At the end of last year, New Zealand's the Golden Awesome released their first album Autumn. It made my list for best records of 2011 - it should have made yours too if you are a fan of super-dreamy, super-hazy, super-melodic guitar pop. You can call it shoegaze if that helps, you can call it Flying Nun with an extra layer of noise too. Just make sure you check them out and soon. We asked the band (guitarist Joe Contag, bassist Matt Steindl, drummer Justin Barr and vocalist Stef Animal) to send us a list of five things that meant something to them, and after a bunch of false starts and deliberation, they did....
First, here's "High Life" from the album to get you up to speed:
The Golden Awesome's Top 5 – Chords
The E power chord is probably the most ubiquitous of all guitar chords in rock music. Played in its most obvious position in the middle of the fretboard, it sounds so thoroughly familiar it's actually quite bland. The strength of this chord, though, lies not in itself but rather in what it is combined with. Alternating it with added notes outside the E triad (e.g. making it a moody raised-7th C, as is the case in Bailter Space's "Skin", or adding a 9th as in the Golden Awesome's "Autumn") quickly produces great basic harmonic structures and song ideas. As for the raw open-string power of E5 you just can't go past Can's "Yoo Doo Right" - or the Clean's "Point That Thing Somewhere Else", for that matter.
This is the essential, basic guitar chord: the first open chord many budding guitarists learn, and the most satisfying, deep, ringing monster, which can be heard in guitar shops all over the world. It is warm, brown and viscous, like immersing one's head in a bubbling pool of geothermal mud. Like all chords, the harmonic frame of reference determines the outcome of this immersion: next to A major, it will rejuvenate one's complexion; juxtaposed with G minor, one may shit one's pants; and put alongside F major, one will emerge blistering and disfigured. So be it. It's worth it, in the end, for such a beautifully thick slab of notes. Also, good for tuning on the fly.
E major 7
Take E major
Add an Eb
Should be discordant
This extra note opens doors
Doors to other worlds
And other chords
(can sound cheesy)
It is the chord that ends all arguments. It is the tar at the bottom of barrel. It is the drunk in the gutter, the empty shell, the dull, sickening thud of impacting flesh. E minor has none of the melodramatic keening of D minor, the bittersweet nostalgia of C minor nor the earnest longing of A minor; it is a cold depressing reality check. Like Shostakovich marking the death of Stalin in his 10th Symphony; the Todestrieb of Nick Cave’s “Mercy Seat”, or the brutal warnings of countless death metal songs, E minor has only one thing to say to us: "You Shall Die."
Compared to other common chords on the guitar, the B chord seems to have this innate ability to propel a progression along. If it's used as the root, the whole song will be quite insistent (as in "Jumping Jack Flash"), maybe because our ears have grown so fine-tuned to hearing guitar chords and B is usually a transposed open chord. B is like A on speed, much like F# can feel like a super-charged E. B is the next level.