Robert Heaton

Software Engineer /
One-track lover / Down a two-way lane

Endless Summer by The Midnight: a brief analysis

01 May 2019

Endless Summer by The Midnight is one of the best, purest, smoothest synthwave albums ever. Here are a few notes about its chords and production.

General notes

  • Almost every single chord is inside the root key of the song
  • About half the loops don’t start with their root chord. Some never play the root chord at all
  • I didn’t bother trying to figure out the exact augmentations of each chord. Most are probably enriched with 2nds, 4ths, 6ths, and 7ths in some combination according to taste. A few chords have clear, audible augmentations; in particular, some include prominent 7ths, and some only work as sus4s
  • About half the songs are the exact same 4 bar loop throughout the entire song. Variation and interest comes entirely from the arrangement. The most common automation technique is opening and closing a low-pass filter.
  • Many of the songs that aren’t the same loop all the way through still simply rearrange and reorder 3 or 4 core chords

1. Endless Summer

YouTube / Chordify

Entire song:
Abmaj7 / Cm7 / Fm
IV / VIm / IV / IIm
  • The song sometimes uses Bb to get from Ab to Cm7
  • The song is in the key of Eb, but the chord Eb is never played
  • You can most clearly hear the 7s in the Abmaj7 and Cm7 in the pad chords that play around 3:35
  • There’s fairly heavy sidechain compression on the bass that I think would sound out of place in most other, less “artificial” sounding songs by the Midnight

2. Sunset

YouTube / Chordify

Entire song:
Bb / C / Dm / F
Bb / C / Dm / C

IV / V / VIm / I
IV / V / VIm / V
  • I like the heavily low-passed drums at 2:30, you can just make out the distinction between the kick and the snare
  • When the bass moves from C to Dm it dips down to A for one note. This is a tiny but neat variation on the standard thumping root note synthwave bass.

3. Daytona

YouTube / Chordify

Main:
C / D / Em / Bm
VI / VII / Im / Vm

Solo:
D / C / Eb / F
  • This is one of two songs on the album that include a chord outside of the root key (the Eb in the solo)
  • The hits in the transitions between chords in the solo are something like:
    • D => C goes via Am => G/B
    • C => Eb goes via Bb/D (not certain about this one)
    • Eb => F goes via Gm

4. Jason

YouTube / Chordify

Intro:
Dm / C

Verse:
Dm / C / Bb

Chorus:
Bb / C / Dm

Turnaround at end of solo:
Dm / C / Gm / Am / Bb / C / Bm
  • The Bm at the end of the solo is the only chromatic chord in the album. It helps get from the key of Dm to the relative major key of Bb. It sounds great.

5. Synthetic

YouTube / Chordify

Verse:
Ab / Cm / Bb
I / IIIm / II

Chorus:
Ab / Bb / Cm / Eb
Ab / Bb / Cm
I / II / IIIm / V
I / II / IIIm
  • The chorus only uses Eb to get from Cm back to Ab on every other loop. This adds variation and avoids overusing the pleasant but prominent transition.

6. The Equaliser (Not Alone)

YouTube / Chordify

Whole song:
Dm / C / Bb in various combinations

Guitar solo:
Throws in two rounds of Bb / C / Dm / Gsus4 towards the end
  • The guitar solo has a lick that’s very similar to the chorus of “Shadows”
  • The Gsus4 in the guitar solo has to be a sus4, it makes no sense with either a major or a minor third

7. The Comeback Kid

YouTube / Chordify

Entire song:
C / G / F
C / G / F
Am / Em / F
Am / G / F
  • The second half of the sequence (the Am/Em/F and Am/G/F lines) is a nice, subtle variation on the first half. Since Am and Em are the relative minors of C and G the two halves are close to harmonically identical. This means that the same loops can be played over the top with very little risk of dissonance.

8. Vampires

YouTube / Chordify

Most of the song:
Bbm / Db / Ab / Gb
Im / III / VII / VI

Chorus:
Bbm / Db / Ab / Gb
Bbm / Db / Ab / Gb
Ebm / Fm / Gb
Bbm / Db / Ab / Gb

End of solo:
Ab / Fm / Gb
Bbm / Db / Ab / Gb

9. Crockett’s Revenge

YouTube / Chordify

Am / G / F / G
Am / G / F / Em
  • The pattern that the bell that comes in at the start plays feels quite trancey. Reminds me of Offshore by Chicane

10. Nighthawks

YouTube / Chordify

Whole song:
C#m / E / Amaj7
  • The major 7 in the Amaj7 is very audible

11. Lonely City

YouTube / Chordify

Most of the song:
A / C#m / B in various combinations

Towards the end:
Amaj7 / C#m / B
Amaj7 / B / F#sus4
  • The major 7 in the Amaj7 is again audible and important

12. Memories

YouTube / Chordify

Entire song:
D / Bm / G / A / Bm
  • The doubling on the vocals in the verse is great (eg. at 2:43). There’s a lot of separation between the main line and the harmony. I think there might be stereo widening on the main line and narrowing on the harmony.

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