‘Summer Well’: Deception on The Fly

Hello again,

Here’s an email I received recently from Interpol fan Minna :

[Interpol’s] new record have got pretty mixed reviews from the press and I thought it would be interesting if you could analyse either Barricade of Summer Well from the upcoming record. These songs are, according to Fly Magazine, more simple and poppier songs than the rest in the record, but to me they, or Barricade at least, sound quite complex.

I definitely agree that these two songs are more complex than they might sound at first. Because time is tight right now, I’m just going to discuss “Summer Well” for now (I’ll come back to “Barricade” next post).

First of all, like many of Interpol’s songs, the form of “Summer Well” defies any “pop” associations, in that it’s not really clear what to call each of the sections (verse, chorus, etc.). Thus, I’ve decided to called them Section 1, Section 2, and “It’s Alright” — see the end of this post for my breakdown. Secondly, this song very cleverly makes it feel as if there has been a key change between Section 1 and Section 2, when actually there hasn’t. (This is something I hear Interpol doing a lot throughout this album).

The song uses all the notes of the A major scale (with the exception of a few passing chromatic notes), but because of the chords Interpol chooses, it’s hard to say exactly which key the song is in. Section 1 uses F#minor and Bminor chords, which makes it sound like the song is in the key of B minor. Then, in Section 2, we get Bminor – Amajor – C#minor – Dmajor — all chords found the key of A major (because the Amajor chord does not technically belong in the key of B minor). Similar to Section 2, in Section 3 we have Bminor – Amajor – C#minor – Dmajor/E – Dmajor. Because the bass line “circles” Dmajor (C# – E – D), and they hold Dmajor two times longer than the other chords, Section 3 seems as if it’s in D major! Lastly, the very last chord in the song is Bminor.

This is the brilliance of this song, that Interpol manages to break free of the standard rock chord progression (I IV V I, or, e.g., D G A D), liberating “Summer Well” from the need to establish one specific key, without making the song sound weird or unfamiliar. That’s no easy task! In the end, “Summer Well” is a song that hovers around the keys of B minor, A major, and D major, giving it a unique sound that Fly Magazine considered more pop-like than the other tunes on the album!

Well, I must stop here for now. Off to go dive into “Barricade”!
And look to the future for an analysis of “Always Malaise” for ant!

Love,
Meg

P.S. It’s interesting all this talk about the “new” Interpol, but I feel like we’re not going to truly hear the new Interpol until they make an album without Carlos D. I’ll be very interested to hear how their new songs sound.

“Summer Well”
0:00 Intro (keys enter 0:08)
0:12 Section 1
0:57 Section 2
1:18 “It’s alright”
1:43 Section 1
2:29 Section 2
2:51 to the end “It’s alright”

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~ by megwilhoite on September 17, 2010.

8 Responses to “‘Summer Well’: Deception on The Fly”

  1. Hi,

    It’s me, Minna, the same who wrote the request. Thank you so much for putting this up here! It makes an interesting read. You are exceptionally talented in figuring out song structures!

    What’s your view on Paul’s singing on this record? How much do you consider his vocal’s lead the songs or fit in the frame? How the vocals work in the context of the songs? What is their relationship to the instrumental music? I absolute adore what he is doing in this record and you can definitely hear that he has taken singing lessons! His harmonies, vocals and double vocals are very playful and inventive. I love it! I also love it how the lyrics go so well with the music.

    Now that the record is finally out in every corner of the world some have been complaining that this record is just an example of bad songwriting. May I ask what’s your take on this?

    For me Interpol S/T is an example of inventive songwriting in todays sphere of rock music. I hear classical and world music influences in it. I don’t know much about music theory but do you think it would open up the songs more if one would consider some of the songs on this record from the non-Western tonal theory point of view?

  2. I had to come back to ask some more questions:

    Is there a contemporary music theory? Are there many contemporary music theorists that embrace the contemporary Western music scene outside the Classical world of music? Are there any academic publications on this subject? I’m particularly interested in the relationship of music and words, and what it tells about our contemporary culture. This is also a very personal quest – I try to find out why I’m so addicted and charmed by the whole thing that is Interpol 😀

  3. Thanks, Megan !!! I look forward to your review of Always Malaise. :DDDD

    Honestly I did not like the album after the first listenings. Barricade is probably, together with Success, the most easy one for beginners.

    Now I also appreciate Memory Serves and Lights. And I really like Safe Without and Try It On. Try It On is also interesting in a composing manner I think.

    I have another question… do you know other indie-rock bands that practice frequently “inventive songwriting”? (Minna, you are right!) 😉 MGMT’ Kids and songs of Arcade Fire perhaps? The XX?

    If you have Spotify we could share some playing list with such kind of songs.

    Let me share with you this peculiar song:

    😉

    …and sorry for my English! Cheers from Madrid. 🙂

    Perhaps you like, it… we similar

  4. […] are some thoughts in response to the questions raised by Minna in the comments section of my last post. Minna asked […]

  5. I don’t think they’re really bending tonality in the verse of this song, more like they’re just hovering around the Dorian mode. Good song, but the analysis of it is a bit much in my opinion.

  6. The musical analysis is very well-explained here. Thank you for the article. I feel like I need a brush up on my music theory and tonality. These chord progressions and structures are very intriguing. I think we need to create a new job title for you: “Music Analyst”

  7. […] Pointing out the similarity of Paul’s vocal parts across the 5 first tracks (as well as Paul’s and Daniel’s guitar parts), Brian wrote “I feel like is that the first five songs are really the old classic, simple, repetitive Interpol.” (This sentiment was shared somewhat by Fly Magazine, which I talked about in this post.) […]

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