Lesser spotted music post: the sense of an ending

Sep 05

Four songs I like which go in unexpected directions.

Beirut – ‘East Harlem’

It starts rather stately and plodding. It’s such a simple song – just three chords – G, C and D, but then in the latter section he throws an E Minor in there, the plinky piano starts, the vocal harmonies kick in and you have these rather wonderful, kinaesthetic lyrics set to a sweet melody:

Sound is the colour I know

Sound is what keeps me looking for your eyes

Sound of your breath in the cold

The sound will bring me home…


The National – ‘City Middle’

I know I’m not the first one to pick up on this, but it’s truly a stunning song. Like all brilliant songs there are some fucking weird chords in there. I think they might have been raiding Jeff Buckley’s catalogue for a couple of them. Anyway, you need to get three minutes in before you get to the emotional core, and actually this progression is pretty simple – a straight D, Em, G, B path – almost as if the rest of the song was being frilly so they could sneak up on you. In case you’re wondering the ‘click’ in that section is from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Brick is always waiting for the ‘click’ to feel at peace. And in terms of song structure it doesn’t come – we’re back to the weird chords and the memories of Karen. They always do one brilliant song per album, this lot.


LCD Soundsystem – ‘Home’

Everyone seems to think ‘Someone Great’ is their masterpiece, but I’m going for the closing track on their last album. It’s a bit more understated. As with that song, it’s all about the crescendo, but here the anagnorisis (and no, I can’t find a less pretentious word) is nothing so stark. Unlike the others, the surprise is only in the gentle shock of understanding the lyrics. What’s it about? It’s about friendship, and how getting lashed actually can be the answer to your problems – that’s all.


Beirut – ‘Cherbourg’

Yeah, I know there’s a lot of fake emotion going on. ┬áBut you know what, I just enjoy it…first of all you have the crescendo, but then with most Beirut songs you’re basically dealing with two songs. D, Em, G, D to close us out – not a million miles away from the City Middle ending, but you get a sense of resolution at odds with the uncertain lyrics. Each song is supposed to evoke a sense of place…well, Cherbourg is foggy, and it’s very much a place you pass through, rather than visit…I shan’t go any further, because a song like this only offers what the listener brings to it.