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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spintunes #5 Round 4 Review: Jenny Katz

Look what the cat dragged in, it's another guest judge!  This time I invited Jenny Katz back to SpinTunes.  She competed in the very first SpinTunes, and hasn't made an appearance since. #BlameHeather But thankfully she's back to give her thoughts on the current round of songs.

You can find out more about Jenny by visiting her BandCamp page.  She has a new album out, and one of the songs on it was written for SpinTunes!  I'll embed a couple of them below:

- Spin


Mariah Mercedes - Footprints
"Anything you can tap your foot to is good music," said Louis Armstrong, and that's how I felt listening to Footprints. When the groove kicks in, I felt it in my whole body, which is my favorite thing to happen when listening to a song. Mariah, probably a million people have already compared your voice to Edie Brickell. Gorgeous. I liked the harmonic tension, the tonality of your voice with the instrumental, the percussion momentum. With some rewriting—to my ear, the intro needs a better rhythmic marriage of voice and guitar (right now, it sounds too random); the outro needs some lightness; and I'd urge you to diversify your melody so that the lick of 1-3-5 (hitting the high "sol") isn't the only figure you sing—this song could be on the radio. Loved it.

Ross Durand - When the Tide Comes In
This had a Bob Dylan-meets-Guy-Clark vibe for me. The picking is delicious, the delivery is straightforward and heartfelt, which saves the metaphor from cliché, and the energy of the whole thing is very coherent. I could easily imagine sitting in an intimate little concert hall listening to this. Loved when the harmony joins—perfect. My suggestions would be 1) after "but they won't stand," DON'T actually sing "when the tide comes in"; let the line hang. It's implied, anyway, and it would be nice to have 2) a little more space in the song. Every moment is filled right now, and I'd like a little breathing room. 3) Maybe a break—a short rubato section?—after the bridge and before the last verse?

Governing Dynamics - Houses
It was actually difficult to rank these in order. They were all so different, with such different virtues. This one had a terrific rock vibe, great instrumentals, appealing vocals, good message. I liked the mix quite a lot—nice reverb on the voice, very appropriate for the whole. Occasionally a little flat (this is one of my own problems, too), which is probably just a simple matter of greater breath control. Again, this was a song you could hear on the radio. The only reason it didn't rank higher was that the lyrics felt a little too "stuffed" to work for me. You've got great atmosphere in your voice, and the instruments are so solid—I'd like to hear you pare down your lyrics by 35%, so that you're never trying to fit more words in the line than you can really say comfortably. I also LOVED the first half of the refrain/chorus ("You won't find me an old man/staring out to sea") and then felt let down with the rest of the chorus—too many words, chiefly! With some winnowing and honing, it would be an even stronger song.

Edric Haleen - My Friend
It seems ridiculous to rank this last, as Edric is so obviously skilled at just about every part of songwriting and performing. As with everything else I've ever heard from you, Edric, the keys and the voice are polished, the song is tightly crafted, the lyrics all fit. If anything, it's a little TOO tidy for me. I'd like some more heart here. WHY is Bigfoot such a special secret for the narrator? If he doesn't even tell his wife, there has to be something deeper there than just playing hide-and-seek. What's really at stake when Bigfoot moves on? Also, there's not enough build-up in the song to earn the emotional break section—we need at least one more verse before you break the form. Edric, I'd love to hear you write some songs that are messier—maybe where everything DOESN'T rhyme so perfectly. I'd like to hear your heart, for real. You have all the technical chops to back it up.


Since my husband just had surgery, I didn't have time to review all the shadows—but I can say that I thought "Onward to the West" was pretty incredible, and that JoAnn Abbott's line in "The Mermaid's Waltz" ("the pain of leaving footprints in the sand") brought the challenge to life better than any other song I heard.

Thanks so much for this opportunity, Spin! So much talent out there!


  1. Hey, Jenny!

    Thanks for coming back to be a guest judge this round! Sorry this song didn't quite hit you where you wanted it to. :-) Since you asked a couple of questions, I'll answer your questions a little, but I appreciate you thinking so deeply into my song and my songwriting.

    You asked, "WHY is Bigfoot such a special secret for the narrator?" The answer is actually no more deep or complex than just -- "He's Bigfoot. And he doesn't really want that fact spread around too broadly..." :-)

    You asked, "What's really at stake when Bigfoot moves on?" Well -- that actually goes toward the sentence you wrote before that. There really (to my mind) ISN'T anything "deeper there than just playing hide-and-seek." This character (who, even though I "sing" him in the first-person in the song, I'll address in the third person here -- 'cause he's not me -- I don't live in Ohio, thank you...) has a life and a job and stresses and stuff. And when it gets to be "too much to handle," he escapes. He hangs out with his friend. They run and splash and play (and sing) -- it's like he gets to be a kid again, for a short time. Then -- when his "batteries are recharged" -- he goes back to his grown-up life and picks everything back up again. That's it. Just simple and straightforward. (Although I can't blame you for looking for more depth or layers or subtext in my songs -- goodness knows I've done plenty of THAT over the years...) :-)

    As for hearing songs from me that DON'T rhyme so perfectly -- the best you're going to get is http://happinessboard.com/This_Song_Doesnt_Rhyme.html -- if you're waiting for anything more, I wouldn't hold your breath... :-)

    And as for "more heart" -- since you kind of just "dropped in" to guest-judge this round, I don't know if you've been keeping up on the earlier rounds of ST6 or not. Do either http://happinessboard.com/The_Death_of_a_Meme.html or http://happinessboard.com/%28Vows%29.html approach this ideal?

    Anyway -- thanks so much again. Best of luck with your new album!



    1. I don't know, Edric... the rhyming in "One More Step" was pretty atrocious up until that last part.

    2. HAHAHAHAHA!!!! :-)

      So -- yes. Brian is right. If you want even MORE non-rhyming "Edric-songs," go to http://happinessboard.com/Breakdown.html -- scroll down to the "Rhyme Density" graph -- and click on any of the little red dots on the horizontal axis...