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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spintunes #5 Round 4 Review: Mark Meritt

Being a SpinTunes judge has been interesting, challenging and worthwhile. Not that I think it should be mandatory, but I think any SpinTunes regulars ought to judge at some point. The community benefits from judges with experience, and I think you can end up a better artist, too. Here's my judging wrap-up post with advice for future judges, recommendations and regrets.

For this round, it's nice for entrants to have such an open-ended inspiration to work from, and nice also as a judge to have the same kind of open-endedness in reviewing how people did with a challenge. I'll look at the challenge along with the rest of what I described about my judging approach at the top of my first round post. Onto the reviews.

Ross Durand - When The Tide Comes In
Qualified Rank: 1
Overall Rank: 1
Total Score: 45.67
  • Challenge: 9 (Good) – I'm a sucker for themes of hubris and impermanence. I like that you managed to deal with that without becoming morose. There's definitly a "let what-will-be be what-will be" sense about the whole song and a nice balance of perspectives, more on which in a second.
  • Lyric Content: 8 (Excellent) – You critique hubris but you don't get nasty about it. You talk about impermanence but you don't lament it. You express some optimism but you temper it by leaving ambiguous whether we'll be happy to still be around or whether we'll just repeat the same mistakes. You explore the basic ideas from enough angles to give richness without complexity or overindulgence. For a song about general notions and not specific stories, I think you've handled things exceptionally well.
  • Composition: 6 (Good) – Simple, not overtly inventive, but very solid and catchy.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – Everything comes together well. I especially like the rhyme scheme in the chorus with "sand / stand" in lines of different lengths and then returning to the title at the end. I also like how you use the title at the ends of the verses as well. It adds a sense of the inevitable which works well with everything you say.
  • Arrangement: 2 (Fair) – Not much to speak of but appropriate enough for your genre.
  • Performance: 3 (Good) – Solid performances all around. Even though they're not showy, it's all really appropriate to both the lyrical themes and the music.
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 8.67 (Excellent) – While I wouldn't say I really love the song, from first listen onward, it struck me as one of my favorites for this challenge, and that's good enough for an Excellent here. Nothing in this round really knocked it out of the park for me, but this one from your wheelhouse still felt to me a bit stronger than the others I liked most here. After your consistently strong showings in the past, I feel like it's your turn to win. If you don't, hopefully this song means you'll be okay letting what will be be what will be :)
Gray Havens - Onward To The West
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 2
Total Score: 45.33
  • Challenge: 6 (Fair) – There are footprints, shores, bodies of water and journeys, so clearly this is heavily inspired by the photo, and yet it seems oblique, like it wasn't "essentially" inspired by the photo. A lot of interesting stuff here as a song, but to me mostly not because of its relation to the challenge.
  • Lyric Content: 8 (Excellent) – The imagery, the majestic and inspirational tone and aura of the story, all really interesting. There's a strong sense of a particular artistic sensibility at work here.
  • Composition: 8 (Excellent) – Perhaps the most unique compositional identity expressed this round. It's not always plainly pleasant to hear, but, from melody to harmonic progression to the sense of structure and development, its always rich and interesting with a creepy yet alluring feel.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – The non-rhyming chorus is unusual in a song so strongly structured in other respects yet seems purposeful, as if suggesting the new ground being covered with each bit of westward of progress. I especially like the repetition of the ending words in the first two verses yet with different application each time. The "shone / shown" homonym could perhaps have been expanded on with good effect by using, for example, "climb / clime," the second word having just the sort of intelligence that would generally go with these lyrics while also perhaps describing the calm weather of the open sea that makes the rest of the journey seem easy ahead. Other such homonyms could have been done, too, but anything else likely would have come across as forced and in any case too many would have seemed gimmicky. Doing them only in the middle line of each tercet could have been a strong and balanced choice, underscoring the certainty the narrator feels as well as the progress of the journey.
  • Arrangement: 3 (Good) – Lots of really interesting sounds, and especially nice vocal arrangement for the final verse and chorus.
  • Performance: 3 (Good) – The vocals are at times subject to breath timing issues, and "counsel" is out of range in the second chorus, but otherwise there's such a strong and unique feel to it all. It's especially nice how the two voices sound distinct and yet share the same eerie yet lush quality (not surprising given the genetic connection).
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 8.33 (Excellent) – A strong and truly unique entry. Really rare to get such a strong overall score from me with just a Fair for the challenge. Clearly some high quality songwriting talent going on.
Dr. Lindyke - Carbon Footprint
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 3
Total Score: 45
  • Challenge: 9 (Good) – Nice oblique inspiration toward the carbon footprint while also keeping the more direct references to the sea, the shore, things temporarily in the sand.
  • Lyric Content: 8 (Excellent) – The connections among all the elements -- Darwin, evolution, extinction, impermanence, greenhouse gases and global warming, the sea as the primordial soup locus for new forms of life to arise, etc. -- all very strong. Great imagery of the specific story of the last person going into the water and doing so from an imagined Everest Island. By the way, have you read Kurt Vonnegut's "Galapagos"? A related storyline, including maybe a bit more evolutionary justification than your own song bio seems to imagine there is for such a story. But as you say, it works symbolically anyway. I dig.
  • Composition: 6 (Good) – The melancholy sounds work well out of the gate and throughout. Nice melody. I especially like the very unexpected mid-chorus chord change.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – Solid craft overall. I noticed the rhyme scheme inconsistency before I read about it in your song bio. I thought, all the other verses have a very long third line that doesn't rhyme with the other three. That would have been perfect for the space you wanted to give to "We're starting over" with its sustained note in the first verse, and it would have put "Evolutionarily" in an extremely strong, prominent position. There, it would have simultaneously summed up in a single word the basic concept of the song more so than it does mid-verse, while also providing a darkly comic punch line. Then I see in your bio how you wanted that "starting over" line to have space. How conscious you (naturally) were about including both humor and seriousness in the song in general. And even how you wanted "Evolutionarily" to take up a whole line -- just like the last line of every other verse scans identically with that word. For all those reasons, I'd argue in favor of switching it. Even so, I can also see it your way if you really like how the sustain ends the verse.
  • Arrangement: 3 (Good) – A bit thin, but the piano part and sound effects in particular are interesting and effective.
  • Performance: 3 (Good) – Solid performances, appropriate for the song.
  • Recording: 2 (Fair) – Sounds decent overall, but that effect on the chorus vocal makes it really hard to understand.
  • Judge’s Whim: 8 (Excellent) – A really solid entry. Maybe a tad too serious for the effect you'd hoped to achieve, but the topic works with the tone in any case.
RC - Orange Beach
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 4
Total Score: 44.5
  • Challenge: 9 (Good) – You sing a story about people's meaningful and specific experience of the impermanence embodied in a beach footprint. Then there's another theme you've discovered, not absolutely inherent to the photo but that clearly could be implied and once seen becomes strong: "at the edge" between two things which can never be fully joined. You bring that out in the ocean and the street, where things cannot be the same and directly paralleling the implied ocean/beach divide, and also (through at least one obvious reading of the song but probably not the only one) in two people who've come to part ways. It's great when a song seems like it can simultaneously stand on its own apart from a challenge while also very obviously and solidly embodying that challenge.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – Separate from the challenge the content isn't as inherently strong, but it's still really nice, especially the specificity of the story, which is almost always the best lens through which to see thematic universals.
  • Composition: 6 (Good) – Nice sound, melody and harmonic progressions, all simple but effective and occasionally unexpected in good ways.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – Solid rhyme schemes. Music and lyric fit tonally together very well.
  • Arrangement: 3 (Good) – Really nice sounds. I especially like the pizzicato part in the background.
  • Performance: 3 (Good) – Solid performances, appropriate for the song.
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 8.5 (Excellent) – One of the strongest submission for the round.
Wash Away - Boffo Yux Dudes w/ Osmium
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 5
Total Score: 44
  • Challenge: 9 (Good) – Really nice indirect take that nevertheless captures the photo. The impermanence, the beach, yet without even needing to mention the footprint. A great balance that's on the nose without being on the nose.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – I like especially how the verses all hearken back to things past, the first two seeming to go all the way back to childhood. All of this strongly underscores the theme of impermanence and change. The specificity of the stories contrasts well with the general message conveyed by the chorus.
  • Composition: 6 (Good) – Great sound, strong melody and really great harmonic progressions with unexpected but cool turns. Lots of strong little background parts as well.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – The prosody often leaves something to be desired, and if not for that I might have given an Excellent here. The elements fit well with each other and there's an overall strong sense of craft.
  • Arrangement: 3 (Good) – Great sound overall, especially the vocal arrangements.
  • Performance: 3 (Good) – Strong all around except for the moments when the prosody gets in the way of the vocal.
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 8 (Excellent) – A really strong entry all ways around.
Edric Haleen - My Friend
Qualified Rank: 2
Overall Rank: 6
Total Score: 42
  • Challenge: 9 (Good) – Though I think I personally might have enjoyed even more the original notion you mentioned in your song bio, this was still a charming angle on the footprint. Cute "spin tunes" reference, and all the better that it was natural and relevant for the song. Does the fact that Dr. Lindyke mentioned Bigfoot as one of the ideas they considered mean that it's not as original an idea as many of us have come to expect from you? Maybe.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – While the whole thing is cute and charming, I feel a little underwhelmed by the story. As you say, "It's hard to convey / How much fun it would be." We see the fun but don't get to see the relationship grow even though the narrator says it does. We're told about the mutuality, but it's hard to see what Bigfoot gets uniquely from the narrator, how meaningful it is that Bigfoot should keep the narrator's secret, why Bigfoot should be fed up enough to want to leave. In the end, then, I don't feel like the loss really pays off. I haven't really built a connection to the story or a sense of the connection being really mutual, despite how much the narrator professes it. "Puff, the Magic Dragon" had more narrative color as well as a strong theme, growing up and letting things go. This would have been a lot stronger with a more solid thematic reason for being. I felt like this was on the Fair/Good divide and should have gone low, but thinking that with a few added things this could have been Excellent, I gave the benefit of the doubt.
  • Composition: 6 (Good) – Strong melody, nice sense of development.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – Everything comes together well, especially the ebb and flow as the music conveys the story development. The ending works well in itself but feels unjustified to me given the narrative issues I brought up.
  • Arrangement: 2 (Fair) – Not much to speak of but appropriate enough for your genre.
  • Performance: 4 (Excellent) – Strong performances, both vocal and instrumental.
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 6 (Good) – In Round 2, I thought, with mini-opera and freeform interpretation on the way, this could be your turn to take the (non-)prize. For me, this an enjoyable entry, but disappointing for my expectations and not one that should get you the win.
Footprints - Boffo Yux Dudes
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 7
Total Score: 41
  • Challenge: 9 (Good) – As I say Mariah Mercedes: Inherently unoriginal to have a title so on-the-nose for the photo, and in such an interpretive challenge it's even more risky since it's like throwing the gauntlet down and claiming that you've got the archetypal entry. But this is one of the most original ideas this round, literally taking a unique and unexpected perspective on the photo, and played out really well.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – The basic concept is great, the tone is amusing, and there's lots of great detail in the various ideas the cockroaches have about what the hole in the ground could be.
  • Composition: 6 (Good) – Great sound off the bat and you go to lots of interesting places. The harmonic progression is often unexpected in good ways, though it can also tend to leave the melody feeling a bit at sea as if the key is changing and the melody doesn't know how to follow. But there's plenty enough good here for a Good.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – Prosody issues. I suppose part of that is the sheer volume of entries means there's not enough time to attend to all the details of each. But there's enough else strong here to generally make up for it.
  • Arrangement: 3 (Good) – Cool sounds, especially as background instruments develop over time.
  • Performance: 2 (Fair) – The performances are fine but don't feel very strong, though I'm not sure the song demands much more.
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 6 (Good) – I like this entry but would probably like it quite a lot more with tighter prosody and a bit more "centered" melody.
JoAnn Abbott - The Mermaid's Waltz
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 8
Total Score: 39
  • Challenge: 9 (Good) – Funny that you've now got another SpinTunes Round 4 mermaid song, but the first step on shore of a transformed mermaid is an excellent connection for this challenge. While I wished for an original story flowing from there, a "Little Mermaid" adaptation does seem like an obviously appropriate way to make good on the connection.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – A solid adaptation of the story, including lots of detail from the original, though as with your Round 3 entry a fair amount of credit needs to be given to the source material.
  • Composition: 6 (Good) – While there's a strange looseness in the second half of the chorus that I don't feel works well, you've got a strong melody and enough else worthwhile here to work well overall.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – You make a story work well as a song. The "first steps / last steps" parallel is nice. The melody that works well purely musically is constructed around lots of large intervals that sound awkward to sing, as are some generally awkward phrasings. The chorus feels overly long, its lyric also suffering from the looseness of the underlying composition. But on the whole there's still a lot of good going on here.
  • Arrangement: 2 (Fair) – Not much to speak of but appropriate enough for the song.
  • Performance: 2 (Fair) – The vocal is at times pitchy, at other times has breath timing issues, and is hampered by the challenges of the melodic intervals and phrasing, but otherwise sounds nice and fits well with the tone of the song, as do the instruments.
  • Recording: 2 (Fair) – Vocal is a bit hot.
  • Judge’s Whim: 6 (Good) – There's a fair amount to like about this song despite its challenges.
Mariah Mercedes - Footprints
Qualified Rank: 3
Overall Rank: 9
Total Score: 36
  • Challenge: 6 (Fair) – As I say about Boffo Yux Dudes: Inherently unoriginal to have a title so on-the-nose for the photo, and in such an interpretive challenge it's even more risky since it's like throwing the gauntlet down and claiming that you've got the archetypal entry. Then footprints are somewhat less than central in your lyric. I do like, though, the overall inspiration to tell a story about someone breaking from the past to set out on a journey, a new chapter in life. Footprints as impermanence and change but also as steps toward something. More on that in a moment.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – The journey notion is nice, the steps of a journey. Nicer still that we have a hint of the footprints' inherent impermanace theme as well in that the narrator's life is changing from one thing into another through the journey. Some vaguness throughout diminishes it, though, and the chorus as a central idea doesn't have so much punch.
  • Composition: 4 (Fair) – There are a lot of nice sounds here, but the chorus feels way too spacious. It doesn't bring focus to the song. The somewhat freeform structure of the song does, though, feel somewhat like perhaps the narrator is on a journey.
  • Songwriting Craft: 6 (Good) – While I'd have liked some of the things I just mentioned about composition to have been handled, overall I think things come together well here, with the music, lyrics and song structure working together to hint at the unexpected turns and developments of a journey.
  • Arrangement: 2 (Fair) – Not much to speak of but appropriate enough for your genre.
  • Performance: 3 (Good) – Solid performances, especially the vocal.
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 6 (Good) – A nice entry that grows on me with each listen.
Governing Dynamics - Houses
Qualified Rank: 4
Overall Rank: 10
Total Score: 31
  • Challenge: 6 (Fair) – Reversing the impermance of footprints with a theme about striving for immortality is interesting, but I have a hard time buying the building of houses as a way to do it. Even taken metaphorically it doesn't feel convincing, especially when the song itself ackowledges that "all that arrives will depart." Ever read or seen "The World Without Us" or "Life After People"? Even the third little pig's brick house wouldn't really last very long, much less those where "you put down your hammer / When your day is done." It doesn't help that I can't get the image out of my head of houses built on the shore where they're more vulnerable to weather damage than many other places. You didn't put that image there, but you risked it by juxtaposing houses with the ocean. I think the problem holds regardless. A song on the theme of leaving a legacy after one is gone clearly could have worked well for this challenge, but this song doesn't accomplish it for me.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – There's a lot of nice imagery and thematic material. In the end I think it's still countered by what I just mentioned regarding the challenge, but in itself as a whole without needing to focus on the photo as inspiration, there's material to appreciate here.
  • Composition: 4 (Fair) – There are some nice touches especially in the harmonic progression. Overall, though, the piece feels like it wanders and doesn't have a strong sense of contrast among the sections.
  • Songwriting Craft: 4 (Fair) – The incomplete first chorus was inherently an interesting choice, but since I couldn't make sense of it, I found it distracting and unsatisfying. Many of the inconsistent melodic phrasings feel awkward with you seeming to force too many words into spaces where they don't fit well. I also feel the "doused / houses" rhyme is too weak for such a central place in your song, especially after you create such anticipation about the title by leaving it out of that first chorus.
  • Arrangement: 2 (Fair) – Not much to speak of but appropriate enough for your genre.
  • Performance: 2 (Fair) – The performances are overall good, but the vocal is somewhat pitchy at times.
  • Recording: 3 (Good) – Sounds good.
  • Judge’s Whim: 4 (Fair) – A nice enough song but not enough when Round 4 is on the line.
Sand in My Toes - Boffo Yux Dudes w/Denise Hudson and Mick Bordet
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 11
Total Score: 30
  • Challenge: 6 (Fair) – The basic concept is great. Such an incredibly specific and unexpected story flowing from the photo. The execution leaves a lot to be desired. If you'd actually made a more straight-up song out of this, it could have been really solid.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – Again, a really strong and very specific story, filled simultaneously with both drama and humor.
  • Composition: 4 (Fair) – The texture is nice but there's just not much here to work with.
  • Songwriting Craft: 4 (Fair) – There's a nice enough sense of the lyric as a lyric, but the naturalistic delivery makes it sound more speech-like, which works well enough performance-wise but isn't very song-like. It's very hard to follow whether the music has a sense of structure connected to the lyrical structure.
  • Arrangement: 2 (Fair) – Interesting sounds, but too loose to really judge this better than Fair.
  • Performance: 2 (Fair) – The vocal delivery has good enough performance but too silly a timbre and delivery. I think this would play better without the affectation.
  • Recording: 2 (Fair) – The spoken vocals don't sound great in the mix, standing too far apart from everything else.
  • Judge’s Whim: 4 (Fair) – I'd like to hear this taken farther as as "real" song.
Foot in the Sand - Boffo Yux Dudes w/ Dr. Lindyke
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 12
Total Score: 26
  • Challenge: 6 (Fair) – While there's something a bit brilliant in the utter obviousness of the idea and the complete sincerity of the delivery, well, I'd also have a hard time scoring this any better.
  • Lyric Content: 2 (Poor) – The title line is, well, fine. Honestly, I couldn't make out most of the rest. It may be unfair to score you low here because of that, but so be it. It'd help if you'd provide the lyrics with all your songs, even ones like this.
  • Composition: 4 (Fair) – A decent straight-up punk tune, and not much more to say.
  • Songwriting Craft: 4 (Fair) – The title line is, well, memorable. A decent punk tune.
  • Arrangement: 2 (Fair) – Not much to speak of but appropriate enough for your genre.
  • Performance: 2 (Fair) – Not much opportunity to show off, but everything sounds good for the genre.
  • Recording: 2 (Fair) – Sounds okay, and my guess is that's all you wanted for this.
  • Judge’s Whim: 4 (Fair) – It's more enjoyable because it was one of multiple entries from you. If this had been your only one, it'd be a lot harder to really appreciate :)
JoAnn Abbott - First On My List
Qualified Rank: n/a-Shadow
Overall Rank: 13
Total Score: 24
  • Challenge: 3 (Poor) – Before I got to the punch line, I was nevertheless wondering what was up with this song. It felt confused, like there were multiple songs. A children's song talking abstractly about some moral, then to odd places that didn't seem connected. Then the footprints squeezed in as if this were some song you wanted to write anyway and you just threw the image in as a technicality. All of which was especially weird since you already had another shadow entry that clearly had a strong connection to the challenge. Finally the punch line arrives and all becomes clear, even solving what I'd thought was a separate mystery. How, before the challenge was even posted, could you be posting comments on SpinTunes and Facebook about having already started writing a shadow? Once arriving at the end of the song, it's clear I was right. You did want to write this song anyway, and you did force the reference in as a technicality. I'd say all that means this song doesn't do a good job of being inspired by the photo.
  • Lyric Content: 6 (Good) – As a depiction of the inner thoughts of someone deeply hurt above and beyond what's reasonable for a situation and wanting to act out with unjustified venom, taking solace in the defensive uber-cleverness of twisting a seemingly friendly idea into a condemnation with a final act plot twist meant to impress all who hear it with her razor-sharp wit but that really just leaves the audience realizing that the narrator has been operating in bad faith from the start, this is interesting.
  • Composition: 4 (Fair) – While there's a somewhat catchy jauntiness to the stated children's TV show feel, in its current a capella rendition, the melody seems confused, either as if constantly changing keys in ways that don't work or as if the performance is regularly off key. All of this makes the piece hard to judge compositionally. What can be judged in spite of all this is the odd structure, with three dissimilar sections followed by a repeat of the first. It doesn't seem to work very well.
  • Songwriting Craft: 4 (Fair) – This piece has your frequent strong sense of melody being betrayed by your equally strong inclination to compromise your strong melodies with some inconsistent and awkward phrasings. The rhyme scheme of the third stanza, though, is interesting.
  • Arrangement: 1 (Poor) – This song does not work well as an a capella piece.
  • Performance: 2 (Fair) – The vocals are a bit nonchalant even for the children's genre that was supposedly targeted. There are also some vocal control issues.
  • Recording: 2 (Fair) – Sounds like a demo.
  • Judge’s Whim: 2 (Poor) – I tried to review this song as objectively as possible in all the categories above. In response to an inappropriately unrelated tirade in a Trojan Horse of a songwriting challenge entry, though, I suppose it's only fair for you to expect that a review may respond in kind, and this is the category where I can do that. But I've already exchanged comments about your situation with you elsewhere, and others certainly have said plenty. I don't want to spend time lambasting you as a sore loser and poor sport and especially not covering ground already tread. So I'll just say that I feel really bad for you, but not for quite the same reasons you feel bad for yourself. Your behavior since being eliminated from Round 3 is so out of proportion to someone of your station in life (a mother, grandmother and publicly devout Christian) and songwriting experience (which, considering that some experts say you need to write 100 songs before you really know what you're doing and while reseaerch has shown that you need to spend 10,000 hours doing something in order to achieve greatness, is still fairly limited), so out of proportion to an amateur contest with no prizes that hardly anyone in the world even knows about, and run by someone who self-describes as an "out of work P.E. teacher, who is also a daycare worker during the summer [and] also happen[s] to blog about music & dance" while fully admitting that he's not even a musician, as opposed to the kind of people who might be in a real position where you'd have to get used to taking their rejection in stride if you wanted to achieve any kind of real success as a songwriter. To feel that much entitlement about moving on and that much hurt about failing to do so in such a fundamentally modest situation as SpinTunes, and to so venomously and publicly single out someone whose opinion you just shouldn't care that much about yet somehow do, clearly you're experiencing a level of hurt that's extreme to say the least and that probably few members of the SpinTunes community appreciate. I have tremendous empathy for you and can only hope that, through even small expressions of empathy like this as well as actions like Spin's going ahead and actually posting this song instead of keeping it from seeing the light of day, perhaps a part of you underneath the anger will somehow be able to help you take actions that could actually help you get some of the things you really want and need. Because so far your acting out has only been pushing those things ever farther from you, perhaps even leading to you lose some of your "best friends... in cyber space" and burn who knows how many other bridges that, in the end, you may very well come to wish were still standing. And all in the service of anger that you've probably had with you for a very long time and isn't really about Spin at all. Only the parts of you underneath and outside the anger will be able to help you move in the direction you really want instead of deeper into the hole of misery you keep sadly digging for yourself. In the meantime, I imagine that even the angry part of you may be able to live with me and whoever else feeling that this particular song was fairly unwelcome and unenjoyable as an entry for this challenge. If not, then this becomes just one more example of you failing to stop yourself from bringing further hurt upon yourself, and that would be just as sad as all the other examples you've given the world of that over the last couple of weeks. I hope you switch to a more satisfying and constructive path soon.


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  2. I am terribly disappointed that the Dudes and myself did not make last place with the punk rock tour de force that is "Foot in the Sand". I am sorely tempted to quit writing punk rock songs altogether. That will show you... you'll be sorry! I can only hope that Tom and Allan find the strength to go on without me.

    I pretty much got what I wanted out of "Carbon Footprint"... it's not knee-slapping funny, and it's not totally serious. It's supposed to be, "Oh, I get it," in an inwardly-smiling intellectual way. I haven't read Galapagos, though I've heard of it. I'll probably pick it up and read it on your recommendation. I like Vonnegut. A good bit of the inspiration here came from the opening scene of the movie "Prometheus", in which an alien "Architect" literally does return to the ocean. I applied that to current events and threw in a little Waterworld.

    I'm impressed that you've taken time every round to rank the shadows. As a shadower I don't expect it, writing as I do for the joy of writing. When I review I don't rank them because I really don't expect them for myself. However, you do, and having been in your seat I know it's a lot of effort that you didn't HAVE to put in, and quite a bonus to those who've shadowed. Thanks for the hard work, and for calling them as you see them.

  3. Oh, and I shall say this on Edric's behalf, though I'm quite certain he would stop me if he could. We have occasionally had similar ideas, and his execution is invariably superior. IF someone ELSE had mentioned this idea, then I would have second thoughts as to its originality. But MY having mentioned it is simply further evidence of the superlative nature of Edric's creative instinct compared to that of lesser mortals.


  4. If I'd done with that submission I ranked last in my reviews what you did with it in yours and Big-Brother-like wiped it out of history (and isn't that what most of us would really prefer for it anyway), then "Foot in the Sand" would have been "last on my list," so maybe that can be at least some small consolation to help you come to terms with the technical reality of my rankings :)

    I did catch the "Prometheus" note in your song bio, and having seen (and liked) the flick I saw what you meant. Cool riffing on those ideas.

    Fair enough re: Edric, and yet I'm not the only one who felt he didn't pay off enough on this one. Consistently strong as he is, and as much praise as he so often deserves, he doesn't deserve (and himself surely wouldn't want) a pedestal. No need to self-efface by assuming that he'd always do better than you with a related idea. Ya never know. And I'm sure that's what Edric would say.

    I can totally understand why a judge or anyone else might choose to not review shadows and why even if they did they might not rank them. Since so many in the community talk about the value of feedback and the opportunity for contribution and artistic growth, and since I personally really value that aspect of things here, I feel like, well, not that I actually owe it, but that it'd be a real missed opportunity for something meaningful if I didn't review and rank everything when I'm judging. As much added work and time as it was, I felt good doing it.

    Can't expect everyone to like or agree with or otherwise appreciate how a judge reviews any more than a songwriter can expect it for all their submissions, but just like with songs it's still nice to know when at least some people appreciate what I had to say in the reviews, so thanks.

    And thanks to you, Dave (and your invisible partner), for regularly giving everyone both great songs AND thoughtful commentary.

  5. Wait, wait, wait... I "surely wouldn't want a pedestal"?!? I'm not certain that's automatically true -- would a pedestal help me reach my gutters easier in the fall? What kind of a pedestal IS it? Is it something like granite or marble -- something that might increase the property value of my home? Or -- barring that -- could I at least get it in Spartan colors? I dunno, a pedestal might be NICE to have around on occasion! (I'd ask, "Can I put my feet up on it" . . . but then again, I suppose that actually what you're SUPPOSED to do, isn't it?)



    Hey, Mark!

    Wanted to thank you for all of the time and attention you put into judging SpinTunes. You certainly went above-and-beyond the call -- I'm sure that the participants appreciated having someone put such thought into feedback, and I KNOW that Travis appreciates not having to "chase" you around when judges' deadlines loomed. Look forward to having you back in the ranks of the songwriters, too!



    1. Points docked from me for not being specific enough about the pedestal :)

      Thanks re: the judging. Ditto all I said to Dave about the time I put in. If I have time, and I hope I will, you can bet I'd look forward to being back on the other side as a songwriter :)

      And thanks, of course, for all your great contributions, song and otherwise.

  6. I second many of Dave's comments: as someone who often finds himself in the shadow category after a round or two (though we're getting better as we sucker...er, recruit more folks to work with us), getting feedback for a shadow entry is much appreciated, even if it's along the lines of "Ooo, you really shouldn't have done that song. No, seriously. Please stop." So thanks for taking the time to comment.

    And the BYD/DL masterpiece "Foot in the Sand" deserves either top-flight honors or rock-bottom last, IMHO. Kudos to Dave for recognizing true genius when he hears it and bringing forth the pearl from BYD's collective oyster; shoot for Good, Bad, but never Boring whenever possible. And don't worry, I stand ready to vomit up more crazed punk-flavored splunge at the drop of a safety pin. You lucky bastards.

    1. You bet re: shadow reviews!

      "Foot in the Sand" will always have a special place in the hearts of many, especially those who really know it best :)

  7. Thanks for the detailed review, Mark! Lots of very helpful suggestions, and we in fact are thinking about how we can re-record when I have my studio built out (better acoustics) to get Zoe past the breathing problems. Maybe break up the recording into pieces so she can breathe freshly for each one.

    At the risk of appearing snarky though, I'm going to have to go ahead and dedicate the second verse of "Pi Day" to you: https://sites.google.com/site/briangraymusic/songs/pi-day

    1. Glad you liked the review :)

      And I'm glad you set me straight re: homonyms and homophones! I don't consider you snarky. In my defense, I distinctly remember being (mis-)taught about this in elementary school. I'm glad you've finally fixed what my elementary school got wrong for me :)