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Saturday, August 2, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 2 Reviews: Dr. Lindyke

I’m posting this again just so you know my criteria haven’t changed:

  1. Did you give us what we asked for? (hit the intent of the challenge)
  2. Composition over production (but for heaven's sake, please try)
  3. Production still counts,
  4. Genre doesn't matter, and
  5. Song bios help.

This time it was another very clearly but simply stated challenge: 

“Write a song about unconditionally loving someone who plainly isn't worth it.”

And again, none of those words are optional. Your song should be about loving someone. and the target of your love should be unworthy of the affection they receive. But note the adjectives. “Plainly” tells me that there shouldn't be any guesswork. The better you paint the unworthiness of the object, the better you hit the challenge. And very importantly, “unconditionally” tells me that you can't really subvert this challenge. Songs that try to weasel out of that aren’t going to fare so well. 

 But there’s still a LOT of room for interpretation here. We said nothing about who is doing the loving and who is receiving it. For instance, my first thought about it was probably the same as yours… that “you” (the singer) love someone else who’s unworthy. But on reflection, my first idea for a shadow actually picked up the theme of Amazing Grace, the Christian spiritual in which the singer repents of his own unworthiness. The point here is that the love sung about could be bestowed by anyone from God Himself to a family pet (and I'm kind of hoping for a Fido or Seymore Asses moment). But it must be unconditional, and whoever receives it obviously can’t have earned it.

There is no technical challenge here… the challenge is all in the lyrics, so I’m weighting my preferences heavily on the lyrical content. Musicality can get you bumped up or down a few places.

The above was written before the listening party. We had four deadline eliminations this round: Heather Zink, The Boffo Yux Dudes, Benjamin J Spencer, and Caravan Ray. And having heard all the songs that did make the deadline, all I can say is that I'm selfishly glad that four bands missed it, if only because it makes the judges' job a lot easier. I'm not sure I could bring myself to cut six songs from this round. 

in descending order of preference...

Steven Wesley Guiles - True Blue
I got my “Fido” moment! Awesome! And it’s snappy and poppy and full of puppy enthusiasm.  I just love everything about this song. Nobody gives unconditional love like Man’s best friend. Owwwwwwoooooo!

MC Ohm-i - Love Her Again In Hell
Alright… alright… I’m wrapping my head around this. She’s dead. And he still loves her. And she’s going to Hell. And he still loves her. MC Ohm-i doesn't just hit the challenge… he bitch-slaps it. (btw… “she was in it for the Tricare." lol!) The only thing that could possibly knock this out of the top spot for me is a song sung by a mistreated puppy.  
...oh. wait.

Steve Durand - One More Chance
Musically, lyrically, and technically... Steve, you bring the goods, hands down. This has an absolutely terrific 1930s nightclub sound, and I love it. Just gorgeous

Kolton H - Sacred Drug
Awesome use of panning! That’s an odd way to start off a review, I know, but the attention to detail in the production is the first thing that jumps out. It’s an addictive piano riff and club rhythm. This hits the challenge squarely, and is just a really good holistic piece of work. The vocals are a little muddy, but the style calls for it.

Brian Gray - Otisburg
A love song to Lex Luthor! And not the recently lionized Luthor, but the despicable narcissist played by Gene Hackman in the 1977 Christopher Reeve movie. If that’s not an object of affection who’s “plainly not worth it” I don’t know who is. OK, so you've pushed my “supervillain geek button”. And I do so love it when someone finds a corner of “the box” that’s not accounted for… we never said anything about romantic love. Hero-worship works here. Musically it’s bouncy, catchy, and if I turn off the sound in Ned Beatty’s film scenes, this fits well. And yup, I caught that musical homage in the bridge. Good stuff! A well done entry emailed to us from Brian’s abode somewhere out there in left field.

Jerry Skids - Another Apology
Like I said, I like it when a song challenge my preconceptions, and this one does. In it, the singer’s S.O. is clearly an S.O.B. As I heard it the first time, the apologies aren't coming from the S.O., but from the singer. Good… we've got making excuses in there, but no denial. Nobody said your character had to be intellectually stupid. Jerry’s character knows he’s being self-destructive. Knows he’s being used. And makes the apologies and comes back for more. A nice garage-band sound. Vocals in the pre-chorus that sound a little jarring in mono sound much better with headphones. In all a solid meeting of the challenge, psychologically sound, and a fun listen. Oh, and a really great song bio, too. ;)

James Young - Moth
This is a really good middle-of-the-road response to the challenge, fully worthy of getting you into the next round. I've got no complaints or advice about the songwriting at all. Production-wise, to my ears it sounds a little muffled. I think a little EQ to make it a little crisper might make it stand out more.

Zoe Gray - Jesse’s Girl
Did you give us what we asked for? Yes, indeed! Here the singer’s not only in love, but stays that way no matter what. I’m the one guy in America who hasn't seen Breaking Bad, so I almost didn't get the reference (and if I hadn't, it would have been my fault, not yours). Even with the entirety of my knowledge coming from Jesse Pinkman’s Wikipedia page, I can see that the lyrics are spot on, and the subject is perfect. I like the quirky geek-girl verses with the lethargic trippy chorus. I’m getting an emotional vibe here not entirely unlike the Overly Attached Girlfriend… which is probably just the sort of girlfriend the second best meth cook in the country needs.

Governing Dynamics - Where The River Meets The Earth (Film Noir Blues)
Honestly, Even having read the song bio, I have a hard time saying whether this meets the challenge or not… In the sense of it being “plain”... er no it doesn’t, going for subtlety instead.. As for the film noir blues format, I like. But I don’t know whether the client is undeserving of the detective’s obsession. No one who’s hiring the proverbial gin-soaked gumshoe is without some baggage, and I simply don’t know how much of this obsession is “unconditional love” and how much of it is the detective’s Rubik’s complex. I don’t even know how much of it is the loyalty that $300/day + expenses will buy. The vocals are a little more pitchy here and there than are accounted for by blue notes. But I love that guitar and the whole feel of it.

Army Defense - Don’t Fool Yourself
The songs in this round are so individually good that I simply have to pick some nits. I’ll be honest, I had to listen to this a few times to be sure whether it hit the challenge. In the end I have to fall back on the adjectives in the challenge… “plainly” and “unconditional”. And though it sounds beautiful and and artistic and may technically meet the challenge, there are a lot of songs that I didn't have to play a few times to parse it out. “Don’t fool yourself” isn't really a line that immediately hits me as communicating unconditional love. On a reading of the lyrics, though, it seems to me that this is sung to someone who the singer perceives to be deliberately self-destructive, and to whom he's saying "your misbehavior isn't going to drive me away." I may be doing a disservice by ranking this so low; nevertheless, I'm positioning you to go into the next round, and that's what counts. It is a great song.

Sid Brown - I’m Just Too In Love With Loving You
Just drop the word “Loving” from the title and lyrics and this would be a far stronger answer to the challenge, and would have jumped way up in my rankings. You headed straight for the challenge and then veered away from a bullseye with that one little word. Don’t be wishy-washy. We’re looking for loving someone, not an idea or a concept. It would be less of an issue if it weren’t otherwise light on content. The elements are there, but it’s the music and not the lyrics that carry this piece. And that’s ok… verbosity isn’t a requirement, and I like the music a lot. But if you’re going to be terse, try to make each word count. I’m into natural acoustic sounds and you give us that, shore ‘nuff. I’d listen to an album of stuff like this. The end is a little odd, though. It sounds like it just wants to resolve on the chord, but then is being prematurely faded out. Might be nice to just let it ring a while longer.

TurboShandy - Some Idea of You
This is one of those attempts to subvert the challenge. Instead of loving his paramour, the singer loves a fictionalized ideal of her. Does it meet the challenge? Well, no, not really, because the idealized version of her IS worthy of his love. The actual persona isn’t, but that’s not what he loves… just “some idea of you”. Imagining a you that doesn’t suck so I can love that instead of you isn’t exactly unconditional. If I were to judge it just on the basis of being a song, independent of the challenge, it doesn’t fare badly… but point #1 is “did you give us what we asked for?” I have to say no.


Felix Frost - Jasper (Shadow)
Thanks for shadowing! I like this a lot better than your round 1 entry, seriously. It’s not nearly so hard on the ears, and if I interpret the lyrics to mean that Jasper did throw the fight but the singer’s in denial, then it hits the challenge very well.

Megalodon - Harsh Light Of Day (Shadow)
I winced a little at the vocals, and forgave the band when the muted trumpet started.  

Plenitude - Are You Here (Shadow)
This is an exquisite song. It makes me wish the production were up to the standard of the performance.  There’s a problem with sibilance on the vocals, and the mix is generally too soft. It’s one of those pieces that you have to interpret to recognize it as meeting the challenge, but it does for me. 

Heather Zink - Love At First Sight (Shadow)
Not just a narcissist, but Narcissus himself, and who’s not deserving of it because he’s a narcissist. Add to that Echo, who's in love with the same guy. Brilliant concept. It’s a shame you’re a victim of the clock. Terrific, intricate lyrics and a really, really good tune. If only you could find a guy who's not to o self-absorbed to join you in a duet, you'd have something there.

Dr. Lindyke - Nothing But Love (Shadow)
Yes, we shadowed again. You can respond to any criticism levied on your songs with, “at least we didn’t write that,” and I’d have to give you props. While planning a much better song, I thought of the line “She has nothing but love for me.” I thought, “what if that were literally true?” This was written in a few minutes after that thought. The best I can say of it is that *I* think it’s catchy and hits the challenge. The singer here is a bit of an idiot, though… he’s clearly used, but it doesn't diminish his ardour or enthusiasm at all. A bit like a puppy. ;)  The music is a pastiche of all the early Ray Stevens songs I listened to as a kid.

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