Title: The Bones of an Idol
Artist: The New Pornographers
Album: Twin Cinema
Somehow I failed to write about The New Pornographers' superb album Electric Version back when I was discussing 2003 so I made myself a promise to feature the Canadian supergroup this time around. Twin Cinema is as good as Electric Version (arguably better, but not for me) and there are a lot of interesting songs exploring a host of musical influences. The group always seems to be on the verge of becoming a punk band, a prog rock band, a power pop band—it's almost like they can't decide—and the blend is exhilarating at times.
I had a difficult time choosing a track to feature so I finally went with one with a particularly interesting harmonic structure: "The Bones of an Idol" is constructed entirely of major chords. I've always been intrigued by the idea of using just one type of chord (i.e. major, minor, dominant 7th, etc.) throughout an entire song. Since major and minor tonalities naturally produce a mix of major and minor chords, a constant stream of one chord type (in this case, major) serves to mask tonality and create a sense of tonal stasis. (This is very prevalent in the work of composers like Debussy.) The normal concepts of tension and relaxation become very diluted.
"The Bones of an Idol" is essentially in the key of G Major but its chord palette includes the non-diatonic major chords of E, F, Bb, and Eb in addition to the diatonic chords G, C and D. The chord progression unfolds like this (chords outside the key are in red):
Intro: G (I) E (VI)
Verse: C (IV) D (V) Bb (bIII) G (I) E (VI)
C (IV) D (V) Bb (bIII) C (IV) D (V) Bb (bIII)
G (I) E (VI) F (bVII)
Instrumental Break: C (IV) G (I) D (V) F (bVII) Bb (bIII) C (IV)
So that's it! Can you think of another song that uses so many major chords without any minors? Or a lot of minors with no majors?