“The New Year” Drum Transcription — Jason McGerr with Death Cab For Cutie

Posted on January 3, 2021

I know we just looked at Jason McGerr back in November, but when else am I gonna share a song called “The New Year”? So then, I have some more Jason McGerr groovage for you. The tune is off of Death Cab for Cutie’s masterpiece Transatlaticism, an album so good even Pitchfork realized they had fucked up when they revisited the LP ten years later, bumping their original score from a 6.4 to an 8.4.

This time around I won’t be doing a “Groove of the Day” style post like I did with Jason two months ago. I think more formal sheet music will work best for this number.

There’s a fun bit of rhythmic mischief going on with this track. The band plays these big stabs that drive the main riff, but I’m not sure where in the measure these notes are played. No matter how you count it, bars of either 2/4 or 3/4 need to be snuck in somewhere for the song to transition between different sections.

I have these hits notated on beats two and three — I tend to go for the simplest answers when figuring this stuff out, and that counting has the fewest time signature changes. Still, I can’t say for sure how the band counted it. I’ve seen live videos and Jason gives the band four counts before one count of rest that leads into the first hit; I think it’s two and three.

Jason plays a busy, slinky groove during the verse, with his kick drum notes providing additional obfuscation as to where the beat is. When the vocals come in, it always sounds like a quarter note is missing. And I love the accents on the hi-hat. Slick stuff.

For the chorus, Jason whips out a fun little dance/disco groove. It sounds more complicated than it is; I’m pretty sure the 16th notes are all played as singles. When you try to come up with crazy, David Garibaldi-style ghost note grooves, it’s easy to forget how useful singles can be when combined with some clever orchestration around the kit.

Download PDF

“The New Year” on Songwhip.

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