Sunday, June 26, 2011

SpinTunes #3: Round 2 Challenge

BREAKING NEWS! - You‘re writing a topical song. The challenge is pretty wide open, but there are some restrictions. Topical is going to be defined as something from a headline in a newspaper no older than 2 weeks from today. You can use your local newspaper or a major publication. You‘re even allowed to use the online versions of major publications. You will be required to include a link to the story that inspired your song, or attach a scan from the newspaper. (2 minute minimum) (your submission is due July 3rd 11:59PM)

If you have a question about a source, just send me an e-mail. What we’re looking for is a headline from a newspaper that is, or has been in print at some point. If the online version is something you have to subscribe to, I will allow you to submit screen grabs of your computer screen.

Submitting Entries:
- Entries must be received by the given deadline. Otherwise it'll be posted as a shadow. Received means that it has to appear in my e-mail inbox by the given deadline. I will be going by the time stamp on the e-mail in my inbox. PLEASE do not wait until the last hour to send me something. If there is a blackout in your area, your computer crashes, or your dog actually eats your thumb drive...I will not care. You are allowed to send in a draft of your song early just in case something horrible happens & you miss the deadline. Then you can add polish to your song & send in a better version closer to the deadline. 1 minute late is still late people.

- Send your file in a format that Bandcamp accepts. (.aiff, .wav or .flac) (at least 16-bit/44.1kHz) You can find the specific requirements for Bandcamp files HERE. You do not have to send in MP3's.

- Name your file the song's title, but without spaces & punctuation.

- Title of the e-mail should be the title of the Challenge & your band's name.

- Include the song lyrics in the body of the e-mail. (If your song doesn't have lyrics...consider yourself eliminated. Instrumentals can be pretty, but SpinTunes does require lyrics.)

- Include information on anyone that needs credited if you collabed with someone.

- File sharing options if you need them: YouSendIt, Sound Cloud, Drop Box, RapidShare, ZShare & MediaFire. Please send an e-mail as I already stated, but with the download link if you need one of these services. Please follow directions so your file doesn't wind up in my spam or trash folder accidentally.

- If you have a BandCamp account, you can just send me a link to your song on BandCamp if you include all the info I mentioned above. Make sure you have it set as a free download, and have it set so that I don't have to put in an e-mail to download it if you pick this option. THIS IS THE BEST FILE SHARING OPTION!

Side Notes:
- PLEASE do your best to send in submissions that BandCamp will allow me to upload. Details about what BandCamp allows are only a mouse click away.

- Remember that you are allowed to send in a little background about your song. Some people don't like to do that, and you don't have to, but if you want to write a couple sentences about your song I'll post it on the BandCamp page for people to see. Some judges will look at the lyrics & this extra info, but they aren't required to.

- If you didn't sign-up in time to compete in SpinTunes #3, you can still complete the challenge & send in a song. It'll be uploaded with the other entries as a "Shadow Song". Check the FAQ if you don't know what that means. You can even complete past challenges from previous contests.

- If you didn't sign-up you can also do a song for "Single Rainbow Across The Internet". You're song would be played during the LP as well.

- The only other way to get your music played at the LP is to cover "Today's The Day" by Inverse T. Clown. This project was started in our little community of friends long before SpinTunes even started.

- Feel free to leave any questions in the comments.

SpinTunes #3 Round 1 Totals

The round 2 challenge will be posted tonight. The schedule says 1AM, and I'm hoping to stick to that, but it could be a little later.

So here are the links to the individual reviews:

Official Judges:
Mike Lombardo - Mitchell Adam Johnson - Dave Santucci - Ben Davila - Glenn Case

Guest Judges:
Kevin Savino-Riker - Blue - Randy Parcel - Dante Cimadamore (no rankings)

Alternate Judge's Review: Spin

You can listen to all the wonderful songs from this round by checking out the free album HERE.

Judges feel free to check my totals...I'm tired...mistakes are possible. However if my figures are correct the 11 people in bold have been eliminated from the contest. I really hope they decide to continue in the contest as shadows, and I thank EVERYONE for their hard work this round.

Total Scores: (Blue) (Mike) (Mitchell) (Glenn) (Randy) (Kevin) (David) (Ben) (Popular Vote)
Chris Cogott - 32 - 32 - 35 - 36 - 35 - 26 - 36 - 34 - 31 (297)
Charlie McCarron - 26 - 27 - 37 - 37 - 37 - 25 - 37 - 16 - 32 (274)
Edric Haleen - 37 - 34 - 30 - 29 - 34 - 37 - 27 - 9 - 34 (271)
Ross Durand - 35 - 22 - 27 - 31 - 19 - 33 - 25 - 33 - 25 (250)
Godz Poodlz - 28 - 19 - 32 - 26 - 33 - 34 - 33 - 15 - 30 (250)
Alex Carpenter - 30 - 37 - 25 - 28 - 32 - 22 - 21 - 5 - 37 (237)
Pat And Gweebol - 33 - 21 - 36 - 27 - 30 - 32 - 8 - 13 - 36 (236)
Byron Blocker And The Offbeats - 36 - 24 - 22 - 16 - 31 - 36 - 34 - 1 - 35 (235)
Jon Eric - 15 - 33 - 23 - 21 - 28 - 30 - 35 - 35 - 11 (231)
Jutze - 10 - 26 - 12 - 33 - 36 - 35 - 31 - 21 - 22 (226)
Matt And Donna - 29 - 18 - 34 - 25 - 29 - 14 - 18 - 28 - 28 (223)
Dr. Lindyke - 8 - 25 - 18 - 23 - 27 - 29 - 32 - 25 - 26 (213)
Governing Dynamics - 9 - 12 - 21 - 30 - 22 - 27 - 30 - 26 - 33 (210)
Caleb Hines - 17 - 35 - 33 - 13 - 20 - 24 - 23 - 20 - 13 (198)
Jason Morris - 27 - 36 - 11 - 32 - 23 - 28 - 9 - 4 - 24 (194)
Inverse T. Clown - 21 - 28 - 31 - 14 - 24 - 21 - 14 - 2 - 29 (184)
Steve Durand - 13 - 23 - 20 - 24 - 26 - 20 - 29 - 12 - 14 (181)
"BucketHat" Bobby Matheson - 23 - 31 - 9 - 15 - 21 - 15 - 16 - 29 - 19 (178)
Tally Deushane - 24 - 14 - 17 - 17 - 9 - 9 - 12 - 36 - 21 (159)
Gold Lion - 34 - 17 - 14 - 18 - 7 - 3 - 28 - 10 - 17 (148)
Happi - 12 - 30 - 3 - 2 - 10 - 31 - 5 - 27 - 27 (147)
The Offhand Band - 16 - 8 - 13 - 8 - 25 - 19 - 17 - 32 - 9 (147)
Alexa Polasky - 7 - 29 - 29 - 34 - 8 - 5 - 20 - 3 - 10 (145)
Matt Walton - 22 - 5 - 15 - 9 - 16 - 17 - 26 - 31 - 3 (144)
Brian Daniell - 3 - 11 - 19 - 35 - 13 - 18 - 7 - 30 - 7 (143)
Wait What - 19 - 6 - 28 - 5 - 1 - 13 - 24 - 37 - 4 (137)
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 31 - 20 - 7 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 22 - 23 - 20 (131)
Emperor Gum - 20 - 15 - 26 - 19 - 11 - 8 - 10 - 8 - 1 (118)
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 25 - 10 - 5 - 12 - 14 - 12 - 15 - 22 - 2 (117)
Spencer Sokol - 11 - 13 - 10 - 20 - 15 - 16 - 13 - 11 - 8 (117)
Ethan Ivey - 6 - 9 - 24 - 22 - 12 - 6 - 4 - 17 - 16 (116)
Bryce Jensen - 14 - 16 - 4 - 7 - 17 - 11 - 6 - 14 - 12 (101)
Menage’A Tune - 4 - 4 - 16 - 11 - 18 - 10 - 1 - 19 - 18 (101)
Glen Raphael - 18 - 7 - 6 - 6 - 4 - 23 - 3 - 18 - 6 (91)
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 5 - 3 - 8 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 11 - 24 - 15 (82)
Hudson And Day - 2 - 2 - 2 - 10 - 6 - 4 - 19 - 7 - 23 (75)
Doom SKITTLE - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 2 - 1 - 2 - 6 - 5 (20)

Mike's Rankings:
Alex Carpenter - 37
Jason Morris - 36
Caleb Hines - 35
Edric Haleen - 34
Jon Eric - 33
Chris Cogott - 32
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 31
Happi - 30
Alexa Polasky - 29
Inverse T. Clown - 28
Charlie McCarron - 27
Jutze - 26
Dr. Lindyke - 25
Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats - 24
Steve Durand - 23
Ross Durand - 22
Pat And Gweebol - 21
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 20
Godz Poodlz - 19
Matt And Donna - 18
Gold Lion - 17
Bryce Jensen - 16
Emperor Gum - 15
Tally Deushane - 14
Spencer Sokol - 13
Governing Dynamics - 12
Brian Daniell - 11
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 10
Ethan Ivey - 9
The Offhand Band - 8
Glen Raphael - 7
Wait What - 6
Matt Walton - 5
Menage’A Tune - 4
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 3
Hudson And Day - 2
Doom SKITTLE - 1

Glenn's Rankings:
Charlie McCarron - 37
Chris Cogott - 36
Brian Daniell - 35
Alexa Polasky - 34
Jutze - 33
Jason Morris - 32
Ross Durand - 31
Governing Dynamics - 30
Edric Haleen - 29
Alex Carpenter - 28
Pat And Gweebol - 27
Godz Poodlz - 26
Matt And Donna - 25
Steve Durand - 24
Dr. Lindyke - 23
Ethan Ivey - 22
Jon Eric - 21
Spencer Sokol - 20
Emperor Gum - 19
Gold Lion - 18
Tally Deushane - 17
Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats - 16
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 15
Inverse T. Clown - 14
Caleb Hines - 13
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 12
Menage’A Tune - 11
Hudson And Day - 10
Matt Walton - 9
The Offhand Band - 8
Bryce Jensen - 7
Glen Raphael - 6
Wait What - 5
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 4
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 3
Happi - 2
Doom SKITTLE - 1

Mitchell's Rankings:
Charlie McCarron - 37
Pat And Gweebol - 36
Chris Cogott - 35
Matt And Donna - 34
Caleb Hines - 33
Godz Poodlz - 32
Inverse T. Clown - 31
Edric Haleen - 30
Alexa Polasky - 29
Wait What - 28
Ross Durand - 27
Emperor Gum - 26
Alex Carpenter - 25
Ethan Ivey - 24
Jon Eric - 23
Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats - 22
Governing Dynamics - 21
Steve Durand - 20
Brian Daniell - 19
Dr. Lindyke - 18
Tally Deushane - 17
Menage’A Tune - 16
Matt Walton - 15
Gold Lion - 14
The Offhand Band - 13
Jutze - 12
Jason Morris - 11
Spencer Sokol - 10
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 9
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 8
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 7
Glen Raphael - 6
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 5
Bryce Jensen - 4
Happi - 3
Hudson and Day - 2
Doom SKITTLE - 1

David's Rankings:
Charlie McCarron - 37
Chris Cogott - 36
Jon Eric - 35
Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats - 34
Godz Poodlz - 33
Dr. Lindyke - 32
Jutze - 31
Governing Dynamics - 30
Steve Durand - 29
Gold Lion - 28
Edric Haleen - 27
Matt Walton - 26
Ross Durand - 25
Wait What - 24
Caleb Hines - 23
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 22
Alex Carpenter - 21
Alexa Polasky - 20
Hudson And Day - 19
Matt And Donna - 18
The Offhand Band - 17
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 16
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 15
Inverse T. Clown - 14
Spencer Sokol - 13
Tally Deushane - 12
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 11
Emperor Gum - 10
Jason Morris - 9
Pat And Gweebol - 8
Brian Daniell - 7
Bryce Jensen - 6
Happi - 5
Ethan Ivey - 4
Glen Raphael - 3
Doom SKITTLE - 2
Menage’A Tune - 1

Ben's Rankings:
Wait What - 37
Tally Deushane - 36
Jon Eric - 35
Chris Cogott - 34
Ross Durand - 33
The Offhand Band - 32
Matt Walton - 31
Brian Daniell - 30
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 29
Matt And Donna - 28
Happi - 27
Governing Dynamics - 26
Dr. Lindyke - 25
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 24
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 23
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 22
Jutze - 21
Caleb Hines - 20
Menage’A Tune - 19
Glen Raphael - 18
Ethan Ivey - 17
Charlie McCarron - 16
Godz Poodlz - 15
Bryce Jensen - 14
Pat And Gweebol - 13
Steve Durand - 12
Spencer Sokol - 11
Gold Lion - 10
Edric Haleen - 9
Emperor Gum - 8
Hudson And Day - 7
Doom SKITTLE - 6
Alex Carpenter - 5
Jason Morris - 4
Alexa Polasky - 3
Inverse T. Clown - 2
Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - 1

Blue's Rankings:
Edric Haleen - 37
Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats - 36
Ross Durand - 35
Gold Lion - 34
Pat And Gweebol - 33
Chris Cogott - 32
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 31
Alex Carpenter - 30
Matt And Donna - 29
Godz Poodlz - 28
Jason Morris - 27
Charlie McCarron - 26
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 25
Tally Deushane - 24
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 23
Matt Walton - 22
Inverse T. Clown - 21
Emperor Gum - 20
Wait What - 19
Glen Raphael - 18
Caleb Hines - 17
The Offhand Band - 16
Jon Eric - 15
Bryce Jensen - 14
Steve Durand - 13
Happi - 12
Spencer Sokol - 11
Jutze - 10
Governing Dynamics - 9
Dr. Lindyke - 8
Alexa Polasky - 7
Ethan Ivey - 6
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 5
Menage’A Tune - 4
Brian Daniell - 3
Hudson And Day - 2
Doom SKITTLE - 1

Kevin's Rankings:
Edric Haleen - 37
Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats - 36
Jutze - 35
Godz Poodlz - 34
Ross Durand - 33
Pat And Gweebol - 32
Happi - 31
Jon Eric - 30
Dr. Lindyke - 29
Jason Morris - 28
Governing Dynamics - 27
Chris Cogott - 26
Charlie McCarron - 25
Caleb Hines - 24
Glen Raphael - 23
Alex Carpenter - 22
Inverse T. Clown - 21
Steve Durand - 20
The Offhand Band - 19
Brian Daniell - 18
Matt Walton - 17
Spencer Sokol - 16
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 15
Matt And Donna - 14
Wait What - 13
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 12
Bryce Jensen - 11
Menage’A Tune - 10
Tally Deushane - 9
Emperor Gum - 8
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 7
Ethan Ivey - 6
Alexa Polasky - 5
Hudson And Day - 4
Gold Lion - 3
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 2
Doom SKITTLE - 1

Randy's Rankings:
Charlie McCarron - 37
Jutze - 36
Chris Cogott - 35
Edric Haleen - 34
Gödz Pöödlz - 33
Alex Carpenter - 32
Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - 31
Pat And Gweebol - 30
Matt And Donna - 29
Jon Eric - 28
Dr. Lindyke - 27
Steve Durand - 26
The Offhand Band - 25
Inverse T. Clown - 24
Jason Morris - 23
Governing Dynamics - 22
"BucketHat" Bobby Matheson - 21
Caleb Hines - 20
Ross Durand - 19
Menagé a Tune - 18
Bryce Jensen - 17
Matt Walton - 16
Spencer Sokol - 15
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 14
Brian Daniell - 13
Ethan Ivey - 12
Emperor Gum - 11
Happi - 10
Tally Deushane - 9
Alexa Polasky - 8
Gold Lion - 7
Hudson And Day - 6
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 5
Glen Raphael - 4
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 3
Doom SKITTLE - 2
Wait WHAT - 1

Popular Vote Totals:
Alex Carpenter - 55
Pat And Gweebol - 33
Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - 30
Edric Haleen - 25
Governing Dynamics - 24
Charlie McCarron - 23
Chris Cogott - 21
Godz Poodlz - 19
Inverse T Clown - 15
Matt And Donna - 15
Happi - 15
Dr. Lindyke - 14
Ross Durand - 14
Jason Morris - 13
Hudson And Day - 12
Jutze - 10
Tally Deushane - 10
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 9
"Buckethat" Bobby Matheson - 8
Menage A Tune - 8
Gold Lion - 7
Ethan Ivey - 6
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 5
Steve Durand - 5
Caleb Hines - 5
Bryce Jensen - 5
Jon Eric - 5
Alexa Polasky - 4
The Offhand Band - 3
Spencer Sokol - 3
Brian Daniell - 2
Glen Raphael - 2
Doom SKITTLE - 2
Wait What - 2
Matt Walton - 1
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 1
Emperor Gum - 1

Popular Vote Scores:
Alex Carpenter - 37
Pat And Gweebol - 36
Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - 35
Edric Haleen - 34
Governing Dynamics - 33
Charlie McCarron - 32
Chris Cogott - 31
Godz Poodlz - 30
Inverse T Clown - 29
Matt And Donna - 28
Happi - 27
Dr. Lindyke - 26
Ross Durand - 25
Jason Morris - 24
Hudson And Day - 23
Jutze - 22
Tally Deushane - 21
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 20
"Buckethat" Bobby Matheson - 19
Menage A Tune - 18
Gold Lion - 17
Ethan Ivey - 16
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 15
Steve Durand - 14
Caleb Hines - 13
Bryce Jensen - 12
Jon Eric - 11
Alexa Polasky - 10
The Offhand Band - 9
Spencer Sokol - 8
Brian Daniell - 7
Glen Raphael - 6
Doom SKITTLE - 5
Wait What - 4
Matt Walton - 3
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 2
Emperor Gum - 1

Saturday, June 25, 2011

SpinTunes #3 Round 1 Review: Dante Cimadamore

Dante ran out of time before he could finish ranking the songs. His letter grades can give you an idea of where you would have placed, but since he didn't finish the rankings Dante's reviews will not be factored into the outcome of this round. They are simply here to give you another perspective on your song.

I invited Dante to be a guest judge because he is from outside of our little circle of friends, and I enjoy his work on YouTube. You can find out more about Dante by visiting his YouTube Channel & he's also on Twitter.

Governing Dynamics - A- - I like prod, voice, and the chorus (lyrically) is universally applicable. Clever. Enjoyed.

Gold Lion - C - Song lacked creativity and solid rhythm. Loved voice.

Dr. Lindyke - B - Great piano work... voice... style is something I enjoy. Could have tightened up rhythm section entrance.

Alexa Polasky - A- - Great style, voice... etc.

The Offhand Band - B- - I appreciate what they're doing. Good organ work.

Matt Walton - C+ - Yea ukulele! Could have taken more time to tune it though. Rhythm goes off. Lyrics need a bit more creativity.

Brian Daniell - A- - This track is alive. I love live recordings. Is a happy song about death.

Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - A- - Great style, voice... etc.

Edric Haleen - A - Style makes me giggle, but what a stage voice. Lyrics and everything. wonderful.

Charlie McCarron - A - Great guitar work. Love lyrics and voice.

Spencer Sokol - B - He's gotta be more confident when he hits those notes. Music/lyrics could use more creativity.

Luke Brekke, Esquire - B - Made me chuckle.

"Buckethat" Bobby Matheson - B+ - I like the voice and style from the top. I like his perspective. :)

Alex Carpenter - B - HOLY MASTERING/COMPRESSION! Could use more guitars at second verse for this kind of production... and cymbals. Has a lot more potential for the kind of song it is. Needs more guitars.

Inverse T. Clown - B - Great voice/harmonies. Made me chuckle. I enjoy the ELO/Supertramp style.

Jutze - B+ - Clever. I enjoy the production.

Godz Poodlz - B - Good production/songwriting.

Tally Deushane - A- - I want to put her in my pocket. Enjoy voice and melody. I like the chorus a lot.

Ethan Ivey - B - Yea live piano! More confidence when singing!

Matt And Donna - B+ - This reminds me a bit of Ethan Ivey haha. "I kissed a drunk girl" Great production, voice(s).

Ross Durand - B+- Yeehaw! Great songwriting. Although I'd argue that heaven has taxes they're most likely paying a crew to keep it running and functional and beautiful. That money should come from the people who get to go. Sorry, Ross.

Menage a Tune - B- - Nice voice. Was a bit too "bad commercial" for me.

Glen Raphael - C+ - Cool production/arrangement. But a solid foundation of chord function was a little too slippery for me. The harmonies didn't solidify any chord ideas. Not very lyrical.

Doom SKITTLE - Not feeling it from the top.

Wait What - C+ - What's up karaoke? Makin me laugh. A little too self aware of the task at hand.

Steve Durand - B+ - I like style at top. I like the message. Well done.

Jason Morris - B - Whats up late 90s? Lighthouse, etc. Didn't seem to fit death motif though.

Caleb Hines - B - I laughed when chorus hit. Good chorus/lyrics/arrangement.

Bryce Jensen - C+ - Too self aware of task at hand.

Pat And Gweebol - A- - Like vocal stylings... and both voices.

Boffo Yux Dudes - B+ - I enjoy the style. Fuck'all!

Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - B- - my oh my mastering. Raps are a bit too statement like. Could use a more lyrical element. Still clever though.

Chris Cogott - A- - Enjoy this production/ chord progression/ etc. Well done.

Happi - B- - Very distinct guitar tone/mic placement. Gandalf! Interesting mesh of sounds. a little out of rhythm though.

Emperor Gum - B+ - Cool sounds. Harry Nilsson-esque. I enjoy.

Jon Eric - B+ - Cool song. Interesting take on task.

Hudson And Day - C+ - Room noises! (I love room noises). The arrangement idea is a bit scattered though. Didn't need as many voices as it has. Cluttered.

Mick Bordet - B - Interesting perspective on task. Death as the meat you're eating and being happy about it. Clever.

Noah McLauglin - B- - Rhythm is off at top. Did not appreciate rhythm change. Sucks that you're towards the end of a 45 song list.

David Ritter - B+ - Good song structure and arrangement. I enjoy.

Heather Miller - C - If you're gonna do a song like this you have to own it. And mean it. I don't believe a word you're saying.

Anna P - meh.

Donutworthy - C+ - Cool up until the vocals. Too much delay for me.

Green Mama Bathsalts - Too much chorus. Too much chorus. Cheesifies everything.

Common Lisp - Rhythms are off on snare. Bumming me out.

SpinTunes #3 Round 1 Review: Randy Parcel

I asked Randy to judge because he's been a big SpinTunes supporter, and because I thought some of the people from "Masters Of Song Fu" would enjoy getting a review from Randy again. He was known in that community for doing reviews of Song Fu rounds on YouTube. You can connect with Randy on YouTube & Twitter.

Governing Dynamics - Alive Again
Travis seems to like writing lyrics that walk the line between descriptive and vague, and for the purposes of this challenge, it's better that way. GD's creepy stalker song initially sounded more like a vampire or frankenstein perspective than from a serial killer, but after reading Travis' inspirations for the song, it's easier to steer my brain in the more realistic direction (which is decidedly less humorous). I like most of the lyrics, and the variety in the chorus keeps it from feeling too repetitive. The guitars, bass and drums sound good and are mixed well. The vocal melody fits with the music, and most of the background parts work with the lead (they clash a bit in the chorus). The bridge in general just works for me.

Vocals are breathy and pitchy in places, and some parts dip below the audible threshold (fortunately all artists are required to submit lyrics with each song). The parenthetic 'inside' vocals don't sound different enough from the 'outside' voice to be easily distinguished as a seperate 'character'. Though not necessary, I feel the intro could be lengthened. Alive Again may not have a high replay value, but it fits the challenge nicely.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Gold Lion - In The Afterlife
While Danny Elfman, Bobby 'Boris' Pickett and I agree that the premise of a party with the deceased is a good one, I also agree with Paul and Storm that some parties can be lame. Gold Lion started with the first and ended up with the second. For the most part, I feel that the lyrics and atmosphere weren't pushed far enough to get the desired result. Hardly any effort was put into describing things lyrically, and the bass-heavy vocals don't express happiness. The melody's fine and the harmony's good, but the vocals get off-key at times. There's a lot of feedback and seemingly-unintentional resonance in the dull party section. The talking is boring, unrelated to the theme and seems like it was used as filler to cover for the lack of a second verse. Yawn. Fortunately, the guitar and drum parts sound alright and were recorded better than everything else in the tune.

A bad cut is audible at the end of the first verse, and it messes up the rhythm of the song. The way it's sung in the chorus, it sounds like the vocalist is singing 'until you believe' instead of 'do you believe,' but I prefer the former anyway. Maybe it was a last-minute change. Whatever. Editing at the beginning and end of the song should be tighter, too. ITA has the foundation of a good song, but feels only halfway there.

Verdict: 6/10

Dr. Lindyke - Wake Me When It's Over
It's clear that Leigh & Hoover work hard to craft their lyrics in a way that's not only appropriate for the challenge, but also for the characters and their situation. As Dave wrote on his blog, they imparted three additional constraints to the mix: to make the song less than 3 minutes, to make the mood go from sad to happy and NOT to make it funny. What can I say? Some people work better under special conditions (I don't think I'm one of them...).

I like the optimistic and hopeful lyrics, and the vocal melody expresses the feelings sweetly. I lke Mr. Leigh's voice, but it sometimes gets too quiet to hear over the piano. Some of the deeper meanings may be vague to younger listeners, but that also shows that songs about death can be family-friendly. The chorus reminds me of Suicide is Painless, the M*A*S*H theme. I could use a litte more guitar and a little less shaker.
I may not want to play this all the time, but WMWIO is definitely appropriate for a wake or funeral.

Verdict: 8/10

Alexa Polasky - You Will Never Die
Alexa's submission has a 90s alternative sort of feel to it. I like the sound, but it feels basic. The two syllable phrasing of the lyrics in the verses can be easy to write for, but doesn't always make for an interesting song, and it doesn't feel particularly happy. For the most part, the lyrics don't describe the person Polasky's singing about enough and I end up feeling confused. Something about the phrasing of 'it only gets better' in the chorus doesn't feel right, and the usage of the phrase is currently owned by the LGBT community, so that's all I can think about... The vocals are pretty good, and the reverb and delay effects are restrained and properly used sparingly. The instruments are played and recorded fine, but their parts are not complex or varied enough, especially for a 5-minute song (the longest official entry - nearly a minute longer than Wait What). The bass does get louder than the drums at times, though, and the resonance distracts me a bit. In the end, YWND is too simple to be as long as it is.

Verdict: 6.5/10

The Offhand Band - All Over
Starting off philosophically and evolving into an alternative concept of a Beatles song (or two), the writing process for All OVer is more complicated than a listener could glean from the tune alone. Initially, I thought the usage of elements from Get Back felt more like parody or tribute than a reinterpretation, but after reading the song bio I can see how much effort was put into getting the story right. Though they were just fine before, I like the lyrics more after the extra info. The melody, instruments and chord progression were altered just enough to give the listener the feel of the influential song but ensure that no copyright infringement will arise.
Something about Mark's singing makes me think of Bobby Matheson, but Mark has more control over his voice. The keyboard solo at the end is very good, and it's clearly Meritt's strong suit. The production sounds good, but the vocals are a bit loud and the drums are a little quiet. All Over may not be an instant classic like Get Back, but it's got its own qualities that keep it out of the classic's shadow.

Verdict: 8/10

Matt Walton - We're All Going To Die
Lots of entries this round involve some philosophy in their songwriting, and I like the creativity that comes from it. Matt approaches the subject in an optimistic way, but I don't know if it's really happy. The lyrics are pretty good, and the vocal melody is fine. It sounds like Matt recorded everything in one take, which is fine for rough drafts or tight deadlines, but it better be a good take if you're going to represent yourself with it. Most of Walton's recording is pretty good - everything is clear and nothing competes to be heard. The ukulele's rhythm is off in spots, and it would be nice to have another instrument to help flesh out the sound. I don't even know why the ominous creepy laugh is in the song - it doesn't fit, it's the loudest thing in the song and doesn't increase happiness.

Verdict: 7/10

Brian Daniell - Cubbies Will Win
There's only one good baseball team in Chicago, and that may not change until we've all passed on. Brian's character is unaware that he shuffled off, and needs an angel to tell him. The composition sounds happy, but there's not a lot of happiness in the lyrics. There's no description of how the guy died (I bet he died from boredom watching the Cubs suck) or even his interest in baseball until the third chorus, and that feels sloppy to me. This is another entry that sounds like it was recorded all at once, in one take. Daniell's trio sounds good together, but the vocals and claps were not recorded with their own microphones, and the song suffers from inaudible lyrics. Maybe time got the better of them, but re-recording these elements are a requirement before they can call it good.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - She's Dead
Like the main concept behind Dexter, The Offbeats agree that the world can be a better place wihout some folks. I was skeptical that I would enjoy this song at first, but it grew on me pretty quickly. The singer's Tom Waits quality is enjoyable and appropriate for the character. I like the arrangement - the instruments sound good and are mixed well. The subtle inclusion of horns is very welcome. The 'ding dong' bit at the end of the first chorus is a good line, but it sounds like he singing 'dig down there' instead, which also works. She's Dead is at the right length for what they had to present, but I'd also like to heart a second verse to expand on why the awful woman deserved to buy the farm. This isn't my favorite song this round, but it's one of only a handful that could go on tour as is.

Verdict: 8/10

Edric Haleen - I Hope You Die
Leave it to Edric to combine polka with his trademark broadway style. The character in Haleen's death song is actually not happy, and doesn't get the satisfaction that he so badly craves. Nobody dies in the piece, either, and that's the sort of juxtaposition I've come to expect from his witty songwriting (and yet it's still surprising). Edric does a great job of setting up the scene at the very beginning, and the mood is expressed exuberantly throughout the syncopated romp. I hear an influence from 'Weird Al' Yankovic's Your Horoscope For Today in the bridge, and it works nicely with the rest of the tune. The yell at the end of the bridge steps all over the lyrics at the start of the fourth verse, though. I was kinda hoping there would be a bit more melodic variation in the numerous times the title is sung, but it's a nitpick. It's too bad that the subject matter limits the song's replay value (I'm sure Weird Al can relate).

Good heavens, did I hear Edric Haleen curse? In a song, no less? I never thought I'd see the day... Not a big deal, but still...

IHYD skirts along the boundaries of the round's rules, and turns out to be a more enjoyable ride than expected.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Charlie McCarron - Grandma And Grandpa
I didn't like this song the first time I heard it. Maybe there was something I didn't hear correctly, maybe I had to be in the right mindset. Anyway, This is the only song this round that completely turned around for me. Charlie's got a Christpher Cross quality to his voice that I appreciate in this mellow style. McCarron's lyrics are descriptive and paint a scene in my mind, without depicting any people other than the adventurous elders. The voices aren't perfect, but they blend sweetly in this tale of endless love, and the haunting ending moves me more than the lyrics do. While I like the simplicity of the layered guitars with occaisional orchestra assistance, I'd also like to hear some subtle rhythm along with it - maybe some brushes on a snare. As it is, though, Grandma and Grandpa is the most emotionally powerful entry, and one of my favorites this round.

Verdict: 9/10

Spencer Sokol - Keeping Calm
Sokol's lyrics, though sometimes nonsensical, are creative and interesting, but they don't describe the situation enough for me to imagine much, and they don't sound that happy. The melody is okay, but some small changes could make big improvements. The vocals are expressive, and I like Spencer's voice when he sings at full voice, but he needs to spend time training it. Currently, he sings with his throat and not his diaphragm (a common issue with untrained singers). The support he's lacking makes notes sung quieter than fortissimo harder to hit and increases the nasal sound that we don't want. Fixing this alone will greatly improve the tune. Next, we'll work on enunciation...

What doesn't need work is the guitar(s), which sound very pretty together. Knocking on the body to represent a heartbeat is a nice touch. The overall production sounds good, though the full-voice vocals get a bit loud in the mix.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Luke Brekke, Esquire - Cannibal
Hall and Oates, Ke$ha and of course, the Fine Young Cannibals can tell you that human flesh tastes sweet in the form of record sales. As creepy as the subject is, it can be approached in a way that makes you look like a rockstar... or you can look creepy. Comedy/Novelty songs allow for such behavior, but it's got to be listenable or funny. Sadly, Luke's horror tune falls short for me. Some of the lyrics are pretty creative and certainly creepy, but there's no humor to speak of and the delivery is bland. Luke's voice reminds me of Darrell Maclaine's - both have a nasal, slightly dark timbre that ends up sounding bass-heavy. It's a small problem that can be fixed in numerous ways, but it doesn't sound pleasant unaddressed. Unlike Maclaine, Luke gets off-key frequently and has diction issues. The background vocals are louder than the lead most of the time, and cover up the lyrics that matter. Not changing the name in each chorus is not only a missed comedy opportunity, but it's also overly-specificreepy (...or is Annabelle like Jennifer where you live?). The last line of each chorus makes me want to skip to the next track. Some chords on the organ are painful. This song desperately needs a rhythm track to hold it together. Oh, goody: another spooky laugh at the end that's louder than everything else by a lot. Nice try, Luke. Maybe next time.

Verdict: 4.5/10

"BucketHat" Bobby Matheson - No Worries
It's unclear exactly why Bobby's character is dying, but he doesn't mind that the reaper is around the corner. The guitar/accordion/bass combo is cool and gives a positive feel to go with Matheson's optimistic lyrics, and the electric guitar in the choruses provides a quiet but enthusiastic bed of support. I like how Bobby's improved over the course of his songwriting competition career. He's gradually gotten proficient at arranging, lyrics, instrumentation, production... The only thing that hasn't improved much is his singing. (I know, I know, this isn't a singing competition. Keep in mind, I have to judge based on what's submitted - record execs do too, when considering a song to be performed by their hot new act. If you know you're weak at something, there's no shame in getting somebody to help you!) His voice is expressive enough, but has the support problems I mentioned earlier. Overall, No Worries fits the challenge, is full of character and would sound great with pro singers.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Alex Carpenter - The Day I Died
Surprisingly the only song involving zombies, Alex brings us a rocking number about suicide without that unsavory emo aftertaste. The lyrics are appropriate for the character and phrasing works with the driving rhythm and mostly-bouncy guitar nicely. I wish the final version of the lyrics was provided, as half the chorus was left out, along with punctuation and capital letters (they don't cost extra, honest!). The vocals are pitchy in places (parts of the last verse hurt my ears), but I like the melody. The instruments are arranged and produced well, and there's variety in each part. The rifle reload effect is properly timed, but I don't feel it's truly necessary. I'm not at all against having zombie noises throughout the song, especially near the end (think of it as an audience). With a new vocal track, this will be a hit. With a little practice, TDID will be ready for tour.

Verdict: 8/10

Inverse T. Clown - Caroline Is Dead
Inverse made a song of great fortune for a materialistic dude at the end of a relationship. Caroline is the same one people may be familiar with from Mike Lombardo's Masters of Song Fu 3 Round 1 submission (the challenge was to write a happy song). According to Mr. Clown, things turned quite sour after the original song, though we are not privy to what actually unfolded. Long story short, she's dies before the divorce is final. It's a funny situation for this character to be in (especially in the bridge) and Inverse made plenty of smart lyric choices, but there aren't any parts that make me laugh. While I admire the diverse and verbose selection of words, some words are hard to hear and the large lexicon is only sometimes the culprit. The vocal phrasing is rigidly maintained, which may have a negative influence on some pronunciation. On a nitpicky note, the silences between lines in the a capella intro are jarringly audible, and can be fixed easily by recording the room when it's silent and filling the gaps. BTW, 5 seconds of silence at the start? Srsly? Lame. Anyway, Caroline Is Dead is a really good song for the challenge. As a comedy tune, I can imagine hearing it on Dr. Demento, but it lacks the replay value or relatability that grants some novelty music financial success.

Verdict: 8/10

Jutze - I Love The Dead
People say there's a perfect job out there for everybody - something that fulfills and satisfies. Jutze says he made this song "with Christopher Walken’s character from Plots with a View (Undertaking Betty in the US) in mind." I haven't seen the dark romantic comedy, but Schult's piece about an undertaker is perky, catchy and uncharacteristically happy. ILTD is the minimum length required in the challenge, and yet it still feels complete. Jutze describes the occupation with the positive attitude you'd expect from the title, and the lyrics have humorous bits and make me admire the gravedigger's outlook. I enjoy the instruments and like their production. Jutze still has a hard time pronouncing 'j' and 'sh' sounds, but he's also one of few contestants whose primary language isn't English. His voice isn't the strongest, but he hits the notes and he brings life to his character.

I keep wanting to use another word, but I can't help it: this song is Cute.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Gödz Pöödlz - Wake At The Sunnyside
Rhöd and Rüss love songwriting competitions so much, they recently submitted a jingle for a local grocer's contest. This inspired them to make an extended-length jingle for a fabricated fueral home. The lyrics are full of double meanings and tongue-in-cheek humor, and the melody and harmony are just what the embalmer ordered. Rhöd's voice is pleasant, but sometimes his singing is pitchy (the key change works, but his note - ouch), and sometimes he takes too long to portamento up to the note - both things that can be polished up later. Until I read the lyrics, I though the words "Infused with finest formaldehyde" were actually "If you can find us formaldehyde." My bad, I guess.

After a thorough examination, I detect only minor adjustments to the audio of the Judges Mix. I appreciate the extra attention to detail, but the changes are barely perceptable and cause me to theorize it was some sort of trick to make the judges listen to their song more (it worked, dad gummit). If I were to make changes, I'd bring the lovely organ track up in the mix, maybe consider opening with it, too; bring the rhythm section in in layers; and make the backgrounds quieter, remove the bass and perhaps add a light reverse echo.

Wake at the Sunnyside is a fun idea executed well, though it doesn't have a lot of replay value. I'd love to see a local commercial-style music video for this.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Tally Deushane - My Dead Goldfish
Deushane brings us a tale of a pet with a will to live that's longer than the owner's interest in caring for it. The lyrics don't particularly grab me. The character isn't very likable because of her uncaring nature and her subsequent satisfaction that her pet's time had come.

This sounds like yet another one-take recording, but this take sounds pretty good... for what it's worth. I like Tally's voice - she's proven to me that she can hit a small set of notes. I don't I don't like the melody, however. I'd like to increase the overall treble of the recording. There's only so long I can listen to the same small set of notes sung to the same set of ukulele chords, much less in the same freaking order ad infinitum. If she can prove to listeners she knows a few more notes, a couple more chords and a lot more variety in the near future, she could be one to watch.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Ethan Ivey - The Four-Year Itch
The subjects for this challenge are more varied and less constrained than many others, and therefore there are fewer duplicate ideas. One interesting and completely unexpected coincidence is the usage of previous songwriting challenges as inspiration. It seems that Ethan used the challenge from MoSF 6 Round 2, where nothing was allowed to rhyme. It's not a decision I would force upon myself. Anyway, the concept of a male black widow is a good start, but the lyrics aren't good enough without the missing rhymes and the melody could be made to sound happier. I like the piano (except for one ugly mistake in the last verse), and though the vocals aren't that strong, they're fine for the range he wrote for himself. Not much replay value here, and not very happy, but ok for the challenge.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Matt And Donna - Lady On The Gray
This duo created a light pop number that doesn't make me think of death, but it feels pretty happy. All the vocalists involved are enjoyable, and they seem to belong together. I really like the piano, trumpet and and vocal melodies, and how sweetly they play together. The backgrounds are pleasant as well, and nothing competes to be heard. The lyrics sound nice, but I can't envision much aside from the rather eloquent discovery that the character has become a ghost. I may not put this on heavy rotation on a portable media device, but LOTG is pretty enough to keep around.

Verdict: 8/10

Ross Durand - No Taxes
Much like Bobby Matheson's, there are lots of things that Ross' character finds to be positive about kicking the bucket. The lyrics are plenty happy, and I like the Monty Python reference. The folk style seems appropriate for the subject matter and Ross' vocals are reminiscent of Dylan and match the mood well. Harmony vocals are good, though they could be a little bit quieter. Everything sounds like it was played and produced with skill.

I wish the 'four' was edited out of the beginning. Going to such lengths to fit 'erection' into the chorus isn't worth it if it's paired with a non-rhyme like 'again', much less having to say 'erection' every time the chorus comes around. With a couple changes, No Taxes could be pretty successful.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Menagé a Tune - Isn't It Nice
Though not explicitly involving death, one can assume that something seriously bad happened to the bullies in Jo Ann's song of revenge. It isn't made clear, but the listener is led to believe that the flashing lights she referred to are from an ambulance or police car. Jo Ann's vocals may be pitchy at times and she can't quite reach the low notes, her singing is sweet and likeable. Considering the content, the song still feels family-friendly. After mentioning that it it's nice to have or be a friend, it would've been nice to hear Jo Ann describe or involve a friend in the song. I like the melody, the keyboard accompaniments are pretty and things sound like they're mixed alright. I don't hear any bass in Abbott's vocal track at all, and it also could use a little reverb to make it sound less sterile. Too bad the end got cut off...
Since this is a story based on real events, I'm interested in hearing the rest of this moral anecdote.

Verdict: 7/10

Glen Raphael - When You're Dead
It's pretty gutsy move to make a song using almost solely your voice, even if you've trained to use it for most of your life. Unfortunately, Glen's voice isn't in control enough to be considered trained. My ears get confused as to which off-key vocal track I should follow, and parts of it are hard to listen to. The lyrics may be slightly optimistic, but they're not very interesting and not funny.
It's a shame the beginning got cut off, and the end faded out when it should've just stopped - the motivator behind the fade is the fact that the drum kit keeps going. Sorry, but nothing really works for me in this one. When You're Dead is a dud.

Verdict: 4.5/10

Doom SKITTLE - A Better Place
I know it's very challenging to make a complete song and record it before a deadline - that's most of the reason why we call them challenges. The rest of the reason is that even if you create something, it may not be something that people will like or appreciate. Doom had enough time to record a ROUGH draft, and rather than wait to submit a less rough draft as a shadow song with dignity, he submitted this ugly thing. I like the concept, where the character reaches the afterlife and meets his ancestors. Nothing is explained about how he died, or even the description of the family member he meets. The passable acoustic guitar doesn't make up for the awful vocals. Some parts of A Better Place are painful and others are disjointed, but all of it is not ready to be released.

Verdict: 4/10

Wait WHAT - Death: Everyone's Doing It!
While one could say this submission is less tragic than the last couple entries, that doesn't mean this Death isn't a tragedy, or a travesty, or both. I'm not pleased with the singing or phrasing, and even if the vocal melody were performed by someone that could sing it in key, I still wouldn't like it very much. Sure, I can see that some humor could exist in trying to convince listeners to kill themselves, but none is to be found. I suppose the music is okay, but the completely unenthusiastic vocals kill all enjoyment for me. ...And then there's the rap, if you could sleep at night after calling it that. Unbeknownst to me, by signing up to judge this set of songs, I agreed to subject myself to more torture than most people should allow themselves to willingly inflict upon one's self before being considered a threat to society. ...And yet I'd gladly do it again, to save the general public from hearing bad creations like this.

Verdict: 4/10

Steve Durand - Die Happy
I know, another philosophy song. You're probably tired of hearing about them, and I'm sparing you my own. The horn section is my favorite part of the song. The lyrics are positive and pretty happy and as inspiring or moreso than the other philosophical songs. Steve's singing is pretty good. He could benefit from practice, but his voice fits the style of the song. The vocal melody isn't amazing, but I like the overall sound, and the lyrics could pass for 40s-era songwriting. It seems that Durand managed to simulate a decent medium-fidelity warmth. I'd like the bass to be louder in the mix, but I understand if the artistic method intentionally limits the sound. The instrumental portion is cool and really drives the swing feel home. Die Happy another I would play on occaision at most, but I appreciate the strong effort to replicate an old-time sound.

Verdict: 8/10

Jason Morris - Burning For You
Anybody that's able to make it to the final round of any songwriting competition has what it takes to make a song worth listening to, and Song Fu 2 finalist Morris tends to satisfy more than disappoint. His song involves a shy guy who takes a drastic approach to get the attention of the one he loves. There's a pretty long list of things I'd do to get a girl to see me before I willingly conflagrated, but it doesn't sound like the character tried anything before he jumped to the brilliant idea of suicide.

It's kinda creepy, a little disturbing and not very happy, but the lyrics are descriptive and the vocal melody is good stuff. I enjoy Jason's voice and performances of the lead and backgrounds. The music is catchy and upbeat, and Jason does a great job on instrumentation and production. The bridge really works for me, in general. What doesn't work for me is the chorus - I wish that it were more than the same note and the same four words done to death, if you'll pardon the pun (I think I've behaved myself so far, as far as puns are concerned, yeah? Meh, what do you care). Jason did change up the melody in the last chorus, but if the unimaginitive lyrics are to remain the same I'd prefer to hear variations that increase in complexity and intensity over the four choruses. Any kind of lyrical variety in the chorus is still heartily welcomed. It may also be a missed opportunity not to change 'mind' to 'heart' in the second pre-chorus, even if it is cliché. Some reworking could make BFY a hit.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Caleb Hines - Haven't You Ever
Caleb's happiness from death comes in the form of an inheritance. A sound starting point, he describes the fun, adventurous events and opulent purchases the happy character spends the assets on. There are some silly things mentioned, but the lyrics don't succeed in making me laugh (don't feel bad - none of them did). The vocal lead and harmonies are good, and the music backs them appropriately. Caleb's another throat singer, and his voice sounds kinda scrawny and weak, but it's acceptable for a comedy/novelty tune. There is a distinct improvement in his diction, though, and evidence of a lisp is virtually gone. The elements sound mixed well, except the drums are a little quiet. Just like the other InheriTanCe song this round, I can imagine hearing it on Dr. Demento, but it lacks the replay value to be an appealing iTunes purchase.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Bryce Jensen - Thank You
Bryce's character is happy in the way ITC's and Caleb's are, but not because of a will. It's not clear what sort of relationship is being described or what went wrong, but this person is experiencing happiness due to the relief that he no longer needs to murder them. Creepy? sure. Disturbing? Just enough. There isn't much to them, but I like the lyrics and how they portray the delusional would-be killer as an optimist. There are some humorous bits (doesn't everybody need a wood chipper?), but, as I mentioned before, no lulz. Bryce's lead vocals are tolerable and the melody is pretty good.The background vocals don't sound as good, and it seems they're pitchier, too. The piano part's pretty good, even if it's a bit repetitive. Using only two mediocre two-beat drum loops is a disappointment. Thank You is pretty good, but has plenty of room for improvement.

Verdict: 7/10

Pat And Gweebol - Baby Go To Sleep
This seemingly simple number ended up growing on me. Normally I don't appreciate the countless Romeo and Juliet references in songs, because they usually don't utilize the story's plot. Sure, things are vague and veiled in obscurity, but the lyrics are effective, and both vocalists perform their parts well. All the vocal parts are written nicely. I like the doubled leads, and the backgrounds are used the right amount and at the right volume. The keyboard part in the intro and instrumental isn't amazing but it isn't bad either, and contributes to the overall sound of the song more than it detracts. BGTS has more replay value than most of the songs this round. Pat and Greebol are some pretty talented puppets, and they made a likeable song.

Verdict: 8/10

The Boffo Yux Dudes - Marked For Death
These comedy veterans bring us a 60s-style rock song about someone running from his inevitable end. The lyrics sometimes make me think the character is a spy or arent of some sort, but there's no proof of that being true. They may be enthusiastically spoken, but I feel I'd like the lyrics more if they were sung (though they still won't impress me). The vocals have a bit of reverb applied to them, which I wouldn't have a problem with if the track it was manipulating was properly equalized. There's not enough midtone or treble in the recording, and it sounds too fuzzy prior to the processing... or at least that's what I hear. The guitars and bass parts are okay, albeit a bit quiet. I don't like the drum track much. The claps at the end could've been cut out - they don't fit.
Unfortunately, MFD doesn't quite get where it needs to go.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - My Name Is Death
Before I start, I just want to state my belief that artists should be required to get well known as two names before you should be allowed to use an AKA, much less use multiple names simultaneously in the first place. Sean Combs has a ton of different names, but he's too cool to use more than one at a time, and we can all learn a valuable lesson from that, and that is: Pick ONE stage name and stick with it until it stops being cool. Moving along...

Apparently Death is a rapping redneck. When I was growing up, I used to think that rap was a half-made song, but soon I found out that rapping is tough to do right (Rapping Duke, anyone?). There's nothing really entertaining or funny about the lyrics or the rapping. Most of the words feel uninspired and boring. The loop is too simple and repetitive to help the song climb out of the grave. At least the Metal Gear Solid communicator sound was used effectively. This may be one of the first three SpinTunes submissions to feature rapping, but being first doesn't mean best.

Verdict: 4.5/10

Chris Cogott - Drag Me Down
I hear a large number of similarities to the Beatles' classic style, and that's fine - it's a sound that's worked for plenty of bands over the decades. He made an upbeat ditty about a seafarer that becomes enamored with a mermaid, and he must make the ultimate sacrifice to be with the aquatic beauty. It's not necessarily the best choice to leave the word 'mermaid' out of the piece, but anybody that follows along with the lyrics should be able to figure it out. The music is very nice, effectively capturing the 60s rock and roll style with every element. Good performances and recordings, and the mixing is high quality. Though it's not a funny song, I could still imagine hearing it at least once on Dr. Demento (I usually don't refer to his show this much, honest!). DMD is a good fit for the challenge, and will be one of the better reasons to revisit this round in the future.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Happi - The Next Part Of Life
Man, rap songs are tough to get right.

Half of comedy duo (that's the intent, right?) Spandex Moose, Happi makes a philosophical jam, and while it's the best song including rap this round, that's not saying a lot. I can tell there's plenty of effort that went into the lyrics, and they're mostly happy, but the execution doesn't work for me. Some phrasing is too tightly-packed to work in every verse and reading along is practically a requirement, at least if you want to understand some bits. Sometimes the vocals rush the beat and the backgrounds aren't synchronized enough. Perhaps the rhythm instruments come in too late. The hardcore section in the second half might be too hardcore for the theme. I don't like the end of each chorus: the sustain after 'DEATH!' is too long, and the 'is the next part of life' bit is so much quieter that it's like taking a dynamic and emotional plummet into a crevasse of blah. I see the potential in the artist, but the song just doesn't satisfy me like it should.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Emperor Gum - Frequency
Emperor submitted a story of a child who gets revenge upon her overprotective parent that kept her under lock and key. Initially, I thought this song was based on yet another movie I didn't watch (what a relief). It's kinda hard to envision the character Gum's describing, but it's clear she's not happy until the end. Some lyrics are pretty good, but this 'sometimes rhyming, sometimes not' business isn't appealing. The music is simple and childish, and gets excited and intense at the right time. The vocals aren't very expressive, and sometimes get off-key a bit. Listening to Emperor sing 'again' is unpleasant. The transition to the bridge is uncomfortable. Come to think of it, I don't even get the title. Frequency is more depressing than it is happy.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Jon Eric - Birthday
Jon brings us a cool folk tune, with smart, descriptive lyrics that successfully express the last moment of life and the events thereafter. I like the imagery and the positive attude portrayed by Jon's character. Mr. Eric's voice is good for the song, and i like the melody and harmony.

The background vocals feel buried, and need to be brought up in the mix to support the lead better. Guitar, bass and shaker are a simple, yet effective combo, and they don't need a lot of improvement (shaker rhythm sometimes gets shaky in places, though). Pausing for effect is fine, as long as everybody comes back in at the same time. I don't feel like Birthday has a lot of replay value, but it's worth keeping around.

Verdict: 8/10

Hudson And Day - Silly Baby
The Dixie Chicks made it fashionable to be vengeful murderers and Country lovers (or haters) at the same time. H&D's song about a philanderer and the women he did wrong is is good idea, but it's executed poorly. Most of the vocals sound like they were recorded with an old webcam, presumably to simulate a phone. Maybe it was a filter on a good recording. Regardless, most audio is too quiet in the mix to understand and most of it doesn't sync with the rhythm of the song. The lack of a rhythm track may be a large cause, and it certainly could improve the listening experience. The submitted lyrics are incomplete, and it's a damn shame I won't be able to get the whole thing... Oh well.

Nothing really feels complete about Silly Baby.

Verdict: 5/10

SpinTunes #3 Round 1 Review: Kevin Savino-Riker

The first SpinTunes champ is back. He's been a competitor, he's shadowed, he's judged, and now he's guest judged. The man can do it all.


Hi, I’m Troy McClure Kevin Savino-Riker! You might remember me from such songwriting contests as Spintunes, Spintunes 2, The White Elephant Skultar Challenge, A Songwriting Cycle, Frankensong, and the Songfight Gift of Music 2010. It is my diabolical pleasure to return for a rousing round of guest-judging today.

I’m going to borrow a few words from my last stint on the bench:

There’s no room for ties; not at the top, not anywhere. This means it’s possible that a song I’d give an objective score of 95% might walk away with the top spot, while a song that I’d score 90% might only walk away with a few points. The points are not a measure of overall quality; they’re of relative quality, and with a field this tight there will be some exaggerated gaps between high-ranking and low-ranking songs, even if I think they’re both pretty damn good.

Here’s how I’m going to put you in order: I put the musicality of a song and the poetry of the song on equal and prominent footing... by which I mean, the *writing* of the music and the lyrical content have the same sway over me. If you choose a particularly tasty sequence of notes, that will make as big an impact on me as if you had written a very clever, moving, or otherwise exceptional lyric. If you’ve done both, it will be better still.

Right up there in importance is how well you’ve met the challenge while doing those two things. Someone who wrote a song that aces the challenge has done better than someone who wrote an equally pleasing song that only barely satisfies it. In this case, I feel there are a few ways to succeed here - writing a story in which someone is happy about death, or setting any kind of death story to happy music.

Lastly, but still importantly, is the performance... and by that I don’t necessarily mean ‘production values’. If there was passion and quality in your performance, it’ll be evident no matter the quality of the equipment that captured you. That said, I expect there will be a loose correlation between production value and rank... but only because I expect that the better songwriters among us are the ones more likely to have the experience, equipment and expertise to best capture the song they wrote.

Lastly-lastly (and my escape clause), is the “it” factor. This is still an art of subjectivity and subtlety. My preferences might escape my own reasoning. I might find one funny song better than a serious song, and find another serious song better than the funny one. If a song excels, and I mean, *really* excels in one criterion, it could make up for a deficiency in another. If a song stirs my emotions, it’s going to do VERY well.

Alright, now that that’s done, let’s hit some reviews. Songs are reviewed in the order they appear on the album, and my ranked list appears at the end of the post.

Governing Dynamics - Alive Again: Here we have a great alternative-pop song that, while happy, is also unabashedly creepy. I love how the narrator acknowledges his own obvious insanity and shrugs it off because, well... killing chicks really brightens up his day. The chorus is catchy and sing-songy, you’ve got nice harmonies - especially in the bridge - and a great chord structure behind the whole song. The upward key changes at the end really seal the deal here; there’s an approaching climax as he makes the kill, followed by a nice minor turn in the closing lines as he comes down afterward and foreshadows the need to kill again. Really excellent work here.

Gold Lion - In The Afterlife: I’m a little torn on this song. Musically, there’s some sweet stuff going on here. I love the peppy acoustic funk, and your vocals are really enjoyable, especially with the Pomplamoosian harmonies that show up two minutes in... but I wish we had more lyrical content here. Now, it’s possible to write a great song that only wants a few words, and I’d argue that this song certainly conveys your message through its tone and the one verse you’ve given us, but that’s only enough to meet the challenge criteria. You have competition who met the requirements as well as you while delivering a lot more content.

Dr. Lindyke - Wake me When It’s Over: This is a really well-crafted piece. There’s a pretty traditional composition here that works to good effect - it strikes the ear as familiar and soothing right off the bat. Very nice piano, and the shaker/percussion provides just the right amount of background ambiance. You have a great melody, and I noticed something very interesting about its effect on the lyrics. I’m not sure I can explain it. Reading off the page they’re basic, simple prose, but your vocals seem to evoke a layer of poetry on top of them. Listening to them sung, each word seems to be carefully selected and exquisitely placed. I also have to acknowledge the nice play on words with ‘wake me’. This song exemplifies “more than the sum of its parts”.

Alexa Polasky - You Will Never Die: The music here is very cool. The interplay between guitar and bass is delightful, the drums are tight and solid, and the heavily-effected vocals lend a nice ethereal feel to the song. I’m hung up on your lyrics though. I love everything about the verses and the bridge, but the chorus doesn’t make sense. I want to forgive it because your “only gets better” hook is really effective, but I feel like there’s a better way to convey what you’re trying to say. I’m pretty sure you aren’t actually trying to suggest “you never die/you will actually die, but it’s cool”.

The Offhand Band - All Over: I think this is the only song that addresses metaphorical / abstract death, which is not too surprising, but it is refreshing. The song is saturated with Beatles influences and allusions, but if you’re gonna borrow, borrow from the best. I like the verses a lot; they clip along with a lot of energy and really keep the song bouncing along, but then the chorus seems to fall flat on its face in contrast, so you keep losing me until we get to the delicious organ outro. the organs were fantastic throughout the entire song, actually. Urgent and intricate without crowding out your vocals. It might be my single favorite piece of instrumental work in this round.

Matt Walton - We’re All Going To Die: The music is almost necessarily a secondary element when it comes to folk songs, and this uke-folk accompaniment does its simple job just fine, leaving you room to get right into your story. So, let’s take a look at the story. It seems to arbitrarily start with a couple making dinner plans and then quickly derails into a laundry list of possible deaths distracting the narrator. I really like the idea that these two people caught themselves at a moment in the middle of their lives, and then spent their otherwise uneventful dinner in conversation about how they feel about life and death, and this song is the audience listening in on them... but I don’t think that’s actually what you did here. It seems more like we’re tapping into his inner monologue, and if that’s the case then the first stanza seems pretty disjointed from the rest of the song. Depending on what you were actually going for, it could sway my overall impression of the song quite significantly. All in all, it’s a pleasant simple thing.

Brian Daniell - Cubbies Will Win: This song is a goofy cute party. Great lead guitar licks throughout, and a fun crowd of happy backing instruments. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something childrens’ song-ish about the lyrical construction here, and it’s a good choice to avoid the typical darkness of death talk. There’s a heavy parallelism in a handful of songs in this round, in which they tell us death is good because it separates us from the tedious and unpleasant day-to-day worries of life. This is the first of them that we encountered, so it’s going to set the benchmark on how well a song does it. I did get a kick out of this one thing: the rest of the song is all about what you can stop worrying about, but one specific thing you’re excited about once you’re dead is that you can keep worrying about the Cubs since you can wait the necessary eternity for them to win. Cute.

Byron Blocker & The Offbeats - She’s Dead: Wow. This song is something special. The whiskey blues is flawless, the vocals are OUTSTANDING, there’s great instrumentation all across the board, so I’m not even going to bother trying to delve into it beyond saying that I loved the horn section that comes in with the the hook - it caused a great swell that drives the song home. But as good as this music is, I’m really fascinated with the lyrics here. You outlined a scenario, and then neglected to tell us what *must* be a really juicy story... and despite that apparent deficiency, this song is absolutely dense with terrific lines. From the imagery of the girl’s description to the excellent internal rhymes everywhere, these are all expertly written. I’m in love with that second verse, by the way - references to the fatted calf and Bacchus, in particular - it says to me, “Listen, a normal party won’t do. We’re so glad she’s dead we need to celebrate the way they did thousands of years ago: ritual animal slaughter and appealing to the gods of wine and celebration.” Damn, dude. **Full disclosure: Byron and I are buddies, but his ranking is solely based on the song he submitted. The song earned my praise, and it was not influenced by the fact that I know him.**

Edric Haleen - I Hope You Die: This review is going to be short, because there are simply no words. I mean, seriously. You used them all. The over-the-top cheerful music is just perfect, and you delivered the vocal performance of the year. Lance Armstrong wishes he had your lungs. Your writing, in addition to being so mechanically precise with nary a misplaced syllable, is funny, clever and witty throughout. Somewhere, Weird Al just woke up from a nightmare in which he’s no longer the best. This is the most impressive song I’ll hear all contest long.

Charlie McCarron - Grandma And Grandpa: Gorgeous instrumentation and haunting melody. This is vivid and pure and heartbreaking, which makes it tough to evaluate. I think it’s happy and bittersweet. You met the challenge in the saddest way possible. But you met the challenge. The choir vocals are just beautiful; they redeem the heavy tone of the narrative by suggesting that the grandparents don’t just die at the end... they experience an ascension. Gorgeous song.

Spencer Sokol - Keeping Calm: This song is just so emotionally raw and moving. Your voice is plaintive and exposed and it makes the song beautiful, but I don’t know if it’s really very happy. Your choice of words is powerful throughout, and I love that you managed to identify a death without explicitly stating it. It’s hard to do that well, and you’ve certainly done it here. Great poetry. The guitar is crisp and powerful, and it gives the song more ‘mass’. Ultimately, though, that’s the only problem for this contest. The song is heavy, not happy. That said, this is probably my favorite song to listen to this round.

Luke Brekke, Esquire - Cannibal: You win the Silliest Song of The Round award. It’s funny for its absurdist approach, especially the “because he’s a cannibal” exposition choir. I laughed out loud every time they came in, especially with the cannibal/Annabelle rhyme. Deliciously silly. The music isn’t terribly interesting, though the pipe organ makes me imagine the singer as some sort of gothic Phantom of the Opera character hiding in his underground human-eating sanctuary. Good imagery evoked there, but other than that, this song lacks a little depth. It’s one joke carried out for three minutes, so it needs to be a really good joke to pull that off.

“Buckethat” Bobby Matheson - No Worries: We’ve come to the second song that takes the “death means no more worries” tack. This one does it in its purest form, and the list fills up nicely while being punctuated periodically with a very singable refrain. It’s a straightforward basic attack on the challenge, and it’s plenty enjoyable to listen to. You’ve got solid guitars and bass, and the accordion is a unique treatment, which is the one thing that keeps this song from feeling like the prototypical example of ‘happy song about death’. But it’s very close to what I imagine averaging everyone else’s entries would yield; I feel like you aimed for the middle of the pack and then hit the mark square on.

Alex Carpenter - The Day I Died: I suppose if you need to write a song about being the last guy alive after the zombie apocalypse, you can’t do much better than to make it a pop punk song. Everything fits together like it should; you’ve got the staccato chunky guitar chords and the cut time drum breaks that I love in songs like these. Your chord progressions and transitions are very well crafted, and I can tell there’s a lot of talent at play here, but there is a little bit of sterility in the final result, like it’s the consequence of being *too* carefully designed following blueprints from other successful songs. Feel free to disregard that criticism because music is incredibly subjective and I realize it sounds ridiculous for me to say ‘it would sound better if it didn’t sound so good’, but that’s just the way my tastes align. Your verses are superb. Returning to “dear diary” for each new stanza works really well, and you’ve done a great job describing the narrator’s plight. The chorus starts out a little weaker than the verses, though it resolves nicely. I’m more a fan of harmonies than unison vocals, but the second guitar helps fill the chorus out and inject a little more energy where the vocals didn’t, so it still works.

Inverse T. Clown - Caroline Is Dead: I can’t get enough of the vocal intro. Great harmonies, great way to trick us into thinking we’ve got a somber song on our hands. Once we pick up with the upbeat synth, you unleash a barrage of wickedly funny and smart lyrics that read like a giant limerick. Good structure here; the bridge is a welcome change, and it makes the final verse sound fresh again. Nice job.

Jutze - I Love The Dead: This is a great take on the challenge. It’s possibly the most acceptable means by which we can have a character love the fact that people are dying all the time. The whole song is joyful and carefree, almost inspiring. Here we have a character who could very well live a life of depression and darkness, but it doesn’t even occur to him to think that way about it. Though it is telling that he does think to qualify that his interest in the dead is platonic at best. That got a chuckle out of me. The guitar sounds great here, and the background the vocals are tastefully applied. Really fun song.

Godz Poodlz - Wake At The Sunnyside: Okay, this is brilliant. Cleverest approach to the challenge, bar none. The music is a fun and faithful expansion of a happy commercial jingle, and your lyrics are entertainingly insensitive yet believable as a sales pitch. I love the echoed harmonies that sync back up in the second half of the chorus. A near-perfect effort.

Tally Deushane - My Dead Goldfish: I like this music; it’s catchy and pretty, though I’m a little creeped out at the evil little girl singing. Actually, I’m mad at her. That aside, your voice is quite pretty and I love your melody, specially enjoying the way you transitioned between verse and chorus by changing the melody over a consistent uke accompaniment.

Ethan Ivey - The Four Year Itch: Heh, so we have another serial killer here, but at least this one is polite enough to date, marry, and allow his victims to live for a few years before he offs them. I don’t get a strong vibe from this song; it’s not pushing any musical boundaries - there’s only one piano part for the entire song, and the vocals follow the same progression except for the spoken-word segment, so it’s not particularly engaging to listen to. I’d suggest changing things up with vocals that don’t follow the piano, at least for part of the song... or a second chord progression for the chorus, or both. I know it’s not a long song, but it would still benefit from mixing things up a bit.

Matt And Donna - Lady On The Gray: Oh, I really like this song. The lead and backing vocals are terrific, and the trumpet is lovely. The lyrics are interesting to say the least, they’re a bit abstract to the point that I’m never really sure what you’re actually telling me; it could be a matter of my own ignorance, but I feel like this might be a little too subtle. I don’t think I’d know this was a song about death without liner notes. It’s a lovely song, and I’m not going to say it doesn’t satisfy the challenge just because I’m not good enough to pick up what you’re putting down, but I shouldn’t have as hard a time as I do to know for sure.

Ross Durand - No Taxes: Excellent. We have another one of our “nothing to worry about after death” songs, but this one manages to run through the list more stylishly than all the others. The guitar and vocal harmonies are so enjoyable to listen to, as well. I love the death and taxes reference, and actually I’m surprised we haven’t seen it anywhere else, but it’s great in this western /folk context. I also appreciate the Monty Python allusion; this song has a nice blend of the silly and serious, the personal and incidental, and it makes me feel happy listening to it. Excellent.

Menage’ a Tune - Isn’t It Nice: This song draws upon the spirit of the most sinister of the old nursery rhymes... the ones designed to scare the shit out of children to get them to behave better. The nursery rhyme musical theme certainly strikes a happy tone, but I find myself horrifyingly enthralled at the story unfolding underneath. I think this might actually be a character study of a psychopath more than a song about the deaths she caused, but either way it is very very dark. So dark that the music box accompaniment might not be enough to pull the song back into happy territory. The character is certainly happy with the outcome of her actions, but it’s still a powerfully upsetting song. I need a hug.

Glen Raphael - When You’re Dead: It’s another “you can stop worrying when you’re dead” song, but his song stands out from the rest because it has such a great vibe. Love the spoons and snare rhythm tracks. The vocal harmonies are complex and confident with shades of Bobby McFerrin throughout. I feel happy again. This one definitely gets the job done.

Doom SKITTLE - A Better Place: This song is trying to put a positive spin on the afterlife, but it isn’t making too strong a case for it. The speaking character doesn’t sound like he’s convinced that it’s a better place at all, actually. There would be a chance to brighten the mood with the guitar track, but you instead went with what sounds like a deliberately negative tone. I don’t think this song meets the criteria, and I might go so far as to say that it never really wanted to.

Wait What - Death: Everyone’s Doing It!: Schoolhouse Rocks: Blue Oyster Cult edition. This song is funny and irreverent for sure. The rap break, while completely incongruent with the rest of the song, is definitely the highlight for me. There are a ton of great pop culture references and witty one-liners here, which I appreciate very much. You guys definitely don’t take yourselves seriously, which can work for you by freeing you up to approach the topic with genuine silliness; it’s not a gamble that always works, but it tends to work on me. **Full disclosure: I’m friends with these guys too. If anyone thinks I ranked them unfairly, it’s probably because I’m judging them on the fact that they’re jerks to me in real life.**

Steve Durand - Die Happy: Glorious horns and a classy old-timey vibe make this song a real winner. There are periods where I’m detecting subtle musical allusions to a New Orleans funeral march, but then goes full-on big band and I can’t help but smile. This is a pure, no bullshit happy song about a happy guy not afraid of dying. I especially liked the “he died happy as my epitaph” and “punch every ticket on my bucket list” lyrics. Nicely done.

Jason Morris - Burning For You: Great instrumentation and arrangement here. You have an excellent play on words here with “I’m gonna burn myself into your mind”, and in this song you also managed to do that thing I love - you’re communicating clearly that you’re dying while avoiding the words that say so explicitly. The references to fire and ashes, normally appropriated for metaphorical use only, work so well here because you structure your lyrics such that they could be interpreted metaphorically or literally, and then the rest of the song supplies the clues needed to see that you’re really talking about setting yourself on fire. These are great lyrics and it’s an excellent song.

Caleb Hines - Haven’t You Ever: I love this song. The piano and epic background choir accentuate the ridiculous examples of conspicuous excess you get to enjoy with your inheritance. The “you can’t take it with you” lyric is a great hook, and you have come up with some genuinely funny material to anchor it to. I like the story you tell here because you’ve created a character I can’t hate. I can’t blame you for enjoying the money, since you’re planning to pay it forward once your turn is up. This is a fun song that I feel good about listening to.

Bryce Jensen - Thank You: Well, this is an interesting take on a happy ex-lover death. You manage to stay upbeat despite the disappointment of not getting to kill her yourself. Heh. Funny premise, and you set it up nicely so it’s a surprise when you get to the chorus. The music is pretty straightforward but the layered vocals make for some interesting sounds - you have some unusual harmonies in the chorus that keep this from sounding too much like a cookie-cutter composition.

Pat And Gweebol - Baby Go To Sleep: This is a really creative approach to the challenge. The Romeo & Juliet story deserves some happy treatment, and you delivered it. Awesome piano that shifts between pop and retro rock, and your vocals are absolute ear candy. You have a great way of describing the love between these two that strips all elements of tragedy from their story. Great job.

The Boffo Yux Dudes - Marked For Death: This is a Monty Python sketch if ever there was one. It sounds like this idea wasn’t completely fleshed out because of the extensive repetition, but it’s a funny set of lines you are repeating. I’m a little distracted by the English accent, mainly because I’m trying to figure out if there’s a specific reason for it to be there and I can’t seem to find one. There is a fun cadence to the song, and I really enjoy the walking bass line in the accompaniment - there’s a really enjoyable mood that it sets, though I think the song could benefit from a change in dynamics just to keep things interesting.

Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - My Name Is Death: This song is all over the place. You’re definitely Death, but the song isn’t really happy. There are a couple places where you suggest that people shouldn’t be scared of you, but mostly I’m hearing a lot of the boasting one expects at a battle. As far as the technical aspect of the song goes, there are a handful of times where you completely interrupt your flow ( “my job.... makes people sob”, etc.), but then you also have a few great lines that flow really well ( “roll down the end of my sleeves I’m skeletal” ). You have sort of a Kottonmouth Kings vibe going on, which I like stylistically, but rap is all about flow and I think there are some pretty obvious places where a little more effort would have made a big difference.

Chris Cogott - Drag Me Down: Terrific happy rock n’ roll song here. The arrangement here is complex without being crowded, and the main riff and musical breaks are excellent. Unparalleled instrumentation and wonderful vocal harmonies. A forbidden love with a mermaid? He dies and gets to be with her in the end? Happy song about death indeed. “But give me some time to learn to breathe in your world” is an amazing lyric. I like everything about this.

Happi - The Next Part Of Life: This is what I was hoping for in a rap song about death. You have a message and you spend the entire song stating your case. The energy is high in all the right places, and “the next part of life” gives the song a place to breathe in between. You take the listener on a journey up and down with you, and it’s a great ride. Great flow throughout. I like the hard drums contrasting with the piano backing track - great arrangement. A nonbeliever myself, I had to laugh at the style change during the atheist break. I mean, of course atheists are death metal. What else could we be? It was a jarring change, but it worked with your lyrical content and I got a kick out of it. All in all, this is a great song with high replay value.

Emperor Gum - Frequency: This song is interesting and engaging; the tempo changes and breaks fit the story well. I really like those ups and downs, but this song spends a lot of its time in a dark place. The first two verses promise a little lightness even though there’s a sense of foreboding throughout, but things take a turn toward the end and I feel like the whole song was dark as a result.

Jon Eric - Birthday: I want this song to play at my funeral. I’m a big fan of the Irish drinking chanty, and this one is one of the most heartwarming and beautiful ones I’ve ever heard. I listen to this and sing along and think of everyone I’ve known and lost over the years, and it makes me hope I can say it when my days are up. This song moved me more than any other this round, just on the merits of the chorus itself.

Hudson And Day - Silly Baby: This song feels a little bit like it fell apart and was put back together at random. We have some powerful vocals and a smokey lounge piano that cruises along, but it’s hard to decipher whether these are two people talking to each other, or two voices in the same head, or what, I don’t know... There’s no structure I could observe and no story I could glean other than a single thought in the beginning that someone’s not happy and she’s going to kill her significant other, and then the song sorta disintegrates. It’s a little too avant garde for my tastes.

Mick Bordet - The Highland Coo Song: Oh, boy. There have been funny songs in the running, but this I think might be the first true novelty song. Okay, maybe this and Luke Brekke’s song. So, it’s funny, but you managed to make it so without really putting any jokes in here, though... it’s all just an honest praise of the animal that’s about to feed you. Nice. The flute (?) solo put a smile on my face, as did the ‘crowd singing’ of the chorus. This is also a song I should not have listened to while hungry.

Noah McLaughlin - Thank You, Joss Whedon: Oh, how I love a good nerdy homage. And oh, how I love Joss Whedon’s body of work, so you get bonus points right off the bat. Zombie Whedon fighting Buffy and Angel? Wacky and yet perfectly fitting. I like your singing voice - there’s a little Neil Diamond in your style. The tempo change right before Joss comes back was a little rough, but the rest of the song was solid. The guitars layered well, and the piano in the background of the chorus was a nice touch. Do a Firefly song next!

David Ritter - Requiem For Bob: We don’t get many bluegrass songs ‘round these parts, but this one is here and it’s great. You went meta for the humor, but you did it with subtlety. And you’re absolutely right that the banjo just brings the mood up. Everything about your performance feels authentic, right down to the slight drawl in your accent as you sing. Impressively done.

Heather Miller - Throw My Anchor Down: Doing something in the style of a slave song seems to be an odd choice at first, but then again this is exactly what those songs were about: they were a tool to distract people from their plight. So while it sounds somber to today’s ear, it once signified the uplifting spirit to overcome sadness and treachery. I really liked the section at 1:25; great melody, nice lyrics here. The song feels aged and hopeful.... just about right for this challenge.

Anna P - Jesus’s Best Friend: Your singing here is wonderful and it’s great that you let your voice take center stage here. I like the narrator’s expectations of heaven, there’s a sense of wonderment and innocence in the lyrics that suggest she died young, and yet the song is truly a happy one. This would’ve ranked pretty highly if it were in the running.

Donutworthy - Signal: Now this is something very unique. There’s a cool mix of shoegazer rock and space FX that sets the stage perfectly for this story. The doubled vocals add to the sci-fi mood, which in itself stands alone in being the only song here that tells of the death of something that isn’t a person or animal. Kill off an entire planet and sing happy songs of the intrepid survivors. Heh, this might actually be the Firefly song I requested from Noah. Great job, guys!

Green Mama Bathsalts - See You In Hell: This was one of the most enjoyable narratives I’ve heard so far. It’s a simple song but it’s an intriguing story. I’m imagining this being sung by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; lifelong friends getting into their share of trouble, having that trouble catch up with them, and going out together without regret. I really like it.

Common Lisp - Today Is Not That Day: This song defies categorization. There’s something of a modern/archaic juxtaposition throughout. The vocals remind me of a medieval chant, the treble- heavy dueling guitars have a madrigal quality to them, and the booming drums add to that pseudo-ancient vibe. This doesn’t sound like anything else here and it is terribly, terribly cool. I love the message and I love the delivery. I love the sound. Good work, Paul.

Kevin's Rankings: (the number is how many points you got from Kevin)
Edric Haleen - 37
Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats - 36
Jutze - 35
Godz Poodlz - 34
Ross Durand - 33
Pat And Gweebol - 32
Happi - 31
Jon Eric - 30
Dr. Lindyke - 29
Jason Morris - 28
Governing Dynamics - 27
Chris Cogott - 26
Charlie McCarron - 25
Caleb Hines - 24
Glen Raphael - 23
Alex Carpenter - 22
Inverse T. Clown - 21
Steve Durand - 20
The Offhand Band - 19
Brian Daniell - 18
Matt Walton - 17
Spencer Sokol - 16
BucketHat Bobby Matheson - 15
Matt And Donna - 14
Wait What - 13
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 12
Bryce Jensen - 11
Menage’A Tune - 10
Tally Deushane - 9
Emperor Gum - 8
Luke Brekke, Esquire - 7
Ethan Ivey - 6
Alexa Polasky - 5
Hudson And Day - 4
Gold Lion - 3
Young Stroke aka Young Muscle - 2
Doom SKITTLE - 1

SpinTunes #3 Round 1 Review: Blue

Hi, I’m Blue, from Hello, The Future! I’ve been putting up a new song every week for over a year (we’re at Week 61), so I know a thing or two about constraints and challenges and getting something put together under a time limit.

You can hear my stuff at Hello, The Future! or catch me on Twitter at @HelloTheFuture, but more importantly make sure you check out Mink Car Cover, which is a project I’m doing with a group of supertalented musicians (Mike Lombardo, MC Frontalot, Tom Milsom, Marian Call, Molly Lewis, etc.). We’re covering TMBG’s album Mink Car, in full, to benefit the FDNY Foundation.

Thanks supermuch to Team Spintunes for inviting me to guest judge. I have to say that I have learned so much from listening to these songs (what works well, what confuses the listener, etc.), and so I am very glad to have had the opportunity to judge what I have heard is the Largest Spintunes Challenge EVER. Congrats to everyone who turned in a song!

General Comments About The Reviews (because writing one long explanation is faster than writing 37 long explanations):

First: I am so glad that so many of you get to move on to the next round, because there were a lot of good songs in this group. Seriously. You rock.

For my judging, I ranked the complete song presentation rather than the song’s potential; that is, I considered vocal presentation, instrumentals, recording, etc. as equal to the song’s actual notes and words.

I am a bit biased because I like songs that tell a story much more than I like songs that set a mood or present an abstraction. There are a few songs that I ranked near the top even though they didn’t tell a story (you know who you are), but as you’ll notice my top top choices are all story songs.

Other notes, if only to explain my critiques:

What I mean by “the story is hard to follow:” I mean that at the end of the song I can’t exactly tell you what happened in it; I think it was about this dude who was sad… or… something.

What I mean by “the melody is hard to follow:” I don’t mean that you need to use AABA or anything like that, but I do mean that the melody you’ve written doesn’t effectively set up a collaboration with the listener. A melody has to give the listener enough anchors, either through hooks, repetition, progression, or other similar methods, for the listener to know what’s going on (and, in many subconscious ways, anticipate what’s coming).

To use a metaphor: a good melody is like a good episode of CSI. You start off being surprised and captivated by the twists and turns, by the second commercial break you know the major themes, and at the end you realize what’s coming right before the detectives do.

What I mean by “the vocals are weak:” this generally means a combination of both pitch issues and breath issues. They’re linked, of course. There’s not enough breath behind the voice to support the note, or to support the note at the desired pitch.

What I mean by “committing to the lyric/song:” this is actually primarily an intonation issue disguised as an acting issue. Emotion is carried through vocal intonation (and through breath) and when acting coaches or Spintunes judges get all “you’re not committing!” what we really mean is “you haven’t chosen the appropriate intonations to communicate your emotional meaning to your audience!” Intonation in this case means word emphasis, syllable emphasis within words, dynamic variation, subtle pausing for effect, etc. You don’t have to feel the emotion of the lyric yourself; but you do have to figure out how the lyric would be spoken by someone feeling that emotion, and then use those intonations when you sing.

What I mean by “I can’t understand the words:” I can’t understand the words.

On to the rankings! In order, from highest to lowest:

Edric Haleen: I Hope You Die - You hit all of my happy buttons: great voice, clever lyric, patter, memorable tune, clear story. Hooray!

Bryon Blocker And The Offbeats: She’s Dead - Awesome vocal choice, and great commitment to maintaining it. Guitar and drums are nicely balanced. Memorable song. Yay!

Ross Durand: No Taxes - Great setup and great payoff. Voice, guitar, and perc nicely balanced. A little hard to follow the story; took a few times through before I figured out who Brian was, for example.

Gold Lion: In The Afterlife - Ostensibly I couldn’t understand a word of this song except for “do you believe in the afterlife.” That aside—and this is important—of all the songs, this is the one I wanted to explore thoroughly. This was the one I wanted to listen to 100 times, to follow the guitar, to figure it out, to try to understand what was going on in that background barbeque or whatever it was. Very nicely done.

Pat And Gweebol: Baby Go To Sleep - Lovely. Beautiful harmonies. Charming in every way. I had difficulty understanding the words, but I really enjoyed being swung around by the melody.

Chris Cogott: Don’t Drag Me Down - Nice story and nice singing. Pitch is a little wavery in places, which pulls me out of the song. Good hook in the chorus and very nice use of instrumentals.

Young Stroke aka Young Muscle: My Name Is Death - Hooray for selling the song! Lyrics were completely wack, in the good way. A little hard to follow the story in the verse; loved the chorus.

Alex Carpenter: The Day I Died - DANG I LOVE GRUNGE ROCK SO MUCH did you grow up in the 90s too???? This song would definitely show up on my Pandora. A little hard to figure out what story you’re telling with the lyric.

Matt And Donna: The Lady On The Gray - Nice piano and harmonies. I have trouble understanding the lyric in many places. Trumpet is a nice touch and a little flat. You both get super points for a great melody, though. Yay!

Godz Poodlz: Wake At The Sunnyside - Cute and steady. I hate to say this, but I wanted more suicide humor. The story you were telling was weakened when you backed away from what you set up in the initial verse.

Jason Morris: Burning For You - This song also reminds me of the awesome 90s (BNL meets Blues Traveler?) It’s really really really solid and has a nice hook in the chorus.

Charlie McCarron: Grandma And Grandpa - Nice timbre. Very peaceful. I like the second vocalist too. The lyrics are difficult to understand, but the melody sticks with you.

BoffoYuxDudes: Marked For Death - Yes, very Monty Python. Would have been nice to have a chorus somewhere, so I could sing along; but you totally sold the vocals as they were.

Tally Deushane: My Dead Goldfish - Adorable. Can’t understand the lyrics, but I like the sound of the voice and what I’m guessing is a ukulele. I think a different set of filters or a different recording environment would have helped the song.

Buckethat Bobby Matheson: No Worries - Good voice, solid song. Pitch is a little wavery in the chorus; could have used another take or two to clean it up.

Matt Walton: We’re All Going To Die - Very nice. Vaguely British Invasion. I like the ukulele. Voice is not always on pitch, but neither were the Beatles.

Inverse T. Clown: Caroline Is Dead - You set me up for a rhyme scheme and you failed me, my friend. That opening section has to rhyme or you’ll lose us before you’ve even started. Otherwise solid.

Emperor Gum: Frequency - Pretty. Nice use of percussion and clarinet. Very nice mixture of sounds and timbres throughout. There are a lot of melodic ideas going on but there’s not enough repetition or linking to bring them together; it makes the song difficult to follow.

Wait What: Death: Everybody’s Doing It - Almost perfect. You need to commit to what you’re saying, though. The song is funny, but the vocal line sounds unsure. This is where it would be okay to go over the top.

Glen Raphael: When You’re Dead - Nice harmonies! The melody line doesn’t always stay in key, which makes it hard for me to follow. The bass vocal is a lot of fun, though.

Caleb Hines: Haven’t You Ever - Very good story and nice lyric. I could understand the words! Voice is not on pitch in all cases; not sure if it’s a range issue.

The Offhand Band: All Over - Strong voice, fun backings, nice chorus. Could put a little more breath behind the voice. I like the melody and the hook.

Jon Eric: Birthday - Story and lyric hard to follow. Background instrumentals are solid. I always like a shaker!

Bryce Jensen: Thank You - Nice. Voice and harmonies are weak, but the setup and the punchline are cute.

Steve Durand: Die Happy - Nice trombone! The lyric needs to be sold a bit more; don’t back away from it.

Happi: The Next Part Of Life - Strong voice, but needs a melody somewhere; either in the voice (backing vocals?) or in the instrumental.

Spencer Sokol: Keeping Calm - Nice guitar. Melody is hard to follow, as is the story. Really nice guitar.

Jutze: I Love The Dead - Cute! The lyric is fun too. There are some pitch issues that make the melody difficult to follow, and a few word issues (“bodies” sounds like “baddies,” which would make it a very different song).

Governing Dynamics: Alive Again - The tune is very catchy. A little more breath would help in areas where the pitch is flat (“alive again”). The key changes are in the right place but they’re very flat. I really really really like the bridge.

Dr. Lindyke: Wake Me When It’s Over - Strong piano, voice a little soft in the mix so it’s hard to hear, understand lyrics, etc. I pictured Elton John throughout and now am determined that you must look like Sir Elton IRL.

Alexa Polasky: You Will Never Die - Nice rhythm. The breath percussion is an interesting choice (which means I liked it). The voice is a little weak and mixed too softly to hear.

Ethan Ivey: The Four-Year Itch - Nice piano work. This is one of the “commit more to the lyric” cases; I know you’re telling a clear story here, but I don’t know what the narrator is feeling about the story.

Luke Brekke, Esquire: Cannibal - The melody is all over the place, but it’s a really fun idea. The whole “because he’s a cannibal” is hilarious and perfectly intonated.

Menagé a Tune: Isn’t It Nice - The story here is VERY CLEAR. Thank you. A different filter on the voice would make your sound warmer; and I was distracted by wondering whether you were using a keyboard preset. There were a few rhyme issues where I expected a rhyme and didn’t get one.

Brian Daniell: Cubbies Will Win - Fun tambourine! The mix makes it very difficult to hear the voice. Not sure what’s going on in the song because I can’t hear the voice; something about the Cubs? And death?

Hudson And Day: Silly Baby - Melody is hard to follow, and the mix is unbalanced. The two vocalists are interesting in their contrast, but the difficulty of following the melody and the lyric undermines their power.

Doom Skittle: A Better Place - Dang it, Doom Skittle. I don’t want anyone to be last! Melody and story were hard to follow; mix was unbalanced and there were pitch issues. Don’t come after me! You’re still cool!