“May Day” is a terrific example of how the familiar can take a turn towards the powerful. Notice at the outset how Schoepp doesn’t belabor the introduction–a canny move when you’re operating in familiar territory: as listeners, we hear the two-measure riff repeated once, and we’re good, let’s move right into it. The same thing happens with the one-note verse melody, which fades as we get into the fourth measure–the ear grasps the effect and at that point Schoepp’s decision to expand the melody beyond the one note registers as an effective surprise.
Then, the chorus: why does something this simple work so well? There are three subtle elements I can point to. First, there’s the way that the melody here slows down, with key words drawn out over multiple beats. This presents an engaging contrast to the march-like regularity of the verse. Second, there’s no denying the power of unadulterated melodic resolution: this chorus ends precisely as your ear wants and needs it to end. Lastly, Schoepp begins the chorus on a high E and ends one octave below–a broad melodic range to cover in a simple rock song. This is nothing that you actually have to know, and it’s not at all showy, but I’m convinced the breadth of the melody contributes to its potency; anthemic rock songs tend to have more concise melody lines (think Tom Petty as a classic example). All this is delivered with Schoepp’s scuffed-up tenor, which lends a down-home appeal that brings to mind Steve Forbert, for another old-school reference point.
Raised in Wisconsin and based in Milwaukee, Schoepp has been releasing music since he was a teenager in the late ’00s. “May Day” is the title track to his new album, which will be released later this month. The single is up on Bandcamp as well; you’ll find the album there too upon release.
I don’t know if I’m a sucker for one-note melodies but I sure am fascinated by them.
“Motions” – King of Spain
I don’t know if I’m a sucker for one-note melodies but I sure am fascinated by them. Rock’n’roll has had a smattering of famous songs with extended one-note melodies (“Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Pump It Up,” and “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” are the three that always come to mind) and yet consider the difference in feel between that trio of harangue-like tunes and this one-note wonder, which is smooth and cat-like in its unfolding. The arrangement, drony and hypnotic, pulls us with style and determination through such a silvery series of chords that the ear almost doesn’t hear how dogged a one-note melody this is—unlike its one-note companions from rock history, which veer now and then from the primary note, the melody in “Motions” is literally just one note for the entire length of the verse section, beginning at 0:39, until the very last note, which falls off on the last word of the phrase “This is the way that we fall.”
One-note melodies inescapably draw our attention to the lyrics, since our ears seek the source of complication in what they are listening to, in an effort to understand, and if the melody is all one note, the complication pretty much all comes from the words. The lyrics in a one-note melody carry an inescapable feeling of stream of consciousness; the lyrics of “Motions” take this one step further—they seem less a spontaneous litany of cool-sounding words than themselves a meaningful exploration of the inner workings of the mind. They pour out, demand contemplation, yet leave no time in which to contemplate. Focus if you can on the words and you’ll find the power of the song multiplies.
When the debut King of Spain album, Entropy, was released in 2007, the band was a solo project for Tampa singer/multi-instrumentalist Matt Slate. In 2009, King of Spain became a duo when bassist Daniel Wainright joined as a full-fledged member. “Motions” is from the forthcoming album All I Did Was Tell Them the Truth and They Thought It Was Hell, to be released at the end of August on New Grenada Records.
photo credit: Lucy Pearl Photography (http://www.lucy-pearl.com)