Structured Strife

I’m a sucker for non-traditional song structures.  You’ll never find me listening to a standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus structure and criticizing it for lack of inventiveness or being too boring, but when an artist does break the mold, it gives a song an extra special something that I find compelling.

I’ve recently found this in “Sometime Around Midnight,” a song by indie rock band The Airborne Toxic Event that, despite being from their 2008 self-titled debut album, is one I only just recently came upon thanks to a recommendation by a friend.  The song features no chorus, and no truly distinct divides in the lyrics at all; instead, it simply tells a story directly from start to finish.  Done incorrectly, this could wind up feeling stale, but “Sometime Around Midnight” has a perfectly executed build in power that effectively portrays this tale with unbelievable emotion, placing you within the story of lead singer Mikel Jollett’s heartbreaking encounter with an ex-girlfriend.

Sonically, it follows a fairly steady pattern at its base; it opens with an almost suffocatingly mournful chorus of orchestral strings before the signature bass and guitar riff kicks in, the song starting on a soft note; aside from a brief departure from the main melody in a bridge-like fashion, the primary melodic shift is a bookends-like revisit of the orchestral strings at the end, before a soft conclusion.

What truly sells the song is the dynamics.  It moves from a simple guitar strum with gentle vocals and crescendos to gradually louder and more intense auditory experience, a heavy drumbeat kicking in first, followed by louder electric guitar; by the climax nearly 4 minutes into the 5-minute song, Jollett’s vocals are desperately screaming, “You just don’t care what you look like / The world is falling around you,” amongst the heavily rattling hi-hat and the now-aggressive guitar.  The basic melodic structure of the song doesn’t change, but the building volume and additions within the instrumentals express a loss of control, an explosion of emotions, and a crumbling world of instability that is truly haunting.

If, like me, you’ve somehow missed out on the nearly decade-old song, I cannot recommend highly enough that you mend that and experience its poignance for yourself.

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