“Slowburner” – The District Attorneys
“Slowburner” begins with a suspended chord—a nice crunchy suspended chord at that. I’m a fan of well-placed suspended chords, and especially like the opening suspended chord gambit. Kind of perks your ear up right away, luring you in as you wait for resolution (suspended chords are inherently unresolved, as they offer us only two of any given chord’s proper three notes).
And “Slowburner” has plenty more going for it than merely a suspended chord. There’s something incredibly sturdy and affecting about this song, but the wonderfulness kind of sneaks up on you, and accumulates. The verse-verse-chorus-chorus structure rather naturally creates a sense of buildup, as does the way the second part of the melody, in both the verse and chorus, happens in roughly double time compared to the first half. That single-time/double-time shift also gives the song a kind of natural swing; it’s a rock’n’roll song that doesn’t actually sound like rock’n’roll. And listen to how melodically succinct this baby is: “Slowburner” consists solely of two strong refrains—the four-measure verse melody (with the second two measures repeating the second time through) and the four-measure chorus melody. They are linked by an insistent but chummy lead guitar that wails mostly on a high E note. This is a full-fledged song to be sure, but there’s no fat here at all. Makes you wonder why so many bands pad their songs with passages that just kind of tread water. If they’re not working, get rid of them. Write a great melody and be done with it. Isn’t that easy enough? Why doesn’t everyone do this? (These are rhetorical questions.)
The District Attorneys are a quintet from Athens, Georgia, founded in 2009. They were featured here in January for the song “Splitsville,” another disarmingly crafty piece of work. “Slowburner” is from Waiting on the Calm Down: The Basement Sessions, the band’s second EP. No full-lengths have been recorded yet, but this is a band worth keeping an ear out for.