Thursday, February 13, 2014

Song #494 of 9999 - Don't Cry by Deerhunter

Song #494 of 9999

Title: Don't Cry
Artist: Deerhunter
Year: 2010
Album: Halcyon Digest

It's rare that I remember the very first time I heard a song. But in the case of "Don't Cry" by Deerhunter, I can pinpoint the moment almost exactly. I walked into a record shop in London sometime over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday and was captivated by this song, which was playing on the instore stereo. I remember asking the guy behind the counter who it was and being surprised to learn the band was from Atlanta, Georgia. (He also seemed surprised that I didn't know—I am American, after all!) I wrote down the name of the record and bought it when I returned home. (Yes, I know, support local businesses, blah blah blah—do you know how hard it is to transport vinyl records across an ocean!?) 

The album ended up on a bunch of "Best Of" lists and it feels good to know I still have an ear for spotting new music. (pause for self-adulation) Except not really because my initial thought was that it must be something quite old I had missed. The song has an early-60s psychedelia vibe marked by its midtempo double-backbeat, fuzz guitar and lead vocal all awash in thick, foggy reverb. Add in the excessive stereo separation and you almost expect to see "Stereo" stamped in the upper right corner of the front cover. Although the lyrics were difficult to comprehend in the shop, I distinctly remember being struck by the repetition of the phrase "...cry your eyes out," which becomes progressively more creepy and literal each time it is sung.

Structurally, the song is unusual in that, while its verses use the same chords in the same order, they are distinctly different in terms of how long and how often each chord is played:
Verse 1:   B  /  G#m /  |  B  /  G#m /  |   E  /  F#  /   |   E  /  F#  /   |   (2X)
Verse 2:   B   /   /   /     |  B   /   /   /     |  G#m  /  /  /  |  G#m  /  /  / |  E  /  F#  /   |  F#  /  /  /  |  E  /  F#  /  |  E  /  F#  /   |  (etc.)
I think there's also something intriguing about the way the E and F# chords function relative to the tonic (I) and major supertonic (II—C#M). I would go so far as to say the bridge that connects the verses is actually in the key of C# and the E and F# chords function as bIII and IV, while during the verses (in B Major), they function more predictably as IV and V. Anyway, if you haven't heard this album and you appreciate the neo-psychedelia movement, you should check it out. Stay warm! (or, if in London, dry!)

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