Jun 4, 2012

Major Over Minor

(cross-posted at Train My Ear)

I'm not entirely approving of the Tori Amos-ish direction of Regina Spektor's new record, but there's no arguing with the catchiness of "All the Rowboats." It's not that three-note minor key melody that hooks me—the same riff Tom Waits' "Cemetery Polka" is built on, not to mention a recurring motif of JC Superstar ("Talk to me/Jesus Christ"):

No, it's the odd note she drops in at the :34 mark on "rowboats" and "paintings":

She avoids hitting it again until 2:20, and finally, extremely satisfyingly, hammers it a few times after 3:03 (she does sneak it in briefly at the :52 mark on the word "sculpture"). Why is it so satisfying? Because that interval is a classic tension-builder: a major seventh over a minor chord. This is Bernard Herrmann/Sweeney Todd territory. I may not be willing to go to the mat for Ms. Spektor's compositional genius (though I think I would for this gorgeous new song), but to toss this major-minor collision into a three-minute pop ditty gives fresh sharpness to the term "hook." It certainly pulls me in.

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