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Saturday, July 9, 2011

SpinTunes #3 Round 2 Review: Mike Lombardo

This review is brought to you from the back seat of a Ford E350 on I90 East between Buffalo NY and Boston MA. Downtime on tour is somewhat of a rarity so I'm sure you'll understand the cause of my brevity. Onward.

The Offhand Band - Program Aids Food Stamp Users
Very strong vocal performance and great piano performance as well - the mic needs a bit less gain and some compression to smooth out those loud parts without clipping the preamp. The arrangement and instrumentation was pleasing, and the melody is very cohesive - using repeated motifs and sections to make a lyrically scattered piece sound tight. (I realize that the lyrics are the article text.) Recommended listening: Cigarette by Ben Folds.

Gold Lion - Message for Vivian
Another strong vocal performance here as well, and it's mixed very pleasingly - the lyrics are clear and understandable. I commend you on your conservative use of vocal reverb on the verse - the chorus section seems a little too cloudy and cluttered. The sizzle cymbal is an often overlooked effect and is put to good use here. At 2:12 when the harmonies come in, they should all be compressed through a bus so it doesn't become overwhelmingly loud in comparison to the single lead vox earlier on in the song. I like the groove and the lyrics are set very well to the melody. I'm not 100% clear on the story here. That could be because I don't have the lyrics in front of me, but listeners sometimes don't. This is a really great entry!

Edric Haleen - What About Love
I award major points for "balls" and "approach" here. The rap lyric is overall very well constructed and flows pretty well. My main bit of critique after listening is that the rhythm of the lyrical delivery seems a bit stilted - not quite a full swung eighth feel ("Lose Yourself") but not quite a strict straight eighth pattern either. This really is a tiny, tiny, distinction, but it really kept me from completely relaxing into the groove.

Jutze - Re: Your Oil
This song presents a much-welcomed scathing view of United States foreign policy. I actually don't have a lot to say about this song - the tempo changes are a bit abrupt but they seem perfectly appropriate for the song. This is the best work I have heard from Jutze yet.

Dr Lindyke - Prayer for Peace
I really wish I were able to have the lyric in front of me for this song. I can tell I'm missing some of the beautifully constructed lines in the tour van. I recognized what sounds like traditional Jewish prayer text in the chorus, supported by rich harmonies. The delivery is very good, although the harmonies could stand to be a bit tighter. Props for pulling off that considerably difficult acoustic guitar part.
I would consider losing the last verse, or changing the order - the "rabbi prays for violence" line is quite stunning and is probably the strongest ending for this song.

Governing Dynamics - Cameras, Streetlights, and Things Worth Fighting For
Some full, lush guitar production here combined with the spacey drum loop creates a unique indie feel. The vocal double in octaves is a great effect for an edgy sound, although I feel it's used a bit too much in this song, and perhaps a better use of it would be to differentiate between the different sections of the song, especially when working with a drum loop which lacks fills to differentiate your sections. This song also lacks dymanic contracts - it's basically the same volume and intensity all the way through. This is a good example of when some arrangement and production decisions can greatly affect the listener's perception of ths song.

Pat and Gweebol - The Story Is Mine
Not sure what's going on with the hard-panned piano intro, it's a bit confusing when listening with headphones. Nice "joy shuffle" feel, although the piano part that's being played would really fit better when it's supporting other instruments - look more towards a solid quarter note style like "Love Song" for more fullness. The vocal performance, though a bit unbalanced at times, is very solid, and the statue of liberty text is a nice addition.

Infidelity - Alexa Polasky
Ukulele! This is a good solid entry, it tells the story clearly and it's pleasing to the ear. My only comment is that it's a bit longer than it needs to be. After about 2 minutes we've heard basically all of the story and the last repetition of the chorus doesn't really add anything.

Matt Walton - Take your Placards Down to London
The 'bagpipe' needs some reverb so we know it's not a really bad recording buzz. This tells the story well, and the form is very appropriate for the style. This is pretty well done and I don't have much non-technical negative feedback. Recommended Listening: Furry Old Lobster by Jonathan Coulton

Godz Poodlz - Independence and Freedom For All
Musically this is pretty cohesive and one of the better GP arrangements to day, with exception of the second bar of the opening riff: the chord is three major with the 5th in the bass (or 7 diminished, functionally similar.) This chord contains the sharp five of the key, but the lead synth melody is playing the natural 5. This clashed heavily to my ear.
The form is good, the structure is good, it's a good length and it's not too repetitive. Some good work from the GP here.

Chris Cogott - Welcome To Kabul
This is a really interesting vintage style recording and it is delivered very well. Great harmony and guitar work. The mix seems just a tad overcompressed. Not much negative feedback here, this is a very enjoyable entry.

Inverse T Clown - Something In The Air
My lack of internet really makes me wonder what news article this song was based on. Aliens always a good choice though.

Caleb Hines - Too Soon To Say Goodbye
I like the theatericality and the cinematic feel of this entry. Compositionally it's probably the best work I've heard from Caleb so far. It's a comfortable length and the form works well. I'm not feeling the hand claps on the last chorus, they seem too 'happy' for the tone of the song.

Matt and Donna - A Tight Spot
Is that lead patch a Yamaha HandySound?! This entry hits an excellent balance between clearly revealing the article the story is based on, and creating a stand alone enjoyable song. This is a funny tune that could be performed well at an open mic night. I like the piano on the last chorus but the ride cymbal is unneccessary - take it out and listen to how much more space there is. Good closing line as well.

Wait What - Bunny Please Don't Go
For me, the story wasn't clearly revealed until the last verse section. Saying "penis" in a song makes me laugh for some reason. I'm super-mature. There's not much substance here but it makes me laugh and it's fun.

Ross Durand - The American Way
Despite some legal innacuracies in the first verse (M rated games aren't sold to <18 either) , this song makes its point and makes it well. The length and form are great here, the only thing that felt a little out of whack was the "bridge" line "states rights, states wrongs." That line can go completely and leave a two-line bridge which would flow much better back into the last verse.

Steve Durand - When Frankie and Johnny Get Married
This is well written and well-arranged. I'm a big fan of the style, although lyrically the 'joke' factor seemed a bit low. The "gay old time" pun is funny but it feels like the entire first few sections are working really hard just to set that up. I think there are a few more "ha" moments that could be fit into the lyric here.

Happi - Double The Fetish
This was entertaining and funny, and although I'm a big fan of swearing in music, the "just fuck off and die" line seems a bit too forceful given the subject matter of the song. The verse line "to tackle me down he's not prepared to commit" is what one of my professors referred to as "shakespeare speak" - flipping a line abnormally to make the rhyme work. We're all guilty of it but it's best to rework things when you notice them.

Charlie McCarron - The Mountains Will Not Yield
You again, Mr McCarron with your "serious songs." How dare you release something that's not a novelty! I'm digging the interesting compound time feel even though it's really a simple 3/4. You have stellar vocal harmonies as usual. Very cool chord progression and brass orchestration as well. This is a very radiohead-esque piece and it's very well done. The backgrounds around 2m are excellent as well.

Jon Eric - North Dakota
This is an epic ten minute musical-theater-style entry that I definitely can't do justice to inside a tour van without the lyrics in front of me. I could have gone for a little more stylistic / harmonic / metric variation between the sections but this is a solid foray into the style. I wish I could say more but I really need to give this a few listens to appreciate the whole entry.

Alex Carpenter - The Last Launch
Surprisingly good production quality for a one-take back-of-tour-bus recording. I am a fan of the money line containing homages to past shuttle names. And I like platter stops.


  1. Thanks for the review, Mike. And I basically fully agree. Especially about the drums lacking fills. I simply ran out of time (always a hazard with Spintunes, obviously) to write/find some that worked correctly in context.

    Vocally, I was going for a Modest-Mouse-meets-Death-Cab thing and I think I got most of the way there, but I ran out of time trying to get a harmony line written/recorded.

    Also I've been messing with mastering (or at least, master channel effects -- I'm told there's a difference, but hell if I can tell you what it is). So, yeah, whole thing's compressed. Once again -- out of time. :)

  2. Thanks. FYI, I love Ben Folds, and I love cigarette.

    But also FYI, the lyrics are not the article text. The article was much shorter and less detailed. I "wrote a whole new article" for the lyrics. See http://theoffhandband.com/2011/06/program-aids-food-stamp-users/?postTabs=1