Bonus Tracks can Frigg Right Off

I know I’m not alone in appreciating the very unsexy art of album sequencing. A properly placed album opener can serve as a statement for what the band or artist is hoping to achieve with their release. Similarly, a solid closer can leave listeners confident that the album they’ve just sat through has said everything that it set out to say and, ideally, coax them into a relisten. Poorly thought out album sequencing can sour the whole listening experience. What really bums me out, though, is a perfectly sequenced album bookended with bonus tracks.

Let’s get into what specifically got these whiney wheels turning. I fucking love The Dirty Nil. I’ve been lucky enough to see the band on numerous occasions and their 2019 release Master Volume was one of my top albums of the year. “That’s What Heaven Feels Like” opens with the cheesy rock fury that gives the band its character. “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Always High” mellow things out a bit before songs like “I Don’t Want That Phone Call” picks it right back up. Finally, “Evil Side” brings the whole album back down to the ground with some dreamy guitars and harsh, but melodic vocals. And then they play a goddamn Metallica cover. How does a poorly recorded cover of “Hit the Lights” add anything to the album? The Dirty Nil released a deluxe edition of the album later in the year. The band could’ve just chucked it on that and left their near-perfect album alone.

Less annoying in one sense and arguably more annoying in another sense, is when the bonus tracks are as good as the rest of the album. Every Time I Die has a habit of including killer bonus tracks on albums like New Junk Aesthetic and Low Teens. “The Sweet Life” does a great job bringing New Junk Aesthetic to a close before the bonus track “Buffalo 666” picks things right back up. The band could’ve chucked it between “Turtles All the Way Down” and “Organ Grinder” or just held onto the tune for an EP. “Map Change,” the final track on Low Teens, is another perfect closer from the metalcore giants that misses its chance to shine due to the inclusion of the middle-of-the-album-sounding bonus tracks “Skin Without Bones” and “Nothing Visible; Ocean Empty.”

I singled out these three albums because it feels like some of my favourite bands sabotaged some of their best releases. If a song isn’t as good as the rest of your album, keep it in your back pocket, workshop it, and see if you can get it up to snuff for a future release. If a song is on par with the rest of your album, try and find a way to fit it into the track sequencing or save it for a future release. At least my physical copy of Master Volume axes the ‘tallica.

Written by Justin Bruce
*Edited by Dominic Abate

About Justin Bruce 85 Articles
Justin is a Saskatoon-based musician with a degree from the University of Saskatchewan where he studied medieval and modern English. These days, he can usually be found behind the stack of comic books he’s trying to keep up with. Justin has been playing music since his early teens and has made 10’s of dollars from it in the years since. An enthusiastic packrat, his prized possession is a vinyl copy of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag.” Justin snores really loud if he’s been drinking and thought that Revenge of the Sith was actually a pretty sweet movie. You can hear Justin in Swayze, here: https://swayzelives.bandcamp.com, and A Ghost in Drag, here: https://aghostindrag.bandcamp.com, and you will occasionally see him and his bandmates playing Beerio Kart on tour.

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