Case Study Three – Arctic Monkeys

arctic_monkeys_-_am
AM Album Cover

R U Mine? – Arctic Monkeys

On the 23rd of January, 2006, the world was hit by an English troop of monkeys, specifically the Arctic Monkeys. Their debut album, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not was then the “fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history,” selling more than 360 000 copies (BBC News, 2006).” Five studio albums and one live album later, “the Arctic Monkeys have gone from spastic punk, to doomed stoner rock, to sparkling guitar pop, to their fifth album’s skinny-jeaned funk (Dombal, 2013).” This brings me to their most recent album, AM, released in 2013, apparently, “neatly summed up by the hook to the blistering “R U Mine?”: “R U mine tomorrow, or just mine tonight (Dombal, 2013)?” R U Mine is the second song on the album and also the one that will be analysed throughout this blog. The song brings to mind images of shady back door bars, one night stands and the uncertainty of whats going to happen the next morning.

Duration: 3 Minutes 21 Seconds

Time signature: 4/4

Tempo: 97BPM

Key Signature: A Major

Instruments: Vocals, Guitar 1, Guitar 2, Bass, Drums, Backup vocals

Song Structure: ABABCBD

A = Verse

B = Chorus

C = Bridge

D = Outro

r-u-mine
Song Structure (Program used: Variations Audio Timeliner)

Lyrics:

I’m a puppet on a string
Tracy Island, time-traveling
Diamond could’ve shaped heartaches
Come to find you four in some velvet morning
Years too late
She’s a silver lining lone ranger riding
Through an open space
In my mind when she’s not right there beside me

I go crazy ’cause here isn’t where I wanna be
And satisfaction feels like a distant memory
And I can’t help myself,
All I wanna hear her say is “Are you mine?”

Well, are you mine?
Are you mine?
Are you mine?

I guess what I’m trying to say is I need the deep end
Keep imagining meeting, wished away entire lifetimes
Unfair we’re not somewhere misbehaving for days
Great escape lost track of time and space
She’s a silver lining climbing on my desire

And I go crazy ’cause here isn’t where I wanna be
And satisfaction feels like a distant memory
And I can’t help myself,
All I wanna hear her say is “Are you mine?”

Well, are you mine? (are you mine tomorrow?)
Are you mine? (or just mine tonight?)
Are you mine? (are you mine? Mine?)

And the thrill of the chase moves in mysterious ways
So in case I’m mistaken,
I just wanna hear you say you got me baby
Are you mine?

She’s a silver lining lone ranger riding through an open space
In my mind when she’s not right there beside me
I go crazy cause here isn’t where I wanna be

And satisfaction feels like a distant memory
And I can’t help myself,
All I wanna hear her say is “Are you mine?”

Well, are you mine? (are you mine tomorrow?)
Are you mine? (or just mine tonight?)
Are you mine? (are you mine tomorrow, or just mine tonight?)

Dynamics:

The lead vocals are very rich in texture and obviously have some distortion on them. The distortion sounds as though it was done naturally rather than through a plug-in or outboard gear, because it is quite gritty; this indicates that the vocals were also probably run through a compressor while tracking. James Ford, Producer for AM, revealed that, ‘the vocal chain [was] standard – more often than not, a Neumann U67 through a Neve or BAE mic pre and Universal Audio 1176 or Empirical Labs Distressor for control.’ It was also disclosed that in this album, they used a lot more vocal layers than in previous albums: Lead vocalist Alex turner would double his voice the octave up in falsetto, drummer Matt Helders  would also track this octave up and do any high backing vocals, while bassist Nick O’Malley would generally track the octave down with his ‘rich baritone (Moayeri, 2014).’ The backing vocals also would have a quite a bit of compression on them, otherwise they would be much too loud. The following is a track of the stand-alone vocals in the song:

James ford describes the sound of AM as ‘riffy, slow and heavy (Ford, 2013),’ which is certainly reflected in the guitars in  R U Mine?.  The guitars are absolutely drenched in distortion, which could either have been a plug-in, outboard gear, or a re-amped DI. Personally I think it was probably the latter, as the notes are still quite crisp. Also around 1 minute and 16 seconds, there is an effect on the guitar that could possibly be some sort of tremolo, or even a side-chain (thanks Rose), as the signal is going in and out. More likely that it is the first option, as a side-chain might have made it a bit stilted. The video below is a track of the stand-alone guitar in the song:

The drum sound is very clean, which indicates that they were recorded seperately to other instruments or with redos, rather than doing a full take of everything altogether. Ford revealed that the percussion was mostly recorded with a Coles 4038 ribbon microphone (Moayeri, 2014), which according to VintageKing.com, “…is used where a clear smooth wide range frequency response, absence of transient distortion and relatively high sensitivity is essential (“Coles 4038 Ribbon Microphone – Vintage King Audio”, n.d.).” This description of the sound from the Coles 4028 is definitely astute for the sound given by the drums in R U Mine?. Listen to the drum track below:

Spectral Analysis:

The usual male vocal range is between 120Hz- 16kHz. For this song, the vocal range is between 315Hz to 800Hz (Turner, 2016), which indicates a high-pass filter to cut any unnecessary lows out. This also may have been done to keep the vocals clean, despite the distortion.  A low-pass filter may have also been applied in order to make the vocals sit better in the mix and give the backing vocals more room.  

The backing vocals are quite high, maybe around 1kHz – 6kHz. These compliment the lead very well, as the lead is fairly low. A high-pass filter was definitely used, maybe around the 500Hz mark to make them sit back in the mix more.

A normal electric guitar range is 82Hz to 1.2kHz. According to Turner (2016), the range for guitar 1 is around 170Hz to 900Hz, keeping the more full, warm tones alive in the song.

As far as the drum kit goes, the whole frequency range is probably from about 50Hz to 12kHz, (Kick – Cymbals). The cymbals have quite a dark, tight sound, indicating a low-cut around 5.5kHz.

Spatial Attributes and Sound Stage

The band was obviously going for a live sound with this song, it sounds as though the music is all around you. The sound stage gives the feeling of a real rock’n’roll concert, with sounds coming at you from all sides, being immersed in the music, however the tone of the song itself gives more of a back-alley bar, with cigar smoke and people sitting in small groups discussing the world. I would almost say that sometimes the instruments, apart from the kit, seem to move around in the song, which adds to the live setting. Sometimes the guitars sound as though they are in front of the vocals, and at times the backing vox sound as though they are in line with the lead. In general though, the guitars are stereo panned (as in 1 to the left, 1 to the right), with the bass in the middle, while the cymbals also panned softly to the left. Please see a rough visual below:

r-u-mine

Everything has reverb on it. The vocal reverb is quite heavy, and gives a lot of space in the mix and almost makes them sound as if they are everywhere. The drum reverb is more subtle,  with a short sustain and release, which helps maintain the tight, clean drum sound. The reverb on the guitars sits somewhere in between the vocal and drums. There is also subtle in-time delay on the vocals, which gives even more room to the mix.

 

Overall Analysis of Sound

Combining all the elements of the song brings the listener a live mix of tight, edgy rock’n’roll vibes. The hook would have to be the Turner’s vocals and the attitude that come with them. The song brings to mind deliciously dangerous nights of a one night stand, or a night out with someone who makes you uncertain, in the best way possible.

References

BBC News,. (2006). Arctic monkeys make chart history. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4660394.stm

Coles 4038 Ribbon Microphone – Vintage King Audio. Vintageking.com. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://vintageking.com/coles-4038-single

Dombal, R. (2013). Arctic Monkeys: AM Album Review. Pitchfork.com. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/18386-arctic-monkeys-am/

Ford, J. (2013). Arctic Monkeys co-producer James Ford on new album ‘AM’ Read more at http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/arctic-monkeys-co-producer-james-ford-on-new-album-am-767042#9Axeb1xgSwzyba4g.99.

Moayeri, L. (2014). Arctic Monkeys: The ‘AM’ Sessions. Emusician.com. Retrieved 15 November 2016, from http://www.emusician.com/album-profiles/1378/arctic-monkeys-the-am-sessions/45753

Turner, A. (2016). Arctic Monkeys “R U Mine?” Guitar Tab in A Major – Download & Print. Musicnotes.com. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtd.asp?ppn=MN0130985

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