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Saturday, March 18, 2017

SpinTunes #12 Round 4 Reviews: Marian Call

Back in SpinTunes 10 I was extremely excited to have Marian Call guest judge a round.  She's someone I've followed & been a fan of for a long time.  So I'm very thankful she was willing to come back to help judge my final round of SpinTunes.  Marian recently released a kickass new album titled "Standing Stones".  I was one of the many backers this album had on Kickstarter, and it was well worth it.  I'll embed my favorite song from the album below, but I strongly suggest you go listen to the entire album after you read your reviews.

- Spin


Loved all the entries!  There was no "last place," I would have placed all of these at the top of a much larger pack of songs.  I hate to have to rank them, but I finally did.

Zoe Gray - The Coven - 4th
"We don't talk about the coven" -- great line for the hook.  Strong scansion and rhymes throughout.  Nice simple and clear use of different instruments for different characters, fulfilling this week's challenge.  I would love to hear a little more deliberate choices for melody notes, there are moments that really ring out ("you fall under her spell," "at least not when they're around") but a lot of meandering melody in between -- that would be the next step to take to tighten up the song.  Nice chord progression, I enjoy the mysterious feel and sparseness; I'd recommend more instrumental layers to articulate the harmony in the chorus, so we feel the change between sections.  The chorus might be a nice space to include/intertwine your "character" instruments, or to add some triads to allow the choruses feel large and grand.  The instrumentation is sexy and spare but it gets a little monotonous, so as a next step to flesh out the song I recommend making the choruses as lush as they want to be to support the doubled vocals.  This could be a really great finished piece, well done!

Ryan M. Brewer - Second Coming Semantics (Part And Parcel Bound) - 2nd
Exciting melody and harmonic rhythm!  It sounds like this song is final vocals searching for a really massive beat/drum track throughout.  Without the imagined rhythm track the section changes are a little disorienting, but it's the bones of a cool and complex concept piece.  Lyrics have strong emotions, imagery, and scansion, but seem to be abstract enough I can't quite follow the story or characters (that may be the goal, so I don't count it a shortcoming, it sounds stylized).  I'd be interested to see where this could go with a few more passes at instrumentation and rhythm, with more layers of percussion mixed way forward.

Steve Stearns - Shiny And New - 3rd
A really fun chord progression, I love the inventive harmonies and silly style changes.  I might even risk tightening the sections more for a little faster trippy mode switching. "What's the sound of one mind snappin'" is a terrific payoff for the opening lines, and "Time to meet the future / I've seen the future -- shiny and new" is a great concept to turn a song around.  The challenge seems to be met?  The singer, their significant other, the parents?  There are different grooves although not quite separate instrumental voices that stand out.  I'll let it slide, the song is fun and danceable.

Brian Gray - Happy Me - 1st
I like this twist on the "at least three characters" prompt.  The prosaic voice but tight scansion and rhyme feels great, nice triple rhymes and shifting line lengths/structure.  The voice of the speaker is strong and coherent even while tripping across many identities.  The melody is memorable and catchy, it'll be in my head a long time, pretty clearly riffing on Jonathan Coulton's style, but with ease and expertise.  Would love to hear a more final recorded version of this, with bigger instruments and mixing.

Wendy Fisher - Clickie Clappie (Shadow)
I've recorded lots of a capella jams like this, so I know what a challenge they are!  An interesting lyrical concept and a lovely voice.  I recommend taking care to get a more precise rhythm track (if you're looping it), or manually edit the rhythm track into perfection when it's this sparse.  The extra time, takes, and crossfades can help lock a piece like this together.  The harmonies are lovely but the rhythm sometimes wants to pull apart, and the rhythm is clearly important since it's named "Clickie Clappie." I also recommend trying to get very tight vocal rhythms in dense sections like at the end, so all your eighth notes line up and lock in for more power.  Have you listened to "Le Fil," the album by Camille?  This reminds me of her a little, you might enjoy that.


  1. That Marian Call song is indeed very good! A surprising intricate song with a delightful Aimee Mannish vocal. I'll certainly check her out!