Longtime visitors here may be aware of the soft spot I have for suspended and unresolved chords. To oversimplify matters, both of these types of chords just don’t sound settled when you hear them—a suspended chord because it replaces one of the “right” notes in the chord with a “wrong” note, an unresolved chord because it is leading the ear to a subsequent chord that ends up not arriving. This song’s driving, crunching introduction is especially drive-y crunchy because it’s all about suspended and unresolved chords. We are agitated from the start, but in a way that hooks you, like a cliffhanger in a plot line.
In “Sleepsick,” resolution is kept at bay, not just through the introduction but through the entire two-part verse, all 30-plus seconds of which unfold over one suspended chord. This is pretty fine songwriting right there: the melody is full of interesting intervals and effective drama, but it’s all on top of that one itchy chord. The slight processing applied to the lead vocals amplifies the claustrophobia somehow. When the chord finally shifts, at 0:48, all nearby ears break into applause—almost anything would sound like a resolution by now, but this anthemic round of alternating major/minor chords seems particularly gratifying. And yet we get just one iteration of the chorus and we are back without fuss (1:04) to the fretful world of the verse. Only when the chorus comes back, at 1:37, do we feel more fully resolved, as it is now allowed to repeat, which it really needed to the first time but didn’t. Note near 1:59 the subtle change of chord in the second line of the chorus during the repeat, on the line “Hiding from the light outside”—an almost indiscernible happening that adds elusive richness, especially in a song as stingy and purposeful with its chords as this one is. And, speaking of purposeful chords, don’t miss the song’s final gesture: the ominous (and unresolved) chord on which the song ends, with a long fade-out, beginning at 3:13.
Dinosaur Bones is a five-piece band from Toronto. “Sleepsick” is from their second album, Shaky Dream, released last month on Dine Alone Records. You can download the track from the link above, as usual, or via SoundCloud. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the lead.