Last week I wrote about albums that end with instrumental tracks, which I described as sort of epilogues to the album's narrative structure. If ending an album on an instrumental is an epilogue, opening with one must be a prologue, a way to ease the listener in. Here are nine albums that open with instrumental tracks.
1. Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends (1968)
"Bookends Theme" actually appears twice on Simon & Garfunkel's album Bookends. Side one opens with a brief instrumental version of the song, while it ends with a reprise featuring the duo's signature harmonies.
2. Nick Drake - Bryter Layter (1970)
Nick Drake's second album Bryter Layter actually has three instrumentals, signaling the album's beginning, middle, and end. The first of these is the aptly titled "Introduction," opening the album with Drake's intricate finger picking and a gorgeous string section.
3. King Crimson - Larks' Tongues in Aspic (1973)
Perhaps the greatest instrumental that King Crimson ever wrote was the title track to Larks' Tongues in Aspic, a fusion of avant-garde and heavy metal that opens the albums for 13 terrifying minutes.
4. David Bowie - Low (1977)
David Bowie may have been a brilliant singer and showman, but his "Berlin Trilogy" of albums, starting with 1977's Low, was more focused on sonic experiments and textures than traditional songs. "Speed of Life," the instrumental opening track to Low, serves as a mission statement of this period, grabbing the listener with its mechanical rhythms and synthesized instrumentation.
5. Pixies - Bossanova (1990)
Not only is the opening track to the Pixies' Bossanova an instrumental song, it's also a cover (as I wrote about in a previous article). The original "Cecilia Ann" was performed by surf-rock band the Surftones back in the '60s.
6. Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
An album as epic and cinematic as Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness deserves a majestic opening, so Billy Corgan went with the admirably subdued title track, a gorgeous piano-based instrumental complete with mellotron, which gives it a subtle prog-rock edge.
7. Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One (1997)
Few bands can handle atmosphere as brilliantly as Yo La Tengo, and their classic 1997 album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One opens with a prime example of this: "Return To Hot Chicken," a hazy, 1:40 long dream-pop instrumental.
8. The Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One (1999)
The Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage: Animation Music Volume One is stuffed with more than a dozen instrumental tracks, some of them as short as five seconds long. The album opens with one of these weird instrumental snippets, titled "Opening," which is 25 seconds of what sounds like a synthesizer (or two, or many) being heavily modulated.
9. Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
Much like the Olivia Tremor Control, Modest Mouse chose to open their album Good News for People Who Love Bad News with a blindly fast instrumental. The album opens with the 10-second "Horn Intro," which as its title implies, is an introduction to the album played on horns.