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Sunday, July 10, 2011

SpinTunes #3 Round 2 Review: Rebecca Brickley

Rebecca is a past SpinTunes finalist, so it's great to have her back as a guest judge.  Hopefully she'll be back writing music for SpinTunes in the future.  Until then, enjoy this  Alan Lastufka & Luke Conrad cover & of course her reviews.

Making A Scene


First of all, just let me say I’m so honored that Travis asked me to be a guest judge this round. I have so much respect for all of you and I’m always happy to be involved in SpinTunes in whatever way I can. This round was really excellent – a lot of diversity in both topic and style. It wasn’t easy judging at all. I just want to say that I was really impressed with everyone, including the shadows. Pats on everyone’s backs. Go on. Pat yourself on the back. There you go.

Now, I’m just a young musician myself so I don’t consider myself any kind of professional or expert. But I do know what I like in songwriting and what is expected in a competition like Spintunes, so I approached my judging style with those things in mind. First, I listened through all of the songs without looking at the lyrics, to get a feel for them. I was listening for two major things:

Do I understand what the song is about? Can I get a feel for the article by listening to the song? Is the song memorable? Do I want to listen to it again?

After this dry run, I re-listened to the songs several times with a more critical ear, and I took a closer look at the lyrics. Production quality is not that important to me, as I know well the woes of writing and recording something in a one-week time period. Since this is a topical challenge, what matters most is to me that you were able to convey a clear message and make me feel emotionally connected to the song.

Things that go a long way with me:
- Clever rhymes
- Understanding your musical style (and being able to pull it off)
- Approaching the topic in a creative way
- Quality of lyrics over quantity

Things that don’t go over well with me:
- Vagueness about the story
- Wordiness
- Excess length
- Overcomplication of the backup track

In the end, I ended up ranking some songs much lower than I expected and some higher than I expected - it’s hard to rank songs when they are all so good. But they must be ranked. In the end, I went with the songs that were the most memorable to me and that seemed to meet the challenge effortlessly. Please know that it wasn’t easy!

Program Aids Food Stamp – Offand Band
Sounds like a contemporary Broadway musical – I love it. Great chord changes – not too predictable. Natural rhymes, didn’t feel forced – although it was a little wordy at times. Unique topic – definitely not what I was expecting. The song focused more on the struggles of Ms. Johnson rather than the actual article, but it may have been a smart choice because it added heart to the story. Loved the instrumental ending. A strong song, for sure.

Message for Vivian – Gold Lion
Nice mix. Very beautiful, haunting voice – and this style is perfect for it. I like the melody in the verses, but it’s definitely on the simple side. I’ll confess - the first time I listened to the song, I couldn’t figure out what it was about. But after reading the lyrics. I realized how touching the story was. I think it just moved a little too slowly for me to really grasp it all – in the end the song felt a little long. But definitely a very sweet. My favorite part was the chorus.

Edric Haleen – What About Love?
Edric, this song is freaking fantastic. The complete opposite of what I expected. I immediately thought of Eminem while listening to this, haha. I’m impressed with how well you can rap. Your rhymes are fantastic. You put a lot of emotion into it. I sound like a silly white girl critiquing rap, but seriously, I really wish I could share this song with the whole world (I won’t though!) Really good.

Jutze – Re: Your Oil
I had such a smile on my face the first time I heard this song. I loved the snarky voice and the dark humor of it. I really liked the repeated phrase in the chorus and the rises and falls in the energy. And the final line was perfect. Good mix. The message of the song was clear. The lyrics were clever and you have a good sense of musicality. As soon as I heard this song, I immediately wanted to relisten. Great job.

Dr. Lindyke – Prayer for Peace
This song gave me chills. The harmonies during the chorus were truly haunting. I love the simplicity of the guitar and how bare the song is. It had the feel of a folk song that might have been passed down for generations. A touching subject. The lyrics, while repetitive, suited the style and helped to drive the message home. Very well done. Stuck in my head for days!

Governing Dynamics – Cameras, Streetlights, And Things Worth Fighting For
As always, Travis, your mix is great and you really know how to pull off this style. I was really impressed. Though the chords in the guitar are simple, you were able to keep it fresh. I wasn’t sure what the song was about until you said the word “Vancouver” but once I got the idea, I fell in love with the song. Fantastic lyrics - they really made me think of the chaos in the streets of Vancouver that night. The melody was a little repetitive, which made the song feel a little long. But I think you chose an excellent topic and pulled it off really nicely.

Pat and Gweebol – The Story is Mine: Confession of an Undocumented Immigrant
I love the bouncy feel! Another song that reminds me of contemporary Broadway, as far as musical style. Felt a little short, but the production quality is fantastic. Absolutely loved the horns and how you used them to accent the ends of lines. Your voices go together nicely. The story behind the song was a little vague, but a very catchy melody. I had it stuck in my head for a long time!

Alexa Polasky – Infidelity
What a heartwrenching song, wow. Definitely a song that could stand on it’s own to legs outside of this competition. I love the simplicity of your voice and the ukelele. I think the simplicity of this song is what makes it great – you don’t have many lyrics, but you chose them well and they carry a lot of emotion. Clear message, great musicality, good length – nothing feels forced or rushed. One of my favorites songs this round.

Matt Walton – Take Your Placards
I want to hug you for choosing this style. Risky, simple - but you pulled it off nicely. It lends itself to a very strong melody. Another song I had stuck in my head for a long time. You have a lot of lyrics but they don’t feel wordy – you told the story well, and you were able to keep it musical and interesting. The refrain held the song together liked the use of multiple voices. Fantastic job.

Godz Poodlz – Independence and Freedom for All
Great mix. My favorite part of the song was the chorus and your use of harmonies. I was able to understand your lyrics and the message, and the line “Independence and Freedom for All” was a great hook – it brought heart to the long. Great length. Chords are a little predictable but work well. Your message was clear. Definitely a strong song.

Chris Cogott – Welcome to Kabul
The guitar drew me in – very refreshing and I loved the way you used the electric over the acoustic. I like the doubling of the voices, it adds to the style nicely. The message was touching and you expressed it well with your lyrics, your use of harmonies, and your energy. A song that could easily stand alone outside of this competition.

Inverse T. Clown – Something in the Air
And now for something completely different! A lot of lyrics, wow. My initial instinct is to say that the song feels a little long and wordy. However, you are one of the few who really told a detailed story that connected clearly with the article. Since that was the challenge, I applaud you for that. Your musical style suited the topic very well! Your rhymes are right on target, the music was fresh, and your article was definitely unique. The song definitely stands out among the rest.

Caleb Hines – Too Soon to Say
The strings and the piano at the beginning were a great opener – drew me into the song immediately. The rhymes were a little easy but I was able to understand the story clearly. Your voice is fantastic. The rises and falls in the energy really added emotion that was the heart of the song. Some clever chord changes, nice musicality. A great balance of story and emotion, and pulled off very well.

Matt and Donna – A Tight Spot
When I first heard this song, I wasn’t sure I understood what it meant – is this really a song about a boy getting stuck in a banister? But I went and read the article and the lyrics, and I laughed. A very unique topic - way to go for having fun with this challenge! Your mix was great. You were very creative approaching it from the view of the older brother. The song was catchy and I liked the energy. The lyrics felt natural and easy in a good way. Great job with this challenge.

Wait What – Bunny Please Don’t Go
You get a high five for the lyrics in this, seriously! I’m a sucker for these clever rhymes (I actually clapped at million/Brazilian). Really smart. Your story was definitely unique and you pulled it off in a way that was both funny and catchy. I was able to understand the story the first time I listened through. The melody and the instrumentals were naturally suited for the song, nothing felt out of place. Your final line was hilarious. I’m just so happy this song exists in the world.

Ross Durand – The American Way
I’m trying really hard not to let my personal music preferences sway my opinion, but I absolutely love the style of this song. And your voice is just so perfect for it. I feel like I’m listening to Bob Dylan. The song has a great dry humor and your message is very clear. I like your lyrics. It felt a little wordy at times, there are a few phrases that probably could’ve been made more singable – but you pulled it off and it suited the protest-song style. I wanted to keep listening to it over and over. Well done.

Steve Durand – When Frankie and Johnny Get Married
This song put such a smile on my face. I was hoping someone would write about this! And in the style of a march – I wasn’t expecting that! But you pulled it off effortlessly. The horns, the flutes, the clarinet, the snare – just absolutely fantastic. I can see people performing this onstage at a pride festival. And ending with the phrase “a gay old time” – perfection. Excellent musicality. Smart, cute lyrics. Great use of style. Clear message. Definitely memorable. One of the best songs this round.

Happi – Double The Fetish
Let me tell you - I was not expecting a rap, but it was an awesome surprise! I have to give you props on several things. One, you told a very clear, unique story that came directly from an article. Two, your song definitely stood out among the rest. And three, your style was perfect for the story. Some of your rhymes were a little awkward, and your harmonies weren’t very clear at times, but you told the story well and your refrain held the song together. Props for writing a song about an article like this!

Charlie McCarron – The Mountain Will Not Yield
Your harmonic structure was the first thing that stood out to me. Refreshing, creative. I fell in love with it immediately. Your music told the story as much as the lyrics did. A lot of emotion in your voice, it really drew me in. Very smart production – nothing was overdone, all the pieces fit together great. Your article was unique and your approach was right on target. I want to just keep on gushing about this song, seriously - I will definitely be listening to it long after this competition is over. Really, really well done.

Jon Eric – North Dakota
A song in movements! Wow, you definitely put a lot of thought and effort into this song! I like the contrasts between each movement and the ease with which you tell the story. It is a very long song, but that’s not necessarily a weakness if you can pull it off. Some parts felt a bit repetitive and I feel like it lost focus in some places, but you did a really great job with it overall. Your lyrics told the story well, you clearly demonstrated your musicality, and you showed an emotional investment in the song. I would like to hear a mix with more instruments involved to see if you would have done more with it. But you were really ambitious and you get major points from me for that.

Alex Carpenter – The Last Launch
Another song about the final launch! I love the energy, I definitely caught myself dancing this! The song is a little shorter than I expected - but sometimes less is more, and your lyrics definitely told the story in a way that was both catchy and emotional (the geek in me smiled at “the final frontier”, not going to lie.) I like the simplicity of the chords. Great style, great vocals. A little wordy in places, and a few of the chord changes felt a little off, but you pulled if off easily. Nice job!

Glen Raphael – Billion Metal Dollars (Shadow)
I LOVE the acoustic guitar picking. Your lyrics and your rhymes are smart and very appealing. I’m impressed that you were able to write such an emotional song about golden dollars, really. If this wasn’t a shadow, it would definitely get a high ranking from me. Simple, clear, musical, and poetic. Congrats on your everything!

Doom Skittle featuring Luke Brekke, Esquire – Going Undercover (Shadow)
Your guitar picking was the most refreshing part of this song – however, sometimes it was too prominent. Your vocals could’ve been a bit higher in the mix – it’s hard to follow the story when I can’t hear you! However, your lyrics clearly told the story presented in the article and you met the challenge very well. Great story song.

Noah McLaughlin – Fear Drive (Shadow)
Fantastic energy! Another great story song. Your rhymes were refreshing and smart. The song was a little long but you kept my attention through the whole thing. One of the few songs this round that told a very detailed story. I like your voice and your attitude - you have a distinct attractiveness to your vocal style, it’s great. Good job!

Menage’ a Tune – The Furries are Heading Back to Pittsburgh (Shadow)
I’m having a hard time coming up with a word to describe this song that isn’t “adorable”. Really, it’s great! So cute! And catchy. I could sing this while driving along in the car. Great job ladies.

Young Stroke aka Young Muscle – One Dollar Robber (Shadow)
You know your style, I’ll give you that. You can rap, man. You rhymes feel really natural and this song has great hooks. You told the story in the article clearly and your lyrics had a great voice to them. Definitely something I could hear on the radio!

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