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Saturday, October 16, 2010

SpinTunes #2 Round 1 Review: Glen Phillips

Hello I’m glennny

How I judge:

After meeting the challenge at all, like a prerequisite, it’s all about the song. What is a song? In this paradigm it is the mp3 you submit. Therefore production matters in a big way. I’m spending 100 minutes each listen to this “album” (fight), about 15 full listens at this point= 25 hours over the last few days. If you spend 90 minutes on a piece of junk, that pisses me off. 90 minutes and it’s genius, then I’m jealous! Please don’t suck! Please submit things you’re proud of!

I’m a guitarist 1st, bass player 2nd, songwriter, then something like Mandolin player, banjo player, singer. I’m not a drummer, but firmly believe the drums are the most important part of a song. I studied music with Joyce Shannon (the same music teacher Frank Zappa had at Chaffey College). I love music theory, odd time signatures, harmonies, guitarmonies, counterpoint, key changes, mode changes, backing vocals. Being musically clever will go a long way with me.

My pet peeves: lyrical clichés, 12-bar blues chord patterns, plagiarism, fade-outs, meta-song violations, and timid vocals.

Spin Tunes #2 Round One: Hometown
Glennny’s judgemet:

31st place 1pt - David Ritter (Fired) - This isn’t total disregard for the challenge, but it’s close. Were the lyrics more about your hometown, this would be top 5 for me. There is excellent energy, and great playing. The song is pretty standard, and the lyrics are rather novelty, yet not very funny. I really appreciate the guitar solo! The production is nice. Those back-up harmonies are my favorite part. I appreciate the fact that you wrote a proper ending ! This rocks! I will keep this and enjoy it, but I don’t think you were playing the game. I’m pretty sure this will get the DQ. I’ll be sure to check out your songs once a week. I’m sure you’ve heard of my friend Jonathon Mann: http://songatron.com/ , he’s had this song-a-day thing going for quite a while now.

30th place 2pts - Swatshots (Level) - The drums were interesting a first. It went downhill from there. I don’t get your take on the challenge. I like the monster fart noise like at 3:01. The mp3 is sooooooo quiet. The “improve myself” line is painful in its delivery. What’s up with those pitchy chorus vocals?

29th place (Shadow) - Duality (I Just Can’t Find A Virgin) - Swimming in the novelty. The jokes fall flat. That flanger on the acoustic is incredibly annoying. The tambourine is gratuitous. The whole high end is well covered. My ears are desperately hungry for a bass line and a kick drum. Nothing new musically here, in fact it’s blue-grass paint by numbers. No thanks!

28th place 3pts - Ben Walker (Oxford) - I love the verse to this song. The production is excellent! Thank you, I was unsure my headphones were working properly. The low hum vocal is great! This would be my 2nd favorite song of the fight, were the chorus anywhere near as clever as the verse. Your vocals are wonderful! The faux organ is nice too! You shot straight to the bottom with the “Everybody Knows Your Name” allusion. It’s not funny. I’m wildly offended that you lifted that bit, copping out of writing a proper ending. I hope you survive, I’d like to hear more from you, but I can’t in good conscience rate this any higher with such an egregious offense. I also don’t think the “bubble wrap” or the “spring on your back” works at all. I’d rather you leave it as “Woah ooh Oh Oxford” then a musical lick or something. In general the words “it’s like a” I find weak. They are clearly syllable holders. Consequently you end up with an analogy rather than a metaphor. Everybody knows an analogy is poor poet’s metaphor. This song could really use a solo too!

27th place (Shadow) - via Satellite (From Home) - Big time genre bias here. I’m guessing there’s an admiration of Evanescence here. The production is way off here. That synth patch is really cheesy. The vocal melody really shoots this ranking down. That verse melody lacks much of a melody at all. The vocalist sounds frustrated, wanting to bust out. Long sustained monotone is tedious. I like the bass line. The drums are interesting, but the whole band is a mess. The ending clips also. Sounds like you needed a lot more time to work this out.

26th place 4pts - Ominous Ride (San Francisco) - This is very difficult to listen to. The flanger on the acoustic was a bad idea. Didn’t I say that to someone already? What the Hell is this a fashion thing? I like your vocal delivery. Is there a bass? I need more bass. You must live in the Sunset. The sun is in Potrero Hill. That drum pattern needs a lot of help too. The tripled vocals sounds good, is that real or an effect? These lyrics are pretty weak. San Francisco is another place I have called home. It’s about as rich a city for material as you can get. Yeah there is a name drop for Geary. Your song does not make me feel like I’m in San Francisco. Wow, I just listened to the version I was supposed to judge you on. You didn’t fix any of the glaring problems. Sounds like you balanced the vocals a bit more, ut you kept the incredibly annoying flange.

25th place 5pts - Heather Miller (Fairfield) - Yikes! Pitchy vocals. The acoustic sounds terrible. There are some excellent forums over on Song Fight that could drastically improve your sound. This drum machine is so tedious, I think you’d be better served keeping it as a click track for you to record to, but either spruce it up for the listener or cut it out. You did not need to repeat those lyrics! This would have been stronger as a 3 minute song. “Fairfield All the Way”? What does “Fairfeild all the Way !” mean? You have the conviction of a reluctant karaoke singer in this performance.

24th place 6pts - JoAnn Abbott (Not In Copiague) - This is way too long for a one voice a capella song. Even with the wide vibrato there are some sour notes. It’s naked and hissy, you’re brave. I like the descriptive lyrics, despite the list making. I don’t like the contemplative chorus; I don’t think it’s very insightful. Is that a cat I hear at 2:12? There are hesitations in this performance that make these lyrics sound like they are being read rather than the desired illusion of from the gut. Why have you come to trade the fiddle for the drum?

23rd place (Shadow) - Bram Tant (Living In The Country Side) - Not a bad track, but doesn’t sound like a song. This sounds like a demo. This is hard to listen to without bass and drums. The melody is nowhere near interesting enough to carry this sparseness. The mp3 you’ve submitted is rather grating. Your voice is fine. The lyrics are not doing anything for me. I like the refrain; it’s a much needed and nice change. Oh come on, at least be-box a drum fill. Something this sparse does not need a pause like that. I think the lyrics are pretty weak. The priest line is especially poor. So you can overdub a guitar solo (thank you) , but nothing resembling a bass line? This is wildly unfinished. This sounds like 90 minutes of work rather than the 11 days you had. You can keep time, and you have a descent voice , more time spent will pay off in the future.

22nd place 7pts - The Boffo Yux Dudes (Syracuse) - The downfall of this song is the doubled vocals. The doubled its are pitchy and loose. One voice would have served this song much better. I really like the synth solo. These vocals are sooo in front. They need to sit back deeper in the mix. Challenge met. Those chessy synth licks crack me up.

21st place 8pts - Inverse T Clown (Salem) - The drum machine is terrible. Ughhhhh! a freaking story. A boring story at that. This is so cheesy. This does not rock. This does not make me laugh. This is like the new wave nerdy little brother to “Devil went Down to Georgia”. It’s more narrated than sung.

20th place 9pts - Eric Haleen (Lansing Michigan) - I hate meta-song violations. The 1st 37 seconds brings this way down. Nice singing! The sports update is so hammy. This might be funny with better timing. I suppose it is genre appropriate to spoon feed the joke, but the laugh is sacrificed. The challenge is nailed!

19th place 10pts - Common Lisp (Leaving Ann Arbor) - Ouch. Painful rhymes. I get it, that’s the joke, but I’m not laughing. Ah a change up! BTW I’d kill for a $250K house, triple that for San Francisco Bay area prices. I like the lazy acoustic riff. I don’t care for the vocals. The overly cheeky affectation is not fun. You met the challenge very well, it’s just a tough song to get into or care about much. I should say good production! At least I’m not distracted by production issues and can focus on the song and performance. At least the bridge has some life, but I don’t care for it either.

18th place 11pts - Rebecca Brickley (Here) - You have an incredible voice. Nice melodies, though they drift into cheese land a lot. Thank you for a nice kick! The drums work well. The piano bass isn’t quite bassy enough for my tastes, but well enough for this crowd. This would place top 5 had you written a song about your hometown, rather than “when you were young”. What effects are on your voice? There’s a robotic glisten like unto auto-tune, perhaps it’s just unfortunate compression and chorus. Anyway, I think you can leave your voice a bit more naked (personal preference). By the way, excellent piano playing! Yeah I actively dislike these lyrics, but I like the melody, singing and playing. Once I paid attention to your lyrics, you shot straight to the bottom of my list, I tried to keep you down there, for such lyrical cheese, but you’re way too musical to keep down. Damn these lyrical challenges! The lyrics are riddle with cliché’s, this was a super easy challenge, why were these lyrics so important? I hope you survive; I’d love to hear more of your voice.

17th place 12pts - Wait WHAT (LBC) - You’re bad luck is that I lived in LBC in 1995. I lived in Belmont Shore. I find it amazing you can write a song about Long Beach and completely ignore the Grunion. Nobody warned me when I moved there; I was shocked to say the least. I’m sad there are no props to the Shorehouse café either. Anyway, back to your song. The lazy strummy song is pleasant enough. You really embraced the challenge. It feels a bit like Wikipedia lyrics. The vocals are nice enough. The melody and vibe is way too “Anyone Else but You” by Moldy Peaches for me to think this very original. What elevates this to where it is, is some nice harmonica playing and a tasty solo. Sounds like you couldn’t think of enough stuff about your HOMETOWN and consulted Wikipedia for some fun facts. At least you mentioned 2nd street.

16th place 13pts - Russ Rogers (St. Michael) - Easily worst recording of the bunch. Is that cassette recorder? The song is nice. It’s very tough to listen to with this horrible hiss, and clippy guitar. The whistling was a bad idea. I like your voice. Hey mall rhymes with small! These lyrics are really weak. Your vocals are good enough to make me think they are meaningful until I read them. Seriously man $300 and you could sound better than most of these entries. $100 microphone, $75 software, $125 USB 2.0 interface. If you ever want to seriously submit a demo for any reason…. WTF? I just read your profile, 20 years a musician? That explains the excellent sense of songwriting, great singing, but it is baffling you could get anywhere with a demo as crappy sounding as this. Are you in prison? Man that would be so cool if you were competing from prison!

15th place 14pts - Brian Gray (South Bend Aid) - At first I was a bit miffed at the Motley Crue inspired piano , then I remembered that song is “Home Sweet Home”, made me chuckle. Thank for avoiding the direct rip off. SO this is quite a big devotion to the “give us money” , and “we’re no St. Louis” jokes. This song is terrible, but it seems self aware of such. The production is great, and the vocals are excellent. I laughed at the “there’s no more Toblerones” . You can certainly write a song. If wrote you wrote a song you cared about, I might care too. Topped off with cheesy hand claps! Challenge met.

14th place 15pts - Emporer Gum (Cheltenham) - This would be my number one song to cover of the lot. I think the writing is great, and I think the recording is terrible, thus making it the ripest for a cover. The writing is not without issues. I just love the musical melodies and the riffs. You have GOT to do something about the pop-screen factor. $40 for the nice metal pop screen, $20 for the cheap mesh pop-screen, $3 for the panty-hose stretched across the coat hanger. Those P’s are painfully poppy. The instrumentation is very nice. You just have some major recording issues. There are some timing issues, but they are subtle. The doubled vocals make the vocals sound worse. If they are going to be unison, they ought to e a lot tighter. I love the image you paint with the lyrics, but I hate how nothing happens to the characters. Too many words for my taste.

13th place 16pts - Charlie Wolf (I Love LA) - Hey cool bass lick. Turn up the bass! The acoustic is not very interesting, but it is played well, there are some minor hesitations and chair squeaks that makes this feel live. I too love LA. It was smart to end this at 2:01. That’s all the song that is there. It’s also kind to the judges, thank you! The nervous shy affectation in the vocals works for this song, but I hope it’s not for every one of your songs. This reminds me of Mark Kozelek. I assume you’re a Red House Painters fan. Nice little ditty!

12th place 17pts - Danny Blackwell (A Song About Woodsetts) - This is very quiet. This is sloppy, however it does sound like one take where you played guitar and sang at the same time. Nice dynamics. I like the free tea and biscuits line. Challenge is met nicely. Well done, I hope there’s more than just G n G to come from you. I like your Ray Davies accent too!

11th place 18pts - Governing Dynamics (Stars Over Avalon) -Nice atmosphere created. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear a drum fill. The drums sound nice. The weakest link is the vocal melody. The performance sounds a bit strained and unsure at points. I dig the guitar solo! Those wicked vibrato notes at 3:06 is the best part of the song. The guitar has got some killer passion in it, and your vocals stay in that reluctant , do I really have to sing mood. I think amping up the vocal intensity at strategic points would vastly improve this song.

10th place 19pts - Duality (To The End Of The World) - You must drive drummers crazy with the tempo fluctuations. I like the piano playing despite the G at 2:10. It sounds like a mistake to me, but to your credit you take it in stride and sell it as intentional. That was nitpicking, there’s some really cool things going on with the chord pattern. I like this song a lot. The 6/8 arpeggio could be perhaps changed up to improve this. I also think the doubled vocal detracts more than it adds during the refrain. The sibilance ricochets rather unpleasantly. A few of you could really stand to Z up your S’s so the sibilance was at a minimum. This isn’t a very catchy song, but I really like the listen.

9th place 20pts - Gweebol (Darktown) - I hate your drummer. Why the roll, for nearly every measure? This could use some far more interesting drums and keys. I suppose they are laid back to allow the vocals to shine. Holy Crap, fantastic vocals! Wonderful melodies with beautiful dynamics and range. The waltz doesn’t serve this song very well. Different drums and some existent bass would make this an awesome song. This is a good song with excellent backing vocals, which pleasantly surprised me when they entered. I really like the lyrics. Nice take on the challenge!

8th place 21pts - Charlie McCarron (Stillwater MN Air) - You sing with 2 voices. Your deeper voice I like a lot, the head voice is almost begging for mockery. However, the intonation for both voices as well as the harmonies is spot on. I like the sprinkled high chords atop the arpeggios musically. It’s a very pretty piano line! That head voice is something Jeff Buckley did masterfully; you’re damn good at it too. There are no drums, but the cymbal player from the local symphony stopped by for percussion. The take on the challenge is excellent, both musically and lyrically. Well done!

7th place 22pts - Austin Criswell (Mount Holly) - I’m surprised something this simple ranks this high. Pretty much all your choices work well. Your voice is dynamic and passionate enough to fill the space left by the sparse guitar. Nice choice on reverb too, especially for the situation. The lyrics are nice; they barely meet the challenge in my opinion. I know next to nothing about Mount Holly from this song. The acoustic is played well, and has it’s dynamics appropriate for the song. Good job, I’d embrace the challenge more in future rounds if I were you. Great song!

6th place 23pts - Steve Durand (In Paradise With You) - Nice to hear a familiar voice in this here Spin tunes land. I’m a fan of your music. I’m very impressed you can make such a cool song without going to what you’re famous for. I really like the slide guitar. Your vocals are sweet, the harmonies are also done well! The only thing I don’t like is the tone of that acoustic. You should pick Ross’s brain for how to get his acoustic sound. For that matter I need to pick his brain about getting an acoustic to sound so good. Anyway, great song Steve, I hope we get to hear some horns in future rounds!

5th place 24pts - Zarni De Wet (Where I’m Gonna Go) - Hot damn! Excellent performance both piano and vocal! I love that you sing like a singer! I love the Whohs and the “gonna gonna go oohh oh oh”s. This works well with piano only. I can hear a band backing this up and taking it even higher. There are some production issues. Your vocal microphone is super hot so we can hear you lick your lips and breathe in and out, which is all fine (usually clouded by a drummers cymbals), but there’s some strange silence that spikes up to white noise whenever you sing. Sounds like not so subtle limiting. The piano could stand to be louder in the mix. You’ll only take the drama so far with vocals and piano, imagining this with the right drums and bass, this would be my favorite. Well done! I’m excited to hear your next entry!

4th place 25pts - Ross Durand (From There) - What is this crazy place where everyone has a different title for their song? I love the acoustic sound you get! You really embraced the challenge. You have one of the best takes on the challenge. I get a feel for Thousand Oaks, you have some clever lines in there. Great singing, excellent production! The harmonica is pretty cool! No complaints, just varying degrees of praise. RD classic!

3rd place 26pts - Mitchell Adam Johnson (London) - There is only one problem with this otherwise perfect pop song. That damn 1991 99.9F Suzanne Vega megaphone effect. I’m so freaking tired of it at this point. It is unnecessary. On to the good stuff. I LOVE the backing vocals! The production is great. Probably could use more restraint on the tambourine. The drums are tasty. The lead vocals are great. The piano is perfect for the song, and probably has the best licks. What a catchy melody! Nice hook for the chorus. That is the perfect way to do a bridge with the dynamic shift. This conjures up mid 90’s- 60’s retro. Especially the Cardigans. The vocals: timbre and melody, remind me heavily of Echobelly. I bet you guys do a killer cover of “King of the Kerb”. Oh yeah, Okay two problems, the 2nd being the fade out. Come on, you can write an ending. A fade out is a cop out. In any case this song is a gem, and a keeper that I will be listening to for years to come. Thank you!

2nd place 27pts - Ryan “Ruff” Smith (Golden Valley Sunday) - If I were to change anything it’d be the drummer. I like that they are sparse, which fits the song, but a few gentle cymbal fills would go a long way. This reminds me of when Bikeride would go a little jazz. Great chord pattern! Excellent portrait of a place! I adore the Wes Montgomery octave guitar solo. The backing vocals are hilarious and beautiful! This whole thing is gorgeous! Excellent ending too! Vocals are great and the melody sticks with me when I’m away from all these songs. I’m very curious to hear your next entry! Awesome!

1st place 28pts - Chris Cogott (Fairfield) - Fucking perfect! Haven’t been this blown away by a song since Paco del Stinko stopped recording. Great riff! That is great opening riff, verse riff, counter riff, bass licks, chorus riff etc! backing vocals are Awesome. You know, I really thought it’s be BSS vs. you in Nur Ein a few months ago, and we were afraid. When you’re on, you’re awesome! This was without a doubt the clear winner. I love the lyrics, I know Fairfield, you nailed it. I’ve listened to all of these songs about 15 times each. However to “cleanse my pallet” so to speak, when another song was particularly annoying or boring, I’d find this Fairfield song and rock out a bit. I bet I have between 30 and 40 listens at this point. It’s a great song Chris! It makes me want to shoot a video for it. If only I had the time. Good job!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Glen, thanks for your review of my shadow. The reason it sounds like a demo is that it frankly IS a demo... Right now I'm still recording with just my laptop microphone, which works okay for acoustic guitar and vocals, but can't take electric guitar or bass... Hence no bass line, I really tried to record one for it (both on bass guitar and on acoustic guitar), but it just didn't sound good enough. I'm getting proper recording equipment soon though, probably not in time for the next round but hopefully by round 3 I'll be able to deliver.