Wolf Parade

You should be listening to Wolf Parade. Their new album, "“Apologies to the Queen Mary,"” is that good. You can go here to download some songs if you don't believe me.

Rather that write a bunch of things like "“This album is complex, yet subtle"” or "“improves with each listen," or try to come up with some elaborate metaphors, I decided that I would just point out a few of my favorite moments from the album.

The album begins with "“You are a Runner"” and the verse is just i to V in harmonic minor. My regular reader(s?) know how much I love harmonic minor, you can tell harmonic minor because the second chord is major. This chord progression has more roots in classical music than in blues, and I think in that regard it sets an important tone for the rest of the album. This progression helps to give the song its dark driving nature. In the chorus, they move from the V down to the IV. In a standard harmonic minor, the IV would be minor (iv), but the chord works because we are use to hearing V IV progressions, particularly in rock music.

My favorite song on the album is "I'll Believe in Anything." The song begins with a guitar part playing in 6/8, or possibly 6/4, and the drums playing in 4/4 over it, or at least this is how I interpreted it. My friend, and occasional musical cohort, Aaron thinks that they are just playing in 6/8 and refusing to accent the traditional beats of 1 and 4, and instead accenting 1 3 and 5. I think a case can be made for both. Regardless, the rhythm in this section creates a wonderful tension that is then released when the drummer goes into a strict 6/8 drum beat. When you are listening, the 6/8 with 4/4 drum part occurs when the drummer is just hitting the snare, and the strict 6/8 part occurs when the cymbals come in. Most of the song works with this tension and release. Later on in the song, when the guitar just starts hitting full chords, they again change the emphasis, and the song takes on a 3/4 feel. Finally at the end, the song shifts into 4/4 and the listener gets the emotional payoff, all the tension has gone. What I really like about this song is the way they use rhythm and meter to shape the song and create dynamics, as opposed to say a quiet verse/loud chorus structure.

These are just two moments to explain why I like the album. There are plenty more examples that I could give, "Same Ghost Every Night" has a similar rhythm structure to it. Of course these chord structures and rhythm structures would be wasted if the band didn't write good melodies to go over them. Fortunately, they have well constructed melodies guaranteed to stay stuck in your head. Thank god for that, because you can have all the erudition in the world, but without a good song you are more likely to resemble another band from Canada. But let me encourage you to listen past the melody to the drums, the keyboards, and the way the all of parts interact. There are some really great moments in the instrumentation, particularly "Grounds for Divorce" and "We Built Another World."

I don't mean for any of this to be intimidating. I think the strength of this album is that while these elements of chord and rhythm structure are present, you really don't need to know anything about music theory to like these songs. At its heart "Apologies to the Queen Mary" is just a collection of really good songs, and I mean that as a good thing.

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