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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spintunes #4 Round 2 Review: Dr Lindyke

This was an very good round. So a couple of things about rankings... as you should know by now, the integer rankings artifically spread out the entries, making them appear to be better or worse in comparison to the others. That's an illusion, especially now. There is a hair's breadth difference between many of these entries. So don't feel bad if you're ranked 14th. In is in, and this contest isn't won by sitting at the top of a high scores list... it's won by getting to the next round. For those ranked below 14th, there's no shame in that either. I hope you continue to shadow.

I have to be very picky this round. There was a lot of room for interpretation, so besides the entertainment value and general quality of the song itself, I'm using as a guide how well I think you hit the challenge. At the top are the songs that I think hit all aspects of it well. Below that are those that hit the challenge, but were weak on a point or two. "Significant other" is open to interpretation, but the less significant the recipient, the more I'll like it. Also remember that we asked this to be addressed to someone. If you're talking about someone, that doesn't hit it. If you forget your audience and break off to address someone else then that doesn't hit it either. And I'll feel better about a song that's addressed to someone, as the challenge states, other than something.

All that said, if you just do a fantastic job on the song, that can offset taking liberties with the challenge. At the end of the day it's the total package.

On to the reviews. These are as usual in the order of my preference, most preferred to least, with shadows at the end:

David LeDuc
3rd Grade Valentine

Kudos to you for coming up with the idea that is so obvious... so natural... that it's astounding in retrospect that you're the only one who did it. Of COURSE! Those lousy forced Valentines you had to write in grade school! Set them to music and any one of them would meet the challenge! This is a great anti-Valentine: the final verse is classic. It's deliciously simple. I love everything about this song: the concept, the lyrics, the hook, the tune, the vocals, the production, the balance. With headphones on this is a joy to listen to. You win... you bastard.

Rebecca Angel
Insignificant You

Rebecca, I could listen to you all day; this is melody gold. The piano accompaniment is impeccable... no odd notes in this one! And it has a very respectable bass line, which is so easy to neglect. You interpret the challenge ironically, with a completely unique approach that had me smiling right from the title. This is carried throughout the verses, but is driven home in the final verse. Furthermore, I get the feeling that you maintained focus on the challenge throughout. Yes, he's insignificant, but oh, what might have been.... c'est magnifique.

Edric Haleen
To My Significant Self

Well, we DID say that you couldn't send the card to a "significant other". Most people responded by searching for an "other" who wasn't "significant" (other=yes; significant=no). As the title states, you went for (other=no; significant=yes). Then you constructed a card and delivered it to yourself. Congratulations, Edric, you ARE firmly within the rules this time; perhaps moreso than at any time in recent memory. But sorry, we're NOT going to disqualify everyone else. (See my review of Caleb.) On to the song! Going acapella solo is brave. Doing it with a key change is braver. Songs don't really need anything but a melody and words; and these are great words, with a tune that supports and enhances them. I'm going to use the word "earnest" a lot today, and it particularly applies here. This concept could easily have turned into a Stuart Smalley parody, but here it's pulled off with plaintive sincerity. Music is both a craft and an art, but it's only truly Art when it touches a heart. Clearly this does. You made my wife cry, you rat. Still, you'd've placed even higher if you made my toes curl, like Rebecca did.

Common Lisp
A Brother's Valentine

It's possible I detect a smattering of passive-aggressive response to the last set of reviews... and you know what, Paul? It doesn't matter. You took the advice, you stepped up to the plate, and hit this challenge completely out of the park. I'm not just talking about performance. Because despite my complaints about the singing last time, it is about the song... and your song got a fairly high ranking from me last time. This one is better, and here's why: writing for the spoken word, you get very dense lyrics, and that's where you shine. You get to use a better vocabulary, and you can better develop your point. I love the autobiographical slant here; I love that you managed to work in social commentary, and not just skirting romance. I love the fact that the message is earnest. I love the intellectual humor of it. I love the fact that it could be applicable to any man who opened the card. Performance-wise, there's some clumsy flow in places, and I couldn't care less. The content smooths it over, as would a little practice. I know what a deadline is like. I honestly don't care what equipment you used... if you'd recorded this over your phone I'd think as highly of it. If you're worried about flexibility, keep in mind that "spoken word" covers a lot of ground, not just rap. Musically, if I had to limit my review to one adjective it would be GROOVY. This is GREAT use of Autotune. I have only one real complaint with this number... I could pass this around to a lot more people if it weren't for "your goddamn cock". I hope you consider recording a toned-down version after the contest... it worked for Cee Lo Green. 

Ross Durand
Space Opera Valentine

Holy smoke, this is a holiday fruitcake of pop-culture references (by which I mean that it's pretty densely packed). Listening to it is a lot like playing one of those Word Search puzzles. And really, on first listen I was thinking, "Well, that's a curious choice of genre for a space opera Valentine." The cowboy western sound is an odd thing to use for Star Wars, so it carries that bit of "huh?"; but if you didn't know the title in advance, it also conceals a bit of a nice surprise for the geek listener. I played it for my wife without telling her the title, and her face lit up when she realized what you were doing, and you jerked a tear out of her on the final verse. Even if you know what it's going to be about, the song sets the hook, and that last verse reels 'em in. Very nice.

Jess Scherer
Carbonated Love

This song puts the "pop" in Bubblegum Pop. A human brain looks for patterns: one of the things it does when listening to music is to find those patterns in the chord progression, the melody, and the rhythm; and it's not satisfied until those things are 'resolved'. So much music falls into stock patterns because they're easy to like... the listeners' brains have already been trained to recognize them. But you do something nice here: human brains also like to solve puzzles, and you stray just enough from stock patterns that I found myself searching for that resolution without getting frustrated. When it came in an unexpected way, then I got that little shot of endorphin that comes with a "eureka moment". In other words, this was a song that literally made me happy. And, subsequent listens were even better. This is very much a "bobby socks and ponytails" kind of sound. I can easily imagine it as something that Disney would have had Hayley Mills sing in the 1960s (that's a huge compliment). Lyrically, you do everything right: you avoid product placement; you get all the puns in; you even managed to work in the title of the round. And the singing candy hearts is a cute touch. A lot of people spend years learning how to do this stuff consciously, which is why, despite the deliberately juvenile feel of the piece, I find it to be a very professional composition.

Brian Gray
Man Crush

The production is definitely above par for this competition, though I'm no longer surprised to hear someone tell you ghastly you sound. As for myself, I don't want to praise you too highly, lest it make you uncomfortable. So here are the bad things: I think the piano is just a tad too loud in the mix. Also it's possible that you over-did the crush a little... only the restraining order and bodyguards keep you from overstepping the bounds of "significant other". 

Gold Lion
I Love My Dog

I love this song. I love the concept. I love your delivery. I love the handclaps, and the guitar. It's sweet, it's earnest, and it's catchy. It doesn't need a lot of production. That all said, here's how it could be better. You switched person in the chorus, from second-person to third-person. I think you'd have a better song if you kept that second-person delivery throughout the whole thing. Not only would it be consistent, but it would better meet the challenge, which was to address the "musical card" to your non-(significant other). Other than that, great job.

Steve Durand
The Woman of My Dreams

There's Sister Mary Agnes again! I've heard so much about her that I think I'm beginning to crush on her myself. I'll give you more than a LOL this time, since you asked so nicely before. You already know some of it, starting with shaky vocals. Great concept, and great tune... this is another one that's danceable. I imagine the last slow dance at the prom, wearing a sweaty tux and undone bow tie. And Steve... "To look past your bad habits / And see the tender woman underneath"... I bet she would give you such a smack the knuckles on your writing hand for that horrible nun pun.

Governing Dynamics
I Shouldn't Blame You

Major props for this tribute to Heather Zink. This is an uncharacteristically bouncy and rhythmically tight number from you... maybe the subject matter had something to do with that. And is that a HOOK? From GD? As with a lot of your lyrics, there are lines that have what feels to me to be a "made up as we go" flavor, but as this is truly a style choice, I'm not commenting beyond that. Favorite line: "Left alone / There's a part of me / That saves up self minted currency". These are some of the best vocals I've heard from you, Travis. You should have more colds. 

Robert Borden

This is a really nice performance, and a VERY nice melodic piece. What is that, a melodica with the uke? Whatever, it works, and the accompaniment does the job without being too much. Nice to see that you've stepped up the performance aspect. This is basically a somewhat naive and innocent love letter from the kind of fan that is the reason many celebrities hire bodyguards. However, congratulate yourself for catching me in a soft moment and overcoming my usual "no more ukes" prejudice. This is so sweet and cute that I'm voting to put you through to the next round.

Hazen Nester
(Bored With My) Precious Little Life

You know HeatherMiller's going to cringe at you stressing the last syllable of "party", right? Just checking. I like the premise and the hook. It's danceable... a rarity. Yeah, I'd pay money to hear this. And were those real  drums? Nice. The song's apparent POV is Scott Pilgrim, and is directed at Ramona Flowers. Even though Ramona becomes Scott's significant other, this meets the challenge because he hasn't hooked up with her yet. I like this. The lyrics ("skating through my dreams") don't denote some kind of obsession in this case because Ramona literally does skate through his head along the subspace highway. Having now read the song bio, I know you mean this to be "based on" rather than "about" the O'Malley characters, but given the likely target audience I think the song would benefit if you did a bit more to emulate Sex Bob-omb's style. 

Jacob Haller
From Your Neighbors

Good Lord, man, what would you have done last Sunday morning if people told you "don't curse" in response to your tweet? For what it's worth, I can't imagine anyone thinking you stretched the boundary too far here: this squarely tackles the challenge. There's a danger to this kind of song, though, which is basically that once you've delivered the punchline, it's pretty much time to end it. It's really easy to overstay your welcome. You did have a minimum time limit, though, and did a good job keeping it going without getting tiresome. I'm not as big a fan of this vocal style as I am of what you used last round, but it works. You may want to pay some attention to your levels when you're recording. You've got a bit of uneven volume going on. Adjust the volume envelope to smooth it out for those hard-ass audiophiles who care about such things.

Kevin Savino-Riker
Got Away

Great guitar work. The guitar-body percussion has a pattern reminding me of Cleary & Harding doing "Irish hand dancing". The thing is, it's such easy listening that it's easy to zone out and treat it as ambient music, and then miss that sweet ending. You get some credit here for contrasting the recipient of this "card" with your "significant other". Too many people are writing obsessive love songs to the exclusion of anyone else while the challenge is smirking at them. For what it's worth, it's OK to crush on somebody in one of these songs, so long as it's clear that this person isn't "the one".  Thanks for avoiding that trap, Kevin.

Felix Frost
Amber Avalanche

Hmm. It turns out that the quirky, jerky nature of the first round entry was a choice of genre rather than style... here it is again. I'm not sure what to call it, though... "Nintendo clockwork chaos" comes to mind. Here we have something with the feeling of an aerial retrofuturistic steampunk romance. In listening to this repeatedly, I have to say that while it's intellectually stimulating, what stands out is that it's LOUD, and that there's precious little variation in the volume envelope, except in the bridge, which, like the intro of your last song, is better than the song itself. Lyrically, I think you may have gotten a little wrapped up in the story, and lost sight of the fact that it should be a "musical card". I know that, reading this, it sounds like a horrible review, but I don't dislike the song. I'm actually rather impressed with the intricacy of it. I'm just feeling a little sensory over-stimulation.

Jon Eric
Friday February 13th

When we delivered this challenge, I knew that we'd have a fair bit of leeway for interpretation. You send a card to someone who's not a significant other anymore. Perfectly fine. I thought at first that this drags a bit, and realized that it's supposed to... with leaves me wondering, "why?" The last verse seems to make it unnecessary. I'm thinking perhaps he's lying to himself? I'm also puzzled as to the strained vocals. Obviously, something must've gone right over my head.

Back Down to You

A song to "Mother Earth". It's the personification of a planet, which pushes hard on the boundaries of the challenge. I'm kind of meh on the lyrics. They're not bad, just... meh. On the other hand, you wrap them up in that very nice tune. I'm really enjoying the piano work throughout, especially that bridge. Love the drums.

The Orion Sound
You (A Valentines Stalker Song)

Hmm. We didn't ask for a song about a song about you. We asked for a musical Valentine's day card to a person. You start off OK, but then sort of get lost at chorus time. Oh, well, you're not the only one. This is a big improvement over last round. It has a bit of a "Glee meets C.O.P.S." feel to it. My son said it reminds him of Bo Burnham, and I can see his point. The recording's a little muddy, but your bigger problem this round is the competition.

The Boffo Yux Dudes
A Letter To Bernie

BYD have an interesting fingerprint. It's not the comedy aspect, it's the tune. You guys play in a mode unique to yourselves. I'm not saying it's a bad thing... I'm just noticing. In this number, Cupid gets locked up. It's a cute concept, but I'm afraid you may be victims of some strong competition.

Noah McLaughlin
Hey, Joe

Man, I wish you'd picked a different subject. Or maybe if it were just more ambiguous. But damn it, Noah, you're singing to a cup of coffee. And that's not someone. Furthermore, it's not really a Valentine's Day card, is it? "I love you" is there, but there's nothing to really distinguish it from any other morning, and a lot to suggest that it's a daily thing, nothing special. There's an odd choice of chord progression here, and it seems tonally that just about everything is just a little off kilter, vocals included. I have to interpret the tune because sometimes the note could go either way. I read your bio, so I know "A Day In The Life" was an influence on that bridge, though when I first heard it I was reminded of Jonathan Coulton's bridge in "I Feel Fantastic". Obviously a lot of work went into this, and I hate to just say I didn't like it... but just being honest, I didn't like it.

Trader Jack
You Can Be My Joey Ramone

Incomprehensible lyrics! Repetitive and slurred. You've definitely got the Ramones' style. Sadly, I'm not a great fan of their's either. So, I read the lyrics, and... hmm. Still not a fan. Sometimes you're singing to her, sometimes about her. I know it's got to be what you were going for, but it's just too sloppy for me.

Caleb Hines
To the Administrator of Extra-Planetary Research

TO THE COMMANDER OF THE TERRAN EXPEDITION: Astute readers will note that the judges did not actually ask for a song this round. We asked for a "musical Valentine's Day card". This entry meets that definition. Although the "card" is rather verbose -- I may say 'pedantic' -- the long-standing existence of electronic Valentine's day cards makes that moot; and this one certainly contains music. We also asked for it to be addressed to someone other than your "significant other". This meets that definition, as well: an emotionless Vulcan cannot be said to have a "significant other". Therefore I find it illogical to disqualify you. It would also appear that you have out-Edricked Edric in the parsing of the rules. As for the entry itself, I appreciate the fact that you managed to work in appropriate ethnic instruments, including the ka'athyra, or "Vulcan lyre". The aethereal quality of the ambient tonalities were, in general, aesthetically pleasing. However, this entry has to be ranked in comparison with the other submissions. Unfortunately, the bonuses given for novelty value and sheer chutzpah are largely offset by a deficit in what Humans would term "entertainment value" in comparison to the more traditional offerings of this competition, and this planet in general. Also, we must remember that despite the apparent loophole, SpinTunes remains a "songwriting competition". Thus the present ranking. Rest assured that this is not an affront by any means... you remain most cordially held in the highest esteem within this circle.

(I will now further display my own nerdiness... To those who haven't heard one, here's a link to an actual acoustic Vulcan lyre being played. Caleb came damned close with what was apparently a sampled koto (but which he says isn't). http://www.instructables.com/id/Acoustic-Vulcan-lyre/ )

(in order of Bandcamp presentation)

Wait What (The Band)
She Just Wouldn't Understand (Shadow)

You kind of forgot the Valentine's Day aspect here, didn't you? Interesting instrumentation. Back in the 70's, center court at the mall (any mall) had a store selling Lowrey organs. This sounds like that. But it's waaaay down in the mix. Was that on purpose? We'd like to hear both you and the music. I'm afraid that if you gotten this in on time you'd still wind up on my elimination list due to the extreme competition, but I'm glad you entered the shadow anyway.

The Boffo Yux Dudes
Be My Valentine (Settle For Me) (Shadow)

You're right. This is the better song.

Drei Viertel Drei
Goodbye (Shadow)

I like the song. And despite Katharina's Twitter apologies, I think her voice works very well here. I felt that the song opened up well and had a good sound. But there's something very bothersome about the percussion. I don't know if it was some mis-match in drum loops or what, but there's some extraneous pseudo-random drum-thumpin' going on. I'd consider stripping that out and replacing it with something simpler and cleaner.

Emperor Gum
<3 (Shadow)

Nice pastiche, why don't you do this more often? There's a beat! and a bass! and drums! (which could be stronger) I don't even mind that the lyrics are so-so, because for this they should be. This song wins a Coveted No-Prize for best title ever. Not only is it a nifty little heart, but it can't be saved to a filename, making it a true ninja among shadow entries. What shouldn't be undetectable is your voice. Bring yourself up in the mix.

Menage A Tune
Fractal Choices (Shadow)

Well, it's a song. I'm at a bit of a loss to explain how it relates to any aspect of the challenge, though. I read your song bio, but a deck of cards doesn't equate to "write a card", and this entry pretty much just ignores the boundaries. If it weren't already a shadow I'd move to disqualify it.

Menage A Tune
My Best Friend (Shadow)

That's more like it! The lyrics are generic enough they could be used on an actual Valentine's day card. This is actually pretty catchy. I can definitely hear this on 'Sesame Street'. It would sound great with a chorus of Muppets. And don't take that the wrong way, either, because I love the Muppets. It would have been nice to get the word "Valentine" in there, but now that the challenge is past, don't change it. It's fine just as it is.

My Favorite Time of the Week (Shadow)

A TV crush. Cute idea. ;)


  1. Ruh-roh. I knew I had a bad feeling about how I'd turn out....

  2. Thanks for the review Dave!