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Saturday, February 18, 2012

SpinTunes #4 Round 2 Review: Zarni de Wet

Zarni is a talented musician who made it to the finals of SpinTunes 2. She graduated with a double major in Songwriting and Music Education from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. You can find out more about Zarni by visiting her website: http://zarnimusic.com/. Just so you can put a face with the name, here's a video of her singing one of her original songs live.

*You might want to thank her for doing reviews, especially since we had a regular judge drop the ball this round.*

- Spin

Robert Borden - Julia
Your voice is SO SO great to listen to. Seriously beautiful voice. I had to look you up to see what else you were up to musically and you are great. This song is really well written and I loved all the references. You clearly put a lot of time into this and I must say it is one of the most polished choruses I have heard in this contest. Great production as well and the musical elements all really worked well with the message. A production note…The counter melody played by (I couldn't really tell) recorder or midi organ or whatever it was…I felt that was a bit loud for the production. I would've MUCH rather heard the background vocals more.

Brian Gray - Man Crush
Great job! This was so funny and enjoyable to listen to. You've got some really really witty lyrics in there that not only create a clear picture of the character but are just really entertaining. The chorus is catchy- I'm going to be singing If I were gayyyyyy all day long! I was expecting some kind of rhyme for Crush, but after hearing the chorus a few times it didn't really matter to me that it didn't rhyme. Good writing and great creativity! Nice piano work too in the production. Worked really well with this song!

Rebecca Angel - Insignificant You
Your voice is beautiful and so very enchanting. I really loved that jazzy arrangement too. Really nice melody in this song and nice chord accompaniment. You clearly have a good sense of what works in the jazz style. You didn't do too much on the piano..it was just enough. Maybe there could have been more of a melodic emphasis (or more of a rhythmic change) on Insignificant You just to make it stand out more.

Jacob Haller - From Your Neighbors
Well…I just laughed that entire song through. I think writing a funny song is one of the hardest things to do and I think you have done it extremely well. It doesn't seem like you were trying too hard. Its just genuine and people can relate and I think THAT is what makes a good funny song. Despite the funny topic, in all seriousness I think it's well written. Great way to describe an entire apartment building including the barbecues and the kids asking questions. It's very real life and I think you honed in on exactly the right things. It's entertaining and doesn't drag on too long. Only one tiny suggestion…The last two lines of the chorus don't resolve as nicely as they could. Take any of those funny songs, the last night of the chorus is 'supposed' to melodically feel complete. The line "But these walls are thin…" has new chords and a higher melody and almost sounds like it's going into a second chorus. When the chorus then ends, it's disappointing. I would say stick with the simple IV V I chords and a simple melody that finishes. More like how you end the entire song. I hope that makes sense because I think the song is great and frankly..People would enjoy it live.

Kevin Savino-Riker - Got Away
Wow beautiful guitar. Absolutely loved that. It was really refreshing to hear some really well played instrument not covered by other production elements. Great harmonies on here too! I loved the phrasing and lyrics. My only comment is that I would've liked a clearer sense of form and a clearer sense of exactly where and what the chorus is. The harmonies and melody are really nice on "one that got away" I just wish that it was in a more consistent place so that I as the listener could expect the chorus, get the chorus and be satisfied. After a first listen this seems more through-composed and I'm not sure if thats what you intended. It's great to listen to though luckily so it doesn't matter too much, this is just me being picky about form

Edric Haleen - To My Significant Self
Your voice is beautiful. I so wanted this to be a musical theater piece. I love that it starts out a cappella (lots of prosody there….Prosody is the marriage between lyrics and music)

I loved the melody and you have great phrasing. The verses feel complete and natural and your rhymes are satisfying, not too predictable and sometimes creative. For instance, I love that you rhymed with ValenTINE in stead of Day. It just makes the phrases more interesting and not so back heavy. And besides, day doesn't have that many cool rhymes. It makes the fact that it is a cappella not matter as much because the phrases have momentum. Bravo on doing something brave and different!

Governing Dynamics- I Shouldn't Blame You
This song makes a great first impression with the production and your voice is enjoyable and easy to listen to. When I started listening, I felt like…Wow this song is going to have a nice sense of form (verses, chorus etc) but as the song developed, I found that I wasn’t really sure where the chorus was. There are great lyrics in here and it really paints a picture. I don’t know if you were going for something Rock/Pop commercial, but I was craving some more repetition. Maybe it would be useful to go through the lyrics and eliminate some of the unnecessary lines. I bet you there are a few that don’t necessarily add to the story but are just reiterating something you’ve already said. If the Oh Heather part is your chorus (which would be awesome), it could maybe benefit from having a higher vocal melody line and less lines. For instance Left alone theres a part of me that saves up self minted currency is SO cool and unique. I don’ know if you really need Unspoken Thoughts, untested words, discarded dangerous things…It’s sort of implied. I also felt the production was just a tad bit too heavy at times

Noah McLaughlin - Hey Joe
Ha! Great idea to write about and I can definitely relate to this. There were some inconsistencies in the melody that I would've like to see a bit more organized just to have a clearer sense of form and 'catchiness'. I love the production change in the bridge…That really works well for this part with the lyrics and it accomplishes what I think you intended. The drums were a bit loud in the mix but I am certainly no mixing master. Lastly, really liked the creative rhymes in the last verse

The Orion Sound - Valentines Stalker Song
Nice! I was really into it the whole time. The verses are SO cleverly constructed and definitely make you smirk the entire time. You used the production, the melody, the chords and the lyrics really well to create a character. I also don't know if you intended to do this but this is sort of a play off of every popular song on the Top 40 charts (the form and the silly things they sometimes do) and I think that worked really well for the light hearted, tongue in cheek attitude of this song. Good goin! The only thing I would say…it struck me every time you said "Valentines"…I'm not sure whether it was the way you were pronouncing the word or having to stretch the word out over the chords but it sounded a bit unnatural and I think there were other ways to go about making that first line of the chorus really pop and more catchy!

Ross Durand - Space Opera Valentine (For Leia)
Great job…I think this song has a lot of strong elements- Great progression, melody, production, phrasing and lyrics. I think it is well crafted and the feeling of satisfaction after "space opera valentine" really felt like a good pay off. That tells me that you wrote everything leading up to that line really well. The parts of the song work together well. My only problem with this (and maybe I'm thick) I'm not just not really sure what the Space Opera Valentine is that you're talking about. There weren't enough allusions in the lyrics to make it clear and thats the only thing I would've wanted slightly different other than that good job! (6.7)

Hazen Nester - Precious Little Life
Catchy song and a quality production! This is an enjoyable song to listen to and its sort of reminiscent of the old hit songs. I only have one minor adjustment to the chorus that I think will add to the momentum so that the catch phrase, precious little life will stand out more. The first two lines of the chorus are catchy, memorable and have a great natural flow to them. The repetition of the melody in the second two lines (“I need you in my world” etc) is nice but the word “regardless” kind of slows it down. The entire cuplet:
Regardless if I have to go and fight

Armies to make you mine

'Cause now I'm bored with my precious little life

doesn't have as much pizzazz as it could. Say the sentence "Regardless if I have to go and fight armies to make you make", over the cool rhythm you've got going on. I don't know about you but that seems a bit awkward to me compared to the first two lines that feel natural. You kind of had to squeeze "Armies" in there to make it work. I would just suggest finding a simpler way to say that same thing…Maybe start by a substituting the word "regardless" and then taking out some useless filler words.. (have or and etc). Thats just a suggestion! I felt the chorus could pop a bit more otherwise it was great! Good job. Loved that you used amicably too…I felt that was a pretty appropriate thing for the character in this song to say.

Common Lisp - A Brother's Valentine
This gave me a good laugh and I enjoyed the whole idea about the bromance. I felt some of the phrases were unnatural because emphasis was placed on unusual parts of the words. I think it’s important to preserve the natural shape of language so that it does not distract the ear. I love that you did a rap for this project and there were so many clever lines. Try to change up a few of the rhythms in the rap to add some spice!

Jess Scherer - Carbonated Love
You have a nice voice and this is a cute production for the song…I think it works well for it. I also think you went a really creative route for this song and I commend you for that! Some of the phrasing bothered me a bit (sometimes I wanted you to start singing earlier than you did, or somethings I wanted you to pause longer) and I felt that the melody and the chords before the chorus could have built up a bit more in order to say "the chorus is coming!"

The allusions to soda (fizzes into a thousand tiny parts) were really creative and enjoyable to listen to!

Steve Durand - The Woman Of My Dreams
Great production and well written song. It's really easy to listen to and the phrasing is natural so the lyrics have a nice flow to them over the music. The only thing I would say is that I wish we discovered Sister Agnes earlier in the song and then some more details about her would have brought the comedic element out a lot which is what I was assuming you were going for

Trader Jack - You Can Be My Joey Ramone
Great production and feel for the song…It's catchy and it reminds me of a lot of those old rock tunes. Frankly I didn't know who Corin Tucker was so this was slightly over my head but I praise you for the cool references and the creativity

Gold Lion - I Love My Dog
This song is really cute and I thought the imagery you used was great. Nice voice and good production. You maybe could've done a bit more in terms of making sure the song was sticking to the assignment. It might have been funny to incorporate Valentines day and what you and your dog do on Valentines day or something. Just saying

Jon Eric - Friday February 13th
I like the shape of the melody…There were some pitch problems so I’m wondering if it was slightly out of your range. The progression is really nice and with that nice melody over it, it makes for enjoyable listening. I appreciate the sparse arrangement for this song. Your voice reminds me of Ben folds at times…I hope that’s a compliment! The bridge is an interesting change and it is satisfying when you return to your original melody in your last verse.

David LeDuc - 3rd Grade Valentine
Great production and your voice sounds really nice. I'm torn about this song because melodically and musically speaking I think it's really strong. I also like the idea of the 3rd grade Valentine and all the options one has to explore with that. I feel, however, like these two elements (music + lyric) did not compliment each other very well in the song. It was almost as if the music was too good to be about "chipping my teeth, you bastard". I'm not saying you had to go totally 3rd grade and playful on the production… Even heavy rock or heavy metal (something totally opposite) would have brought the tongue and cheek, comedic element out of the music. I wasn't sure whether it was a serious topic or whether you felt tongue and cheek about it. I would LOVE to hear this melody, your voice, the production and chord progression set underneath subject matter that you really want to write about (perhaps a side project after Spintunes is done). You completed the assignment very well, it just may have needed a different musical/production treatment

Caleb Hines - To The Administrator Of Extraplanetary Research
I'm not sure how to comment on this. I applaud you for doing something creative and for the sophisticated use of language…it was even somewhat satirical which I appreciate and you obviously put a lot of time into constructing this piece of writing pertaining to Valentines day. I haven't heard any of your other songs so I don't know how unusual this is for you. In terms of musical critiques….no comment.

Wait What - She Just Wouldn't Understand
Lots of creative ideas and cool tongue in cheek ideas in this! The production could have been a bit stronger- maybe some bass or guitar to just keep the chords going. It sounds a bit empty with just drums and synth in the background

Felix Frost - Amber Avalanche
Really interesting…Definitely a creative piece. I had a hard time hearing a lot of the words because of the heavy production and some of the vocal effects. Im all about time signature changes but there is a bit much going on. There are frequent (too frequent to get into each one) time changes and then on top of that, wordy and unconventional lyrics. This entire combination makes it extremely difficult to follow the song. If you are going for lyrical clarity, this maybe needs to consolidation. If you were going for an interesting musical exploration for the ears…You got that!

FauX - Back Down To You
I love that you wrote about Mother Earth. I totally feel all those things too! I thought the production was solid, the lyrics, the form, phrasing and basically all other elements. I didn't however feel like this was as true to this assignment as some of the other songs. Had you addressed Mother Earth in some Valentines day setting with some allusions of V-Day that might have worked more for this assignment

The Boffo Yux Dudes - A letter To Bernie
Creative idea! This is definitely different than what a lot of the other contestants did. The speaking parts, in my opinion are the most solid and entertaining! It was hard to distinguish what the melody was in the singing parts when the harmonies were there. I would've liked to hear the vocals/harmonies a bit more in tune

Emperor Gum - <3 Shadow
Great rock production. The guitars sound really full and the drums sound good too. I wanted the main vocals to be a lot louder! Unfortunately I did NOT know who Scott Pilgrim was so the song did not make very much sense. It was however pretty well written with a clear sense of form.

The Boffo Yux Dudes - Be My Valentine
This mix is interesting because it starts pretty low then gets really in your face. I don't necessarily mind the inconsistency…it's just rare. I wasn't sure where the chorus was because there are quite a few similar sounding melodies. If you were wanting a catchy chorus, more repetition is necessary. Also, don't be afraid to lay back on the production. Sometimes less is more. Also at the end of the song I heard some out of tune things that were bothering me…Maybe discrepancy between chords and vocal melody? I couldn't tell because there was so much going on

Drei Viertel Drei - Goodbye
I would've loved to have a clearer sense of what the main melody was in the beginning. The mix with the background harmonies was a bit off and some of them were out of tune so it was difficult to follow and get into musically. Also, the phrasing is disjunct so thoughts are broken up…in other words…Sentences aren't preserved in their natural form so by the time you finish the sentence, the ear has already forgotten what the beginning of the sentence was. This could make songs feel a lot long than they actually are and could make lyrics really hard to understand unless the listener is following along with the lyrics

Menage A Tune - My Best Friend
It's nice that you wrote a song about best friends… Im surprised more people didn't do this. Try adding a noise gate to the vocal track on Garage band to avoid hearing all the little vocal/mouth noises that you can hear before you start singing. It took me the longest time to figure that out and Im still trying to master it. I liked the piano part..I wish that was a bit higher in the mix too. The form of this song was pretty clear and I liked the fact that the verses built up to that last phrase "You're my best friend". It made it sound polished and clear

Menage A Tune - Fractal Choice
Nice play on Robert Frost. Some of the melodies in here are nice however some of the vocal parts are out of tune and the voice sometimes doesn't sync up with the background instruments or the background harmonies. The production was creating kind of a cool ambient dark setting. I didn't think the "flip a coin, make a choice"part fit well with this mood

Rosalind - My Favorite Time Of The Week
Creative topic! I thought that was clever and Im glad you did something different. Make sure that the voice is more in sync with the piano. I'm not sure how this was recorded, but I think it's important that the voice sounds like it goes with the piano. There isn't really a sense of consistent rhythm in this song…it sort of lacks a heartbeat. I would suggest playing along to a drum loop (much more fun than a metronome) to just get that sense of pulse. It is difficult for the ear to follow along if that is lacking


  1. Oh, boy. A nice review, but I'm really nervous now for advancement.

    Thanks for the reviews, by the way.

  2. Love that the guest judge reviewed the shadows as well. Hey Zarni and thanks for playin'
    Ranger Den

  3. Graham [Emperor Gum]February 19, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    Thanks Zarni for stepping up and judging, in particular the shadows. I'm glad you thought my song was okay, I agree about the vocals. Just so you know, Hazen Nester's song 'Precious Little Life' was also about Scott Pilgrim. Its a pretty good film/comic series!

  4. Thanks for the suggestions and for taking the time to review our entries on such short notice.