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22 Artists Who Went Out On A High With Insanely Great Final Albums

They say you have a lifetime to work on your debut, but what about your final album? Some bands split, others go on indefinite hiatus, while others are torn apart by more tragic circumstances, but however you bow out, every band has a final LP to put a full stop on their career. Here are 22 of the best.

  • The Smiths – 'Strangeways, Here We Come': The final studio release for The Smiths needs little introduction. Regarded by many as the band's definitive statement, the likes of 'Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me' and 'I Started Something I Couldn't Finish' show the unique chemistry of Morrissey and Marr at its apex.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 14 Feb 2014

  • Joy Division – 'Closer': They burned fast and bright, but in just two albums Joy Division had already amassed a back catalogue that would cement their place in the musical history books forever. Much of this was due to the dark and sadly ominous undertones of 'Closer', the troubled jewel in the band's crown.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 09 Dec 2014

  • Nirvana – 'In Utero': Released in the wake of the colossal success of 'Nevermind', 'In Utero' was Nirvana's attempt to alienate the fair-weather MTV watchers and produce something raw and uninhibited. Producer Steve Albini was enlisted and the result was gritty and unpolished. Needless to say, it still sold in bucketloads.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 14 Feb 2014

  • Amy Winehouse – 'Back To Black': One of the big 'what could have been' artists of this century, Amy Winehouse's second and final album showed the singer hitting her stride in style. Poignant, sharp and timeless, its brilliance is bittersweet: Amy ultimately collapsed under the weight of the intensely emotional album's huge success.

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    Added: 25 Oct 2013

  • The Beatles – 'Abbey Road': Though 'Let It Be' is technically The Beatles' last release, 'Abbey Road' was the last album they actually recorded together, over the summer of '69. From 'Come Together' to 'Because' to 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)', it is – of course – a masterpiece. We'll even forgive 'Octopus' Garden'.

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    Added: 25 May 2012

  • Pulp – 'We Love Life' Produced by none other than Scott Walker, 'We Love Life' may not have been Pulp's biggest commercial success, but its tales of arch gloom showed a band that were smarter and savvier than just another bunch of Britpoppers. Even the title revelled in its own deadpan humour.

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    Added: 04 Nov 2009

  • Johnny Cash – 'American IV: The Man Comes Around': The fourth in a series of covers produced by Rick Rubin, 'American IV' was the last album recorded by Cash before his death in 2003. Most famously, it included the singer's iconic cover of Nine Inch Nails' 'Hurt', which went on to become a global hit.

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    Added: 16 Sep 2011

  • Sonic Youth – 'The Eternal': Recruiting former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold into the fold, 'The Eternal ' saw Sonic Youth stretching their trademark sound into heavy but melodic new corners. It was well-received, but ultimately the break-up of lynchpins Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore would scupper any plans for a follow-up.

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    Added: 06 Jan 2010

  • The White Stripes – 'Icky Thump': Though The White Stripes' sixth release found Jack and Meg sounding somewhat fuller and more polished than much of their ramshackle early output, 'Icky Thump' lost none of the personality. Showing a band in transition, the next steps would finally manifest in White's other work rather than that of his first band.

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    Added: 02 May 2012

  • The Verve – 'Forth': It could have all ended in 1997 with seminal record 'Urban Hymns', but in 2008 The Verve decided to give the wheel one final spin. In those circumstances, the result had to be worthwhile, and thankfully for 'Forth', it was.

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    Added: 16 Dec 2009

  • This Mortal Coil – 'Blood': As a loose 'collective' made up of artists signed to 4AD, This Mortal Coil had no shortage of credible names to boost its intrigue. On 'Blood', members of The Breeders and Throwing Muses were involved, with the results being predictably brilliant.

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    Added: 21 Oct 2013

  • Fleetwood Mac – 'Say You Will': Though the recording sessions for the Mac's 17th album were largely strained due to the strained relationship between Stevie Nicks and former beau Lindsey Buckingham, 'Say You Will' still became the band's highest charting LP in 20 years.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 03 Jul 2015

  • LCD Soundsystem – 'This Is Happening': Having grown bigger than he ever dreamed they would be, James Murphy did what so many others fail to do and bowed out with LCD Soundsystem on a high. One last album. One final huge celebratory send off show. It made 'This Is Happening' even more brilliant and bittersweet; a final snapshot of a band at the peak of their powers.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 08 Dec 2014

  • Jimi Hendrix – 'Electric Ladyland': It may have taken a little while to find its place in music history's canon after initially puzzled reviews, but 'Electric Ladyland' has since gone on to cement itself as one of the greatest LPs of all time. 'Crosstown Traffic', 'Voodoo Chile', 'All Along The Watchtower'… it has it all.

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    Added: 25 Oct 2013

  • Sex Pistols – 'Never Mind The Bollocks… Here Come The Sex Pistols': OK, sure. So the Sex Pistols only actually released one LP, meaning that 'Never Mind The Bollocks' is both their first and last effort. But their inclusion here is justified: the Pistols knew it was better to burn out than to fade away, and their short sharp burst of anarchy was perfectly timed and perfectly ended.

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    Added: 25 Oct 2013

  • T.Rex – 'Dandy In The Underworld': Marking a comeback for the band after a creative rough patch, 'Dandy In The Underworld' found Bolan and co edging back to their best. Sadly, a tragic car crash in 1977 meant that the record would be the group's last.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 03 Jul 2015

  • The Birthday Party – 'Junkyard': Before Nick Cave fully cemented his place as twisted raconteur par excellence, he started out life in Australia's The Birthday Party. The band's third and final album was a post-punk masterclass, existing outside the realms of any scene and creating its own uncompromising world.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 03 Jul 2015

  • REM – 'Collapse Into Now': After 15 studio albums, music stalwarts REM finally decided to call it a day following the release of 2011's 'Collapse Into Now'. Many said that clues to their imminent break-up could be spotted throughout the album, but it remains a celebrated work nonetheless.

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    Added: 22 Nov 2011

  • At The Drive-In – 'Relationship Of Command': Taking the aggressive side of ATDI but fleshing it out with more emotion and melody than before, 'Relationship Of Command' in many ways showed the band in their most developed form. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez would later say that the final mix lacked punch, but the world wasn't complaining.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 10 Dec 2014

  • Outkast – 'Idlewild': The Outkast returned for a select number of unashamedly cash cow reunion shows in 2014, the chance of them making a new record seem essentially nil. We're left, then, with 'Idlewild' as the duo closing statement, and with 'Mighty O' and 'Morris Brown' among its tracks, that'll do for now. It puzzled some, but we loved it.

    Photo: Press

    Added: 03 Jul 2015

  • Nick Drake – 'Pink Moon': Dark and troubled, 'Pink Moon' was very much the product of its fractured creator's mind. Clocking in at just 28-minutes, it's sparse and open, offering a bleak insight into the psyche of a man who would shortly take his own life.

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    Added: 05 Apr 2012

  • Bobby Womack – 'The Bravest Man In The Universe': Legendary soul singer Bobby Womack's passing in 2014 came after a late career peak, thanks to XL boss Richard Russell and a helping hand from Damon Albarn. 'The Bravest Man In The Universe' – produced by the aforementioned two – brought Womack to a new generation and gave a touching and righteous final toast to the star.

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    Added: 30 May 2012