Monday, April 6, 2015

Song #505 of 9999 - Gun Has No Trigger by Dirty Projectors

Song #505 of 9999

Title: Gun Has No Trigger
Artist: Dirty Projectors
Year: 2012
Album: Swing Lo Magellan

I'll be honest. I had not heard this song before yesterday. I have no idea whether it has attained any significant level of popularity among those who profess to know something about modern music. But I do know it stands as an example of an interesting song from a year I was ready to write off as completely uninteresting based on the mainstream offerings. (More on that later—maybe they're not as bad as we think!) Nevertheless, let's set aside my ignorance and examine what's going on this fascinating little song.

Before analyzing it properly (but of course!), my initial impression was of a song that appears to be vacillating between major and minor. Exploiting the concept of the Picardy third, Gun Has No Trigger presents A minor and A major almost as interchangeable. But a closer examination reveals a more standard progression:

      Am / / /  |  G#°7/A / / / |  Dm7/A / / /  |  Am / / /    |   Am / / /  |  A /  Am /   |  E / / /  |  / / / / 

Still, that brief shift to A Major in the 6th bar is jarring and serves as a nice premonition of the A Major cadence that arrives with the word trigger at 1:15 and in subsequent refrains.

As interesting as the harmony is, the real star here is the spare setting presented in support of David Longstreth's questionable vocal. Consisting only of female vocal harmony, a funky bass line and a rather pedestrian street beat, those disembodied voices—eerie at times, brash at others—present a range of color that makes traditional chordal instruments unnecessary. The arrangement is so captivating that it's easy to miss the provocative and vivid lyrics that lead to the clever hook.


  1. This album didn't seem to gain the same level of attention or acclaim as their previous album "Bitte Orca" or the latter collab with Bjork. It is however, a very interesting album. If I remember correctly, they recorded it themselves in a cabin in the woods somewhere.

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