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Thursday, November 17, 2011

MuteMath "Blood Pressure" Song Analysis

Reader Joel Wiens requested a song analysis of "Blood Pressure" by MuteMath, a band that's quickly becoming one of my favorites. The song is off of their latest album called Odd Soul.

The official video for this song is one of the best music videos I've seen in a long time, but it's not embedded here because I don't want you to have to sit through a commercial first, and I'm also not too sure that their label will allow it to be played from any site but YouTube. That said, here's the link. Be sure to watch it because it sure is both catchy and innovative.

As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"Blood Pressure" uses a fairly standard song form with some subtle tricks. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus, End

What's interesting is that the chord changes are a little different on the second verse and on the outchorus, which keeps the song interesting. And the song has an ending!

The Arrangement
The best part about "Blood Pressure" is that it seems like very simple rock, but there's a lot additional parts that you only hear if you listen hard. Listen closely for all of the synth noises, extra guitar parts, and vocals that fill in the spaces, which once again to keep things interesting. As the song progresses, so do the extra fill parts (they're mostly on the right channel).

The arrangement elements are:

  * The Foundation: Bass and drums

  * The Rhythm: The repeating guitar line

  * The Pad: No true pad in this song although you might classify the vocal harmonies at the end of the verses as a pad.

  * The Lead: Lead vocal

  * The Fills: Various synths, vocals, guitars and noises

The Sound
Whoever mixed this song did a great job of effects layering. The drums and main guitar riff are fairly dry and in your face (there might be a very short room effect on both), while the lead vocal octaves have a bit of a short hall or plate, and the background harmonies have a very long and deep hall reverb. As a result, there's a lot of front to back action that puts all the instruments on a aural soundstage where you can almost see in your mind where they're standing .

The panning is also very cool as you'll find the main guitar riff on the left channel and the fills on the right for balance, as well as a very wide drum track.

All of the tracks are fairly clean and distinct, while nothing seems over-compressed, a sign of good engineering.

The Production
There's a lot to like about this production. First of all the drums are very active in a Keith Moon sort of way, only a lot more controlled. The doubled lead vocals in octaves makes the song memorable, as does as the vocal harmony cluster at the end of each verse. The guitar chords are doubled in the chorus to make it seem bigger, a standard trick that works particularly well here.

I especially liked a couple of things. First of all the substantial differences between the two verses in terms of structure. They start the same but begin to deviate from one another after 8 bars. The outchorus is also different from the previous choruses in that it's bigger, but also the riff keeps repeating, rather than stopping on the beat 2 of the second bar.

The other thing I like is all the little noises and fills that are used as the song goes along. I especially liked the wah-wah keyboard in the second verse on the right channel.

Be sure to check out the official video, but you'll have to wade through a commercial first.

Send me your suggestions for song analysis.

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