Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sweet Home Alabama, Shadowman

Turbo blog entry. More to practice. Need sleep. Not so much burning the candle at both ends as submerging the candle in the fires of Mordor, and today I was sick again. Bleh. Always fun to play a gig when you think you're going to puke at any moment. I think I'm a lot more exhausted from this whole break-up/move/figuring out a new life thing than I like to admit. I don't have as much energy as I usually do, and my immune system is shot. As an added bonus, whenever I get sick, I also get upset and sad that I'm sick, which is kind of dumb but there you have it.

I needed a pick-me-up song with a good groove today. No tender ballads, please. I looked at my uber list: "Right Here Waiting", no. "Fire and Rain." No, definitely not today. "Sweet Home Alabama"... I looked it up on playlist, and was grinning as soon as it started playing. I like the eight-note groove on each chord change - a little extra attitude, hitting it twice - and of course the iconic guitar riffs. I've been choosing guitar-based music a lot lately. I think I might need a guitar. I'm an occasional lyricist, and I usually picture myself with a guitar when I'm working out the lyrics in my head. Which is a problem, since in real life it takes me about five minutes to change chords on a guitar. There may be a visit to a pawn shop - or more likely, craigslist - in my future. Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of learning the piano solo at the end of "Sweet Home Alabama".

Last night, my friend Joshua came over to jam and we transcribed the song "Shadowman" by K's Choice, a Belgian band I'd never heard of before. My current favorite thing about this song: the Asus4 at the end on the lyric "now'd be perfect". The song is in C# minor, and we haven't heard Asus4 before in the song. That D natural in the harmony is just sweet here. It resolves to C# in an A chord, stays on C# for C#min/G#, B# in G# chord, then back to the tonic. What is it about chromatic lines that make them so, so sexy?? Perhaps it's the tiny movements - a half-step is as sensitive as musical intervals get in typical Western scales. A chromatic line is a thread the ear can follow throught the tension and resolution in the harmony.

It's all in the resolution: the progression that starts the "Shadowman", we analyzed as "figure 1": C#min - A/C# - F#7sus4/B - F#7/A#. Music theory nerds will understand why we started to analyze the third chord as Bsus4. B, F#, E. But instead of the E resolving to a D#, the B resolves to the A#. It's not just semantics, it does sound different. The resolution colors the chord that came before it in hindsight, and then when you hear it again (as you do many times in this song), you know what to expect, and you perceive the F#7sus4/B a little differently based upon what you know it's gonna do next. There's a life metaphor in here somewhere.

The form and the harmony on this song are actually really interesting, but I'll have to save any more geekery for another time. Meanwhile, you can check out the video and draw your own conclusions. I feel so honored that they chose my first initial for their band name!


  1. My favourite chord in the song (Shadowman) has to be the G#m9 in the start of the bar before the return of the chorus. it's such a different sound and texture to the rest of the song, and like a good spice is there just a wee bit where it's needed.

    if you aren't sure where that is, here is a quick analysis of the song's form: ABACBD (not counting the intro & interludes) or basically:
    -Verse I
    -Chorus I
    -Verse II
    -Chorus II

    ...."and these have been 30 secnds on irregular song form"


  2. yes! that too (the G#-7) ... i was playing the beginning during a rehearsal break today & it turns out the dance captain from Heights is a huge K's Choice fan - he was shocked that i was playing one of their songs. :)