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Saturday, August 24, 2013

SpinTunes #7 Round 4 Review: Brian Gray

Ahh, how good it feels to know that my vote is extremely unlikely to matter at all. Because of this fortunate status, I changed some stuff up as regards my system. First, I ditched the points. I still gave feedback on each primary criterion as I did in the previous rounds, but when I started tallying everything up it was all too close. This was probably because you’re all the contestants who made it to the finals, and thus the quality was more consistent, plus the factor that each number only ranged from 1-4 so even worst-to-best only had a 3-point swing. Long story short, I ended up ranking the songs holistically this time. Secondly, I left out the part where I comment on your production and performance. The reason for this is I found myself saying the same general thing to everyone: I can tell you recorded this at home, solid performance, the vocals could be seated farther back in the mix, etc. All very good quality recordings, you gave me very little to pick apart.

  1. Ominous Ride - Waiting For Julietta
    1. The Big Picture: I really dig the mystery. Your narrator is utterly void of agency of any sort. Even when there is active voice, the whiskey or flirting are the actors. The only time your POV character “acts” is when he sits and waits. This blends well with the easy minor music that hints at some kind of resignation and surrender. I get a similar feeling to what I was trying for in Christine, from a rusted out car that can’t do anything but wait in the woods.
    2. Lyrics: Good instincts regarding where to rhyme and where not to. It makes the listener feel comfortable but occasionally just a little bit off balance. As far as the timing goes, some things could be cleaned up, like how “asked if I could take her away” feel crowded. “Asked if we could run away” would fit nicer and feel smoother to match the surrounding song. But mostly very smooth. The syllables stress where they should and flow conversationally.
    3. Music: This reminds me of a Beatles song that I can’t manage to place. I feel like it’s one of their early ones. Anyway, you do a very good job of matching music to lyrics given that my assessment of your mood is correct. If you mean to communicate frustration or anger or excitement… well then not so much. But I think I’m right, and that it’s good.
  2. Edric Haleen - Reality
    1. The Big Picture: Hmm, a carnival-themed song about living a life according to how other people say is the correct way to live it? Sounds pretty far-fetched :-P  I like the conceit, with the pitchman calling out the freaks for people to see. In all, I did get weary of the song by the end. I think focusing on one of the “attractions”, or -- likely more appropriate to your intent -- tightening up each section would have kept the song more engaging. Or go the other way… leaving it just as long or even longer but distinctly breaking the song up into separate movements with very different music (maybe even keys/instruments/voice). Almost like the through-composed song but periodically returning to the common theme of “and they honestly don’t understand...”.
    2. Lyrics: Am I picking up some Dr. Seuss influence here? There are parts of very rigid stresses and rhymes that remind me of the good doctor. A nice mix of end and internal rhymes, varying patterns, very nice. The major criticism is no different from my primary concern in Big Picture, that being I think you could have gotten your point across effectively while being more concise. Also, perhaps there was another appropriate metaphor other than a box? For better or worse, it seems Malvina Reynolds may have the market cornered on that one, at least in my mind. But as always, your lyrics feel extremely crafted and cared for.
    3. Music: Some really awesome combinations in the background (like the alternating tri-tones) set the mood. Add to that seemingly obvious resolutions that you execute deceptively, like the transition to “Money!”, keep it moving. This is the most musically sophisticated piece in this round.
  3. RC - Home
    1. The Big Picture: At first I thought it was a comment on nostalgia and how the things from our youth don’t alway stand up to reconsideration from our adult selves. But the bridge clued me in that the disintegrating hometown is meant to be a metaphor for how things and people wear down as we age. And it works.
    2. Lyrics: Throughout most of the song everything feels natural. I thought you got off on the wrong foot with “napping” though. As a rhyme that felt quite forced to me, and everywhere else they’re either transparent, or -- as in “remorseless” and “divorces” -- clever. That aside however, I thought the lyrics were well done. They tell your story well and surprise with their imagery in places. I particularly liked “unhappens”, “stones do not remember”, and “best that they can’t do”.
    3. Music: I like the out-of-key bVII. You use it pretty judiciously so it keeps its punch. Somehow I feel the transition from verse to chorus could be stronger, even keeping in mind you chose to start on the vi. You go IV-V-vi to get there, so maybe play around with IV-I-vi? Some bass leading? I’m not sure, but there has to be a way to make it so we’re really ready for that chorus to happen.
  4. Blimp  Exhaust - Miss Leon
    1. The Big Picture: So pretty much your narrator here is an asshole? He left his first date for a prettier girl, only asked her to the prom as a favor and then ditched her again, and then even his “apology” appears to be followed by “yeah, but what are ya’ gonna do?” It would have been nice to see some growth or maturity in retrospect, and it occurs to me maybe you were trying for that. Maybe what doesn’t stop until you’re dead isn’t the dickishness, but the regret? If that’s it, I would have liked to be sold somewhat more on the sorrow, rather than hearing something that to my ears comes across as just “oops, my bad”.
    2. Lyrics: Something about the first two lines really makes me want that 4th line to rhyme with “white”, and I feel cheated when we get there. Also the lyrics could stand to be smoother. Once again I’m hearing an attempt to sing fast and squeeze words into the allotted time, rather than rewriting and crafting the lyrics so that the singer doesn’t have to do that.
    3. Music: The choruses are solid, I like the energy and the movement. But you’re using that IV to transition pretty much everywhere in the song, never leaving any feeling of resolution anywhere. You start on the IV-iii-vi-V-IV train and repeat it, leading that end IV into the next start IV and it just sounds like it’s hanging there not doing anything but waiting for something else to happen. I think even a quick move to the V in between phrases would help you out.

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