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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spintunes #5 Round 4 Review: Charlie McCarron

Charlie sent me his Round 3 Reviews and I posted them on the same page I originally put his rankings.  You might want to read them before you read his latest reviews.

This round has been a pleasure to judge. I wish I had time to review all the shadows. A special shout-out to the unique composition and melodies in Grey Havens' "Onward to the West." And congrats to the Boffo Yux Dudes for organizing their shadowing blitz. To the four finalists - congratulations on making it this far! These four songs are some of my favorites from the entire contest. As a sidenote, I think it's a cool coincidence that all of them feel like peaceful conclusions to this edition of SpinTunes. Looking forward to seeing which song the masses pick. They're all high-ranking in my book, so it's a tough call to put them in an order. But here are my picks, from highest to lowest ranking.

Edric Haleen - My Friend

Composition: A
Using the same melody over again gets slightly repetetive, but I actually really enjoyed the beautiful simplicity of this song. It doesn't have as elaborate of melodies as some of your other songs, but that helps make it more memorable. Nice transition at 0:45. Awesome chord progression starting at 2:49. I think your most ingenious writing is the way you phrased the "break from composing," "relax and just spintunes," and "fed up with Ohio" - nice unexpected delay compared to the the "spring," "dunes," and "go" lines preceding them.
Production/Arrangement: B
The piano arrangement is great by itself. I would have liked to hear some sonic variety with another instrument or two. Aside from a little overmodulation at the end, the vocals sound good and clean by themselves. But you kind of have the opposite issue as Mariah - I like the intimate-sounding vocals, but they seem a little too present compared to the distant-sounding piano.
Lyrics/Narrative: A
So maybe the rhymes are a little predictable, but hey, it's a simple, beautiful story about a true friend. These lyrics work very well with the composition. It all flows very naturally. Bonus points for the tounge-in-cheek "spin tunes" line.
Performance: A+
Emotive vocal performance, and great piano playing. Great dynamic contrast.
Originality/Memorability: A
Really, my only wish would be to hear more supporting instruments, especially to build up the ending. But the song itself is very well written and performed.

Ross Durand - When the Tide Comes InComposition: A
The whole song is very smooth-flowing. I like the fast tempo you chose. The highlight for me is the melody during the line "Hubris is the original sin." Your song has the most interesting vocal rhythms of the round.
Production/Arrangement: B+
There's an overall sharpness to the sound that's slightly off-putting, both in the guitar and vocals. Might be more enjoyable if it was mellowed out a bit with EQ. But other than that, the production sounds good. I like the addition of the second guitar at 0:50. The harmonies at 1:36 are more distracting than helpful to the song. Maybe if they weren't panned so extremely they'd feel more a part of the mix.
Lyrics/Narrative: A
Good phrasing in your lyrics. I especially like the second verse. You have a good message in this whole song.
Performance: A-
There are just a few rhythmic issues in the guitars, but I think just because it's such a breakneck pace. In this folky style, I think I'm more forgiving of that. You put yourself fully into the vocals, and that helps convey the message of the tune without seeming preachy.
It's not a very original sound, but it'll be enjoyable on multiple listens. Nice chord progressions and catchy melodies.
Mariah Mercedes - Footprints

Composition: B+

I'm not really digging the repetetive part around 1:53. I don't mind the stops, but coming in with the same melody multiple times seems to lose the awesome momentum you built up before that. I really like this "Okay…stability" section - catchy melody and great groove!
Production/Arrangement: B
The vocals seem distant compared to the rest of the instruments. I'd say add a real short reverb to the guitars/bass/percussion and shorten your vocal reverb a bit to blend everything together. Without reverb, the guitar just sounds too close in my left ear. The vocals themselves are nicely mixed. Bonus points for the selective vocal doubling in the first section - I like that effect. Nice arrangement at 1:04.
Lyrics/Narrative: A
Unfortunately the "step by step" made me think of another, more annoying song...but other than that I like your lyrics. It's an interesting contrast to go from detailed, specific story in the beginning to the more vague second section. I like the "Today, the test of my stability" line.
Performance: A-
The instruments sometimes feel a little off with each other, but not too bad. Your vocals sound great as usual. Harmonies are nicely blended.
Originality/Memorability: A-
The beginning of the song isn't super memorable, but I have a feeling the "okay" section will be stuck in my head for a while. It's such a beautiful, peaceful sound.

Governing Dynamics - Houses

Composition: A-
The chorus riff is catchy. I really like the key change at 0:29 ("Rearranged…"). My only critique is that it feels like you go back to the tonic a little too soon when you get to the chorus. It took some of the momentum out of it for me. Maybe if the chorus didn't start on the tonic chord of the song it would feel more like a journey.
Production/Arrangement: B+
I especially like the guitar arrangement in the first 40 seconds. And I like the breakdown. Overall I think more variety like this in the arrangement could help support the lyrics. Although the simplicity of the drums helps support the lyrics, they aren't doing much for me in this song. Production is good. The vocals sound a little thin - maybe a bit more bass frequencies would give your voice some more oomph.
Lyrics/Narrative: A
I'm not sure I fully understand the lyrics, which is actually a good thing in my book. I like a little mystery. I think these are your best lyrics I've heard. Nice rhyming scheme.
Performance: B
Guitars all sound great. Sometimes your held vocal notes at the end of phrases feel like they run out of gas ("up" at 1:27, "houses" at 3:11). I have this problem too, where I have trouble ending long held notes. So I usually just write shorter notes for myself! But I think with some breath support practice your voice could carry these notes out. Just think about pushing more air out for those notes than you think you need.
Originality/Memorability: B
In general, the backing track wasn't super memorable. I've heard that same drum and guitar sound many times before. It's good that you have the production skills to replicate a radio-worthy sound. But I'd like to see you push yourself to try new sounds in your work. You have some awesome melodies and chords in this song, and with a slightly more unique production I think this song would stand out even more.

1 comment:

  1. Howdy, Charlie!

    Wanted to thank you for judging this iteration of SpinTunes. Also -- just wanted to say how tickled I was that you picked up on the 2:49 progression and the extra syllable at each "inside joke." (I worked REALLY hard on that moment at 2:49 -- and I say that above and beyond how hard I worked to give the piano arrangement as a whole more substance and depth than just the simple chord progressions around which the song is built -- and I was really proud of the "stretch" that those extra syllables provide.) It was fun reading that someone caught and appreciated that!

    Hope to see you COMPETING in SpinTunes again -- we miss your music!