4 for IV, Part IV: Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and the IV Chord That Isn’t There

On its surface, Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” seems like an odd choice to include in an analytic series devoted to the IV chord, not to mention to devote an entire entry towards. The song does have a couple IV chords (two, though the section in which they appear returns later in the song), but it is not really an integral part of the song’s harmony. However, much of the song implies this chord (and, specifically, a plagal progression) without actually articulating it, which presents a use for this chord on a level not discussed yet.   In this inevitable, eponymous conclusion to my “4 for IV” series (Parts I, II, and III can be found at the provided links), I examine Van Morrison’s subconscious use of the plagal progression in “Into the Mystic”.   Here’s the studio recording of the song, followed by the functional harmonic (key of Eb Major) and formal analyses of the music:   A: Eb* (I) |     |     |     | Bb (V) |     | Eb (I) |     | *liberal mix of Ebsus   B: Gm (iii) | Ab (IV) | Eb (I) |     | Gm (iii) | Ab (IV) | Bb (V) |     |   more »

4 for IV, Part III: IV Chords in Sleepy Kitty’s “Projection Room”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the music of Sleepy Kitty, no need to feel ashamed. They have gone on national tours, but they are mostly a cult favorite in the Midwest. This is particularly true in their adopted hometown of St. Louis, where they have received glowing accolades from the beloved institution that is The Riverfront Times. The band consists of only singer/guitarist/keyboardist Paige Brubeck and drummer Evan Suit (formerly of Harvey Danger), and they have been a strikingly ambitious band, having engaged in various multimedia projects, including providing the music for a staged adaptation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Still, their music remains very much under the radar – I only discovered them through a random comment on an article from The AV Club.   To date, they have released two albums: 2011’s Infinity City and 2014’s Projection Room. The latter of these is a fantastic record – I ranked it as my #1 album from last year, and it has continued to grow on me. Their sound is very eclectic within the rock/pop genre. Some songs are reminiscent of the 90’s/early 00’s angst of Hole and The Distillers (“Godard Antagonist Infection”), others have more »

4 for IV: Introduction

Rock musicians just can’t resist a plagal progression, and I think I know why.   Perhaps it’s part of their nonconformist nature. Classical/concert and rock/pop music share more in common than most people from either side would be willing to admit, and whether it is done consciously or subconsciously, rock music contains several of concert music’s established traditions regarding melody, rhythm, and other musical elements. There are obvious differences, particularly regarding timbre and orchestration, but one of the more subtle points of departure between the genres is their approach to the chord built on the fourth scale degree of the given key (consisting of scale degrees 4, 6, and 1), which will be referred to hence forth as a IV chord (traditionally, diatonic triads are referred to by Roman Numerals, using upper case for major chords and lower case for minor).   In classical music, the IV chord is, outside of the tonic (I) chord, the most versatile diatonic harmony, but it is most frequently used as a predominant chord. A predominant chord, as its name would imply, introduces dominant (built on scale degree 5; a V chord) harmony. However, the IV chord is used less commonly as a predominant more »

Best Albums of 2014

If there’s one common thread among the 20 albums to make my list this year, it’s eclecticism. The emergence of services like Spotify and even YouTube not only make finding a wider gamut of music possible, it also undoubtedly influences those who make the music. Not only do the artists represented here exemplify a wider spectrum of genre than I’ve ever had before, the albums themselves often integrate several styles within their own confines.   In a true testament to the quality of music I discovered this year, this was probably the most difficult year-end ranking I’ve ever had to form, and the gap from top to bottom is probably narrower than any I can remember. I can’t claim to have listened to all of the musics, but I have expanded my field from years past because there was just so much good music out there this year. For your enjoyment:   20) Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 – Well regarded as solo artists, the styles of Killer Mike and El-P complement each other nicely, and they creatively mix their roles by trading both verses and lines. El-P’s production is also solid, and he adds subtle unexpected twists more »