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Saturday, July 27, 2013

SpinTunes #7 Round 2 Totals

Here are the links to your reviews:

Official Judges:

Guest Judges: N/A
Alternate Judge's Review: N/A

You can listen to all the wonderful songs from this round by checking out the free album HERE.

The 3 names in bold have been eliminated from the competition.  The last elimination was determined by the tie breaker, which is the popular vote.  It sucks to eliminate anyone, but it is a contest.  Here's hoping they decide to shadow...or cover "Today's The Day" (if they haven't already).

Feel free to check for mistakes in my math...again.

Totals: (Popular) (Dr. Lindyke) (Felix Frost) (T.C. Elliott) (Brian Gray) (Ross Durand)
Ominous Ride - 11 - 11 - 7 - 9 - 9 - 11 (58)
TurboShandy - 6 - 6 - 13 - 13 - 4 - 12 (54)
Blimp Exhaust - 2 - 9 - 12 - 12 - 5 - 13 (53)
Edric Haleen - 8 - 7 - 11 - 11 - 6 - 7 (50)
Menage a Tune - 13 - 5 - 8 - 2 - 11 - 9 (48)
Boffo Yux Dudes - 9 - 12 - 9 - 3 - 12 - 1 (46)
RC - 4 - 13 - 6 - 7 - 3 - 8 (41)
Riker's Island - 10 - 8 - 4 - 6 - 7 - 2 (37)
Mariah Mercedes - 3 - 4 - 3 - 10 - 10 - 5 (35)
Governing Dynamics - 5 - 3 - 1 - 5 - 13 - 6 (33)
Steve Durand - 1 - 10 - 10 - 1 - 1 - 10 (33)
Sid Brown - 12 - 2 - 2 - 8 - 2 - 3 (29)
Emperor Gum - 7 - 1 - 5 - 4 - 8 - 4 (29)

Popular Vote Totals:
Menage a Tune - 30
Sid Brown - 26
Ominous Ride - 19
Riker's Island - 18
Boffo Yux Dudes - 14
Edric Haleen - 9
Emperor Gum - 9
TurboShandy - 8
Governing Dynamics - 8
RC - 7
Mariah Mercedes - 5
Blimp Exhaust - 3
Steve Durand - 3
(99 total votes)

Popular Score:
Menage a Tune - 13
Sid Brown - 12
Ominous Ride - 11
Riker's Island - 10
Boffo Yux Dudes - 9
Edric Haleen - 8
Emperor Gum - 7
TurboShandy - 6
Governing Dynamics - 5
RC - 4
Mariah Mercedes - 3
Blimp Exhaust - 2
Steve Durand - 1

Dr. Lindyke:
RC - 13
Boffo Yux Dudes - 12
Ominous Ride - 11
Steve Durand - 10
Blimp Exhaust - 9
Riker's Island - 8
Edric Haleen - 7
TurboShandy - 6
Menage a Tune - 5
Mariah Mercedes - 4
Governing Dynamics - 3
Sid Brown - 2
Emperor Gum - 1

Felix Frost:
TurboShandy - 13
Blimp Exhaust - 12
Edric Haleen - 11
Steve Durand - 10
Boffo Yux Dudes - 9
Menage a Tune - 8
Ominous Ride - 7
RC - 6
Emperor Gum - 5
Riker's Island - 4
Mariah Mercedes - 3
Sid Brown - 2
Governing Dynamics - 1

T.C. Elliott:
TurboShandy - 13
Blimp Exhaust - 12
Edric Haleen - 11
Mariah Mercedes - 10
Ominous Ride - 9
Sid Brown - 8
RC - 7
Riker's Island - 6
Governing Dynamics - 5
Emperor Gum - 4
Boffo Yux Dudes - 3
Menage a Tune - 2
Steve Durand - 1

Brian Gray:
Governing Dynamics - 13
Boffo Yux Dudes - 12
Menage a Tune - 11
Mariah Mercedes - 10
Ominous Ride - 9
Emperor Gum - 8
Riker's Island - 7
Edric Haleen - 6
Blimp Exhaust - 5
TurboShandy - 4
RC - 3
Sid Brown - 2
Steve Durand - 1

Ross Durand:
Blimp Exhaust - 13
TurboShandy - 12
Ominous Ride - 11
Steve Durand - 10
Menage a Tune - 9
RC - 8
Edric Haleen - 7
Governing Dynamics - 6
Mariah Mercedes - 5
Emperor Gum - 4
Sid Brown - 3
Riker's Island - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

SpinTunes #7 Round 2 Review: Dr. Lindyke

We knew when we gave out this challenge that it was going to be broadly interpreted, and that's OK. Going through a tunnel, a break-up, even a wormhole were all anticipated. Everyone was also really good about their through-composition, so I'm see anything in any of the entries that would warrant talk of disqualification. It looks like you all "came through". GREAT!

A word or two on through-composition. You may know that there are several definitions, and we picked one for clarity. Our definition was that the song be "without repetitions of any major sections". Notice that this does NOT preclude repetition inside a stanza, echoed lines, or call-and-response, so your old faithful rhyme schemes and structures would have been safe. A lot of you adopted caution, though, changing things up inside of the verses. There's nothing wrong with that.

There are a number of ways to attack even that one narrow definition. For instance, you can do as many of you did and make each verse a little "mini-song", changing styles throughout. This technique is used prominently in Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (our example). But there are other ways to go about it. One is to ramble, and just sort of meander through one long chord progression (which works pretty well if you keep it very short). Another is to use the same chord progressions and apply multiple tunes, variations, and/or rhythms to it. Another is to put the themes into various modes. By far, my favored technique is to take the listener on a trip, telling the story so that it's not obvious that they're listening to a through-composition. This involves switching up the melody without changing style so that it sounds like one continuous piece, constantly evolving.

Story? Oh, yeah... this challenge really begs for a story song and not just a mood piece. It's that verb "going" in the challenge. When you're going through something it's really best to indicate movement... you need to indicate the journey.

So as I listened, I was looking for songs that did these things well... good transitions, continuity, a sense of progression or movement, and some bonus points if you could surprise me as well. We anticipated a lot, so if you came up with something unanticipated, or just had a really good take on your topic, that meant a lot to me. And, of course, we factor in some personal preference.

I apologize in advance to those who rank lower than you should. I wanted to rank them ALL higher than I could, but it's one slot, one song. This is an effort that no one failed. Oh, and if I write a lot, it's because you wrote a really interesting piece that I listened to a lot, and found a lot to comment on.

The Reviews:

RC - A Marriage in Seven Parts (6:59)
Challenge: Met.
There's a breakup in there, but this is really a lot broader than that.. This is an entire relationship. The sense of motion, some growth, resolution, character development are all well-developed. The sense of "through-ness" is pervasive and strong.
Doesn't sound rambling at all. Great transitions that all make perfect narrative sense, as they all occur at life-changing events. Easy to listen to, and it leads you on, seeming much shorter than its 7 minute length.  I was critical last time of over-production, but I like this one. Simple and sincere.
My top pick.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Bloodstream (3:52)
Challenge: Met.
Drugs going through the singer's bloodstream is arguably one of the most creative takes on this challenge. Not only is it literal, but it provides the opportunity to attack the figurative challenge of the experience.
What happened, guys... this is great! The early 70's psychedelic vibe. A nice change from "BYD Mode" and that weird plunky piano from last round! Something I'd casually listen to by choice. Guys, this is the best BYD song I've ever heard. Allan should take another hit of whatever that was.

Ominous Ride - 2 minute Meltdown (2:06)
Challenge: Met.
Going through an anxiety attack. Like RC's song, this is is about an experience and not literal motion. Whereas that one is sweeping in scope, this one is about a single incident. Nevertheless we get through it and out the other side, to sleep.
Good transitions that sound like the same song. At 2:06, the song doesn't overstay its welcome and doesn't descend into rambling. Plus, I like your ominous sound... especially the toms. Now that I've ranked these I see that the entire top picks are dominated by 70's retro-sounds.

Steve Durand - Airport Rag (2:36)
The first of two songs about going through the TSA checkpoint at the airport.
I'd say this isn't a rag all the way through, but what the hey. This begs for someone to do an accompanying animation, and Matt Schubbe should do the character design (just sayin'). Funny lyrics. Great work on the orchestration.

Blimp Exhaust - Goodbye (5:32)
This is one of many breakup songs, but it's a really good one.
Not only are the style transitions good, and sometimes occur inside a verse but they're fluid, so this sounds like a single piece. I like.

Riker's Island - Hell-A-X (4:21)
Challenge: Met.
The second TSA checkpoint song.
Again the 70's sound. Sounds like one continuous piece. It's a little rambling, but no more so than your usual style. I like that it doesn't feel forced into the challenge. Nicely done.

Edric Haleen - Possibilities (3:53)
Challenge: Met
Ok, folks, you'll have to get inside my head for this one. In asking for a song "about going through something" rather than "in which you go through something", we may have inadvertently asked for a meta song. Here Edric writes a song about going through this challenge, in which he meets the meta criterion as well
For almost anyone else I'd say it was the last resort of the victim of writer's block, but I know that feigned writer's block is exactly what you're going for, and not a cover for real writer's block, which makes it clever. Edric, I pretty much knew that this challenge was going to be "Hey, Edric, you don't get a challenge this round. Just do what you always do," and not much of a stretch. It was nice to see you take the "something" from the challenge and use it so much in the song itself... and in the process, predict most of the "somethings" presented in this round.
    I'm NOT jealous of your mad performance 'skillz' on the piano. I know my limitations and I'm quite content to bow in your greatness.

(I want Edric to write the Mr. Rogers musical. I would buy tickets.)

TurboShandy - Generic Relationship Song (3:22)
Challenge: Met
A generic relationship song. Yup... a breakup.
TurboShandy goes the "mini-songs" route, with 6 clearly delineated themes with not a whole lot of reasons for the transitions except for the challenge. I get the feeling that -- purely as a song and not a contest entry -- this would greatly benefit from NOT being shoe-horned into this challenge. However, the performance is extremely well done and crisp. If it were bacon it would be delicious.

Menage-A-Tune - Transition (5:01)
Challenge: Met
Here's one interpretation I did not anticipate... coming through the birth canal!
Very strong intro. The transitions are pretty abrupt. I think it would have benefited by processing JoAnn's voice similar to Ted's, as is done in the last verse. I understand that the characters are not in the same physical space, but that doesn't matter, as your voices and styles are enough to give the impression I think you're going for. (Don't worry about realism: if memory serves, real wombs aren't cavernous and echoey.) Also, the initial tempo change...  Hmmm... The rhythm in just about any rock song represents a heartbeat. I'm not sure it wouldn't have served your purpose better if mother and son shared that rhythm, strengthening their connection. The mother is strangely disconnected here... it's as if she's standing by at a surrogate birth. I'm not suggesting you should be practicing Lamaze, but there are ways to get that across musically. It meshes much better and stronger in the resolution when you're together. Very creative and well-produced entry!

Mariah Mercedes - Breach (2:40)
Challenge: Met
Another breakup.
The vocals in the bridge are so processed that I have no idea what you're saying. It may very well be that they don't mean anything, as they're not on the lyrics sheet, but mystery lyrics vex me. They make me concentrate in vain.
This goes the mini-songs route, but with good transitions throughout. This is one of the most moody of the pieces, offering an emotional point-in-time without a lot of development.

Governing Dynamics - Synesthesia (3:30)
Challenge: Met
I'm calling this met in the sense that "to go through" can mean "to experience". There's not really a sense of having gone from one state to another here. The title says Synesthesia, and the lyrics describe that all right, but I get the impression that the singer is going through a severe bout of depression.
Now that I've ranked these and I see where this one falls, I feel like a bit of a dick, having ranked you low for missing the last challenge, and doing the same for meeting this one somewhat weakly (which may purely be my interpretation of it, so here's hoping the other judges pull you out). I love the guitar work but the song is downright gloomy. If my straight-razor weren't in another room I hate to think what might have happened. Rambling and unconventional sentence breaks makes it hard to follow. There is not a thing wrong with sucking the joy out of the listener, if that's your goal. (I don't mean that ironically. Not all art is pleasant.)

Sid Brown - Wormhole to Hell (3:02)
Challenge: Met
It's the wormhole!
Some of the lyrics are unintelligible, but that doesn't matter, because there's really not much story here. It's mostly a reason to rock out to a pretty fun beat. If this were a battle of the bands, this entry would score a lot better than it does here, so don't take my ranking as an indication of lack of enjoyment. It's just that performance and production are gravy when applied to a great song. What we have here is a boatload of gravy on not much lyrical meat. Imagine this were not a wormhole to Hell, but a door. You don't know what's on the other side. Could be Hell. Could be Jay on a donkey. The verses should really sell the idea of Hell, and I don't think it does. But the music does communicate the idea of "going through" the wormhole, and at the end of the day that's all we really asked for.

Emperor Gum - Halcyon (5:20)
Challenge: Met. harumph.
Here, Ceyx dies and Alcyone goes through separation anxiety.
I'm going to talk about production first and get it out of the way. This is pretty obviously pitched too low for Niveous, leaving him nowhere to go on the bottom. The orchestration is VERY good. However, I strongly recommend downloading some good orchestral SoundFonts and something that can use them to convert your MIDI to WAV for mixing. You will be amazed at how much better this will sound.
    Now... the composition. It's a very ambitious, high concept piece based on an ancient Greek myth. Pinning your story on an archaic myth is hella brave, and great when it works; but it's risky. The problem with high concept is that it often hinges on the execution. It also hinges quite a bit on the audience being familiar enough with the story to "get into it". It's almost the end of the piece before I knew who these characters are, and then only suspected them because kingfishers are mentioned, as the pronunciation threw me off. So I read the lyrics and found the names printed. The seed of confusion is sown when the pet name "Alcy" is rhymed with "I'll see"... twice... in the second stanza. It never recovers. Alcyone confuses things further with mention of the North Sea (grrr.. "based on", Dave). Anyway... Alcyone gives us about six stanzas of "goodbye". Some of the time spent there would have been a really great place to show us the storm. I don't get a great feeling of going through something here. I know it's in the story... when I was in Journalism we'd've said you buried your lede. Here, Ceyx never gets through the storm: he dies. You subvert the visit from Morpheus, so Alcyone gets no closure and never gets through her loneliness and grief. You've subverted the transformation, leaving Alcyone alone to wish with Dream-Ceyx. I get the feeling that you both want to and don't want to tell the story. My advice: choose a side. Either break with the myth, or just bite the bullet and tell it. There's a little bit of Yoda-speech in here, but not as egregious as before. But there are pronunciation problems. Here's a guide:
Halcyon = "HAL-see-yon"
Alcyone = "Al-SIGH-on-knee"
Ceyx = "SEE-ix" or "SIX"

OMG, I'm the Grammar Nazi. Now I really feel like a dick. (reaches for a can of Derp cola)

SpinTunes #7 Round 2 Review: Ross Durand

First of all, let me say that I did not get the time this week to have studied these songs as closely as I would have liked, so the reviews are a bit rough and I suppose there are things I may have caught on repeated listening. Even so, I am pretty sure these are the rankings I would have arrived at either way. I hope my rush did not end up giving anyone short shrift.
I rewarded through composition pretty heavily, and did ding things that seemed to me to include repetition that went outside how I feel about through composition. For those that were clearly through composed, I favor the ones with transitions that felt smoother, rather than those with broad stylistic changes. It seemed to me that everyone fit the content challenge, although I admit I am still needing to dig into Governing dynamic’s lyrics.
Anyway, tough challenge, pretty well done by everyone, and I like the variety of topics the content challenge led to - it was a fun listen.
Here are my brief and unrefined reviews.
Blimp Exhaust - Goodbye
Some super interesting stuff right off the bat, neat transitions. Fun Changes. excellent variety all stylistically consistent.
Turboshandy - Generic Relationship
Suite approach - classic relationship song, makes me think a little of “fell in love with a drummer” by Wilco. This is really good. challenge clearly met in multiple ways. The way the styles change with the emotional journey is really well done. (ooh, I wish you hadn’t meta-songed it at the end)
Ominous Ride - 2 Minute Meltdown
I really like how smoothly this transitions from section to section. The change from the beginning to the electric section is very effective.
Steve Durand - Airport Rag
Cute idea - I admit that I am partial to the kind of through composition with the least idiomatic change. This starts out excellently. I feel like it loses some momentum at the waltz part and the way the words lie didn’t really keep me on the story throughout. Clever ending. Challenge met, although the guy doesn’t quite go through the airport, just into :-) (not really holding that against you).
Menage a Tune - Transition
The very adult POV makes the beginning work great. I like the way you go back and forth between the two points of view. Another one with some fairly large section changes, a la suite. Some fun layering in the middle. It goes a bit long. Challenges met. 
RC - A Marriage In Seven Parts
A lot of really good things here, I think the song flows pretty well, but the tunes are not engaging me much, and it seems a bit matter-of-fact. More poetry, maybe? Too long for what it is, probably. Some really good stuff in here various places. There are spots that remind me of Kevin Gilbert’s acoustic stuff in a good way. He is a bit obscure, but worth a shout-out if you’ll check him out.
Edric Haleen  - Possibilites
Wow - I really don’t like Meta-songs. So bias alert.  The sound of a recap at 2:00 works against you for me in terms of through composition, although I note that you do take off from there. The “umm” “ahh” stuff is kinda weird. I guess this is about trying to write a song - going through the creative process? This is a cute idea, but there are a lot of negative buttons pushed for me, and in the end it felt to me like it ended up being about nothing, sort of. This is hard for me to rank, because I think you accomplished what you set out to do, and yet, as I say above, there were just several things that my sensibilities didn’t dig - can’t argue the quality, though. I hope you don’t get cut, this just wasn’t the song for me.
Governing Dynamics - Synesthesia
This starts out so slow. Having a hard time getting really engaged in it. It’s an interesting sound, but it just sounds wander-ey, to me. You sound like you mean it, but I am not sure exactly what you mean, here. What are you going through? Some great fun word play and imagery related to your title, though. Overall I thought the song sounded like a peanut butter sandwich ;-)
Mariah Mercedes - Breach
This takes a really long time to develop to me. It seems to be much about sound - and the other song content seems to have to compete to get through. Interesting idea, though.
Emperor Gum - Halcyon
Not much happening in the first minute. Is this the Odyssey? I can’t help but shake the feeling that it just develops too slowly. Ambitious, but not engaging to me. Might have been a good entry for the rock opera round last year.
Sid Brown - Wormhole To Hell
Going through a wormhole - nice idea. I do find myself wishing your singing had the same intensity as the rest of the track. You repeat the chorus, I am taking some points for that. The instrumental at 2:24 seems a repeat of previous content. This is just not through composed enough for me. But I like the song content.
Rikers Island - Hell-A-X
Lots of repeated changes right after the suspicious package part. I like the way the arrangement changes. Interestingly thematically similar to Steve Durand’s entry. This does not meet my through composed meter. Especially with the repeated “wish that I could fly away” bits.
Boffo Yux Dudes - Bloodstream
I have a very hard time hearing the words without the lyrics. Good transitions. Not sure I am locked into the content, but it does make the manic changes in the last part of the song work pretty well. The last part of this, starting at 3:00 or so gets too repetitive for the idea of through composed for me.

SpinTunes #7 Round 2 Review: Felix Frost

Can I just say I LOVED this round. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows me. I'm a diehard fan of through composed songs. So much so that I've never written a song that wasn't through composed. But this isn't about me. I just wish more songs would be as freaking awesome as all of the ones submitted this round. They're ambitious, they're moving, they're creative—they're all just fantastic and every one of you nailed it this round. That said, I did find a way to rank the songs and the ranking is as follows:
  1. TurboShandy
  2. Blimp Exhaust
  3. Edric Haleen
  4. Steve Durand
  5. Boffo Yux Dudes
  6. Menage a Tune
  7. Ominous Ride
  8. RC
  9. Emperor Gum
  10. Riker's Island
  11. Mariah Mercedes
  12. Sid Brown
  13. Governing Dynamics
Okay now for the reviews. I'm not proofreading this because I'm almost out of time to submit it. So if there are blatant typos and stuff that makes no sense, I apologize in advance.
This song is beyond outstanding. No contest: the best song on the album and one of the best through composed songs I've heard in a long time or ever. Seriously. You guys were holding back in round one. Where did this brilliance come from!?
This song moves from punk to a kind of swing rock to metal to folk all in three minutes. This is what song mastery sounds like. I wish every song had this structure and this energy and this level of complexity. Honestly, this song blew me away. I'm convinced everyone performing on this song is a professional. And I just read your bio that says it's a one man project!? Sheesh. Mad props.
The transitions in this song are flawless. They're seamless, they're surprising (which they should be because repetition is a stupid convention where we feel comfortable in the predictability of a constantly showing-up chorus), and they're exciting. At every turn of this song I get goosebumps like I found a new piece of candy to enjoy that I haven't had yet before in my life. And I haven't even gotten to how excellent the melodies and instrumentation are on this song. I don't know how you nailed the heavy metal part so well, especially, but you nailed it.
If I don't see this song at the top of the album at the end of this round it's criminal. I can't imagine any other judges disagreeing with me on any of this, but you never know. I'd buy this song. For reals. Okay, I'm done gushing. Keep up the good work, Turbo. Masterpiece.
Oh and keep writing through-composed songs. Seriously. Music (in general) needs more songs like this. DESPERATELY. 
Ominous Ride
If you haven't heard Olivia Tremor Control before, listen to them. Because it's blowing my mind how similar you sound to them. And again, that's a big compliment. This song is beautiful and mysterious. The lyrics are chilling and artistic.
I love the intro and the filter you put it through (or whatever effect it was). The contrast of that high treble tinny intro to the heavy ferocity of the second half is just amazing. This is probably one of the more skillfully crafted through-composed songs on the album. You move through the song like you weren't even trying to have distinct un-repetitive sections. The song just moved from one part to the next naturally. Excellent.
And the heaviness of the drum and guitar in the second half is very satisfying. My only regret is that the intro feels lo-fi compared to the second part. I know I just said I liked the intro and the contrast, and I do, but it sort of makes you wish you could get a higher quality version of the intro on second listens. Like, okay, I've heard the tinny effect, now I want to hear it with a rich, deep bass sound. But it was an excellent artistic choice.
Mariah Mercedes
Another great submission. This song also moves from section to section very organically. The song seems to go through moods. The music shifts along with the tone of the lyrics and it really represents a journey. This is the beauty of through-composed music. The song becomes an experience rather than just a short chunk of pleasant music.
This is sort of a forgettable track compared to the others just because it's so low-key, toned down and quiet. The other epic, upbeat suites on the album sort of upstage quiet, tender pieces like this. Which is unfortunate—but it could have benefited with some more energy at times.
Blimp Exhaust
You didn't slack off in round two, and that's great. I love the sections in these songs. Particularly the part that starts around 1:30 sounds like the progressive rock mastery of a musical genius. It's hard to make such wandering melodies and such bold chord changes sound as good as this. I also really admire that you messed with the tempo a lot. Some parts had strong, pulsing drums, and others (like near the end) were slowed down and emotional. That's how you write a good song. Change up the pace, leave the listener wanting to start the track over to hear that one part again that he or she liked so much. You even mixed up the time signatures. Fantastic. You earned another safe place at the top of my list.
Edric Haleen
I knew you were talented before, but I didn't know you were THIS talented. I watched your video submission before I listened to any other songs and I couldn't believe you did the whole thing in one take AND submitted THAT recording as your actual audio file. How long did it take you to write this!? I get (and love) that the recording was made to look like you were coming up with the song on the spot, but you have me pretty convinced that you actually did improvise it on the spot. Please tell me if you did. Because if so, I give up on music entirely. Hahaha.
Okay, but seriously. Aside from the incredible piano and vocal talent, the song is excellent. It's lively, catchy and funny and inventive. And I love the Weird Al reference. I love Trapped in the Drive Thru. I've listened to it far too many times for a song that's, like, twelve minutes long.
But anyway, my only criticism is that the theme of the song is a little lacking. I don't think you should be docked any points for writing about writing about a song about going through something, but it does walk the line a bit in terms of the challenge. You could say the song is about going through the process of writing the song, which I'm sure you probably intended, so it's in the clear. But still, I would have preferred an actual solid narrative of going through any one of those things you mentioned. That added with the piano excellence and vocal strength would have made for an amazing song. But it's amazing as it is, so no regrets!
Airport Rag
The horn arrangements on this song are very intimidating. I can't believe somebody would put so much effort into composing complex instrumentation for a ten day song writing challenge. Do you write out the notes and then play them after the fact? Or is it all sort of done spontaneously? I used to play trumpet so I know how much work can go into polishing a good horn arrangement and then a good performance and then a good recording! And that's only one instrument.
But we already knew Steve Durand was good at this so I won't marvel too much at the technical skill. The song itself is fantastic. It doesn't even have the distinct movements that other through-composed songs have. The arrangement just moves onward and upward without repeating, no hard edged sections to be found. I actually like big shifts in style and tempo, but there's something to be said about a musician who can write through-composed music that doesn't sound through-composed. Sometimes I think you write on a much higher level than the rest of us—or at least higher than me.
Again the recording is a little weak and muffled, and the vocals can be clumsy at times. But that doesn't bring down the quality of the song enough to make a difference.
Sid Brown
A good song with a strong beat and tasty guitar, but it barely qualifies as through-composed. The second half is different from the first I guess, but it's dangerously similar. The tempo and drum part are close to identical and much of the vocal melody is the same. The notes and everything might technically not be a loop of the beginning, but the whole song very much feels like the same musical thread.
But I'm not going to disqualify you or anything. It's still a great rock song, and one of the better recorded tracks on this album. Going through a wormhole was a great idea and you dealt with it in a way that wasn't stupid or corny. I think you ended up with a fantastic stand alone track that you won't forever need to clarify as a “song written for a song writing contest.”
Emperor Gum
I love the story of this song. This is the kind of narrative I love to sink my teeth into, particularly with a through-composed song. This type of music really lends itself to epic sagas and multiple characters. You guys handled those shifts with ease, and having guest singers was an excellent choice.
I really like when the tempo picks up around 1:40. Denise does a great job at this point taking on the motion of the song. All the vocals before that point, Niveous included, were a little aimless and out of tune at times. I guess it helps to have a steady beat underneath the music to keep all the parts fastened together.
Again, the background instrumentation is surprisingly complex—like Guardian was—and it leaves me wondering how you put it together. I'm imagining an all-purpose keyboard with orchestral parts and all. You mix and integrate all the parts so well. Arrangements like this beg for stronger vocal parts and more polished production quality. The background music needs to be louder I think and come in more clearly, to make for a really powerful orchestral suite. I think with some minor tweaking, your songs could blow some minds.
Menage a Tune
Whoever's on piano on this track is amazing. That shift at “Don't go away” is chillingly good. I can't think of a more perfect way to guide the listener to the next section. It was both unpredictable and totally natural at the same time. The two vocalists complimented each other very well, but the female vocal in the fourth section is mixed much louder than the other three parts—which is a quick fix.
This is a really ambitious piece that feels like it could be in an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical. It has that grand, classical feel with a beautiful story that features two characters meeting up at the end to sing in unison—it's perfect. There's something about this track that still feels forced an awkward but I'm not sure what. It might just be the weird variation in vocal volume. I also think some of the backing instruments could be louder. Especially the more complicated arrangements, like the piano and the synthesized orchestra. That would be putting your best food forward, as it were.
You did not slack off on this track whatsoever. Seven parts is more than I ever would have asked for. But you can't have too many, that's what I say. If the song doesn't repeat, I don't care if it goes on for twenty minutes. Who would? You're getting new material every minute or so, so you never get bored!
And that's true of this track. It never leaves you bored. There's so much to enjoy here. The music never stays in one place for too long, and every single section could be fleshed out into its own catchy, memorable song. But you played the win all the way and stitched them all together into a masterwork. And that's all with only a guitar, am I right? Or at least mostly guitars. And while I do think you managed to keep the song fresh again and again while keeping the same basic sound, I also think that could be a criticism of this song. By the sixth and seventh section of the song you're sort of tired of that same rambly guitar sound. If things are getting changed up I'd like some drums and organs or something else to please my senses with a surprise or two. I wouldn't say this if you hadn't included other instruments in past tracks. But I guess you only had a little over a week to put together a super complicated composition, so I shouldn't be expecting anything more out of you. I don't think any other submissions had as many “movements,” as it were, as you did. So extra points for going for gold!
Governing Dynamics
This is a great song but I was just dying to hear it pick up. I was craving for it to turn into something mean and thumping like your last submission. But after three whole minutes nothing really happened. It stayed a sleepy ballad-esque piece, which is fine I guess. But with through-composed songs, you just want things to be changed up. You kind of expect that if one part bores you, the next part will make you want to dance. I said this about Sid Brown's song—it may have technically been through-composed but it left me disappointed because the whole track felt like much of the same thing. Other judges like Dr. Lindyke may say that's what makes a good song, because it has a unified sound—but I disagree. This is my favorite song structure and I strongly submit that there should be surprises and sharp left turns.
Even so, this is a terrific track and I only ranked it so low because so many of the others were so exciting and colorful.
Boffo Yux Dudes
I think you guys have found your niche. Through-composed songs should be your specialty. This song is absolutely amazing. Some of your past submissions have maybe been guilty of overplaying the same concept or musical sound until the listener is tired of it. But this one just keeps changing it up, and each section is more interesting than the last.
I feel like this should have taken months to put together, but you did it in only a few days. That opening guitar riff does a great job of setting a dark and almost western mood. I'm kind of sad that it drops out after only a few bars. But so many other vivid sounds come in later in that I don't miss it for long. The drum hits in the second section starting with “It hits my bloodstream” are amazing. I love that you didn't just put snare hits on every quarter note. Very old-time They Might Be Giants.
And then the shift to a quicker tempo at the middle is another delicious moment. It leaves me wanting more—but I don't get it again until I start the track over. That's what a song should do, leave you wanting to hear it again and again. And that final section, the slowed down tender folk part—a brilliant way to end a song. This is now my favorite Yux Dudes track—trumping the Bubble Plastic Man. Oh, and was that a self-reference in the middle section of this song? Clear melon plastic man? Well played. 
Riker's Island
This sounds very little like your last submission, which surprised me a bit—but in a good way. I guess it has that same stripped down, earthy feel to it that made the last track work so well. But it's definitely its own color.
I feel like you should have stuck with that acoustic feel, because when the drums and electric guitar come in, things get a lot clunkier. Electric guitars either need to be really loud and noisy or not there at all. The sound this one contributes is this sort of faint, groany fuzz that only provides for irritating background noise. Whatever it was playing could probably be better translated as acoustic, because that really worked for the first half. That's kind of contradictory to what I told RC, because I realize you wanted to change up the songs sound and feel at the halfway point—and you succeeded—but I just don't know that the second half's instrumentation worked very well.
Great vocal performance and melody, though. I can tell everything here is played by a talented musician. Did I say that to you last time? If I did I apologize, but it's always the first thing I think of when I hear your songs.

SpinTunes #7 Round 2 Review: T.C. Elliott

After a discussion about hearing the song through the mix,arrangement and performance I tried not to focus on production as much this week. But I'll be honest, it did effect my scoring, probably more than I would have liked.  This week was even harder to judge than last week which wasn't easy. This is definitely a strong group of songs. From top to bottom and throughout the creativity and songwriting skill was apparent.
Generic Relationship Song - Turboshandy
-The first time I listened to this (outside the LP) I thought the sections were a tad disjointed, but after sitting with it a bit, I think this is working really well. I like the guitars, I like the melodies, I like the story.  I think the musical sections did a pretty good job of relating the lyric. Nearly every section could be expanded into a song of its own, I think, but works really well here. It might be the pop-punk feeling I get from it, but I really like this song.
2 Minute Meltdown - Ominous Ride
-That very first section was fine, but I think it would work better for me, if the guitars were less spacey and the distant effect was primarily on the vox. It's a minor issue at worst but is made more obvious by the very good second section. The other issue with the first section is that the fourth line kind of ran into the fifth line. There are two separate thoughts that kind of get confused. Again another minor point. The second section is my favorite, I like the tyrants image and the music. The third is good but not quite as powerful as the first. The ending was too abrupt the first time I listened but I think part of that was the next song starting so quickly after it. Listening in isolation it really worked and fed the meaning of the lyric. I like this one.
Breach - Mariah Mercedes
-Have I mentioned I really like your vox, Mariah? Well, I do. I like the angle you took with this song. It almost feels like it didn't get the time it needed, but after a listen or two it works pretty well. I like the end of the second section with the overlapping vox and you did a very good job with the transition into the third section which I think you sang very well. Even though that final chord does give a sense of finality, I think I'd like the song better just omitting it and letting the acoustic trail off.  But overall this is a good song and I like it.
Goodbye - Blimp Exhaust
-I like your guitars almost every time. And this is no exception.  I like your phrasing and the transitions were top notch. The melodies are cool. The first time I heard the detuned guitar near the end I was cringing just a bit, but the more I listen the more it works for me. It fits pretty damn well.  The more I listen the more I like this one.
Possibilities - Edric Haleen
-This is probably the most fun song of the bunch. I like your angle, I think you executed it very well. I'm not a big fan of songs drawing attention to themselves, but that's the whole premise of this one. So it feels just a bit uneasy to me in an abstract way, but man I cannot deny the creativity and the execution were both top notch. Again your lyrics are a strong point. And as a side point, I like your vocals. They sound like they'd fit right into a Disney movie, it has that much character in it. I like this song.
Airport Rag - Steve Durand
-You set up a couple of perfect rhymes and then go with a non-rhyme and then a few couplets letter an off rhyme. I like off or near rhymes, I think they are very creative, or at least can be. However, if you set me up for stable couplets and then give me non rhymes I begin to feel uneasy. I do like the waltz section, the transition works well and it's a nicely played move.  I like that... clarinet? sound pretty well.  I'll say the rhyme pattern in the last section is slightly more complex and well done. And before you ask, no I do not have any idea why the rhymes of your song stands out so strongly to me.  Overall I like your idea for this song, but it just didn't grab me (as much as some other songs), especially on multiple listens.
Wormhole to hell - Sid Brown
-I like the guitars. I like the lyric except for one line: "It's here from the demons of my world I'll hide" I had to re-read it to get it. I don't have enough spare brain power to be deciphering things like that. Yeah, it ain't THAT bad, but still....  The transitions worked pretty well for me, the rest of the lyric was decent, your angle seemed unique compared to the others (although Edric had a wormhole, too) and overall it was pretty good. Of course you're one in a group of pretty damn good songs, so....  I liked this song.
Halcyon - Emperor Gum
-I liked the tone and attitude in the beginning vocal. And I like the guest spots. I like the strings, too.
The first transition to the piano was a little rougher (not bad, just noticeable) than the last one which was pretty seamless. Another cool angle to write a song about. It's an interesting story that kept my attention and I do like a good duet, not a song that *could* be sung by two people, but a real song written for two people.  I like this song.
Transition - Menage a Tune
-Another duet, another interesting take or angle. The second section is my favorite, but the next part lost me. I do like the lyric and the concept quite a bit. Ultimately this one failed to keep my attention as well as some of the others even though I admire the story here more than some.
Marriage in Seven Parts - RC
- I like the guitars, but to me the vocal doubling seems to similar to the guitars except where the harmony really carries it.  The transition from engagement to yesterday was just a touch rougher than I would have liked (and yes I'm nitpicking a little bit.) The third section didn't work for me lyrically. You still lover her but you only see her because she's still there? Each section is very good musically but I did notice the transitions in general. The drifting section is pretty darn good lyrically and musically and as a whole, though.  The Faithless section is a bit redundant, though *evil grin*.  That's a lot of faithlesses.  The last section is pretty hopeful considering the story .  I will say that being guitar/vox this is a pretty darn full sound and it was literally a listen or two in before I began to miss a more full arrangement. It definitely stands as is. I like this song.
Synesthesia - Governing Dynamics
-I like the guitar, the tone and playing. The melodies are good here especially the "your laughter" section, it's a high point vocally/melodically.  This holds together pretty darn well. I think choosing to go GnG was a bonus on this, it shows off your  song pretty well. I think this song gets stronger as it goes.  I like this song.
Bloodstream - Boffo Yux Dudes
-I was really digging it until the "Cool clear melon" section which kind of brought me out of it. On multiple listens I'm starting to get it. Especially when the harmony vox comes in. It works better the more I listen. It didn't grab me as much at first as it does now. In fact I'm starting to appreciate that last section more and more.
Hell-A-X   - Riker's Island
-I find it odd that your vacation song got diverted into a rant on anti-liberty forces of totalitarian forces even though I agree with the message totally. I like your melodies and that guitar when it kicks in is welcomed and I appreciate it nicely. I have to admit until I took a look at the lyric I didn't really "get" the song. Now it's growing on me as I listen.
 1. Generic Relationship Song - TurboShandy
 2. Goodbye - Blimp Exhaust
 3. Possibilities - Edric Haleen
 4. Breach - Mariah Mercedes
 5. 2 Minute Meltdown - Ominous Ride
 6. Wormhole to Hell - Sid Brown
 7. A Marriage In Seven Parts - RC
 8. Hell-A-X - Riker's Island
 9. Synesthesia - Governing Dynamics
10. Halcyon - Emporer Gum
11. Bloodstream - Boffo Yux Dudes
12. Transition - Menage a Tune
13. Airport Rag - Steve Durand

SpinTunes #7 Round 2 Review: Brian Gray

As I’ve learned in the course of time served as contestant reading reviews, this is the part where I’m supposed to say how difficult it was to make decisions because you’re all so close. The things is, this round that really was true. I didn’t think there were any particular songs that stood head and shoulders above the others, and likely because of the nature of the challenge none got stuck in my head. I say this because I’m judging on a linear system where on any given axis my favorite song gets a 13 and my least favorite gets a 1. But my favorite, let’s say lyrics, are not by any means 13 times as good my least favorite. So whereas my final rankings mean something with respect order, the numerical differences mean much much less.

So let us review. I’m judging the big picture (narrative, characterization, concept, emotion) as 40% of your score, lyrics 30%, and music 30%. Each scalar goes from 13 to 1 in reverse order of ranking. Your final score is the weighted average of those three values. In addition, I reviewed performance and production as non-scoring aspects. You put in the work, you deserve all the feedback you can get. One thing that bugs me as a contestant is when I score low but the review only says positive things. So if you wonder why you scored low, feel free to ask. The answer may very well be “there was nothing wrong, but also nothing spectacular and others had spectacular parts that beat you out”. Or maybe I need to dig deeper and give you the advice you deserve.

It occurred to me midway through judging the music and moaning about how it’s different through the whole piece and it’s too hard to judge, that you all had an even worse time writing all new music over the whole song. I then felt much better knowing how much you suffered.

As a final note, two songs earned a numerical tie in my system. To make matters worse, the tie occurred between the 10th and 11th place songs, a.k.a. the cutoff for making it to the next round. As a tie breaker, I simply threw away all the analysis, listened again, and chose the song I liked better. Purely subjective, and if production or performance made a difference, then it made a difference. Since I’m not the only judge, I figure the odds of this decision being the deciding factor is still just about equal to my ranking of any other two songs relative to each other.

But I’ve rambled enough. The rankings:

  1. Governing Dynamics - Synesthesia (11.8)
    1. The Big Picture (13): I really like the concept. The relation of experiences to color is evocative. It seems vague on the narrative, which works here, allowing the listener to imagine their own events. I’m seeing a breakup. The dormitory evokes either a college or maybe a mental hospital because of the pill later on. Driving away after hearing the news, taking some mood-altering medicine to mute the “colors”. But I imagine others will take other things away from this and visualize a different scenario. I’d be interested in reading a bio of this.
    2. Lyrics (12): The concept suggests some interesting lyrical patterns, and you deliver. Sounds echoing with color, light that has taste of yet a third sense. I feel a contrast between moods triggered by muted colors (grey, brown, black & white) and the punctuated reality forced into consciousness by the ring of a telephone or the road disappearing behind you. All very good.
    3. Music (10): Typically in a 3:30 song I’d question starting out with a 0:40 instrumental, but I have no basis for complaint here. It’s beautiful and haunting, and it sets the mood perfectly. I’m questioning some of your melodic decisions. The jump to “red” to end the first stanza. I get how it fits the new chord, but make that a minor 7th and you can have the melody go up only a whole step while still surprising the listener (IMO a half step up would be most expected, and that’s exactly what you do later with “stairs”). Nice transitions between sections, and a very subtle energy boost in the 4th section, with combined crescendo and a slight ritardando.
    4. Performance/Production: The simple production works well with the haunting atmospheric guitar. There were times I wish you had transposed down just a bit to allow your voice to work in a more comfortable range.
  2. Boffo Yux Dudes - Bloodstream (9.5)
    1. The Big Picture (11): A drug overdose, sure, but I’m picking up on -- or perhaps just fabricating -- something deeper than that. Is the narrator intending to die? Certain phrases like “get me through” and “I don’t think I’m coming home” could be hoping to live, but they could also be hoping to die. Even the drug leaving him alone could be a reference to how death is something we all do alone. I like the ambiguity here, even if it wasn’t intended.
    2. Lyrics (10): You paint a nice picture, even if as I noted above it might be a bit fuzzy. I have no issue with that. There are still what I perceive as frustrating timing issues, but they’re balanced out by the sheer enigmatic poetry of lines like “I know I was, but not because, I know today I must be”. Even the “la la la”s at the end seem to suggest something, either embracing what’s happening, simply coming to accept it, or even being distracted between thoughts by your state of mind as it happens.
    3. Music (7): The bold i-III-V powerfully accents the section where you actually take the drug. Then the tempo ratchets up to a hyper rush that one might expect from taking... something druggie. Then kicks down to low psychedelic gear. I don’t even care whether this sequence of experiences could come from the same drug, I enjoy the journey. I do wish you had found some creative ways to smooth out the transitions. Maybe not in launching into the hyper part, that should be abrupt, but other places. I don’t think it needed the last repeat. In fact, I could completely see storytelling value in cutting short the fourth “la la-la la-la” and suddenly ending the song.
    4. Performance/Production: Good clear recording and production. The instruments set the mood and match your composition. Maybe a more conversational tone from the singer? It’s very sing-y, and I wonder what it might sound like putting more energy into the storytelling, even at the expense of hitting the notes at the right time.
  3. Menage a Tune - Transition (9)
    1. The Big Picture (9): I was sure someone would use birth as the thing they’re going through (was sure it would be “Breach”). I imagined it as a purely first-person baby song though. The duet model works well, and allows for the sentiments to reinforce each other at times while also occasionally pulling against each other. I might have liked for the happy ending to be replaced with “what the fuck did you do?!? Put me the hell back or I’m going to wake up screaming every night at 3:00 until you do!” But that may just be me.
    2. Lyrics (5): I’m hearing some nice naive characterization with “I will never be alone”. Why would a baby ever doubt that? Some music/lyric mismatches, but much less of that than in the first round. Phrases like “just for this” and “and it is home. I like” blend the lyrics into the melody very well, whereas I’m still hearing sore-thumb phrasing as with “I forgive you” near the end.
    3. Music (13): Outstanding. I’m hearing a lot of what I like in the first round. Little things like being in a major key and hitting the V/vi, but it’s not. It resolves to the parallel major VI that becomes the new I. This challenge thrives on interesting transitions and you have them. Add in the weird melodic rhythms and you manage a very entertaining way to tell your story. You also have a nice way of hanging out waiting to resolve for a while before committing to it.
    4. Performance/Production: Nothing to complain about. Your voices blend well and the piano is balanced. A few recording artifacts that betray this as a song recorded at home in a week, but that’s to be expected.
  4. Mariah Mercedes - Breach (8.6)
    1. The Big Picture (8): Love the concept. 1st person duet with each singing to a 3rd person, and the subject matter definitely backs up the format. As performed the final section sounds like the woman’s POV (because of who’s singing), but as written it could easily have been the child.
    2. Lyrics (6): This may be just another example of my allowing my personal perspective to affect my opinion, but I don’t get “I know it’s not much different”. Be the singer of that line a parent or child, absolutely everything would be different, emotionally, logistically... unless maybe the parents got divorced but still lived together? Also, I’d like to see the missing, overlapping lyrics to the 3rd section. I’m having trouble picking them out. Other than that, good consistent near rhymes, good flow to the words.
    3. Music (12): This is the part that ties everything together. They key is lack of resolution, of perpetual suspension and key ambiguity. The mood of the song and lyrics, and even the style of production and singing indicate words that don’t convince the listener, like they’re platitudes that may or may not be believed, but even if they are they change nothing. The music reflects this and just hangs out and sets the atmosphere. Until the last section, where you settle into an ironic I-IV that sounds peaceful on the surface, but the words betray a continuing lack of confidence in anything. Kudos.
    4. Performance/Production: I like how the music almost seems to happen in a haze. It’s understandable, but just barely, as if the child is listening but the individual words don’t really matter after he or she gets what’s happening. Then the voice at the end cuts through and is put up front to emphasize the narration.
  5. Ominous Ride - 2 Minute Meltdown (8.5)
    1. The Big Picture (10): I don’t completely “get” all the imagery, but that doesn’t feel necessary. The song seems to wash over the listener with mostly depression, some paranoia, fatalism, even a touch of martyr complex. Very poetic, very self-destructive, and a scattered kind of narrative that I can believe comes from the mind of someone in the middle of a breakdown.
    2. Lyrics (13): Just plain excellent. Trouble waiting for you to wake it makes you the agent of your own downfall. “Some would rather not live, but...” sets up a lean into optimism, and then delivers only uncertainty. Evoking Hamlet’s existential “to be or not to be” speech with the slings and arrows. This feels very well crafted. Good job.
    3. Music (2): Three basic sections: I-IV, I-bVII-bVI, and I-iii-IV. The harmony leaves plenty of room for the melody to be the focus, and I don’t feel it really takes over and drives the emotion. Your lyrics are so good they deserve to be delivered by a melody that accompanies them through their rollercoaster, and that’s not happening to me.
    4. Performance/Production: The beginning sounds tinny, but in an uncanny valley kind of way. When you transition to the fuller mix it becomes obvious you were holding back the dynamic range at the beginning, but I think you want to take it further. Listeners these days can recognize the technique if you commit, and it sets up positive expectations. So I would pull back even more as the song starts out.
  6. Emperor Gum - Halcyon (8.4)
    1. The Big Picture (12): I’m glad you posted the bio, as the stages of grief went over my head. I found myself seeing a simple tragic love story and thinking your song was too long, that it needed tightening up (or fleshing out with Pseudo-Apollodorus’ account of their hubristic role in the outcome). Knowing about the grief process however helps me understand how this is even more of a “going through” story than just people enduring an event.
    2. Lyrics (9): A much stronger effort -- according to my own biases -- than last round. The rhymes come naturally or not at all. Sometimes they’re end rhymes (“to leave me here alone” flowed very well), sometimes internal (“you think I’d go?/Yes, I know”). I still feel there are places where an unnatural feel to the timing interrupts particularly slow sections. Those need to glide through emotion without calling attention to the work it took to deliver it. Oh yeah, and “I’ll see/Alcy” is quite clever. I didn’t get it during the listening party because I couldn’t see that they were homophones.
    3. Music (3): I think the music lets down the rest of the song. Now that I know about the stages of grief, I miss hearing them in the music. Take away the layered instrumentation and I hear a lack of musical contrast between emotions. Especially the anger part. It’s followed by “because the fear”, which is composed perfectly, but lacks punch and release because it’s not clearing out all the dissonance and muddiness from an angry section beforehand. This challenge really lent itself to a song like this which makes a journey through emotions, but it’s begging for the music to make the journey too.
    4. Performance/Production: Really nice. I can hear the MIDI as placeholders for real instruments, and I love how it’s put together. If you plan on continuing your work on this piece, you are really starting with your best foot forward.
  7. Riker’s Island - Hell-A-X (7.1)
    1. The Big Picture (5): Another airport security song, but adding in a political aspect on top of the inconvenience. Nice progression where the mood is very positive at the beginning but the fun is held up by TSA. Then at the end, he wants to “fly away”, both literally and in the sense of being free.
    2. Lyrics (8): A little hit or miss. I find I’m preferring when you allude to your meaning as with “turn your head and cough” and “3.5 ounce increments”, to the more direct exposition such as “my belt and my shoes first must be taken off”. To your credit, you have more of the former, such as “somewhere beautiful”. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, we get it, and the scene is set for the roadblocks you’re going to put up between the narrator and his vacation.
    3. Music (9): Nice transition from the light major first half to a second half that hangs on the minor i-III-IV for the rest of the song. It follows the thematic evolution well and transitions elegantly by staggering the chord and instrument changes.
    4. Performance/Production: Good performance, both vocals and instrument. The layering hinted at early in the song I might have liked to hear more of, though I understand why you decided to go sparse with the electric guitar until fully committing to it later.
  8. Edric Haleen - Possibilities (6.7)
    1. The Big Picture (4): This one is tough. I’ve been there: searching the web, reading through Wikipedia, scanning lists and my own memories for ideas, examples, etc. Things you go through. How can that be interpreted? So it rings true. That said, I think the pure volume of lists drags the song down. It shines when you focus on getting through the day and seeking employment because we get more into the “meat” of the song, so I think it would benefit from making some choices and some cuts.
    2. Lyrics (11): Once again your lyrics are right on point. When you want to rhyme you do it well, and when you want not to I don’t miss it. The “something”s work well (reminds me of when I once put “blah blah blah” in a song). If you’re ever hiring someone, by the way, do not ask about medical history or marital status; those are big no-nos. Whatever, I just don’t want any liver.
    3. Music (6): Repeating your first line at the end, with the same lyrics, melody, and harmony? You took a risk and I’m not ready to disqualify over a single line, but I don’t know how hard of a fight I’d have put up if others objected. Ignoring that, you met the challenge on melody, often repeating a I-iii-IV-V pattern to tie the sections together. I like your bass movement. It doesn’t follow the textbook emotional pattern of “up = positive, down = negative”, but I don’t even know who decided that was a thing. You almost have them reversed at the beginning, going up while uncertain, then down when coming up with ideas. Overall solid.
    4. Performance/Production: Accurate vocals, excellent piano work. I’d have put more wind/pop filtering in front of the mic since you had to record at a piano, and maybe de-essing in GarageBand.
  9. Blimp Exhaust - Goodbye (5)
    1. The Big Picture (2): The unreliable narrator who insists he’s fine while obviously lying has been done quite a bit, as has the up-front being alone and sad about it. But I do like the progression from the former to the latter, and how the feelings evolve from a place where memories are ignored because they hurt, to a picture kept because it may one day heal.
    2. Lyrics (3): I’m going to go with too on the nose. I wavered on this point, as it’s a pretty straightforward song and some blunt lyrics feel at place. However, I think it goes overboard and some more subtlety would feel appropriate.
    3. Music (11): Good variation. You have a knack for augmenting, diminishing, and otherwise muddying up your dominants such that resolutions happen almost unnoticed. I think the boldest part of your composition is the sudden keychange triggered by the melody hitting a note in the new key and right on the heels of a change in time signature. With all that going on, it all manages to work together.
    4. Performance/Production: You voice works with the song, and the instruments (and voice in parts) are beautifully distorted. It makes for a good, cohesive presentation.
  10. TurboShandy - Generic Relationship Song (4.9)
    1. The Big Picture (7): Good characterization, having the narrator express actions and feeling through the lens of music, meeting at a concert, talking about music, etc. It’s almost like he’s a real person. I thought the breakup was too literal, like you could have found a way to relate what happened without playing it out in straight exposition. Then again, maybe the bluntness was called for as it breaks the mood (and the music) while changing up the narrative. I get the feeling there’s an unspoken cynicism in the coupling of being dumped with the label “generic relationship song”, and I like the depth that adds.
    2. Lyrics (2): All in all, very solid. Even the “kinda” in “kinda funny feeling” just plain works even though you had to flip the syllable stresses. Not thrilled about the rhymes in the second-to-last block. “Rip my heart in two” sounds forced, and it’s followed up with “begun” in place of “began” just to make it rhyme. I also think you missed an opportunity to turn “relation-” into a third rhyme in a row and at the same time enhance the internal rhyme before ending with “song” to match “strong” and “long”.
    3. Music (5): Solid, and appropriate for the styles used. The periodic IV-I-V ties together the different movements without violating the rules (melody is different). Some times I thought your melody tended too much toward the I, even over a V when it’s at its weakest. Then when you resolve it’s not as satisfying.
    4. Performance/Production: Top notch. I’m listening on my big studio headphones that I don’t use for mixing because they misrepresent the bass (give it too much). But your song on these headphones is super powerful! From the punk style at the beginning to the metal at the end, it’s all energy, well played, and well sung.
  11. RC - A Marriage in Seven Parts (4.9)
    1. The Big Picture (1): This one isn’t really landing for me. It seems at the end what I’m supposed to take away is that it was a learning experience, and now the narrator is going to fix himself. But what exactly did he do that needs fixing for him to be a better man next time? He needs to be faithful, obviously. But that’s not enough, as he’s more fundamentally a person who gets bored with daily routine, gets brought down by responsibility, is impulsive. Those aren’t necessarily faults, unless you want to be in a committed relationship. This guy could be learning that he’s better on his own, or he could be learning that he needs to completely replace his personality for his next relationship. Or even that 2 weeks is not enough to make a decision like this. It would be nice to have some direction here.
    2. Lyrics (7): I think the lyrics are the best part of this song. They flow naturally for the most part, rhyme in some sections and go without in others, creating a contrast. Some bluntness where I might like to hear more subtlety. The “faithless” section got to be too much repetition for my tastes, going on for 30 seconds when we’re already 4 and a half minutes into the song. Such repetition might be more at home when you’re talking about the daily routine, rather than when it is (and you are) breaking up.
    3. Music (8): You keep it interesting, with those suspensions at the beginning, some less typical cadences like bVI-IV-I, and secondary dominants. The fourth section stands out for me (in a good way). I’d like to hear better transitions though. You seem to just smash cut from one thing to another without thinking about a more elegant way of getting there.
    4. Performance/Production: Good attention to the stereo spectrum. I really like how you keep the instruments left-right at the beginning and the vocals center and forward. This loses a bit of punch later when you double and spread out the vocals, but it does create some contrast between sections.
  12. Sid Brown - Wormhole to Hell (3.9)
    1. The Big Picture (6): On first listen I thought the story was probably too straightforward. You’re being chased, you take a risk going through the wormhole, and that’s it. Then I started noticing how no one’s come back. So how do you know where it goes? Are we actually talking about death? Is the protagonist “escaping” by killing himself in a black hole? Hell as a destination makes sense if he’s running from the law because he did something damnation-worthy. Am I overthinking it? Speaking of overthinking, I like your choice of speed. At roughly 1.5% of the speed of light, you’re in that range of super fast but possible, and you’d even be seeing some minor relativistic effects.
    2. Lyrics (4): You obviously did your research on black holes (or just know your stuff). Time dilation, spaghettification, and you work them in neatly. Some discomfort in lining up words with music, and I have a thing about lines like “It’s here from the demons of the world I’ll hide” where you munge the grammar just to end in a rhyme.
    3. Music (1): Hmm... another case of a single line from earlier in the song being repeated at the end. Like with Edric I won’t hold this against you, but I noticed. Overall the music was solid, if uneventful. It felt harmonically repetitive even though it did change up periodically because you were drawing from the same limited canvas of chords. There’s a reprieve with the i-bVII-bVI-bVII-V-i part after the title section, but it just doesn’t feel enough.
    4. Performance/Production: Very full production. Very balanced, and I enjoyed the effects where used. Very nice.
  13. Steve Durand - Airport Rag (2.7)
    1. The Big Picture (3): Obviously a song with near universal appeal. From having to wake up early to learning the flight has been delayed, the emotional toll that flying takes on a person is very well described. The way you describe it is rather impersonal and unemotional, but I can sort of feel the numb detachment I experience as I tell myself it will be over soon and just endure it.
    2. Lyrics (1): I’m picking up significant sloppiness with stress alignment. Especially when the lines are slower, they seem to stumble and feel awkward. I did like the delayed rhyming of list/terrorist:ID/spree, and I wish I felt like the entire song were thought out as well. It has potential to be very funny... I mean it was funny, but the lyrics distracted me and held the song back from what it could have been.
    3. Music (4): Decent representation of the rag style, down to the secondary dominants (especially V/vi). I might take issue with your choice of inversions and bass notes. Often it seems you have the opportunity for a strong resolution with, for example, the vi becoming a vi over v on its way down to iv. But then you skip down to a weaker bottom note that sucks the energy out of the bouncy oom-pah-pah you’ve set up.
    4. Performance/Production: I like the band instruments, they really compliment the style you’re going for. The vocals may be farther forward than I’d like, but then again this is an older style from a time when recording engineers did actually feature the vocals more than they do these days.