All four of these songs are remarkable. And that's why I am going to make remarks about them all. I think 'Back Down The Road' & 'Rusty' are a little more straightforward... whereas 'In The DeVille' & 'Skipping Stones' are a bit more complex. And because of that, it was difficult for me to rank these songs. They are all SO well written. I'm hearing a lot of strong arrangements and tons of poppy melodies. What a good bunch of songwriters!
Anyway, here is my ranking, starting with 1st place:
1. Matt And Donna - Back Down The Road
As usual, your song is really beautiful. Great vocal performances - both on the lead and harmony. There is the perfect amount of vulnerability in your voice - yet it still sounds confident. Fantastic trumpet bridge - especially when the harmony kicks in. Very Belle & Sebastian there. That's probably the best part of this song. Especially the V/ii chord - oh man!!!! And the descending bassline walk there! Heartbreaking lyrics. The harmonies at "but time is kind and terrible this much is true" are gorgeous - wait, maybe that's the best part of the song. Great job on the bassline - love how it's not always on the root! Wow, I absolutely love this song. The production/mixing is professional. The marchy snare - nice call. Really, this is perfect. I think overall, this is the best song you've submitted. You knew I'd love this song, didn't you? I'm giving this song first because it is 100% solid from start to finish - I loved every second of it. The other songs this round have some 'not quite as good' parts... not this song. There was a lot of care put into writing, arranging, and recording this song - and that shines.
2. Pat And Gweebol - In The DeVille
This song just keeps getting better and better. Nice staggered melodic lines - great harmony. Fantastic vocals. Hooks everywhere. Very 'Wedding Bell Blues.' I'm hearing some serious Mamas & Papas in there - in the vocals, the swung rhythm, and the jangly piano (nice job on those octave riffs). Great arranging on the synth string things and the organ. The "lalala" part is my favorite. Whoa, Pat's lala's are perfect - I LOVE IT! The follow-up chord progression is better that time around. Man, you guys wrote like a billion different parts to this song. I think when this song begins it's pretty good, but by the end it just kicks serious ass. The last vocal is wonderful. Like Charlie's song, this one takes a few listens to fully grasp. There is a lot going on at all times. Again, that lala part is so good - wish it happened more often - That is my favorite section of any song this round, without a doubt.
3. Charlie McCarron - Skipping Stones
For some reason this reminds me of the White Album... and Sam Phillips... and early Of Montreal (especially in the chord progression). Great vocal harmonies - creative. Cool how you were able to make a song catchy in an unusual time signature. Great slidey solo. Once the arpeggiated guitar kicks in, it really holds everything together. Wish you had that going on more often. Crazy chord progression - yet your gift for writing melodies has helped you tie it all together, seamlessly. You use the V/vi chord a lot, and it works well - it will hook us all in, without question. Towards the end of the song the progression gets a whole lot poppier - I like that. And those girl backing vocals are fantastic - sounds a lot like something Lennon would've done. That's my favorite part of this song.
4. Ross Durand - Rusty
That is awesome tone on your lead guitar (probably my favorite thing about this song). This is a really well written song - I can see people singing along to this! I hear some Dire Straits in there. Nice hook - very memorable - really - I can TOTALLY see a lot of people really digging this song. Simple and poppy chord progression. A little loose on some of the rhythms, but besides that, it's solid. Clever lyrics - love how it works on two levels.