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Saturday, August 2, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 2 Reviews: Scott Mercer

I understand that due to all the people dropping out, we must eliminate only TWO entries this time. With that understanding, here we go!

WINNERS - MOVING FORWARD:

1. Steve Durand
I think going for a 1940’s torch song is a brilliant choice for this topic.  And a well portrayed example of that potent subgenre.  I dunno, get The Squirrel Nut Zippers on the phone.  They might be interested.  The arrangement is spot on.  The melody is really evocative.  About my only complaint is the use of the words “punk” and “pissed” which would never have been used in a song in the 1940’s.  But that is a minor nitpick.  100% meets the challenge.  This is full of win.

2. Brian Gray
Here the character has clearly chosen option number #c, (see Jerry Skids, below) that he has low self-esteem and feels that he doesn’t have brains. That can work as the protagonist of a song though.  I thought that was a Superman reference, but is he the one singing?  Is it Clark Kent singing?  You know what Jerry Seinfeld says, Clark Kent is Superman’s comment on humanity: weak, goofy and unsure.  Well, the guy singing this song definitely has no confidence.  Maybe the singer is the one who isn’t deserving.  Anyway, the music is catchy and well arranged.  Has the 90’s indie rock vibe that a lot of these have.  Reminds me of Splitsville.  Well done.  Passes through.

3. Governing Dynamics
Another Film Noir 1940’s feel, except this time a hard blues rather than a lush torch song.  Clearly the killer app here is “atmosphere,” “mood” or “feel.”  We’re going for that blues club, smoky atmosphere, maybe with a little bit of David Lynch off-kilter menace or Tarantino loner dread.  Film noir is almost always about a doomed hero in a bleak world going down for the last time.  That model is fulfilled here with the noirish ending.  Certainly not a catchy pop song that you’ll be humming in your car on your way to work.  But very, very, very effective at what it’s attempting to be and to do.  The intent is 100% in line with the challenge.

4. Steven Wesley Guiles
This bops along nicely.  I like the chord progression, resolves as it should.  This is classic pop-rock.  The backup vocals are also nicely arranged.  Using the lyric “True Blue” necessitates an internal rhyme, which I always enjoy if not forced.  Rhymes within rhymes!  It’s like a matrushka doll of lyrics!  Okay, I’m better now.

5. Turbo Shandy
Regarding the lyrics not hewing to the challenge, I must respectfully disagree.  The singer realizes that he no longer loves the person, and realizes that they don’t deserve it.  But still wants to love them, so realizes that he can only love his own past mistaken impression of the person.  I think there are lot of layers there and an interesting take on the concept.  The challenge remains silent on whether the protagonist of the song is aware or unaware of the love object’s undeserving qualities, so I don’t feel there was a violation there.

This has a real professional feel and I could hear this one on the radio, at least on an indie/college radio format.  Can’t reject this one, it’s too high quality.

6. Army Defense
This reminded me of a Beatles White Album outtake.  Although the lyrics are a little vague and poetic, I found that this was an advantage, not a disadvantage.  This one really grew on me.  It really fits right in with one of those classic rock songs that you haven’t heard in a long time.

7. Kolton H.
This is definitely in the NIN bag, but I think it’s well done and clearly meets the requirements of the challenge.   The antagonist in this song is undeserving of love because they are cold and emotionally distant.  Different from the other songs so far, so kudos for that.  And I feel that it is definitely a successful version of the genre it’s trying to portray.

8. MC OHM-I
This is another classic nerd rap.  I like The Marginal Prophets, so this is right there with them.  Hey, Google them if you’re curious, they’re great.   I really hope that none of this was actually autbiographical.

9. Zoe Gray
This was a close call, but it just squeaked through.

I am a huge Breaking Bad fan.  So I should have been disposed to enjoy a love song to Jesse Pinkman, who, really, truly, clearly, does NOT deserve love.  I did enjoy the lyrics immensely.  (And titling it Jesse’s Girl is just the blue icing on the cake.)   However, I didn’t really like the way the two parts of the music worked together.  The techno-rap verse and the DIsney Princess chorus. I think each one could have been successful on its own, but they did not segue well from one to the other.  Yes, sometimes contrast can work, but this was not one of those times.  But, more glockenspiel, please!  (Or was that a xylophone?)

10. Jerry Skids
This is a bit of paradoxical challenge.  Why would the main character of the song love someone that did not deserve it?  Well a) they are ignorant that the object of their love doesn’t deserve it or b) the singer is a masochist, or c) the singer has low self-esteem and thinks they deserve this person in their life.  I guess the key to this challenge is figuring out the reason why and making it seem plausible that the singer would stay with the person.  Turbo Shandy got around this in a somewhat clever way.  In this case, the character doesn’t deserve the love, but depressingly so, not delightfully so.   This person is like, what, schizophrenic?  Why hasn’t this person been dumped?  Maybe she should have been dumped at the end of the song.  That would have been a bit more satisfying of an ending.    In any case, this one was also on the border.  If so many people hadn’t bowed out of this round, this one would not have made it.

OUT - NOT MOVING FORWARD:

11. James Young
Acoustic indie pop here.  This has more of that hardcore imagery of “chew me up and spit me out” and “binds me like a chain.”  This is a little harsh with the music, which is a bit sprightly and folky.  Music and lyrics just don’t match with each other.  Two different approaches that don’t mesh.  I actually do like the music, which reminds me of Talk Talk (the group) or something of that ilk.  But the lyrics are not quite there.  It was a close call, but somebody had to get the boot.

12. Sid Brown
I think it does meet the challenge, but I just wasn’t a big enough fan of the music.  To me, there was nothing outstanding about it.  The melody was generic and rambling, and the lyrics were a little too perfunctory.  

SHADOWS!

Felix Frost
I do like this style!  Techno pop in the Perrey Kingsley mode.  It just makes me smile.  Harpsicord!  Come on!  Who does not like harpsicord??  That’s like kicking a PUPPY!
Vocals are good and you’ve got a bit of a Beach Boys thing going on.  And I really enjoy sound effects well used like here.  I definitely would have voted this forward if it was not a shadow.

Megalodon
Catchy as a fishing hat.  Not too enamored of the effects that used on the vocal.  Really digging on the piano part though.  I think the lyrics here though have struck the perfect balance between realizing that the love object is piece of crap who destroyed you, but then loving them anyway.  WHY?  Who the hell knows, man.  Love is just awful like that sometimes.

And “everything’s cool in the shadows”?  Was that a pun????

Plenitude
Vocals are very pretty.  I surely would have voted this one forward,  Reminds me of Margo Guryan.  And yes that is a compliment.

Heather Zink
This is great.  Very personal and very endearing.  Almost has a Broadway show tune quality.  I don’t know if you were going for that, Heather.   But this is like a good showtune, like something out of The Fantastiks.  (Normally I am not a fan of “BIG” Ethel Merman style Broadway balladeering.)

Dr. Lindyke
I wish this were not a shadow.  I would have voted it NUMBER ONE.  Absolutely stone classic novelty tune.  In the Loudon Wainwright mode.  I have listened to this DOZENS of times.  The best, the best, the best.  Killer lyrics.  “She’s been to college, but only the dorms.”  That just SLAYED me.  And ya have to (HAVE TO!) have the “Big Finish”!  It’s mandatory.  Good job.

2 comments:

  1. hey, thanks for the reviews, Scott! I am glad my intent (Blues - hit the film noir tropes - impact, impact, impact) seemed to come through this round.

    Thanks for mentioning David Lynch -- I really like his mystery/unsettling style, I was trying to evoke some of that (one of my beta listeners mentioned the intro/outro reminded them of parts of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, too!)

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  2. Scott,
    Thanks for reviewing the Shadows! I apologize for the vocals. Vocals came last in my process, and I really need to spend twice as long on them. I'm a terrible singer , I need like 30 takes to get the pitch under control. I got them done for the listening party, but they were embarrassingly pitchy, I made the 2nd mix that had the edits I originally intended and then I tried to autotune the vocals, which really needed better takes.
    "Cool in the Shadows"- yeah I enjoyed that line. It was a nice juxtaposition with the Harsh Light of Day (title by Song Fight, you'll hear the glennny track as frighteningly similar to the Megalodon track). Spin Tunes gave me the circumstance to give it meta meaning. I suppose it was a bit of a meta-song violation, but it holds up without the pun, so I let it be.

    cheers!
    glennny (MEGALODON!)

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