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Saturday, June 25, 2011

SpinTunes #3 Round 1 Review: Randy Parcel

I asked Randy to judge because he's been a big SpinTunes supporter, and because I thought some of the people from "Masters Of Song Fu" would enjoy getting a review from Randy again. He was known in that community for doing reviews of Song Fu rounds on YouTube. You can connect with Randy on YouTube & Twitter.

Governing Dynamics - Alive Again
Travis seems to like writing lyrics that walk the line between descriptive and vague, and for the purposes of this challenge, it's better that way. GD's creepy stalker song initially sounded more like a vampire or frankenstein perspective than from a serial killer, but after reading Travis' inspirations for the song, it's easier to steer my brain in the more realistic direction (which is decidedly less humorous). I like most of the lyrics, and the variety in the chorus keeps it from feeling too repetitive. The guitars, bass and drums sound good and are mixed well. The vocal melody fits with the music, and most of the background parts work with the lead (they clash a bit in the chorus). The bridge in general just works for me.

Vocals are breathy and pitchy in places, and some parts dip below the audible threshold (fortunately all artists are required to submit lyrics with each song). The parenthetic 'inside' vocals don't sound different enough from the 'outside' voice to be easily distinguished as a seperate 'character'. Though not necessary, I feel the intro could be lengthened. Alive Again may not have a high replay value, but it fits the challenge nicely.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Gold Lion - In The Afterlife
While Danny Elfman, Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and I agree that the premise of a party with the deceased is a good one, I also agree with Paul and Storm that some parties can be lame. Gold Lion started with the first and ended up with the second. For the most part, I feel that the lyrics and atmosphere weren't pushed far enough to get the desired result. Hardly any effort was put into describing things lyrically, and the bass-heavy vocals don't express happiness. The melody's fine and the harmony's good, but the vocals get off-key at times. There's a lot of feedback and seemingly-unintentional resonance in the dull party section. The talking is boring, unrelated to the theme and seems like it was used as filler to cover for the lack of a second verse. Yawn. Fortunately, the guitar and drum parts sound alright and were recorded better than everything else in the tune.

A bad cut is audible at the end of the first verse, and it messes up the rhythm of the song. The way it's sung in the chorus, it sounds like the vocalist is singing 'until you believe' instead of 'do you believe,' but I prefer the former anyway. Maybe it was a last-minute change. Whatever. Editing at the beginning and end of the song should be tighter, too. ITA has the foundation of a good song, but feels only halfway there.

Verdict: 6/10

Dr. Lindyke - Wake Me When It's Over
It's clear that Leigh & Hoover work hard to craft their lyrics in a way that's not only appropriate for the challenge, but also for the characters and their situation. As Dave wrote on his blog, they imparted three additional constraints to the mix: to make the song less than 3 minutes, to make the mood go from sad to happy and NOT to make it funny. What can I say? Some people work better under special conditions (I don't think I'm one of them...).

I like the optimistic and hopeful lyrics, and the vocal melody expresses the feelings sweetly. I lke Mr. Leigh's voice, but it sometimes gets too quiet to hear over the piano. Some of the deeper meanings may be vague to younger listeners, but that also shows that songs about death can be family-friendly. The chorus reminds me of Suicide is Painless, the M*A*S*H theme. I could use a litte more guitar and a little less shaker.
I may not want to play this all the time, but WMWIO is definitely appropriate for a wake or funeral.

Verdict: 8/10

Alexa Polasky - You Will Never Die
Alexa's submission has a 90s alternative sort of feel to it. I like the sound, but it feels basic. The two syllable phrasing of the lyrics in the verses can be easy to write for, but doesn't always make for an interesting song, and it doesn't feel particularly happy. For the most part, the lyrics don't describe the person Polasky's singing about enough and I end up feeling confused. Something about the phrasing of 'it only gets better' in the chorus doesn't feel right, and the usage of the phrase is currently owned by the LGBT community, so that's all I can think about... The vocals are pretty good, and the reverb and delay effects are restrained and properly used sparingly. The instruments are played and recorded fine, but their parts are not complex or varied enough, especially for a 5-minute song (the longest official entry - nearly a minute longer than Wait What). The bass does get louder than the drums at times, though, and the resonance distracts me a bit. In the end, YWND is too simple to be as long as it is.

Verdict: 6.5/10

The Offhand Band - All Over
Starting off philosophically and evolving into an alternative concept of a Beatles song (or two), the writing process for All OVer is more complicated than a listener could glean from the tune alone. Initially, I thought the usage of elements from Get Back felt more like parody or tribute than a reinterpretation, but after reading the song bio I can see how much effort was put into getting the story right. Though they were just fine before, I like the lyrics more after the extra info. The melody, instruments and chord progression were altered just enough to give the listener the feel of the influential song but ensure that no copyright infringement will arise.
Something about Mark's singing makes me think of Bobby Matheson, but Mark has more control over his voice. The keyboard solo at the end is very good, and it's clearly Meritt's strong suit. The production sounds good, but the vocals are a bit loud and the drums are a little quiet. All Over may not be an instant classic like Get Back, but it's got its own qualities that keep it out of the classic's shadow.

Verdict: 8/10

Matt Walton - We're All Going To Die
Lots of entries this round involve some philosophy in their songwriting, and I like the creativity that comes from it. Matt approaches the subject in an optimistic way, but I don't know if it's really happy. The lyrics are pretty good, and the vocal melody is fine. It sounds like Matt recorded everything in one take, which is fine for rough drafts or tight deadlines, but it better be a good take if you're going to represent yourself with it. Most of Walton's recording is pretty good - everything is clear and nothing competes to be heard. The ukulele's rhythm is off in spots, and it would be nice to have another instrument to help flesh out the sound. I don't even know why the ominous creepy laugh is in the song - it doesn't fit, it's the loudest thing in the song and doesn't increase happiness.

Verdict: 7/10

Brian Daniell - Cubbies Will Win
There's only one good baseball team in Chicago, and that may not change until we've all passed on. Brian's character is unaware that he shuffled off, and needs an angel to tell him. The composition sounds happy, but there's not a lot of happiness in the lyrics. There's no description of how the guy died (I bet he died from boredom watching the Cubs suck) or even his interest in baseball until the third chorus, and that feels sloppy to me. This is another entry that sounds like it was recorded all at once, in one take. Daniell's trio sounds good together, but the vocals and claps were not recorded with their own microphones, and the song suffers from inaudible lyrics. Maybe time got the better of them, but re-recording these elements are a requirement before they can call it good.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - She's Dead
Like the main concept behind Dexter, The Offbeats agree that the world can be a better place wihout some folks. I was skeptical that I would enjoy this song at first, but it grew on me pretty quickly. The singer's Tom Waits quality is enjoyable and appropriate for the character. I like the arrangement - the instruments sound good and are mixed well. The subtle inclusion of horns is very welcome. The 'ding dong' bit at the end of the first chorus is a good line, but it sounds like he singing 'dig down there' instead, which also works. She's Dead is at the right length for what they had to present, but I'd also like to heart a second verse to expand on why the awful woman deserved to buy the farm. This isn't my favorite song this round, but it's one of only a handful that could go on tour as is.

Verdict: 8/10

Edric Haleen - I Hope You Die
Leave it to Edric to combine polka with his trademark broadway style. The character in Haleen's death song is actually not happy, and doesn't get the satisfaction that he so badly craves. Nobody dies in the piece, either, and that's the sort of juxtaposition I've come to expect from his witty songwriting (and yet it's still surprising). Edric does a great job of setting up the scene at the very beginning, and the mood is expressed exuberantly throughout the syncopated romp. I hear an influence from 'Weird Al' Yankovic's Your Horoscope For Today in the bridge, and it works nicely with the rest of the tune. The yell at the end of the bridge steps all over the lyrics at the start of the fourth verse, though. I was kinda hoping there would be a bit more melodic variation in the numerous times the title is sung, but it's a nitpick. It's too bad that the subject matter limits the song's replay value (I'm sure Weird Al can relate).

Good heavens, did I hear Edric Haleen curse? In a song, no less? I never thought I'd see the day... Not a big deal, but still...

IHYD skirts along the boundaries of the round's rules, and turns out to be a more enjoyable ride than expected.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Charlie McCarron - Grandma And Grandpa
I didn't like this song the first time I heard it. Maybe there was something I didn't hear correctly, maybe I had to be in the right mindset. Anyway, This is the only song this round that completely turned around for me. Charlie's got a Christpher Cross quality to his voice that I appreciate in this mellow style. McCarron's lyrics are descriptive and paint a scene in my mind, without depicting any people other than the adventurous elders. The voices aren't perfect, but they blend sweetly in this tale of endless love, and the haunting ending moves me more than the lyrics do. While I like the simplicity of the layered guitars with occaisional orchestra assistance, I'd also like to hear some subtle rhythm along with it - maybe some brushes on a snare. As it is, though, Grandma and Grandpa is the most emotionally powerful entry, and one of my favorites this round.

Verdict: 9/10

Spencer Sokol - Keeping Calm
Sokol's lyrics, though sometimes nonsensical, are creative and interesting, but they don't describe the situation enough for me to imagine much, and they don't sound that happy. The melody is okay, but some small changes could make big improvements. The vocals are expressive, and I like Spencer's voice when he sings at full voice, but he needs to spend time training it. Currently, he sings with his throat and not his diaphragm (a common issue with untrained singers). The support he's lacking makes notes sung quieter than fortissimo harder to hit and increases the nasal sound that we don't want. Fixing this alone will greatly improve the tune. Next, we'll work on enunciation...

What doesn't need work is the guitar(s), which sound very pretty together. Knocking on the body to represent a heartbeat is a nice touch. The overall production sounds good, though the full-voice vocals get a bit loud in the mix.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Luke Brekke, Esquire - Cannibal
Hall and Oates, Ke$ha and of course, the Fine Young Cannibals can tell you that human flesh tastes sweet in the form of record sales. As creepy as the subject is, it can be approached in a way that makes you look like a rockstar... or you can look creepy. Comedy/Novelty songs allow for such behavior, but it's got to be listenable or funny. Sadly, Luke's horror tune falls short for me. Some of the lyrics are pretty creative and certainly creepy, but there's no humor to speak of and the delivery is bland. Luke's voice reminds me of Darrell Maclaine's - both have a nasal, slightly dark timbre that ends up sounding bass-heavy. It's a small problem that can be fixed in numerous ways, but it doesn't sound pleasant unaddressed. Unlike Maclaine, Luke gets off-key frequently and has diction issues. The background vocals are louder than the lead most of the time, and cover up the lyrics that matter. Not changing the name in each chorus is not only a missed comedy opportunity, but it's also overly-specificreepy (...or is Annabelle like Jennifer where you live?). The last line of each chorus makes me want to skip to the next track. Some chords on the organ are painful. This song desperately needs a rhythm track to hold it together. Oh, goody: another spooky laugh at the end that's louder than everything else by a lot. Nice try, Luke. Maybe next time.

Verdict: 4.5/10

"BucketHat" Bobby Matheson - No Worries
It's unclear exactly why Bobby's character is dying, but he doesn't mind that the reaper is around the corner. The guitar/accordion/bass combo is cool and gives a positive feel to go with Matheson's optimistic lyrics, and the electric guitar in the choruses provides a quiet but enthusiastic bed of support. I like how Bobby's improved over the course of his songwriting competition career. He's gradually gotten proficient at arranging, lyrics, instrumentation, production... The only thing that hasn't improved much is his singing. (I know, I know, this isn't a singing competition. Keep in mind, I have to judge based on what's submitted - record execs do too, when considering a song to be performed by their hot new act. If you know you're weak at something, there's no shame in getting somebody to help you!) His voice is expressive enough, but has the support problems I mentioned earlier. Overall, No Worries fits the challenge, is full of character and would sound great with pro singers.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Alex Carpenter - The Day I Died
Surprisingly the only song involving zombies, Alex brings us a rocking number about suicide without that unsavory emo aftertaste. The lyrics are appropriate for the character and phrasing works with the driving rhythm and mostly-bouncy guitar nicely. I wish the final version of the lyrics was provided, as half the chorus was left out, along with punctuation and capital letters (they don't cost extra, honest!). The vocals are pitchy in places (parts of the last verse hurt my ears), but I like the melody. The instruments are arranged and produced well, and there's variety in each part. The rifle reload effect is properly timed, but I don't feel it's truly necessary. I'm not at all against having zombie noises throughout the song, especially near the end (think of it as an audience). With a new vocal track, this will be a hit. With a little practice, TDID will be ready for tour.

Verdict: 8/10

Inverse T. Clown - Caroline Is Dead
Inverse made a song of great fortune for a materialistic dude at the end of a relationship. Caroline is the same one people may be familiar with from Mike Lombardo's Masters of Song Fu 3 Round 1 submission (the challenge was to write a happy song). According to Mr. Clown, things turned quite sour after the original song, though we are not privy to what actually unfolded. Long story short, she's dies before the divorce is final. It's a funny situation for this character to be in (especially in the bridge) and Inverse made plenty of smart lyric choices, but there aren't any parts that make me laugh. While I admire the diverse and verbose selection of words, some words are hard to hear and the large lexicon is only sometimes the culprit. The vocal phrasing is rigidly maintained, which may have a negative influence on some pronunciation. On a nitpicky note, the silences between lines in the a capella intro are jarringly audible, and can be fixed easily by recording the room when it's silent and filling the gaps. BTW, 5 seconds of silence at the start? Srsly? Lame. Anyway, Caroline Is Dead is a really good song for the challenge. As a comedy tune, I can imagine hearing it on Dr. Demento, but it lacks the replay value or relatability that grants some novelty music financial success.

Verdict: 8/10

Jutze - I Love The Dead
People say there's a perfect job out there for everybody - something that fulfills and satisfies. Jutze says he made this song "with Christopher Walken’s character from Plots with a View (Undertaking Betty in the US) in mind." I haven't seen the dark romantic comedy, but Schult's piece about an undertaker is perky, catchy and uncharacteristically happy. ILTD is the minimum length required in the challenge, and yet it still feels complete. Jutze describes the occupation with the positive attitude you'd expect from the title, and the lyrics have humorous bits and make me admire the gravedigger's outlook. I enjoy the instruments and like their production. Jutze still has a hard time pronouncing 'j' and 'sh' sounds, but he's also one of few contestants whose primary language isn't English. His voice isn't the strongest, but he hits the notes and he brings life to his character.

I keep wanting to use another word, but I can't help it: this song is Cute.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Gödz Pöödlz - Wake At The Sunnyside
Rhöd and Rüss love songwriting competitions so much, they recently submitted a jingle for a local grocer's contest. This inspired them to make an extended-length jingle for a fabricated fueral home. The lyrics are full of double meanings and tongue-in-cheek humor, and the melody and harmony are just what the embalmer ordered. Rhöd's voice is pleasant, but sometimes his singing is pitchy (the key change works, but his note - ouch), and sometimes he takes too long to portamento up to the note - both things that can be polished up later. Until I read the lyrics, I though the words "Infused with finest formaldehyde" were actually "If you can find us formaldehyde." My bad, I guess.

After a thorough examination, I detect only minor adjustments to the audio of the Judges Mix. I appreciate the extra attention to detail, but the changes are barely perceptable and cause me to theorize it was some sort of trick to make the judges listen to their song more (it worked, dad gummit). If I were to make changes, I'd bring the lovely organ track up in the mix, maybe consider opening with it, too; bring the rhythm section in in layers; and make the backgrounds quieter, remove the bass and perhaps add a light reverse echo.

Wake at the Sunnyside is a fun idea executed well, though it doesn't have a lot of replay value. I'd love to see a local commercial-style music video for this.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Tally Deushane - My Dead Goldfish
Deushane brings us a tale of a pet with a will to live that's longer than the owner's interest in caring for it. The lyrics don't particularly grab me. The character isn't very likable because of her uncaring nature and her subsequent satisfaction that her pet's time had come.

This sounds like yet another one-take recording, but this take sounds pretty good... for what it's worth. I like Tally's voice - she's proven to me that she can hit a small set of notes. I don't I don't like the melody, however. I'd like to increase the overall treble of the recording. There's only so long I can listen to the same small set of notes sung to the same set of ukulele chords, much less in the same freaking order ad infinitum. If she can prove to listeners she knows a few more notes, a couple more chords and a lot more variety in the near future, she could be one to watch.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Ethan Ivey - The Four-Year Itch
The subjects for this challenge are more varied and less constrained than many others, and therefore there are fewer duplicate ideas. One interesting and completely unexpected coincidence is the usage of previous songwriting challenges as inspiration. It seems that Ethan used the challenge from MoSF 6 Round 2, where nothing was allowed to rhyme. It's not a decision I would force upon myself. Anyway, the concept of a male black widow is a good start, but the lyrics aren't good enough without the missing rhymes and the melody could be made to sound happier. I like the piano (except for one ugly mistake in the last verse), and though the vocals aren't that strong, they're fine for the range he wrote for himself. Not much replay value here, and not very happy, but ok for the challenge.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Matt And Donna - Lady On The Gray
This duo created a light pop number that doesn't make me think of death, but it feels pretty happy. All the vocalists involved are enjoyable, and they seem to belong together. I really like the piano, trumpet and and vocal melodies, and how sweetly they play together. The backgrounds are pleasant as well, and nothing competes to be heard. The lyrics sound nice, but I can't envision much aside from the rather eloquent discovery that the character has become a ghost. I may not put this on heavy rotation on a portable media device, but LOTG is pretty enough to keep around.

Verdict: 8/10

Ross Durand - No Taxes
Much like Bobby Matheson's, there are lots of things that Ross' character finds to be positive about kicking the bucket. The lyrics are plenty happy, and I like the Monty Python reference. The folk style seems appropriate for the subject matter and Ross' vocals are reminiscent of Dylan and match the mood well. Harmony vocals are good, though they could be a little bit quieter. Everything sounds like it was played and produced with skill.

I wish the 'four' was edited out of the beginning. Going to such lengths to fit 'erection' into the chorus isn't worth it if it's paired with a non-rhyme like 'again', much less having to say 'erection' every time the chorus comes around. With a couple changes, No Taxes could be pretty successful.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Menagé a Tune - Isn't It Nice
Though not explicitly involving death, one can assume that something seriously bad happened to the bullies in Jo Ann's song of revenge. It isn't made clear, but the listener is led to believe that the flashing lights she referred to are from an ambulance or police car. Jo Ann's vocals may be pitchy at times and she can't quite reach the low notes, her singing is sweet and likeable. Considering the content, the song still feels family-friendly. After mentioning that it it's nice to have or be a friend, it would've been nice to hear Jo Ann describe or involve a friend in the song. I like the melody, the keyboard accompaniments are pretty and things sound like they're mixed alright. I don't hear any bass in Abbott's vocal track at all, and it also could use a little reverb to make it sound less sterile. Too bad the end got cut off...
Since this is a story based on real events, I'm interested in hearing the rest of this moral anecdote.

Verdict: 7/10

Glen Raphael - When You're Dead
It's pretty gutsy move to make a song using almost solely your voice, even if you've trained to use it for most of your life. Unfortunately, Glen's voice isn't in control enough to be considered trained. My ears get confused as to which off-key vocal track I should follow, and parts of it are hard to listen to. The lyrics may be slightly optimistic, but they're not very interesting and not funny.
It's a shame the beginning got cut off, and the end faded out when it should've just stopped - the motivator behind the fade is the fact that the drum kit keeps going. Sorry, but nothing really works for me in this one. When You're Dead is a dud.

Verdict: 4.5/10

Doom SKITTLE - A Better Place
I know it's very challenging to make a complete song and record it before a deadline - that's most of the reason why we call them challenges. The rest of the reason is that even if you create something, it may not be something that people will like or appreciate. Doom had enough time to record a ROUGH draft, and rather than wait to submit a less rough draft as a shadow song with dignity, he submitted this ugly thing. I like the concept, where the character reaches the afterlife and meets his ancestors. Nothing is explained about how he died, or even the description of the family member he meets. The passable acoustic guitar doesn't make up for the awful vocals. Some parts of A Better Place are painful and others are disjointed, but all of it is not ready to be released.

Verdict: 4/10

Wait WHAT - Death: Everyone's Doing It!
While one could say this submission is less tragic than the last couple entries, that doesn't mean this Death isn't a tragedy, or a travesty, or both. I'm not pleased with the singing or phrasing, and even if the vocal melody were performed by someone that could sing it in key, I still wouldn't like it very much. Sure, I can see that some humor could exist in trying to convince listeners to kill themselves, but none is to be found. I suppose the music is okay, but the completely unenthusiastic vocals kill all enjoyment for me. ...And then there's the rap, if you could sleep at night after calling it that. Unbeknownst to me, by signing up to judge this set of songs, I agreed to subject myself to more torture than most people should allow themselves to willingly inflict upon one's self before being considered a threat to society. ...And yet I'd gladly do it again, to save the general public from hearing bad creations like this.

Verdict: 4/10

Steve Durand - Die Happy
I know, another philosophy song. You're probably tired of hearing about them, and I'm sparing you my own. The horn section is my favorite part of the song. The lyrics are positive and pretty happy and as inspiring or moreso than the other philosophical songs. Steve's singing is pretty good. He could benefit from practice, but his voice fits the style of the song. The vocal melody isn't amazing, but I like the overall sound, and the lyrics could pass for 40s-era songwriting. It seems that Durand managed to simulate a decent medium-fidelity warmth. I'd like the bass to be louder in the mix, but I understand if the artistic method intentionally limits the sound. The instrumental portion is cool and really drives the swing feel home. Die Happy another I would play on occaision at most, but I appreciate the strong effort to replicate an old-time sound.

Verdict: 8/10

Jason Morris - Burning For You
Anybody that's able to make it to the final round of any songwriting competition has what it takes to make a song worth listening to, and Song Fu 2 finalist Morris tends to satisfy more than disappoint. His song involves a shy guy who takes a drastic approach to get the attention of the one he loves. There's a pretty long list of things I'd do to get a girl to see me before I willingly conflagrated, but it doesn't sound like the character tried anything before he jumped to the brilliant idea of suicide.

It's kinda creepy, a little disturbing and not very happy, but the lyrics are descriptive and the vocal melody is good stuff. I enjoy Jason's voice and performances of the lead and backgrounds. The music is catchy and upbeat, and Jason does a great job on instrumentation and production. The bridge really works for me, in general. What doesn't work for me is the chorus - I wish that it were more than the same note and the same four words done to death, if you'll pardon the pun (I think I've behaved myself so far, as far as puns are concerned, yeah? Meh, what do you care). Jason did change up the melody in the last chorus, but if the unimaginitive lyrics are to remain the same I'd prefer to hear variations that increase in complexity and intensity over the four choruses. Any kind of lyrical variety in the chorus is still heartily welcomed. It may also be a missed opportunity not to change 'mind' to 'heart' in the second pre-chorus, even if it is cliché. Some reworking could make BFY a hit.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Caleb Hines - Haven't You Ever
Caleb's happiness from death comes in the form of an inheritance. A sound starting point, he describes the fun, adventurous events and opulent purchases the happy character spends the assets on. There are some silly things mentioned, but the lyrics don't succeed in making me laugh (don't feel bad - none of them did). The vocal lead and harmonies are good, and the music backs them appropriately. Caleb's another throat singer, and his voice sounds kinda scrawny and weak, but it's acceptable for a comedy/novelty tune. There is a distinct improvement in his diction, though, and evidence of a lisp is virtually gone. The elements sound mixed well, except the drums are a little quiet. Just like the other InheriTanCe song this round, I can imagine hearing it on Dr. Demento, but it lacks the replay value to be an appealing iTunes purchase.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Bryce Jensen - Thank You
Bryce's character is happy in the way ITC's and Caleb's are, but not because of a will. It's not clear what sort of relationship is being described or what went wrong, but this person is experiencing happiness due to the relief that he no longer needs to murder them. Creepy? sure. Disturbing? Just enough. There isn't much to them, but I like the lyrics and how they portray the delusional would-be killer as an optimist. There are some humorous bits (doesn't everybody need a wood chipper?), but, as I mentioned before, no lulz. Bryce's lead vocals are tolerable and the melody is pretty good.The background vocals don't sound as good, and it seems they're pitchier, too. The piano part's pretty good, even if it's a bit repetitive. Using only two mediocre two-beat drum loops is a disappointment. Thank You is pretty good, but has plenty of room for improvement.

Verdict: 7/10

Pat And Gweebol - Baby Go To Sleep
This seemingly simple number ended up growing on me. Normally I don't appreciate the countless Romeo and Juliet references in songs, because they usually don't utilize the story's plot. Sure, things are vague and veiled in obscurity, but the lyrics are effective, and both vocalists perform their parts well. All the vocal parts are written nicely. I like the doubled leads, and the backgrounds are used the right amount and at the right volume. The keyboard part in the intro and instrumental isn't amazing but it isn't bad either, and contributes to the overall sound of the song more than it detracts. BGTS has more replay value than most of the songs this round. Pat and Greebol are some pretty talented puppets, and they made a likeable song.

Verdict: 8/10

The Boffo Yux Dudes - Marked For Death
These comedy veterans bring us a 60s-style rock song about someone running from his inevitable end. The lyrics sometimes make me think the character is a spy or arent of some sort, but there's no proof of that being true. They may be enthusiastically spoken, but I feel I'd like the lyrics more if they were sung (though they still won't impress me). The vocals have a bit of reverb applied to them, which I wouldn't have a problem with if the track it was manipulating was properly equalized. There's not enough midtone or treble in the recording, and it sounds too fuzzy prior to the processing... or at least that's what I hear. The guitars and bass parts are okay, albeit a bit quiet. I don't like the drum track much. The claps at the end could've been cut out - they don't fit.
Unfortunately, MFD doesn't quite get where it needs to go.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - My Name Is Death
Before I start, I just want to state my belief that artists should be required to get well known as two names before you should be allowed to use an AKA, much less use multiple names simultaneously in the first place. Sean Combs has a ton of different names, but he's too cool to use more than one at a time, and we can all learn a valuable lesson from that, and that is: Pick ONE stage name and stick with it until it stops being cool. Moving along...

Apparently Death is a rapping redneck. When I was growing up, I used to think that rap was a half-made song, but soon I found out that rapping is tough to do right (Rapping Duke, anyone?). There's nothing really entertaining or funny about the lyrics or the rapping. Most of the words feel uninspired and boring. The loop is too simple and repetitive to help the song climb out of the grave. At least the Metal Gear Solid communicator sound was used effectively. This may be one of the first three SpinTunes submissions to feature rapping, but being first doesn't mean best.

Verdict: 4.5/10

Chris Cogott - Drag Me Down
I hear a large number of similarities to the Beatles' classic style, and that's fine - it's a sound that's worked for plenty of bands over the decades. He made an upbeat ditty about a seafarer that becomes enamored with a mermaid, and he must make the ultimate sacrifice to be with the aquatic beauty. It's not necessarily the best choice to leave the word 'mermaid' out of the piece, but anybody that follows along with the lyrics should be able to figure it out. The music is very nice, effectively capturing the 60s rock and roll style with every element. Good performances and recordings, and the mixing is high quality. Though it's not a funny song, I could still imagine hearing it at least once on Dr. Demento (I usually don't refer to his show this much, honest!). DMD is a good fit for the challenge, and will be one of the better reasons to revisit this round in the future.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Happi - The Next Part Of Life
Man, rap songs are tough to get right.

Half of comedy duo (that's the intent, right?) Spandex Moose, Happi makes a philosophical jam, and while it's the best song including rap this round, that's not saying a lot. I can tell there's plenty of effort that went into the lyrics, and they're mostly happy, but the execution doesn't work for me. Some phrasing is too tightly-packed to work in every verse and reading along is practically a requirement, at least if you want to understand some bits. Sometimes the vocals rush the beat and the backgrounds aren't synchronized enough. Perhaps the rhythm instruments come in too late. The hardcore section in the second half might be too hardcore for the theme. I don't like the end of each chorus: the sustain after 'DEATH!' is too long, and the 'is the next part of life' bit is so much quieter that it's like taking a dynamic and emotional plummet into a crevasse of blah. I see the potential in the artist, but the song just doesn't satisfy me like it should.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Emperor Gum - Frequency
Emperor submitted a story of a child who gets revenge upon her overprotective parent that kept her under lock and key. Initially, I thought this song was based on yet another movie I didn't watch (what a relief). It's kinda hard to envision the character Gum's describing, but it's clear she's not happy until the end. Some lyrics are pretty good, but this 'sometimes rhyming, sometimes not' business isn't appealing. The music is simple and childish, and gets excited and intense at the right time. The vocals aren't very expressive, and sometimes get off-key a bit. Listening to Emperor sing 'again' is unpleasant. The transition to the bridge is uncomfortable. Come to think of it, I don't even get the title. Frequency is more depressing than it is happy.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Jon Eric - Birthday
Jon brings us a cool folk tune, with smart, descriptive lyrics that successfully express the last moment of life and the events thereafter. I like the imagery and the positive attude portrayed by Jon's character. Mr. Eric's voice is good for the song, and i like the melody and harmony.

The background vocals feel buried, and need to be brought up in the mix to support the lead better. Guitar, bass and shaker are a simple, yet effective combo, and they don't need a lot of improvement (shaker rhythm sometimes gets shaky in places, though). Pausing for effect is fine, as long as everybody comes back in at the same time. I don't feel like Birthday has a lot of replay value, but it's worth keeping around.

Verdict: 8/10

Hudson And Day - Silly Baby
The Dixie Chicks made it fashionable to be vengeful murderers and Country lovers (or haters) at the same time. H&D's song about a philanderer and the women he did wrong is is good idea, but it's executed poorly. Most of the vocals sound like they were recorded with an old webcam, presumably to simulate a phone. Maybe it was a filter on a good recording. Regardless, most audio is too quiet in the mix to understand and most of it doesn't sync with the rhythm of the song. The lack of a rhythm track may be a large cause, and it certainly could improve the listening experience. The submitted lyrics are incomplete, and it's a damn shame I won't be able to get the whole thing... Oh well.

Nothing really feels complete about Silly Baby.

Verdict: 5/10

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the kind words, I'm impressed that you actually visited our blog to and read the song bio. FWIW, I'm in absolute agreement about the guitar and shaker, as well as Dante's observation that we need to tighten up the rhythm entrance. (I also think it needs a crisper performance on the bongos to replace the beating on the back of my guitar I used in this demo)

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  2. What can I say? When I'm going to be quoted, I like to be as informed as possible, even if it shouldn't be necessary in order to understand a well-made song. Sometimes I like to know about influences and the process in general, and sometimes I'm just trying to see if my guesses are correct (like my instantly-accurate assumption of Edric's inspiration).
    FWIW, everyone should use your creative order: submitting something - anything - early may have increased the number of entries to 50 or more, and maybe even more cream could've risen to be heard...

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  3. Thank you for the feedback! As you guessed,all of Junior High and part of Senior High pretty much sucked for me. To escape I read SF and fantasy, and imagined ways of killing those tormenting me. This story was originally conceived as a short fiction, but I realized that no mystery magazine would accept something where the murderer gets away with it *grin*. It works as a song though.
    The chorus about it being nice to be or have a friend refers to the idea that if you were a friend you got a safe chocolate- and if you were not a friend, you took the unsafe ones. A second meaning is that the poison and chocolates were my friends when I needed them...and they stayed with me till the bitter end. SOMEones bitter end anyway, heh heh heh.
    You mention a lack of bass and reverb- I know there is something called reverb in Audacity, but haven't tried messing with it yet; I don't know anything about the bass options in it. I learn new things with every song; this series I am focusing on learning how not to sound like I am singing in a bucket. All Audacity tips welcome! Caleb showed me how to use my new(used)synthesizer, this was my first real try at adding decent chords and melody to something by myself.
    Oh, and the rest of the moral anecdote? While I DID have a chemistry set and was really really tempted back then, I never used it. Instead I got a degree in psychology,and now tend to find young people going through similar situations and who need a sympathetic ear online. Knowing someone else survived can help.
    Besides, the best revenge is to have a good, (mostly) happy life. :o) And to let them know it when they try to friend you on FB 35 years later...

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  4. Hi, JoAnn!
    Glad you liked the review, and I hope it holds useful info for you. Forgive my typing errors, I didn't have time to proofread before turning it in...
    I'm sad to see that you were eliminated. Your song was much more enjoyable than wait WHAT's.
    My time in school was less than pleasant, myself... but that's a story for another session.

    I had not considered the perspective that the chocolate and algae killer are also friends. Makes sense to me.

    While I haven't used Audacity yet, I can tell you that I learned about almost all the music programs I do use just by fiddling around and experimenting. If you're not recording the vocals with a hardware mixer, an EQ filter in software is usually just as good, and is important to boost your tone. Remember to be sparing with reverb/echo - it usually doesn't take a lot to make a positive change.

    Thanks for the additional info about the song! I hope to hear shadow songs from you as the season continues.

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  5. Graham (Emperor Gum + DonutWorthy)July 4, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Thanks for the review!
    1. You're right that it isn't very happy.
    2. I called it Frequency because I couldn't think of a title.
    3. Not rhyming is a trope of mine. I appreciate that its not everyone's cup of tea.
    4. Sorry about the vocals, I was sick!
    -Graham

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  6. Hi Graham!
    1. I know from MoSF 3 Round 1 that it's harder to write a happy song than it looks.
    2. Regardless, it's a pretty cool title. It may not say anything about the song, but it's till better than 'Untitled'.
    3. As a songwriting choice, not rhyming may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I can't fault you for sticking to your trope. It's not my preference when it comes to putting a song together, because my brain works better when there's a rhyme to my reason, if you'll pardon the pun.
    4. Being sick is an unfortunate issue involving a 1-week deadline. I feel your pain.

    Have a nice day!
    -Randy

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