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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Spintunes #6 Round 1 Review: Travis Norris

A QUICK WORD FROM THE JUDGE
Hello everyone! Thanks for taking the time to sign up and submit songs to Spintunes, and for reading the largely unnecessary introduction to my reviews..

A few quick notes about my reviews and rankings:
I don’t try to pretend my rankings are objective, but I do try to adjust them in a way that is fair and in keeping with a contest where the primary focus is songwriting.  Initially, my rankings are based on how much I liked the song from listening to it once or twice.  That is to say, just like if I heard the song on the radio or Pandora – Would I want to hear it again?  (For songs that are “growers” – be assured I listened to all these songs no less than 5 times, and some a lot more than that, and I expect I will for each round).

After I have my initial rankings, they’ll shift around based on the following, in this order of importance:
A. Lyrics  - If your lyrics were memorable, emotive, or clever?  That’s good.  Do they lack content (ie. Are there are a reasonable number of unique lines) or substance (ie. Do they not really makes sense, either in context or in general)?  That’s bad.
B. Melody & Composition – Is the melody memorable or are there are other musical elements of the arrangement that catch the ear?  That’s good.  Is the melody or arrangement dull (bad) or pretty obviously lifted from another source (worse)?
C. Connection to the Challenge – As I said, for the most part, this is a binary “yes/no”, but if you’re tied with another song  in most other way, meeting the challenge more squarely (or more creatively) will get you the better ranking.
D.  Performance – Are the instruments and vocalist in time and in tune?  Is there appropriate paid to dynamics and phrasing?  That’s good.  Is the performance sloppy or otherwise poorly communicated?  That’s bad. 
E. Production – For the most part, production is not a concern, but if I can’t justify ranking one song over another based on the other criteria below, Production is the tie breaker.  What that means is that production is the last thing you should worry about, but you shouldn’t discount it altogether.
If anybody would like to discuss their reviews or get any additional feedback after the reviews are posted, please feel free to get in contact with me (Twitter: @travisnorris and I will also be checking comments here and on the “Spintoons” forum, facebook group, etc. etc.).

Lastly, who the hell am I to judge you guys?  I think this is probably the hardest round 1 challenge of Spintunes yet.  Congratulations on getting your entries done on time (my reviews weren’t).  When you’re reading my reviews (and the other reviews) the thing I’d say to keep in mind most is that these are opinions and pieces of advice that you are free to take or reject as you see fit.  The only person you have to answer to in regards to your art, at the end of the day, is you.

Here we go, in order of my final ranking.

1. Edric Haleen – For Zoe
THE SONG:

Like Dr. Lindyke, Edric goes a completely  non-novel direction with  song about the effect of becoming a meme on “Disaster Girl”.  For the first couple of minutes you’d be forgiven for thinking this was perhaps a Denise Hudson composition as there is a strong film noir, dark jazz influence on the piano and the overall vibe.  Around 2:00 there’s a reveal and telltale Edric phrasing starts to slip back in, but of course there’s still the fact that it’s being sang by guest vocalist Zoe Gray. 
Favorite lyrical element: 
Probably the intro/first verse. 
THE RECORDING:
The relative minimalism of the accompaniment works fine.  Edric has rarely used or needed anything other than a piano to get his point across and that’s as true as ever here.   I heard rumors on the internets that this was done with midi and not played?  If that’s true, well, nice work.  I wouldn’t have noticed. The vocals are pretty dry but that serves to make them stand out.  Zoe does a great job with the dynamics of the song and a more-than-a-little-challenging melody.
Favorite musical element:
 Zoe’s delivery on the last section of lyrics (“You post me on the internet for everyone to see”).
BOTTOM LINE:
Excellent stuff here, lyrically and musically.  Like a few other competitors this explores some of the real world consequences on a meme-person which I enjoy.

2.  Brian Gray – Descartes And I
THE SONG:

An acoustic ballad about a Jurassic Park style philosoraptor with just a dash of Forever Alone.  It’s surprising this is one of the few songs that mixes two memes.  It works rather well.  Brian has a JoCo-like knack for making absurd concepts sand and then making sad songs funny which is demonstrated here.
Favorite lyrical element:
“So I'll just have to trust the fallacy
Of paying work with just a BA in Philosophy”
All the lyrics are good but I like this one, as someone with a similarly difficult-to-use degree.
THE RECORDING:
Simple and precise acoustic (nylon string?) carries the song.  Some very light percussion and background vocals during the chorus round things out.  There are no real performance or production issues to note.
Favorite musical element:
The “main riff” on the guitar is growing on me every time I hear it.
BOTTOM LINE:
A campfire singalong that will put a smile on your face and a tear in your eye (if you can still get sad about fundamentally absurd concepts, which I can).

3. RC – The Philosoraptor
THE SONG:

This track is a groove-laden exploration of the Philosoraptor meme, highlighting the fundamental absurdity of a carnivorous devil-lizard contemplating the Big Mysteries.  Which in turn, during the chorus, highlights the fundamental absurdity of regular old humans contemplating the Big Mysteries when so many of us are still focused on day to day survicial.
Possibly I read too much in to that, but that’s where I ended up.
Favorite lyrical element:
“We had this all figured out” is a hook line, and the “for all of your advances / I don’t like your chances” couplet that ends the chorus
THE RECORDING:
Very nice production on this one (in a round chock full of songs with better than average to great production), clean and clear without sounding sterile.  I am not sure exactly what’s going on with the percussion, but aside from being appropriate with the prehistoric theme it is also very groovy. 
Guitars are layered in a manner I enjoy a lot and the lead licks and solos are excellent and tasteful.
The real star here is the groovy syncopated bass line, which could carry the song even if everything else wasn’t great.
Favorite musical element:
The drums/percussion and bass are spot on and really make the song. 
BOTTOM LINE:
RC comes out swingin’.  Definitely sticking around on my MP3 player.

4. Jenny Katz – Boom Goes The Dynamite
THE SONG:
Film noir soundtrack jazz!  This is a pretty loose interpretation of the meme, but on careful consideration I decided I didn’t care much because the rest is so good.  Then there is the question of whether the pair in the song is literally blowing up hotels or if it’s a euphemism.  I like it either way.
Favorite lyrical element:
“It isn’t love, we’re almost sure / What we have is deep but not exactly pure”
There is a definite mystery element to this track and that line expresses it best.
THE RECORDING:
This is flawless.  I’ve got nothing.
Favorite musical element:
The vocals throughout, particularly in regards to the phrasing.
BOTTOM LINE:
I feel like I didn’t have a lot of criticism for this one so I apologize if the review is a little thin.  This was the top ranked song after my first listen through but I ended up docking it a few positions because of the tenuous link to the meme. That doesn’t really have any effect on my enjoyment of the song which is in fact already on my MP3 player.  So basically : NICE JOB, JENNY!

5. Army Defense – Miss Teen South Carolina
THE SONG:

A very chilled out track about Lauren Upton’s unfortunate rise to internet fame.  Like Andy Glover’s track this demonstrates some empathy for someone who has enjoyed very little (hopefully this was not IRONIC empathy or boy, is my face gonna be red).  Musically, this reminds me of Cake, if the guy from Cake bothered to actually sing a little more often (see: The Guitar Man).
Favorite lyrical element:
“Miss South Carolina learned how mean the world can get when you don't know”
I enjoyed pretty much all the lyrics to this one, though.
THE RECORDING:
Wow. Everything is on, performance, production, but ESPECIALLY arrangement.  There is a lot going on in this track but it doesn’t come off as overproduced or overwhelming because it all serves the song.  Listen with earbuds, I dare ya.
Favorite musical element:
I’m going to default to the guitar solo because I can’t find anything that isn’t very good.
BOTTOM LINE:
One of my favorites of the round.  Some gifted animator needs to get a hold of this and make a music video, stat.

6. MC Ohm-I – Down In Plankistan
THE SONG:

This legitimate rap song (!) in harmonic minor mode (!!) is about an ill-fated trip to a fictional Arabian country under a fascist regime that requires planking at.. hours that are divisible by three, I guess(?!?!)?  This is probably the biggest surprise of the round from Spintunes newcomer MC Ohm-I. 
Favorite lyrical element:
I can’t really choose.  The great thing about this song is how it is definitely about the meme but tells a borderline surreal story that is unrelated to the meme, and at no point does it get boring or predictable.
THE RECORDING:
MC Ohm-I is a good rapper.  I am not really qualified to comment further there,  so I’ll leave it at that.   I’m assuming since this was put together in 9 hours (thanks Twitter) most of the music is sampled.  It’s still exceptionally well put together and has a ridiculously hummable melody.  The chorus is a sort of counter melody to the main riff which is equally stuck in my head.
Favorite musical element:
That harmonic minor riff is gonna be stuck in my head for days.
BOTTOM LINE:
This is hilarious, creative, and also probably the most risqué Spintunes lyrics have ever gotten, aside from wringing an entertaining story out of the meme.  Thumbs up!

7. “Buckethat” Bobby Dylan Matheson – Problems
THE SONG:
A modern folk song lamenting those problems that we all have.  Also pretty clearly a Bob Dylan pastiche that got dialed back a little bit.  I think that’s for the best, in the end, if the joke was played too hard people might have missed the turnaround in the last verse.
Favorite lyrical element:
Last verse and chorus.
THE RECORDING:
Dylanesque (which really just means “folk”, of course) acoustic guitar and accordion keeps the arrangement simple, which is fine as this song doesn’t require anything else.
Favorite musical element:
Bobby has been able to consistently make me wish that I could play accordion, which is something I wouldn’t have believed previously to Song Fu 4. 
BOTTOM LINE:
The thing about First World Problems is that they require a level of balance and perspective.  Like the two first verses of this song, some of them are eye-rollers.  But rejecting problems out of hand doesn’t solve them.  And then the last verse reminds us that there are a lot of people in the “first world” who are on the edge of the third.  Anyway.  I liked this.  Nice job.

8. Ross Durand – First World Blues
THE SONG:

The first First World Problems song of the round, delivered in Ross’ trademarked Western/Folk style.   If you know Ross’ prior work you were probably hoping he’d tackle this meme, and it does not disappoint.   Some of his prior songs have tackled the more serious FWPs (“Lyin’”, “Waltz With The Devil”) but this (appropriate to the usual presentation of the meme) is the more comedic side.
Favorite lyrical element:
Probably the first verse.  The Twinkie Disappearance really is the quintessential FWP.  It set the scene nicely.  In fact, this might have worked better as the last verse for just that reason.
THE RECORDING:
The acoustic guitar seems very slightly too loud (a little overcompressed, maybe?), which I hope will be the most comical bit of nitpicking I do in this whole review.  Guitar playing is great and Ross nails the vocal delivery.
Favorite musical element:
....dare I say the kazoo solo?  Okay, good.  The kazoo solo.
BOTTOM LINE:
Standard Ross Durand protest-y song with more comedy than usual.

9. The Chocolate Chips – Forever Alone
THE SONG:

A dramatic and possibly satirical exploration of people who are convinced they are going to DIE ALONE, UNLOVED and UNMOURNED and *ahem ahem cough cough* uh yes, it’s about the Forever Alone meme.  It manages the trick of taking the idea and not being DIRECTLY connected to any particular version of the meme but still being 100% appropriate.  There are only three stanzas of lyrics and a one-phrase chorus but the song makes the most of the brevity. 
Favorite lyrical element:
Brief as the lyrics are, I like ‘em all.  I’ll go with the last stanza.
THE RECORDING:
CC has a talent for production and experimental sounds that I enjoy.  The vocals sound like they have a touch of pitch correction but that actually works well for the tone of this song (sort of robotic and depressed… you know, like Marvin!... okay that was one pop culture reference for this review). 
Favorite musical element:
The plucked string parts…. Although, it just makes me want to hear it with non-MIDI instruments… and if those are already real instruments, once again, my face will be very real. 
BOTTOM LINE:
Awwww, hyeah.  Definitely my Valentine’s Day 2013 jam.

10. Dr. Lindyke – Famous Last Words
THE SONG:

Dr. Lindkye maintained their longstanding policy of avoiding novelty at all costs and picked one of the few basically novelty-proof memes (actually a viral video) from our List.  Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture got some mainstream media attention around the time it came out. I would encourage anybody who hasn’t seen it (I hadn’t) to go look it up.  Musically, this is the Dr. Lindyke we’ve come to expect -- ‘70s-flavored piano pop.  It might come off as overbearingly earnest to some (as Dr. Lindyke’s songs occasionally have for me in the past) but it works here, especially considering the source material.
Favorite lyrical element:
“If I had just three words to shout / I think I’d just shout ‘Tell the truth’”
THE RECORDING:
As per usual, Dave is a very good singer and pianist for someone who continually professes to be “not a performer”.  If he were also to add that he were “not a drummer”, well, that I would be inclined to believe. 
Sorry, had to get my ribbing in there…
As a demo recording this is all fine.  More than any Lindyke track I’ve heard previously, I REALLY would like to hear it with a real acoustic piano.  And then midi instruments strings and flute(?) aren’t really doing us any sonic favors here.  But, like demos are supposed to do, I can hear what it would sound like if it were actually there.
Favorite musical element:
The drums!
Okay, okay.  The chorus.  I am always impressed and a little jealous when people manage to figure out how to write a one phrase chorus without it being too repetitive, boring, lazy, etc.  I found myself… grumble… singing along with it by the end.  The layered vocals are nice, too.
BOTTOM LINE:
I think Mr. Pausch would like this.

11. Josh Holober-Ward – Internet Cats
THE SONG:

Ever been in a cover band trying to get through a set at the local drinking establishment and some idiot in the back won’t stop yelling “FREEBIRD!” or “HOTEL CALIFORNIA!” or, all the gods forbid, “STAIRWAY!”  Okay, now imagine you’re a cat and the idiot is the internet.  Now imagine that, as I cat, you can vocalize in English and play piano.  If you’ve followed this so far, you can probably tell this was the second-to-last song I reviewed and my personal grip on reality is fraying, and also, Josh Holober-Ward’s song, “Internet Cats” is ROUGHLY what you’d get if that scenario occurred.
Favorite lyrical element:
“I can has feelings just like you.”
Truth, man.  Truth.
THE RECORDING:
Standard piano/drums ballad and done well enough.  There are occasional moments when the piano could be a little louder.  The vocals are just right, though, which is probably the biggest concern in a songwriting contest.  Performances are song-serving (which is good).  The cat chorus makes me chuckle every time.
Favorite musical element:
The crescendo into the chorus (especially from the first verse and the last one) is simple and effective; I also appreciate that kind of attention to dynamics.
BOTTOM LINE: 
Who doesn’t like cats?  Well…. some people, but if you looked at the recent images on my Twitter account you’d know that I’m not one of those godless heathens.  So I had some admitted positive bias on this song.  But that aside, I found this amusing and well performed, not to mention fitting the meme(s) nicely.

12. Foobar – Leeroy Jenkins
THE SONG:

A piano ballad about perhaps the most famous resident of Azeroth.   It deserves to be noted this song managed to be absolutely and without doubt about the meme rather than being tenuously connected or “inspired by” which gets it a few points.
Favorite lyrical element:
“Don’t worry that he’s AFK / He’s paying attention inside”
THE RECORDING:
The piano, drums, bass, and vocals are all competent if not particularly exciting.  The quotes lifted from the original video are funny part of the time (at least partly because I watched the video more than a couple of times, probably).  The bits where the same line is repeated several times in a row don’t really work too well, usually just picking one of them would probably be better. 
Favorite musical element:
The last “LEEROY JENKINS” synced up perfectly with the audio clip.  Also the addition of Leeroy’s own pronounciation of his name was nicely utilized in the vocals in the second chorus and after.
BOTTOM LINE:
Musically, this is just okay, but lyrically it’s pretty clever.  And it is pretty clear Foobar was having a good time recording it (or at least faking it well), which is an asset to this kind of tongue-in-cheek tune.

13. Steve Durand – One Red Paperclip
THE SONG:

A recounting of the story of the One Red Paperclip blog.  Normally just telling a story straight out like this isn’t something I would probably enjoy very much, but it works here because the story is true and is something (as the song says) no one would attempt to make up.
Favorite lyrical element:
“Something's worth is hard to measure
One man's trash is another man's treasure
That's a point I think should not be missed”
This is apparently the Spintunes of Travis Really Liking Bridges.
THE RECORDING:
Steve’s voice is well suited to this style of music and the production suits the song just fine.
Favorite musical element:
As is the Steve Durand standard, the horns are great.
BOTTOM LINE:
Enjoyable, light hearted, based on a true (fairly awesome) story.  Not really my thing in terms of genre, but a good song nonetheless.

14. Godz Poodlz – Miss Carolina
THE SONG:

The only uke song of the round (unless I missed something) recounts Miss Teen South Carolina’s (Two thousand seven) viral video where she got awfully nervous and confused on live national television and said some unintelligent stuff.  I always felt kind of bad for her (especially considering she seemed to know the correct answer but somehow slipped in to her other coached answers and started just naming random countries).  I can’t really tell if GP feels bad for her or not.  I admit I liked Army Defense’s approach to this meme better, which might have hurt GP’s ranking a bit. 
Favorite lyrical element:
Despite all that, “Miss Carolina, you’re Miss Information to me” is a pretty clever line.
THE RECORDING:
The uke seems to often be right at the edge of out of beat, but it never gets all the way there and that seems to be how ukes usually work anyway.  The bass could perhaps be a touch louder.  In any event this is head swaying and/or bobbing track and fits well with the subject matter.  Special note to Russ’ vocals, which seem to be channeling one muppet or another.
Favorite musical element:
GP is almost always good for a catchy chorus, definitely the case here.
BOTTOM LINE:
This is a fun and humorous track, but not my favorite approach to the meme in this round.

15. Kevin Savino-Riker – The Ballad of Andrew Meyer
THE SONG:

A guy-and-guitar retelling of the infamous “Don’t tase me, bro!” incident.  This was educational, for me, as I had never known the context of the incident.  Kevin can keep guy and guitar interesting for longer than most and keeps the song exactly as long as it needs to be.
Favorite lyrical element:
“Like your opposition to George W.; the man should be your foe!”
The first two stanzas are amusing (partly because of the phrasing and the guitar riff behind them), that was my favorite single line.
THE RECORDING:
I always enjoy Kevin’s acoustic style – I appreciate guitar arrangements that can stand almost entirely by themselves (when the bass comes in in the second part of the song I barely noticed).  And the vocals are on, particularly after the taser-ing point of the story. 
Favorite musical element:
The main guitar riff during the first two verses and the interplay with the vocal melody.
BOTTOM LINE:
A solid and enjoyable entry from the ST1 champ.

16. Jerry Skids – Not A Good Guy
THE SONG:

An acoustic coffeehouse ballad about the alleged association between beloved Sesame Street character Bert and a whole bunch of very bad people.  The bridge and last verse asserts he took a move active roll in a few of these tragic events.  Look out, Mr. Skids.  The Children’s Television Workshop is well-lawyered and I believe they’re short on funds lately.
Favorite Lyrical Element:
The lyrics are clever and funny (perhaps more inspiring chuckles than LOLs, but managing to keep it up the whole song) but my favorite bit was this one:
Now Prairie Dawn and Count keep pushin’ me to skip town
Before I end up taking blame for his mess
Like O.J. and the Ramseys lives were turned upside-down
Because my oval-headed friend won’t confess
The 9/11 reference towards the end was ballsy (yes, almost 12 years, still ballsy) and managed to end up not quite “too far”. 
THE RECORDING:  
Guitars and vocals are well performed and appropriately stripped down for the style.  There are a few times (first pre chorus) the vocals get a little off with each other but it’s all well within tolerance for the style.
Favorite musical element:
The bridge is my favorite part of the song overall, some great dynamics overall and spot on harmonies.
BOTTOM LINE:
A tasteful ode to a vintage meme.

17. Andy Glover – Hey, Winnebago Man
THE SONG:

Like Jerry Skids’ entry, this an indie-acoustic coffeehouse tune.  It is an amusingly empathetic and sensitive take on a video about a man who was running critically short on those attributes.
Favorite lyrical element:
I’m really liking bridges in this round, apparently.  I like the whole tone of the bridge.  One thing about memes like this (and the internet in general) is that people tend to forget that there are real, actual people behind these viral videos.  Empathy is nice.
THE RECORDING:
Dare I say this sounds a bit like something from the Juno soundtrack?  Hopefully that doesn’t offend you.  In any event, the production is a bit muffled and quiet (could use just a touch of master EQ and compression) but the song doesn’t really suffer at all for it.  This is “lo-fi”.  Also, guest appearance from Keyboard Cat or no, I do like the little recurring piano riff.  It meshes well with the rest of the song nicely.
Favorite musical element:
Hey, the bridge again.  The background vocals, if maybe a bit pitchy, are very pretty here (maybe the one part of the song that could benefit from a little more production). 
BOTTOM LINE:
A nice lighthearted approach to a hilariously offensive meme, and a good example of a song that doesn’t need production to be hummable.

18. Blimp Exhaust – S.A.P. (Socially Awkward Penguin)
THE SONG:

Excellent garage rock tune (using the exact guitar tone I’ve been trying to get for a while but can’t seem to manage) that references the Socially Awkward Penguin meme.  I feel like this also would have been an awesome entry for Spintunes 5 Round 2.  Definitely morning/driving music. Unfortunately, S.A.P. ended up sliding down the rankings a bit because of a tenuous connection to the meme, and what I like about it is more musical than lyrical.  Despite that this is definitely going on the MP3 player.
Favorite lyrical element:
The bit about the rejected coffee date made me chuckle/facepalm.  It’s happened to me a few times.
THE RECORDING:
I’m always glad when we get a legit rock song in Spintunes and we got several this round.  This is probably my favorite of the rockers.
Favorite musical element:
I really dig the guitars, particularly the solo.
BOTTOM LINE:
Enjoyable and, for me anyway, relatable.  A more unambiguous connection to the meme might have brought it up a little further in the rankings, but of course that would be a different song.

19. Glen Raphael – Ask A Ninja
THE SONG:

A solo acoustic ditty about perhaps one of the very first popular web series…es.  This would have done nicely for a theme/credits song if they didn’t have those already.
Favorite lyrical element:
Probably the last verse because of the extra level of absurdity.  Ninja bowlers and barbers!
THE RECORDING:
Guy and guitar.  Sounds like both were recorded at once?  If so I think it could benefit from being multi-tracked and EQ’d individually.  The lyrics come through but things seem a little crowded and the guitar maybe just barely too loud.  The guitar is bordering on spastic, rhythmically, but it goes along with the tone of the song well enough.  Vocal delivery and phrasing is good.
Favorite musical element:
The funniest part of the song was how it ended, which is appropriate – punch lines should be at the end. Well done.
BOTTOM LINE:
This is cleverly written and well performed but I can’t help but thinking some connection to some theme outside the meme, a second instrument or a little more “arrangement” in general might make it more memorable and stand out in this crowd.

20. The Orion Sound – Hashtag (Damien’s Story)
THE SONG:

A modern piano pop song about first world problems which seems to be (rather impressively) channeling Bruce Hornsby, of all people.  A lot of this is very funny.  And this might be the catchiest chorus in the whole round.  Then you went and stuck needless racism at the end and lost about 10 spots.  See, when you put something last in that manner it looks, at least a little, like the whole song was actually about that.  Ie. THE WHOLE SONG IS ABOUT JUSTIFYING RACISM.  Dude.  C’mon.  It hurts that I ended up ranking you as low as I did, but when making the final ranking calculations you just kept slipping.  BECAUSE THE SONG COULD EASILY BE PERCEIVED TO BE ABOUT RACISM.  I’m all for subversion when it says something, but here it was just inserted at the end in neon flashing light.
Favorite lyrical element:
The whole chorus is great.
THE RECORDING:
The vocals seem to be right at the edge of clipping a lot of the time.  Issues with compression or input volume, maybe?  For all that the vocals are well performed, just not great on the technical side.  It could benefit from a little remixing.  I also can’t really make out the background spoken word bits, but that’s probably just my hearing damage.  Piano part is occasionally a little loose on the rhythm, but still sounds good. 
Favorite musical element:
The chorus again.
BOTTOM LINE:
Less racism next time, please (preferably none).

21. Steven Wesley Guiles – Boom Goes the Dynamite
THE SONG:

An upbeat dance track about a famous catchphrase.   Lyrically, this one is a grab bag.  It’s about 60% reciting the catchphrase, which isn’t inappropriate for this meme, but the non-“Boom! Goes the dynamite” lyrics are brief and mostly seem like phrases that were picked because they rhyme.  I did a little research to see if any of these lines (jet fighter, kart rider, etc.) connect with the original meme.  That does not appear to be the case, except maybe in the bridge, since Mr. Collins did not become a world famous sportscaster unless you count this meme in your calculations.
Favorite lyrical element:
The bridge, for the reasons noted above.
THE RECORDING:
This is a pretty professional-sounding recording.  The first 17 seconds sound like anything you might hear on the radio.  Overall, this song reminds me of a lot of Spoon – there’s an undeniable indie rock vibe but it’s an upbeat, danceable recording.  Also, I like synths, so the intro and occasional background parts during the rest of the song make me smile.  Vocals are well done across the board.  The song feels like it is exactly the right length, also, which can be a hard thing to nail down.
Favorite musical element:
Difficult to choose, but I’m going to go with the synths and the intro.
BOTTOM LINE:
This is a pretty good example of a track I imagine I’ll be listening to months from now which may not be obvious from the ranking I gave it.  The song is fun and well-performed, but the songwriting is just a little thin.

22. TurboShandy – Piss Lightning (My Canine Friend)
THE SONG:

A nice hybrid of metal riffs and pop punk song structure rounds out a somewhat tenuously-linked ode to Courage Wolf.   My only real problem with this song is that it seems a little more “inspired by” CW than “about” CW, which is a small but important distinction in this field.  Aside from that, if you didn’t know ahead of time it was about Courage Wolf, the “he” referenced in the prechorus and the “canine friend” at the end of the chorus is kind of out of left field.  That probably doesn’t matter to most people in the context of the song, but, well, I have to rank these tunes based on something. 
Favorite lyrical element:
The lyrics are fine but nothing really “pops” for me too much.  I guess I’ll go with this:
 I got no time for fear and I ain't got no time for guilt
I am living in impenetrable walls I built myself
The way it technically does not rhyme, but works anyway, is a nice piece subtle misdirection.  I found it admirable.
THE RECORDING:
TurboShandy continues the theme of almost ridiculously well produced and performed tracks.  I enjoyed the guitars a lot, being a guitar player.  Drums and bass are in the pocket and once again, the vocals are stylistically suited to the genre.
Favorite musical element: 
Right around 2:24 there’s a background vocal call-and response thing going on, and a secondary guitar riff comes in to keep the chorus fresh for one more repetition.
BOTTOM LINE:
Like Steven Wesley Guiles’ entry, I imagine I’ll be playing this in my car for some time. The ranking of this song is a reflection on the writing more than the level of enjoyment I get from listening to it.

23. Brandon Lorrekovich – Hankey Plankey
THE SONG:

This is a wah-laden (or maybe autofiltered) ‘70s dance rocker about two planking enthusiasts.  Unfortunately there was more plot and substance (weird substance, but substance) to MC Ohm-I’s track about the same meme and Brandon’s ranking suffered for that. 
Favorite lyrical element:
“You’re planking between my heart and my soul
The way you hold yourself up is out of control “
THE RECORDING:
The lyrics could stand to be a little louder – the rest of the band sounds great but a lot of lyrics are a little hard to catch without the sheet in front of you.  I’m not sure if the wah/autofilter was needed for the whole song.  It feels like a spice too liberally applied… if that makes any sense.  And what’s with the ending?  This could have easily ended at 4:30.  I guess for an extended dance mix it’s okay, for I felt like the last 1:14 was probably intended to have a solo or something that didn’t get recorded. 
Favorite musical element:
The bass line.
BOTTOM LINE: 
I wanted to rank this higher just on basis of groove but lyrically it just doesn’t stick with me like other entries did.

24. T.C. Elliot – One Red Paperclip
THE SONG:

A song about the One Red Paperclip blog with a Midwestern rock vibe.  Unfortunately, I feel like Steve Durand did a better job with the lyrics on this subject. 
Favorite lyrical element:
There aren’t really any lines that pop out to me; they get the story from A to B but there’s nothing particularly clever or memorable.
THE RECORDING:
There’s some good guitar and bass work here and the drums are very solid.  The vocals could be  a little clearer in places but for the genre they’re in a pretty good place in the mix.  
Favorite musical element:
The lead guitar riff in the intro and between verses is easily the most memorable part of the song.
BOTTOM LINE:
There is a lot of potential here and this is a genre that I enjoy quite a bit, but in this field it’s a little underwhelming.

25. Vincent Black Shadow – Baby Panda Sneeze
THE SONG:

Vincent Black Shadow manages to wring an  entire song out of a 15 second video clip of a panda sneezing.  This is an odd song and I have bad feeling I’m not quite getting it.  It seems like a “mountain from a molehill” situation.  Still, props for managing a whole song out of a startled panda.
Favorite lyrical element:
Falling to the Baby Panda’s mane
Oh wicked fate awaking
Her little bundle…
Almost Shakespearean!
THE RECORDING:
So, not that you don’t know this, but this sounds like a pretty well produced song was played through a tin can speaker, which was recorded into the DAW with a telephone receiver mic.  At first I thought this was a stylistic choice for the intro/first verse and all the missing frequencies were eventually going to come in, but then that did not happen.  A shame, as all the instrumental stuff I can hear sounds pretty well performned.  Production did hurt your ranking, though… I just couldn’t get around that. 
Favorite musical element:
The little recurring electric piano (?) riff that first comes in around 18 seconds in the track.
BOTTOM LINE:
I’d like to hear this with a better mix.  This is creative and interesting melodically, but I’m not sure the meme really warranted a whole song without some kind of external addition (see MC Ohm-I’s song for a good example of what I mean by that).  I do have a feeling I just don’t quite “get” this song yet.

26. Q – Chuck Norris
THE SONG:

Ahhh, Chuck Norris, my nemesis.  Our sharing a last name made high school kid of suck when everybody kept asking if you were my uncle.  I’ve been referring to you as “my nemesis” for some time and yet I remain alive and breathing on this earth which make me think all these “facts” I’ve been hearing about you for so long is so much bunk.
Anyway, this is a primarily spoken word song about Chuck Norris facts.
Favorite lyrical element:
Ummm… sorry guys.  You were (unknowingly, I’m sure) facing an uphill battle with me by choosing this particular meme.  I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the Chuck Norris facts in this are ones you came up with yourself and based on that I’ll say it was the Cee-Lo line.
THE RECORDING:
There is a lot to like here.  Nice heavy guitar riffage during the verses, strong beat, decent chorus (although it’s the type you’d probably sing along in gibberish as the lyrics are fairly indecipherable… but again, for me, that probably works in the song’s favor).  The spoken word parts sound good.  This would make pretty good driving music.
Favorite musical element:
The chorus.
BOTTOM LINE:
So yes, I’m pretty biased against this meme, but the bigger problem with the song is that it’s trying to be a two and a half minute punchline.  There’s only so long that can keep it up.  It will probably still narrowly find its way on to my MP3 player for roadtrips, but based entirely on the drivable groove, not the writing.

27. Jailhouse Payback – Gem Sweater Lady
THE SONG:

So, this is a serviceable classic rock-type tune about Gem Sweater Lady (appropriately enough), who I had never heard of and had to look up. Seems like gem sweaters are just one small (but no doubt important) thing in Leslie Hall’s arsenal of… Lesley Hall-isms. 
Favorite lyrical element:
“Uncomfortable for us / Uncomfortble for everyone”
It seems reinforced by the vocal delivery.
THE RECORDING:
There’s nothing wrong here, the track could maybe use a little more global EQ to unmuffle things a bit, but overall I can hear everything well enough.  It is competently performed across the board.  The style just isn’t really my thing. 
Favorite musical element:
Nice guitar solo (am I hearing slide?).
BOTTOM LINE: 
I’m afraid I just didn’t really “get” this one.  Although I guess we should blame the judges (ie. Me) for having it on the list, the “Gem Sweater Lady” meme (which is not really a meme, and doesn’t even appear on Know Your Meme) is really worthy of a song.

28. The Middle Relievers – 2 Eyes 1 Regret
THE SONG:

It’s about 2 Girls 1 Cup, which I have not seen.  My usual desire and curiosity to do the standard Google search to make sure I completely understand the song’s connection to the meme doesn’t extend to watching people defecate in things and then consume it.  So.  Uh. Moving on.
Favorite lyrical element:
Basically any part of it that I couldn’t quite make out?  Sorry, guys.  Toilet humor, not my thing.  This is going to play well with a lot of other people, but I’m not one of them.
THE RECORDING:
Do I hear marimba in the background?  Classy.  The layered vocals are good (nice falsetto) and the production is clear.  Like Dave Leigh said, this is about as tasteful as a song about this subject could be.  But it’s still a song about 2 Girls 1 Cup.
Favorite musical element:
The falsetto bits.
BOTTOM LINE:
Why does this exist
My stomach is feeling sick
What did you show me this for
That sums it up nicely.

29. Wait What (The Band) – We R Not Gay
THE SONG:

Three minutes of a couple of dudes insisting they aren’t gay over a Kylie Minogue riff.  Tangentially connected to the Rage Guy meme through a Freddie Mercury sub-meme… or something.   Most of the Freddie Mercury images I can find are about something good happening rather than being accused of being gay.  Eh.  Whatever.  I’m giving people quite a bit of latitude with the challenge.
Favorite lyrical element:
I hate Glee, so that part was pretty good.
THE RECORDING:
Kevin Savino-Riker helps out with the vocals.  IS THAT LEGAL?  Nah, it’s okay.  I’ll let it go.   As I said must of the music is a Jimmy Hart version of that one god-forsaken song that was completely unavoidable the summer of 2002 (and for a couple of years afterward) if you ever listened to the radio.  
Favorite musical element:
I could have used more of that guitar.
BOTTOM LINE:
The music reminded me too much of the Song That Shalln’t Be Named and the humor just  wasn’t something I could get in to.  Any one of the punchlines might have worked but it’s just not something I could put up with for three minutes.

30. Atom & E.V. – Welcome Wagon
THE SONG:

Country boom-chicker about the Winnebago Man video.   Unfortunately there are about six unique lines in the whole song so there wasn’t really a lot of “song writing” going on here.
Favorite lyrical element:
Self-contained, self-propelled, funhouse on *ing wheels,
This was pretty much the only line that I found any of the intended humor in the profanity.
THE RECORDING:
The reverb on the main vocal is nicely appropriate to the genre and the guitar’s okay.  The bass seems a little lost (or maybe the guitar is lost in relation to the bass.. depends on which order they were recorded, I guess).  The vocalist audibly runs out of breath a lot (not that I have much basis complaining about that).  Everything other than vocals are probably a little too loud, it makes the overall track sound a little more “tentative” than it out to.  Could have used another key change which would have helped things stay a little fresher.
BOTTOM LINE:
All I can really come up with is that this is really, really underwhelming.

SHADOW REVIEW

Dex01 – I Hate A Meme
THE SONG:

Dex01 wraps up the Spintunes 6 Round 1 album with the song that I’m betting half of the competitors wanted to write.  This is truly the beauty of shadows – if you don’t like the rules, toss ‘em!  Or turn them on their head.  Or whatever.
Favorite lyrical element:
“This uninspired, worthless garbage really is adored”
STICK IT TO THE MAN, DEX01!
THE RECORDING: 
Bass and guitar needs to be louder to emphasize the energy of the track.  I also would have liked some sort of “breakdown” for the Hate, hate, hate hate a meme section (maybe followed by another chorus).
Favorite musical element:
I’m betting most of the competitor field would happily sing that ending section along with you if we were all in a bar enjoying Long Island Ice Teas right now.
BOTTOM LINE:
It’s good to see Dex01 in the shadows. 

3 comments:

  1. I blow my nose better than I play drums. But the one thing worse than my drumming skills is my drum sequencing skills, so that's all my performance, albeit on that cheap electronic drum kit. You've caught me dead to rights, and were probably overly kind. Excellent job on the reviews!

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  2. Thanks for the review! Yes, my production was recorded together on an iPhone, which is a method that tends to come out beautifully when fingerpicking but with strummed hard attacks like this there tends to be too much compression and it doesn't sound nearly as good. A much better arranged/produced version of this (with vocal harmonies and probably some drums) is certain to go on my next album, I just didn't have time to produce it well this time (and figured the song was strong enough to survive the round without the effort)

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  3. Riker was made an official member of Wait What as a Christmas present, and he hasn't regifted it yet.

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