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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spintunes #4 Round 2 Review: Heather Miller

Jon Eric - Friday February 13th
I like the piano. I like the doubling effect in the “I’m yours” section that brings in the idea of a girl’s voice saying that part. I do wish this had some sort of chorus or hook, though I guess torch songs follow more of this storyline structure rather than having a repeat or hook, so this could still work, but then I guess I would want it to have a bigger build and finish. It also feels to me like many of rhymes are forced, or the words are crammed in a bit awkwardly in order to rhyme. I’ll just give one example, the line:
"I'm yours, and how good it is
Of course, that's how Cupid is"

First of all, try speaking it out, no singing - it’s not conversational. Secondly you’re rhyming “is” with “is”. I’d go back through the song and speak it out to see where it feels rough and don’t sacrifice meaning for rhyme.

Rebecca Angel - Insignificant You
Voice and piano are both beautiful and I love the concept. It took me reading your mini description to really understand and appreciate the song better though. Without that description, I need to know sooner, more clearly, that you are already with someone. The first time I heard “I made it clear I’d never leave”, I didn’t know who or what you weren’t leaving, I thought maybe it was the room or your house! It might be as easy as tacking on “I made it clear I’d never leave him”, or maybe it would need something else, but that is definitely the point in the song where I need that information. Also the word “forgettable” rubs at me the wrong way, because he may be insignificant and peripheral, but he’s clearly not forgotten if it’s a year later and you’ve been writing songs about him all that time.

Felix Frost - Amber Avalanche
Cool instrumentals and sound effects. Sounds quite like it could fit beautifully as a soundtrack in a video game, especially the ending part. I read your song bio and appreciate the structure you wanted to create, but even knowing that it’s meant to be non-traditional, the words are too crammed for me, and I can’t really understand a lot of them unless I’m reading along. A question to consider (this goes for all songs, not just this one) - is it more important for you for people to pay attention to WHAT your lyrics are, or HOW you sing them? If you want people to understand the lyrics and plot, your delivery should be more conversational. If you want people to focus on the cool sounds and what you can do with your voice, then conversational tone isn’t as important.

Governing Dynamics - I Shouldn’t Blame You
OK. There’s a chance I have an unfair bias toward this song because it has my name in it, but I really like it. It has a catchy chorus. It feels really honest. It’s conversational. It has a great balance of concrete details and inner emotions. I can understand the words and the storyline without having to read the lyrics. The musical dynamics are great. The lyric bit that feels weakest to me is, “Winter's cold and bitter/And in february's middle/That suits me more than not” and there are a couple tiny places where the emphasis is on the wrong syllable thing going on, but it doesn’t bug me in this case.

Common Lisp - A Brother’s Valentine
I like the concept of this. It’s real, honest, important, clever, funny. It’s a little edgy and crude in parts for my personal taste but I think it fits the style of the song you created, so that totally works. I love the bass line. Well done.

Hazen Nester - (Bored With My) Precious Little Life
Awesome instrumentation (love the organ coming in on the chorus and the super shredding after the bridge), catchy melody and I like the plot idea. A few lyrical parts that were awkward for me: “Regardless if I have to go and fight/Armies to make you mine” For one, I don’t like the way the idea splits over two lines, and for two, this guy comes off as a bit of a dreamer/slacker in the rest of the song, so I don’t believe he’d even come close to fighting armies. But maybe that’s a Scott Pilgrim reference that’s going over my head?

Ross Durand - Space Opera Valentine (For Leia)
This is quite clever, and I’m a Star Wars fan, so I do appreciate all the jokes/references, but I think you sacrificed some traditional song quality in order to fit all of them in. For example it’s a bit confusing to say you have a bad feeling about it turning out to be like kissing her brother, but then you turn around and still want her to be your valentine? The more I listen to this while reading the lyrics, I get it overall, but it was a bit confusing to me on the first couple listens plot-wise, so I still think there is potential to tighten it up/make it more clear for folks listening on their first run through.

Noah McLaughlin - Hey Joe
A love song to coffee! I bet most of us can relate! I definitely get the Beatles reference, it almost made me a little uncomfortable right at the start with how close it was to A Day in the Life, but after that it was great. Watch the pronouns - is “tilt your head” and “your motor” meaning your head or “Joe’s” or is there a third person in the song who then disappears for the rest of it? You’ve got “fine” twice in the final verse, maybe something like “this bold aroma” or some other word in there would make it stronger.

Edric Haleen - To My Significant Self
I like the concept, just the wiser self, talking to the bruised ego self, unadorned. Beautiful melody, beautiful plot. The pause between the “True” section and the “Hey” section was just long enough to give me a little jerk/jolt when listening to it without reading along, as it I almost thought it was over and it was a teeny bit of a shock for it to come back in. I don’t know if that could be solved by having the pause be a bit shorter, by having something instrumental underneath so I knew it wasn’t over, or by watching you perform it live to see that it wasn’t over, or if it was just me being too jumpy. :-)

Jacob Haller - From Your Neighbors
Funny stuff. Most folks can likely relate, great concrete details. A few awkward emphasis/syllable rhyme forced things but it pretty much works. Swearing is obviously not for everyone but I think it works really well for the song as opposed to feeling totally gratuitous and purely for shock value. The end cuts off a little abruptly.

Jess Scherer - Carbonated Love
I love this, I think it really fits the Valentine Card part of the challenge especially with all the cute soda reference/puns without ever actually name-dropping an actual brand. I feel like I can picture the cardboard kit of valentine cards with a soda theme that you would pass out in grade school based off the song. I also love the sugar sweet, she-bop, soda shop harmonies.

Brian Gray - Man Crush
Pretty funny, kinda creepy, great social commentary. I like the musical structure and the bridge is cool. The song is a little unbalanced but that works with the unbalancedness of the character. The one line that just doesn’t work for me is “Whenever I exist, That's the perfect time to think of you and me.” I think you could get what you mean there across in a stronger way.

The Orion Sound - You (A Valentines Stalker Song)
Argh. You did it again, made me confused and split half and half. It’s catchy, wonderfully melodic, great instrumentals. But lyrically, it’s creepy, crude, and demeaning to women. Even if it’s 100% meant to be a joke, it’s not the kind of thing I can stand behind joking about.

Faux - Back Down To You
The piano, the beat and the instrumental break are all great! I like the concept overall but the lyrics could be a little stronger I think. You use the word “stuff” a lot, which isn’t very descriptive at all. Rhyming “you” with “you” is weak as well. It would be great to get more descriptive language throughout, especially because the first couple verses really pack a punch when you realize that it’s very literal - we need Mother Earth to survive. But after that the words feel more generic. I don’t think it would take much, but a few well placed, strong words would really kick this up several notches.

Gold Lion - I Love My Dog
This is really cute and sweet. I love the hand claps and harmonies. Check your pronouns for consistency though. You start off saying “You” - speaking directly to your dog. Then you switch to “she” - telling us about her, then back to “you” speaking to the dog again. Pick one or the other and keep it that way throughout the song. In the case of this particular challenge, since it’s meant to be a card to someone, you’d probably want to stick to the “you” version, which I’m guessing would probably change up your chorus significantly. After the contest is over, if this is a song you want to keep going forward in your own performing setlists or album, you’ve got free reign to change it to whatever way best serves the song. Try it both ways, see what works best!

Trader Jack - You Can Be My Joey Ramone
This has a fun punk rock sound, I could see myself really rocking out to this in a live situation, but I can barely understand any of it without looking at the lyrics. I’ll repeat what I said to Felix: A question to consider (this goes for all songs, not just this one) - is it more important for you for people to pay attention to WHAT your lyrics are, or HOW you sing them? If you want people to understand the lyrics and plot, your delivery should be more conversational. If you want people to focus on the cool sounds and what you can do with your voice, then conversational tone isn’t as important. I think you could get away with adding another chorus at the end because that’s the fun part that I can see people bouncing around and screaming a call and response type of thing - “Do you think you wanna? Yeah I think I wanna!!!”

Kevin Savino-Riker - Got Away
I like the guitar riff, it’s a bit Mayer-Why-Georgia-esque and that’s one of my faves of his, so I mean that as a big compliment! I like the harmonies and the guitar drumming during the chorus parts. A few parts I where I got a little confused - you say it’s “beauty only I saw” but then go on to say she was all exotic and wore in her insides like costumes at Mardi Gras, which sounds like it would be an obvious beauty to more than just you. Also kind of interesting that you say “I was always a waiter” but then it seems like she’s the one serving you a cup of coffee, is she a waitress? I think you mean in the first part that you wait for things, not that you serve people food, but do you see how that makes it a little confusing?

Steve Durand - The Woman Of My Dreams
Cute puns leading up to the final reveal, well done. Love the horns, guitar solo, musical dynamics. The one possible tweak that I’m not really even sure about but I might make is near the beginning. Maybe I’d say “I’m sending you another” rather than “I’m giving you another” because somehow that would make it more clear to me that you’re sending her a valentine, rather than giving her another lover, but again, maybe that’s just me!

Robert Borden - Julia
This is pretty adorable and earnest. Nice hook of “Julia”. Beautiful harmonies. I like the melodica. I’m glad I read that they are song title references, because without knowing that, some of them are a little bit awkward lyrically. As a card to her though, they’re perfect.

Caleb Hines - To The Administrator Of Extraplanetary Research
Oh Caleb. One the one hand I want to say good job for finding a loophole and you should be proud of creating such a cool piece of smart, funny performance art. On the other hand, it’s a little hard for me to call this a song, and it IS a songwriting contest after all. There is such potential to do even a FEW things to this make it more song-y. The aliens could communicate in a sing-song voice. There could have been sung “chorus” type bits inserted. There could have been more rhyming, making it more rap like. I really like it, I do think it can slide by as a song, but I think that everyone else in the contest, by submitting an entry that was MORE song-like, did a better job for the competition.

David LeDuc - 3rd Grade Valentine
I love the music. The language is conversational and the rhyming is natural, not forced. This is funny and so real, I think everyone can relate. I love the twist of the card with extra time spent on it is actually for your enemy, because my version was to put a few extra glittery stickers on the card of the boy I had a crush on, but only enough that *I* would know.

The Boffo Yux Dudes - A Letter To Bernie
I like the idea - one that it’s a song from Cupid’s point of view and two that he got sent to jail and is trying to get out on bail. Cupid’s voice is pretty funny. I think the transitions between spoken word and the sung choruses is effective. Feels a bit more like a bunch of jokes and references smashed together than a valentine card. I also can’t quite tell if there are parts that I’m missing the references or it’s just a little confusing because I feel like I don’t quite fully get it.

Wait What (The Band) - She Wouldn’t Understand
This is bizzare. Mostly funny, partly offensive, partly weird. The biggest thing I might do to make it stronger is look for places to add more contrast musically, because each section is pretty much the same. I think that maybe the sections with “Don’t tell my girlfriend” are meant to be choruses? It’s hard to tell because sonically they aren’t that different from the rest of the song, but they’re different enough from each other that it doesn’t give you that “Oh! This is the chorus coming back around again” thing.

The Boffo Yux Dudes - Be My Valentine (Settle For Me)
This has a good beat and a lot of funny moments, but it feels disjointed to me plot/storyline-wise. I mean yeah, I think I get it’s meant to be dark, the guy is totally out of sorts due to being dumped. You know, it sounds like a pretty good musician got dumped, got drunk on Valentine’s Day, went to an open mic and improvised a song while his drunken single buddies joined in wherever they could more or less figure out the words. All the drunk, rocking out people are having a great time and anyone sober in the audience is feeling fairly uncomfortable, but hey, at least it has a beat they can bob their heads along to for now.

Drei Viertel Drei - Goodbye
I like the concept of this, someone finally letting go of an unhealthy relationship, one that may never actually have been much more than in the mind of the sender, but it’s a crippling one in any case. The vocals are haunting and lonely which fits the melancholy mood, but also occasionally pitchy. I’ll bring up the thing again I’ve said to a few others this round (and will probably end up saying again next round), something to consider (this goes for all songs, not just this one) - is it more important for you for people to pay attention to WHAT your lyrics are, or HOW you sing them? If you want people to understand the lyrics and plot, your delivery should be more conversational, the emphasis on the syllables should fall musically the same way they would spoken. If you want people to focus on the cool sounds and what you can do with your voice, then conversational tone isn’t as important.
A question to consider (this goes for all songs, not just this one) - is it more important for you for people to pay attention to WHAT your lyrics are, or HOW you sing them? If you want people to understand the lyrics and plot, your delivery should be more conversational. If you want people to focus on the cool sounds and what you can do with your voice, then conversational tone isn’t as important.

Emperor Gum - <3
Yeah, I don’t know anything about Scott Pilgrim other than it seems to be inspirational source material for more than one entry this round, and so maybe I better check it out! However, I think this song makes enough sense out of context that it can stand on it’s own. I would have slowed down the “We are Emperor Gum....” line just a little bit and/or made it a little more clear so I could understand at least that much without having to read it. Nice crunchy guitars and I like the drums. I know you didn’t have to worry about time as a shadow, but I think one option could have been to have the chorus-y bit repeat a few times at the end. But besides simply making it longer, I think that could have strengthened the song by making it more sticky/hooky, I really would like to join in and sing along a few more times “Kim Pine, be my Valentine!” That part is so catchy!

Menage A Tune - Fractal Choices
I like the Robert Frost reference. I can so relate to that feeling of having too many choices and afraid to give up the things I’d lose by choosing one path! I think the musical changes are effective, switching from melodic to staccato and back to melodic. Definitely would be pushing the boundaries of qualifying, but as a shadow, hey yeah, it says card and heart!

Menage A Tune - My Best Friend
This is great - sweet, friendly and catchy! I can see this being on a children’s album or used in a school program or something of the like. Similarly to what I said to Emperor Gum, I think the song could stand to be a little longer and not only to meet the 2 minute time limit, it has such a sweet melody and concept that hearing parts of it again would be really nice. The bridge for example, has a really gorgeous melody that we only get to hear once. I might add the bridge plus the first verse on at the end, and you’ve got that much more ear-worminess latched into your listener’s brains! :-)

Rosaline - My Favorite Time Of The Week
Cute concept, a Valentine to a TV crush. So fun, indulgent and innocent those crushes! It feels like if you ran through this a few more times on the piano before recording it would have come out smoother. When I wasn’t reading along, I thought you said “got my DVR set for hate” which really confused me! I can’t tell if the two verses are trying to follow the same structure lyrically, but I sure would like them to, especially because the choruses are pretty well structured and catchy.


  1. Ooh, this is going to be close. And I still have a bad feeling about this.

  2. Thanks for the review, Heather! I actually didn't think my chorus was that catchy, I shall have to give the song a rethink.