final album is no different. Sure, it might be even sadder in our minds because it marked the end of the band — after all, it was between its recording and its release that Johnny Marr called it quits. But both Morrissey and Marr have cited the record as their favorite of the band’s output, and why shouldn’t it be? So much of it is just perfect for crying into your pillow: “Last night I dreamt/ That somebody loved me/ No hope, no harm/ Just another false alarm.”

From a Basement on the Hill — Elliott Smith

Almost all of Elliott Smith’s output could land him on any saddest-of list worth its salt, but this posthumous release is terribly heartbreaking, almost every song of the cut-to-your-bones variety. After all, the album was never finished because man stabbed himself in the heart while he was recording it. Maybe it’s just us, but we’ve always been able to feel that knife just a little.

The Wind — Warren Zevon

Zevon has always expertly balanced his bone-dry wit and dark humor with a softer, sweeter side, and The Wind‘s simple, compassionate sensibility is the latter on display (though he’s not declawed by any means). Zevon knew he was dying when he began recording this album — he began shortly after he was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer — and it feels like it. But it doesn’t feel like it in a depressed, sorry-for-himself kind of way. It feels like a celebration, and a goodbye. Zevon lived to finish the record and to see his grandchildren born; it was released two weeks after his death.

Pink Moon — Nick Drake

Nick Drake recorded this scant album — just eleven tracks in under thirty minutes — in a mere four hours over two midnights, the most he could manage from under the weight of the depression that he suffered in his final years. Both his despair and his terrifying detachment ring clear throughout, each track a sparse little fairy tale of sadness.

America VI: Ain’t No Grave — Johnny Cash

The final installment in Cash’s series of posthumous albums is the most mournful, filled with songs like “I Corinthians: 15:55,” which Cash wrote during his last three years, pondering mortality in that beautiful morose bass, and ending with a sweet if controlled goodbye with Queen Lili’uokalani’s “Aloha Oe.” Until we meet again.

Bridge Over Troubled Water — Simon & Garfunkel

The sadness of Simon and Garfunkel is a delicate, pretty sadness, a sadness born from the end of a legendary bromance, but sometimes we all need a soundtrack for weeping softly into our tea. This — barring “Cecilia,” “Keep the Customer Satisfied,” and “Baby Driver” — is that soundtrack. That’s what the skip button is for.

In Utero — Nirvana

Though Kurt Cobain shrugged off questions about the album’s emotional significance, in retrospect we can’t help but parse it as his most personal. After all, the album opens with the lines “Teenage angst has paid off well/ Now I’m bored and old.” True enough — he had transitioned, as Dave Grohl mused, into “rock star angst,” a much deadlier beast. Filled with heartbreaking moments and growling discontent, it’s probably our favorite of the Nirvana ouvre. And if that’s not enough for you, consider that Cobain originally wanted to title the album I Hate Myself and I Want to Die. As a joke, apparently, but still.

Closer — Joy Division

Unrelentingly claustrophobic and terrifyingly beautiful, this is one of our favorite albums of all time, not to mention one of the most distressing. The record was already destined to become music legend on its own merits, but when Curtis killed himself two months before its release, it secured a penthouse suite in rock’s morbid imagination.

Loveless — My Bloody Valentine

The second and final record by My Bloody Valentine is a seminal pillar of shoegaze and perhaps a different kind of sad than some of the others on this list — no sweet crooning here, but a wall of wistful, stratospheric noise collage that sounds like angst feels. It’s music for sleeping with your ex. It’s music for shaking the confusion out of your brain. It’s untouchable and bittersweet and essential.

Third/Sister Lovers — Big Star

You might point out that, technically, 2005’s In Space is the final studio album by Big Star, but to that we would say, that is not an album by Big Star. Sure, there are a couple members of the original lineup, but there’s no comparison. So we’re calling this epic, disjointed collection of heartbreak ballads, frayed at the edges, falling apart in time with Alex Chilton’s mind but perfect nonetheless, the band’s last and best.