Obstacle 2, first verse

Note: This post has been updated; there was a typo (see comment thread with Christopher below), and, sadly, it looks like Minna’s blog is no more. 

Here’s my transcription of the first verse of “Obstacle 2”, as per Minna’s request. [Minna has an awesome blog where she analyzes Paul Banks’ lyrics. She’s already written one post about this verse, and is planning a follow-up post. Be sure to check it out!]

Some quick thoughts on the music:

As always, I love that Paul’s guitar part is about pattern, not chords – there’s a clear “bassline” (E – A – D), with a sort of “melody” on top (lots of Bs, then C-B-C-B), and this repeats every two bars. Nestled in between these two lines is Paul’s vocal line, which, in this verse, is comprised mostly of G, A, and B (with an E and an F# thrown in briefly here and there). Thus, the texture of the music (voice and guitar) is extremely tightly woven. Also, even though the guitar part is pretty clear about the key being E minor, the way that Paul sings his notes works against this clarity. He ends his little vocal phrases on Gs and As, as in “close”, “tight”, “braids”, “tonight”, etc., which are less helpful in establishing E minor as the key. So, within this tightly woven texture, the individual lines create a fairly complex “tone color.”


~ by megwilhoite on March 25, 2012.

11 Responses to “Obstacle 2, first verse”

  1. Thank you so much for doing this! I have one more question: Can higher notes, notes that fit into the key or depart from the key, or notes with longer duration highlight or stress particular words or syllables?


    • good question! The notes Paul sings here all fit into the key, and he sings in a pretty speech-level range; what strikes me is the rhythm. He starts off singing a pretty fast pattern (matching the eighth-note rhythm of the guitar), but when he gets to “hold” he starts singing on longer durations, and also in syncopation, working against the driving rhythm of the guitar. It’s like everything’s straight forward until he gets to “hold your face,” and then things get a little more complex and unpredictable.

      • Cool…. I believe this voiced rhytmic style fits so well when Paul picked to cover Horse With No Name

  2. Thank you! Now I can finish my writing 🙂


  3. Inspiring analisys…as always 🙂
    THANK YOU !!

  4. Meg, I’m so very happy that a person as talented as you is taking time to spread musical knowledge through Interpol.

    Would it be appropriate for me to transcribe what I can of Safe Without (already in the process) and send it to you, for you to complete? I doubt I will be able to discern the notes of the vocals.

    Thanks in advance for your time and reply 🙂

    • sure, send it my way! happy to try to finish it 🙂 I love “Safe Without”!

      • Great! I haven’t put as much work into it as I’d hoped to recently, but after my exam on Monday I’m going to be able to spend as much time on it as I like. I can have the guitar and keyboard parts transcribed by the end of next week. I might even take a stab at the bass, if I find myself around a piano.

      • May I wet your appetite?

        Tempo = 109, time signature 5/4. Sam’s drums are all triplets (tried Tempo = 80, time signature 15/16 and got drums in simple notes but that made everything else awkward).

  5. To my ear this sounds more like G major over B minor.

    • oh dang I think maybe B minor is a typo?? Or maybe I was having a really bad ear day that day?? Thanks for catching that, Christopher! This is clearly a pitch collection that favors E minor/G major (I still hear it as more minor than major), with E Phrygian thrown in there and something like C pentatonic at the end. I’ll fix the typo in the post and add this song to my queue; I now really want to do a full analysis of the song because the keys are really grey in there.

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