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Saturday, July 17, 2010

SpinTunes #1 Round 2 Review: Niveous

This round of SpinTunes is something very different. The challenge was a simple one- work in two different time signatures. And that was it. Essentially all the bands had to do was do the verses it one time sig and then do the chorus in a different one and ta-da, they have completed the challenge. But then a much larger challenge arises and I'm not sure it was addressed. The bands were given ultimate freedom to record a song about whatever they please. The big challenge here is do that and still create a song that slays the competition. It's all fine and dandy to pass the challenge but this is a fight. This is not just getting into the next round. This is making the best song you can and blowing away all the other bands and if you don't you can be eliminated. Sure, you can shadow and play along at home. But really, the challenge here is to bring your A-Game consistently.

The Offhand Band: The choice to go between 2/4 to 3/4 brought some charm to the song. Lyrically, this is thin. There aren't any particularly daring poetic choices, no lyrics that create any vivid imagery. In fact, when it starts talking about choosing Column A or Column B, that's encapsulates my feeling about the lyrics. It's just that bland. And I wish that it would open up and bloom into something. Think of this. The verses stay bland and then the chorus with the 3/4 are full of creative lines that fill you with mental images of this other universe. That would hit. This misses but it has potential.

Jenny Katz: This one perplexes me. Clearly it passes the time sig challenge. But what about going in for the kill and bringing a blockbuster song into this round? I question that. I must say that I like Jenny Katz voice. Whenever she goes to the extremes of her range, she pulls back just enough as to never get pitchy and that's nice. Now, there's the choice of doing a love song based around a Hammond organ. It's interesting though it creates a kinda carnival vibe on the verses. I like the choruses but the verses come off as like a carousel ride. It made me think "Is she singing to a Carny whom she misses during the off-season"? It's not a bad song by any stretch. Well sung, well played and the lyrics (except for the tonic/dominants line that takes you out of the song) are okay. Next round, J. Katz needs to bring something more than just what is essentially a generic love song. Give me some story to sink my teeth into.

JoAnn Abbott: The fact that this song is on the album right after Jenny Katz is a bit off horrible luck. It's like the diminished (not the musical term) version of that song. There are some odd odd choices here. The first verse is keyboard and some highly distracting percussion that comes out as shrill within the production (which could use a filtering). The second verse has replaces the shrill with something that resembles a cowbell but loses the rhythm on occasion. The third verse goes over the top with some kind of steel drum type of percussion which is even more distracting than the first percussion. I am all for experimentation, but as someone who experiments in their music you have to be prepared for the fact that not every experiment will be a success. The percussion was not a success. Then there's the lyrical content. One personal note on that is that I had no bloody clue what skeeters were. I had to look that up. The lyrics are okay but at times they were a little too informal like "What jerk was it who thought up algebra?" and sometimes they were too cheesy.

Edric Haleen: My girlfriend Jillian heard my initial reviewing of the songs during the listening party before I snuck out like a thief in the night and was upset about my view of love songs. She said "Wouldn't the world be a terrible place if there weren't love songs?" thinking that I had some hatred for them. I told her that the world would be a terrible place. My problem with some love songs and this applies here is that writing a love song can be so basic. There are so many love songs in this world and for me, if you don't approach the love song in some interesting way, it becomes generic. I might as well be listening to the Cure's "Love Song" which is the more generic love song ever. Edric's song is a timeline of love and while it's not the most bland way to do a love song, it isn't the most interesting either. I think I would rather hear one couple's story or a piece of the timeline rather than the laundry list that makes up what love is. Think of it this way. Which works better: "Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy marries girl. Boy and girl grow old together. Girl dies" or watching the montage in "Up"? If you've seen "Up", you know the one I'm talking about. The one that makes you cry in the first 15 f'n minutes of the movie (yet they still expect you sit through another hour and a half). Edric's song is the synopsis not the story. Also, I know Edric's style is based in Broadway but since this isn't made for the stage, do we need so much exaggerated emphasis? And yes, he gets a challenge pass.

Sara Parsons: Sara passes the time sig change challenge, though there's something odd about the way she handled the 5/4 that I can't put my finger on. There was a fairly good song. Sara has a good voice and I like her delivery, though I question the use of so much double tracking (less on the verses, perhaps). The music lacked some dynamics. If there was a bassline running through this, it could help it. I did like that there was a bridge with the reverb kicked up. Nice touch. The lyrics were very poetic. The chorus left me scratching my head. Spend your time. Don't waste your time. I don't get that part. Fairly good song. Nice job, Sara Parsons.

Caleb Hines: I went to the listening party and Caleb's song came on and I was really turned off by the vocals. I thought that they were nasally and lacked a good delivery on the verses. So there I was groaning through the song and there was a whole room of people shouting huzzah for Caleb. This must be how non-Songfighters feel when they hear Octothorpe for the first time. Songfighters who have been around have learned to love Mad Dog and Spud's gravely voices, while newcomers to it think it sounds like "Kermit The Frog driven to severe psychological disassociation from years of fronting a death-metal band" (a quote from SPIN magazine). I guess I haven't grown accustomed to Caleb. Perhaps I never will but I don't like his vocals much. So, I didn't like the verses much. Things improved on the choruses were the vocals were double tracked and effected. Musically, this is strong. It works well for the story that its trying to convey, especially with the transitions between the frantic still-awake verses (though the vocal delivery doesn't make the emotion of the music) and the sleepy choruses. I would've liked to hear the song end with a fade instead of the sudden end. All things considered, it was a good song. Caleb's not my cup of tea but I can appreciate how he builds a song.

Governing Dynamics: GD passes the time signature challenge but struggled with it. The verses were well done but the transitions into the 4/4 were awkward and led to messy choruses (which could also use a good dose of energy. Maybe speed up the tempo a little). I like the lyrics though there are occasions in which the lyrics don't the rhythm of the song. There's a story to decipher and with the atmosphere the music builds, I want to take the time and dig deeper. Nice little guitar licks pepper the song which is a good touch. I like this a lot. I feel like GD passed both of the challenges- he worked in 2 time sigs and made an exceptional song that can compete. This will get some more plays from me once Spintunes is said and done.

Emperor Gum: So, what made E-Gum think that starting off a song with the phrase "I'm so bored" is a good idea? A listener hears that delivered in a monotone and is supposed to get hooked into listening more? Not the best choice. Now, I know this is supposed to be the set-up for the song's increase in pace. There's got to be a different way to do this. It passes the time sig challenge but doesn't pass the in-for-the-kill challenge because it's a mediocre tune. It doesn't grasp me. I like the clarinet, it reminds me of Radiohead's trumpet use in "Life in a Glasshouse" (just not with the overwhelming success). Lyrically, there's some substance here but the story lacks some clarity and has some jagged edges. All in all, this is a bit messy but not horrible.

Gorbzilla: Brought the little kids for cute points. I have to admit that it's a great move in a contest like this. Someone is bound to go "Aww, that's so cute. I love that." and rate that a little higher. I dig the guitar. The lyrics are as thin as thin can be. And I'm guessing there are instances of instruments played by small children. Does this all get a great score from me. No. It's cute. Does it get to the next round? Probably. Will I listen to this again. Probably not? Maybe with my kids.

Ross Durand: It's current events time! Hey, where's the rest of that song? The verses are full of great lyrics with strong visuals (except for the product placement). The choruses are flaccid and unoriginal. In a little over two minutes, this song just doesn't hook. I'm bound to forget this song tomorrow. The verses are so good and there are little hints of harmonica but the chorus has nothing going on for it. The chorus is short, cliché, not catchy and lumbers in comparison to the strength of the verses. A better chorus, another verse & a bridge with that harmonica is what this needed.

Steve Durand: Rara avis is a unique thing. I have listened to every single Steve Durand song in the Songfight archives. This song is not a rara avis. This is pretty much his modus operandi. This isn't anything special but it got me to bop to the groove (in Jules fashion). It's funny that it's just as long as his brother's tune but has everything that Ross' didn't. The chorus is very catchy. The lyrics may be simple but it definitely has charm. Throwing a bridge into the short song was a nice touch, even if it's just babble. It makes for a catchy toe-tapper and just what this round needed.

Charlie McCarron: If you are going to give me a love song to judge, it's going to have to be approached in a different way from the norm. Charlie did that. The first verses are quiet and lack something. I swear I heard crickets. But when it jumps into the verse with the hook, I'm sold, American. It takes a plain little guy and guitar (I know there's a little more in the production) love song and took it from a different angle and it works. I wish that the hook more prevalent. Perhaps shortening the beginning and instead of trying to get that reveal out of the chorus' surprise appearance, how about a verse about the singer wanted to write the song and was disappointed, chorus, a verse about life, chorus, and a last verse about the person the singer had written the song about (which is completely forgotten in its current version) and how this is their song. The song currently is solid but it could be something more.

Kevin Savino-Riker: Well, this definitely brought the rock that I've been looking for during this contest. It passes the time sig challenge but I think that it may overdone it. It's very cool that KSR is able to maneuver between so many time sigs so flawlessly, it just takes away from the groove. It can be hard to get into the groove of the song when it's got so many different time sigs. This is definitely a flexing of the musical muscles. I also appreciate that I can feel that KSR is going into this round with all guns blazing. He's coming to win and with solid vocals and extremely good musicianship, he could pull it off.

Heather Miller: Okay, everybody. Fun game. Sing the lyrics of Daydream Believer over the verses. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, the vocals have no delivery. The verse ends, the chorus comes and the punch is just the same. Maybe a minor fluctuation. There's no passion here. No feeling. It's just going through the motions. And then couple it with the subject matter, a pool table love affair. I really do appreciate the fact that it's a love song with a different angle but it makes for some chinsy lines like "Right on target, right on cue" while leaving you to talk about some things that really don't have anything to do with the love story. This just did not come together. And what happened at around 2:20? Was that on purpose?

Godz Poodlz: I like a good electronic song and this is well done. Musically, it hits its target. I just wish that the chorus was more dynamic. This is a song about spies and it's the driest spy song I can think of. Does this song sound like it could be on a spy movie soundtrack? Not really. Maybe the verses but the chorus needs something musically to hook and really stay with the listener. Also, this song passed the time sig challenge but this isn't going in for the kill. Ha, a spy that doesn't go in for the kill. Hmmm. I hear a song in that...

Denise Hudson: The piano powerhouse puts away the keys in favor of other percussion. It's cool but it gets a bit...frantic? scattered? Denise? Yes, even without the piano this is very much what Denise Hudson does. It doesn't have a hook. Instead it's a stream of consciousness or is it chaos. It's poetry. It's madness. It's the soundtrack to the Donnie Darko website (have you ever been there???). I know it's Denise's thing but I just wish that the beam was focused. Imagine the power of that voice, if only the music and lyrics focused it all.

"Buckethat" Bobby: Space Pirates? Spintown warned me from the get-go that this crowd was prone to the comedy and here it is. Okay, I can dig the comedy. The music is just want this calls for. Too bad that the chorus which I see if where most of the har-dee-har's are found is not enunciated so I had to look at the lyrics to get into. But I'm a metalhead so I can't justify too big a deduction for that. Now, why was this space pirates instead of just regular pirates? Just for the Romulan gag? Why complicate the simple pirate song by putting it in space? Speaking of simple, it's not exactly a great pirate tale. It doesn't have a lot of har-dee-har either come to think of it. And you couldn't get rid of the cough?

Finally, the 2 shadow songs.

Dr. Lindyke: I love the vocals in this. This reminds me of something you would find on Painted From Memory by Bacharach & Costello. From me, that is a very high compliment because I just compared your song to an album that I think is mindblowing. There is some similarity in the vocal delivery and great keys but there needs to be something more to put this over the top. If there was more in the production, add some more instruments to build this up. This calls out for some kind of orchestration. If this was in the competition, I would've scored this very highly.

Boffo Yux Dudes: What the fuck is this misogynistic piece of crap. So, a girl dumps you long ago, so you go through extremes to humiliate her. That's the story of the song. It's not funny. It's the kind of sentiment that I just find foul. Put it over what barely amounts to a song and it makes for the lowest point of this round bar none.


  1. Niveous. You obviously didn't get the joke, which is ok. One of these days, we'll be on the same wavelength.

  2. Can I ask....
    Are these in the right order?
    Because reading the reviews it doesn't SEEM to be....
    (Just as an example, Heather's review *reads* words to me than all those all below it.)

    Can this line up be clarified?

    (It's important as the final vote between the bottom 10 was so close.)

  3. Joe his reviews are not in order, he sent me a list of his rankings separately.