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Saturday, July 9, 2011

SpinTunes #3 Round 2 Review: Mitchell Adam Johnson

This was incredibly difficult. The top three songs were the hardest to sort out. So many well written songs this round - you cats are really stepping it up! It's always difficult to decide how much I'm going to value production/arranging. This is a songwriting contest... Usually the idea of songwriting doesn't focus on these elements... But I think it definitely matters a lot. Clever arranging and instrumentation will help support and strengthen your melody.

There are so many different styles this round... How can some of these tunes even be compared? I did my best to rank the songs at their core. I listened for well written melodies and progressions - even if the production/arrangement wasn't the best. If a melody is truly great, it will cut right through to the listeners ears, regardless of the production value.

That being said, I still took arranging and production into consideration when ranking these brilliant songs. In this round, a lot of the strongest songs (melodically speaking) had fantastic production anyway, so it probably didn't make a huge difference in the end.

Here is my ranking. These are listed in order, beginning with 1st place:

Pat And Gweebol - The Story Is Mine: Confession Of An Undocumented Immigrant
Yes! Holy crap, this is so catchy! "And we gotta work together" - that's a hell of a hook. "Got to try to make it better" - those harmonies are creative and cool. Strong harmonies all around. Gweebol's little bridge is awesome, too! That's probably my favorite part of this song - again, great harmonies. Both Chris and Charlie have stronger production (your production is good, too). But this is a songwriting challenge. And in terms of melodic pop songwriting, I think this one was the strongest. I like how it doesn't really sound like any other artist - it was hard for me to draw any comparisons - it's just a solid little song, and I've had it in my head for days.

Charlie McCarron - The Mountains Will Not Yield
Such a beautiful chord progression. Those trombones are gorgeous. Love those backing harmonies. Haunting melody. Nice job on the arrangement - seriously. God - when you sing "there were six of us"... that is terrifying. A little Elliott Smith vibe in those "hahh" type things. Hell of a production. This is easily the most creative song this challenge... Such a hard call.

Chris Cogott - Welcome To Kabul
White Album!!! Man, you really know how to play to this judge. Impressive vocal harmonies - they remind me of ELO. That louder part in the middle was very McCartney in the early 80's. You are the master of tone. I love this song. Your production is solid and professional. Great placement of the shaker. Brilliant ending. This could have easily been my first or second choice...

The Offhand Band - Program aids food stamp users
This is a fantastic song. Such an intricate chord progression!!! Fantastic diminished chord. Your modulations are brilliant. From E Major to G Major - that was so cool. Brilliant use of inversions. And the melody is so surreal and magical. You wrote a great song. What is that chord at the very end? Is it am9? Whatever it is, it is gorgeous. And it serves as a great modulation chord when you used it earlier in the song.

Caleb Hines - Too Soon To Say Goodbye
The strings holding the fifth at the beginning is magical. Cinematic - I think that word sums up your composition. Brilliant. Another full and gorgeous arrangement. Love the chorus - Especially the V/ii chord (C major) and the Bb augmented chord. Nobody uses augmented chords these days - Nice placement! Such good dynamics in this piece.

Matt And Donna - A Tight Spot
Matt - the tone of your voice is heartbreaking. No matter what you are singing, it's gorgeous. Such a simple and beautiful arrangement. The bridge is my favorite part - perfectly written. Great job on this song!

Jon Eric - North Dakota
Sounds like a musical - like the introduction of a character. Awesome! Great use of kazoos. I like the change of tempo - smooth transition. Love the IV with a dominant 7, and your melody around it. Nice piano work at the end - would work well for the score of a movie. Oooh minor iv chord! It takes guts and musical talent to write a song with multiple movements - clearly you have both. Incredible that you were able to do this with such little time. Flat VI to Flat VII to I. So cool and fitting for the end of your song.

Steve Durand - When Frankie And Johnny Get Married
Such good arranging! Like a county fair! Fantastic trumpet playing. Aw, when those flutes kick in, it's perfect! What a solid ending - nice turnaround. Love it.

Gold Lion - Message For Vivian
The music sounds like the score for a cop show in the early 90's... That is awesome. Your voice is beautiful - really beautiful. The rhythm guitar riff thing is wicked. The acoustic guitar is a little distracting at places.

Wait What - Bunny Please Don't Go
Creative start to your melody - I like it. Great use of autotune. The octaves add a lot. Really funny lyrics. What a cool hook - I'll have this in my head for a long time.

Ross Durand - The American Way
Love well written cynical lyrics - like Randy Newman. Your voice captured my attention completely. Great folky song. Love when the guitar walks down the scale.

Inverse T. Clown - Something In The Air
Cool production / arrangement. Those synths sound awesome - kinda like The Cars at parts (Moving In Stereo). Oh man - the bridge is incredible. I like this song because it keeps getting better as it goes on.

Dr. Lindyke - Prayer For Peace
Expressive. Classical. What a strong melody. It's nice to hear someone who knows there way around a minor melody. The music definitely reflects the lyrics perfectly. Nice use of rests.

Jutze - Re: Your Oil
Very cool! Old school Punk Rock! You nailed the style. Right when that guitar kicks in... perfect! Great transitions - all parts of this song are equally catchy. You can handle different styles of music effortlessly - well done.

Godz Poodlz - Independence And Freedom For All
Really catchy song. I like the chorus a lot more than I like the verses. The chord progression in the verse is a little too cliche. Overall, nice pop song.

Governing Dynamics - Cameras Streetlights, And Things Worth Fighting For
Those drums sound wicked. Like the octaves on the vocals. My favorite part of this song is the rhythm of the melody - like at "not looking for a fight in the least." Great use of rests. Could've used a little more variation, perhaps.

Alex Carpenter - The Last Launch
There is a lot of energy in this melody and guitar part. It keeps driving. Great rhythms in the lyrics. Really kept my attention. Could have used something more in the instrumentation.

Alexa Polasky - Infidelity
Pretty melody right off the bat. "So many years ago," - That part is beautiful. I like your harmonies. I really dig the tone of your voice. The accompaniment is a little rough, perhaps - but it's kinda charming.

Edric Haleen - What About Love?
Powerful lyrics, man. Equal rights and the importance of love. Great backing track to your rap - It's well arranged, and I'm glad that it evolves. Really cool chords. That choir/synth type thing is epic. Too many rap songs just keep the same track on loop. A very passionate song.

Matt Walton - Take Your Placards Down To London
Nice revolutionary melody. Sounds like something from Pocahontas. The pedal tone fits with this song perfectly - but in a songwriting challenge, it doesn't show off your abilities very well. The melody is great though. Very traditional.

Happi - Double The Fetish
Hahahaha! "Do it for my dong." These lyrics are so hilarious. Definitely not a waste of three minutes! There are some really cool rhythms in the rap. A little sloppy here and there.


  1. Glad you dug the song!

    You asked about that last chord. It's pretty much an Am9, yes. That's exactly what's strummed on the guitar. On the piano, though, it's voiced more like a CM7/A, which is essentially the same, except that over LH A octaves, the RH is playing BCEGB, substituting the extra lower B for the A root. The substitution, and especially the presence of two Bs in the RH, adds color and tension compared to a straight Am9. Basically, a fancy version of the iv that we fall for every time :)

    After seeing your Round 1 evaluations, I was really glad to see someone out there paying close attention to chord progressions. It felt right for my Round 1 entry to keep things simple, but I was really happy to do something else in Round 2.

    FYI, the chorus starts in G major, and then it modulates to D major before wrapping up back in E major on "Johnson said." Kind of crazy, huh? :)

  2. Thanks for the kind words. After I wrote the bridge music, I almost cut it out because I thought it was too good for the rest of the song (which I didn't really like). I'm glad you were able to enjoy it.