•July 18, 2015 • 5 Comments

Almost exactly a year ago today, reader Lorefin asked me to look at Roland and Stella — well, here’s Roland!

roland clip

This song presents so many musical traits that feel very “Interpol” to me:

  • A tight, clean texture consisting of highly repetitive riffs,
  • modal mixture (the song is in E minor for the most part, but F-natural appears in a few places [e.g., 0:26] making it briefly in E Phrygian),
  • non-tonic notes (in particular B and C) feature prominently and therefore create a sense of harmonic tension,
  • and the last third of the song presents new material in which the melodic tension increases dramatically.

The song’s form is Intro – Verse – Chorus (“He severs segments”) – Interlude – Verse – Chorus – Coda1 (2:30) – Coda2 (2:58). I love the contrast between the Verse and Chorus, the former being a really dense texture with interlocking guitar lines, the latter being a really unified texture with the guitars and bass all playing almost exactly the same line in octaves. Whenever the Chorus starts in this song I want to start moving my body.

The Coda in this song is so…sexy, if I can get poetic here. Starting at 2:30 Carlos is playing extremely high on the bass in completely stepwise motion (so, the notes are all close together), while one of the guitars sets up a stable large-scale four bar pattern as the other guitar plays a melody with a wave-like contour that both metrically and harmonically pushes against this large-scale pattern. At 2:58 this all sort of releases into a two-bar pattern with a strong sense of forward motion; the pattern repeats three more times verbatim, and we end the song not on the tonic E, but on the sixth scale degree, C.

Those are my initial thoughts on Roland — I always feel bad not including Sam’s drum parts in my transcriptions, since his playing is such an integral part of their sound. Like, there would be no Interpol without Sam’s insanely amazing, disciplined, tasteful drumming. Ever since I saw them live at Bowery Ballroom last year my already high respect for Sam’s playing has increased dramatically.

Anyway! In order of request, next on my list is Stella, C’mere, Obstacle 1, Length of Love, Same Town, and My Desire. I fall more in love with El Pintor the more I listen to it and I can’t wait to dig into those songs.

Until next time!


2002 pics of Daniel and Paul (and Carlos’ back)

•March 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

These were taken by my coworker Cassandra on 30 September 2002 at this place called Middle East (the downstairs venue) in Cambridge, MA (I incorrectly tweeted earlier that it was in Maine):

Paul at Middle East

2002.09.30 Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge MA (US)

Daniel at Middle East

2002.09.30 Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge MA (US)

Daniel at Middle East

2002.09.30 Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge MA (US)

Daniel at Middle East

2002.09.30 Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge MA (US)

I just love the serendipity here: I’m from Florida, Cassandra’s from Maine, she went to college in Massachusetts and saw Interpol in a tiny venue just as they were starting out, and now she and I sit across from each other at a publishing house in NYC.

Also, I have a list of songs to analyze: Roland, Stella, C’mere, Obstacle 1, Length of Love, and, like, the ENTIRE new album — all of my free time has been wrapped up in other creative projects I’ve been working on but I am still planning on getting to these!

Much love!


Initial thoughts on El Pintor

•September 21, 2014 • 9 Comments

I am desperately trying to analyze these songs, but I keep getting swept up in the music and losing concentration! But here are my initial thoughts:

When I listened through the entire album for the first time a couple weeks ago, my first impression was that it’s much more playful than the rest of their output. There’s freedom in the way the songs are put together. I also noted that it’s an extremely rhythmically complex album. Daniel’s opening riffs in several of the songs leave you wondering where the downbeat is until the drums come in and announce the meter.

I’ve started graphing the structure of the songs, and my impression of rhythmic complexity and freedom in song form seems to be correct: “All the Rage” starts off structurally predictable (though the guitar riff is very metrically unpredictable) at 4 bars/measures of 4 beats each, repeated 4 times. The verse shares the 4 bar structure, but is only repeated 3 times, which is unusual for Interpol. Even more unusual is that the chorus is 3 bars of 4 beats, and again repeated only 3 times—>the COOLEST part being that the last bar of the chorus elides with the first bar of the next verse: The ending of one and the beginning of the other happen simultaneously. Elision is so cool in music.

What’s also cool is that we got a foreshadowing of this freedom in metrical and formal structure in the last album, with “Lights” (see my post on that song).

Ok, back to graphing (assuming that I can stop listening to “My Desire” on repeat haha).



“NYC” transcription + analysis

•September 7, 2014 • 2 Comments

NYC pic

Hello there! While I await my copy of El Pintor, I thought I’d finish up my analysis of “NYC”, originally requested by Nathaniel (click on the image above to access the full transcription).

Strikingly, the song consists of only two chords, F major (sometimes FM7) and C major, which in Western music theory is the classic movement between I, aka the “tonic” (the first chord of the scale, in this case F major), and V, aka the “dominant” (the fifth chord of the scale). The movement between these two chords has typically been characterized as extremely stable, the leading-tone (E) of the V chord (C-E-G) pulling you right back to the tonic (F). In and of itself, this chord progression between F and C contains no uncertainty, it’s almost somnambulistic.

That’s where Sam comes in. I am a huge fan of Sam’s drumming, and this bit of work just makes me so happy. Against the regular strumming of the guitars he creates significant rhythmic tension by emphasizing the offbeats. Instead of a regular 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and we get 1-AND-rest-and-THREE-rest-4-AND. In addition to this, as the song builds he creates a beautiful, full sonority out of all the different parts of his kit, creating this rush of sound that for me signifies New York City in this song.

I imagine Paul riding the subway home from a show or a party and then trudging down the sidewalk/pavement very late at night, exhausted and disappointed that he’s spending the night alone, all the while the unpredictable and constant noise of the city that never sleeps enveloping him. I hear the “turn on the bright lights” part of his vocals as some late-night epiphany in which he realizes he needs to take control of his destiny, outlining an A minor chord to slightly push against the overriding F major tonality.

Next up: El Pintor, then getting to the requests I’ve received for Roland, Stella, and C’mere!

Video clips from Bowery show + review

•September 6, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Some clips from the show; I couldn’t get a clip of every song, but I got most of them!

Here’s what I wrote on the subway ride home:


“It was. Amazing. The energy of the band was exalting, they just seemed to be having such a good time. And the crowd was right there with them, singing along with Stella, Evil, even All the Rage. At one point a guy yelled “Play every song you’ve ever written!”, which made the crowd laugh and Paul grin, but we really would have stood there all night had they wanted to do that.

“Sam was his amazing, solid self as always, getting so much power and variety out of his kit, never needing an auxiliary percussionist like some do. Daniel did all his dance moves and hand flourishing, really driving the hypnotic parts of the slow burn songs like Lights. Paul was a consummate frontman, often donning a good-natured smile, and just as solid as Sam in his playing. At one point, after Daniel encouraged us to clap along to the song, Paul shot him a grin and got a really sweet smile out of him. TOTBT was a transcendetal experience, and I felt like my heart would beat out of my chest during Not Even Jail. I sang with ecstasy “got to be some more change in my life” and we all shouted “Stella!” gleefully. I was reminded of how gloriously beautiful the lyrics of TYOAC are. I haven’t been lifted out of myself like that in far too long a time. Thank, Interpol, for a night I’ll never forget.”

And thanks to Christie for joining me at the event! 

Thoughts forthcoming on El Pintor and how it relates to their previous albums!

Pictures from Bowery Ballroom show!

•September 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Can be viewed here, video clips and review of the performance forthcoming! It was an amazing show!

My transcription of “The Undoing”

•January 20, 2014 • 6 Comments

Tumblr user desifee sent me a message about “The Undoing” a few days ago, so I decided to transcribe it—it’s one of my favorite songs off the self-titled album and I fell in love with it all over again while doing the transcription. I did this in a fairly short amount of time, so please let me know if you see any typos!

undoing img

Harmonic analysis:

Section 1, 0:00-1:09 and 1:40-2:48: ||: B major/E major/G# minor/E major (each chord played for 4 measures) :||

Section 2, 1:10-1:39 and 2:49-3:17: ||: B major – D# minor/F# major 7 – F# major/E# major/D# minor – F# major/F# major 7/F# major/F# major :||

Coda, 3:18-the end: Same chord progression as Section 2, repeated almost 8 times (8th repeat is faded out just after the beginning of the progression; my transcription stops at the end of the 7th repeat).

Some thoughts:

Section 1 is nice and expansive, the “harmonic rhythm” (i.e., the rate at which the chords change) is super slow, each chord playing for four measures each, and playing a very non-disruptive I-IV-vi-IV chord progression (I hear this section in B major). The texture for me creates a feeling of grandeur, like well-ordered palace gardens, with the synths and the drums adding more volume in the repeat of the chord progression.

Section 2 is much more complex, harmonically speaking the first time it appears, and also texturally speaking the second time it appears. The harmonic rhythm speeds up. Also, it starts out in B major, but with addition of the E# chord, we end up swinging around to F# major (the closely-related dominant of B major). The second time Section 2 appears (2:49)  the vocal tracks begin to stack up: the Spanish lyrics, the “oh”s and the “please” lyrics. We hear a foreshadowing of the “please” lyrics at 1:25 during the first Section 2, but he really starts pleading in earnest during the second Section 2 and the Coda.

The texture becomes even more dense in the Coda, and the vocals add two new short phrases (“all night long” and “I would wait”). The relatively calm expansiveness of Section 1 has become a complex interweaving of several different (and, in the lyrics, increasingly desperate) lines by the time the song fades out.

Also fun to note, there is no electric bass in this song, just a synthesized double bass!