Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spintunes #7 Round 4 Review: Scott Barkan

Most of the people I've had guest judge this contest over the years have been people I've known about & been fans of for a long while.  But with Scott, that wasn't the case.  Just recently, I saw Travis Norris tweet a link to Scott's new album, and I was hooked.  Listened all the way through, and never had the urge to skip a single song.  Since I hadn't gotten a guest judge for SpinTunes 7 yet, I figured I'd see if the guy was interested in judging round 4.  Lucky for us...he was happy to lend us a hand.
Learn more about Scott & his music by visiting his website: After you become a fan, you can also stalk him on Twitter. (@scottbarkan)
- Spin

Hey Guys,
Thanks so much for asking me to participate as a guest judge in this contest!  I've decided to break down my reviews into 4 categories: Composition, Production, Performance and Concept, each worth 10 points. So, the entry with closest to 40 points wins! Here we go!
Thanks again,
Blimp Exhaust - Miss Leon - FINAL SCORE: 25/40
COMPOSITION: This song has a cool 70's rock sound stemming from the 7th chord voicings on the jangly pianos and string arrangements, and it's clear you spent some time on the arrangement, bringing the band in and out for dramatic effect.  It could potentially benefit from a change in tonality at some point, or the addition of a true bridge as opposed to just extending that final phrase of the chorus at the peak of the song.  Still, it has a nice arc to it even without a true bridge, and it matches the somber tone of the lyric.  
As for the lyrics, your point is coming across, but there isn't a lot of poetry in it. Many of the details are just presented as a list - "This happened, then that happened, there's this thing, there's that thing" -  Some more attention to the delivery of these ideas, with some real details, could make it a bit more vivid.  The final line of the tune does add some weight to things, making it all feel like theres more going on here than just reminiscing around your hometown, which I appreciate.
SCORE: 7/10
PRODUCTION: The recording quality is getting the job done, but is lacking overall.  Sounds are somewhat dry and thin to my ears, especially the vocal. A little reverb can go a long way, along with some light compression to make it all gel together a little more.
SCORE 6/10
PERFORMANCE: Similarly, the performance is covering the bare essentials, but lacking in precision and cohesiveness.  Some extra time invested in perfecting your vocal and tightening up the rhythm section will make a huge difference.
SCORE 5/10
CONCEPT: This photo, a run down building against a lush and vast open landscape, conveys a sense of a lost and forgotten piece of americana right off the bat.  You've definitely tapped into that, but it would have been nice to see you push the inspiration from the photo a little further and see where else it could lead.  It did, however, make me think specifically of a Drive In Movie as well, so I appreciated your use of that in the final verse.  I also think this photo has a sense of hope about it, coming from the bursting colors, and I think your piece does manage to capture a little of that with the final line, so nice job there.
SCORE: 7/10
Edric Haleen - Reality - FINAL SCORE: 35/40

COMPOSITION: The scope of this is surprising and impressive.  It feels like a self contained musical, and the harmonic choices are definitely capturing a sideshow/circus vibe, which really works with the lyric.  It's hard to look at it in conventional terms, because of the through composed nature of the piece, but for what it is it is definitely working.  The lyric is as extensive as the arrangement and your point is coming across loud and clear.  The opening shouts of "Follies!" and "Foibles!" really sets the tone and lets the listener know they are in for a wild ride.  And, again, you can't look at through a conventional songwriting lense, but as a broadway-style piece it really hits the nail on the head.  Well done.
SCORE: 9/10
PRODUCTION: The production also captures the vibe very well.  I'm generally someone who prefers the sound of real instruments, but you worked with what you had available very well in order to realize your vision, and it's definitely appropriate for the song.  All the sounds are rich and well mixed, it feels like a polished final product. 
SCORE: 8/10
PERFORMANCE: Again, right on the money.  Everything is in tune and in time, and the singing is perfect for this style.
SCORE: 9/10
CONCEPT: I totally see your jumping off point of the sideshow/circus ticket booth, and it seems like you've extrapolated a similar "death of the american dream" idea as some of the other entrants, though you've pushed it well beyond the obvious tableau of run down and boarded up buildings, making it into a commentary on modern American society as a whole. Bonus points for creativity and vision, too.
SCORE: 9/10
RC - Home - FINAL SCORE: 30/40
COMPOSITION: This is a straight up roots/rock ballad which, I have to say, is right up my alley.  Personal preferences aside, I might say it's almost too text book, as there are few surprises in the arrangement, but the melodies, chord progressions and structure are solid, so I can't fault you much for that.  Lyrically, the devil is in the details, and you have some nice ones here.  The sentiment of "entropy's remorseless" brought up in the bridge is particularly striking.  This is text book genre songwriting.  
SCORE: 8/10
PRODUCTION:  Again, classic execution, from the carefully layered guitars to the backing vox and soaring post bridge guitar solo. The sounds are clean and well recorded.  The flip side of that is, again, it's all a bit predictable. It totally works, but I would love to hear you push some of the production ideas a little bit.
SCORE: 8/10
PERFORMANCE: What can I say, it's solid as a rock, but..are we seeing a pattern develop here? I'd like to hear something more than just playing the parts. It's clear that you can do that, so now it's time to add some real subtlety and dynamics to the performances.  I hear a lot of Buddy Miller in your voice and writing, and if I were a betting man I'd bet you know that already.  Give any of his records a close listen and I think you'll hear the kind thing I'm talking about.  It's hard to put into words, it's just a certain thoughtful touch, but you're clearly at the point where the next step is examining things on that level- pushing yourself to go beyond the obvious take on a part and making it more personal and unique. 
SCORE: 8/10
CONCEPT: The loss of small town america is prevalent here again, though in more general terms, as pertaining to the image in question, than I'd like to hear.  You're capturing a basic essence of the photo, but drawing more from its specifics would help in this category.     
SCORE: 6/10
Ominous Ride - Waiting For Julietta - FINAL SCORE: 23/40
COMPOSITION: Fun tune with a real vibe to it, kind of feels like brit-pop in the old west.  The central melody, while a bit monotone, works and digs its heels in deep. What I'm missing from it is a real hook in the chorus that I can grab onto.  Changing the lyrics with each instance of the chorus makes it a bit more difficult to find something that stays with me after the song is over.  Also, some more harmonic variation would be nice.  If I'm not getting a solid singalong chorus, I might like a bit more color in the changes to keep my ears fresh all the way through.  A bridge could also help with this issue.
Lyrically, some of the rhymes feel a little forced (Station/Validation, Window/Limbo) and I'm not sure what lines like "Rusted sign that says to crawl" are supposed to mean.  It seems like concern for fitting into the rhyming meter you've established has taken precedence over delivering your message in a thoughtful way.  The line "Whiskey led to conversation, flirting to infatuation" is a great example of what you should be striving for.  It has solid rhymes, specific imagery, and emotional thrust. Let that be your benchmark. 
SCORE: 6/10 
PRODUCTION: Getting the job done but your guitars and vocals are a little thin, and the snare drum gets a little lost in the mix at points, as if your compression settings are squeezing it too hard at points, while the kick is a little too upfront.  Overall it would be nice to hear a warmer sound and be careful not to over compress.
SCORE: 5/10
PERFORMANCE: Vocals are solid, but the rhythmic playing of the band is definitely a bit wonky.  Zero in on your downbeats and make sure all the instruments are hitting together, especially your bass guitar and kick drum. You can't underestimate how important groove is, and locking in the rhythm section would improve the experience of listening to the song dramatically. I would suggest simplifying some of the parts when the whole band is going and focusing on getting that groove happening.  
SCORE: 5/10
CONCEPT: I like how you've created this whole story that takes place specifically at the location in the photo. It's not just a passing mention, but the centerpiece.  I could even see you taking it further, instead of having the initial interaction with Julietta at "a booth", wherever that is, make it at the station, too, and incorporate some more details from the photo. She has to leave, and then you're stuck there waiting for her.  But what you have works.
SCORE: 7/10

SpinTunes #7 Champion: RC

SpinTunes #7 Champion: RC
Runner Up: Ominous Ride
3rd: Edric Haleen
4th: Blimp Exhaust

Congrats to RC, who is now our new #SpinTunes champion!  No challenge was too great for you this time around, and now you'll get a fancy free t-shirt as a reward.  The more important prize is the music you & the others created, along the admiration & respect you have from us all here.

As the current champion of SpinTunes, you have the option of judging SpinTunes #8.  When I start preparing for the next contest, I'll e-mail you to find out if you plan on wielding the gavel or not.

The other finalist should hold their heads high.  They faced 4 challenges, conquered them all, and created 4 new songs for the world to enjoy.  Well done.

Totals & Reviews:
In the end 13 people sent in their votes/rankings.

RC - 3-2-3-4-4-4-3-3-2-3-1-3-3 (38)
Ominous Ride - 4-1-1-3-2-2-4-4-3-4-3-4-2 (37)
Edric Haleen - 1-4-4-1-3-3-2-2-1-1-2-1-4 (29)
Blimp Exhaust - 2-3-2-2-1-1-1-1-4-2-4-2-1 (26)

Popular vote totals:
Ominous Ride - 6
Edric Haleen - 6
RC - 3
Blimp Exhaust - 2
(17 votes total)

Judges:  Ross Durand - Dr. Lindyke - Brian Gray - T.C. Elliott - Felix Frost
Guest Judge:  Scott Barkan
Alternate Judge's Review: N/A

Thank You
Competitors, judges, guest judges, shadowers, fans, Tom for hosting the LP, Matt for the album art, and anyone that had anything to do with this contest.  I just happen to be the guy that makes this shit up as I go, but none of it is possible without the participation of all you wonderful people.

Oh, and congrats to the judges who didn't miss a single deadline! Never thought I'd see the day. ;p

The next contest will probably start around January. Make sure you follow @SpinTunes on Twitter for contest updates. Between Song Fight, Nur Ein & various other projects, there should be plenty to keep you busy until SpinTunes #8. If you've completed at least 1 song for SpinTunes, you are also welcome to join the SpinTunes Facebook group.  It's a good way to keep in touch, and we post about related news in there as well.

SpinTune #7 Round 4 Review: Dr. Lindyke

OK, in this round we're down to the four top contenders. They've proved themselves early on, and now the blinkers are off. The challenge couldn't be any simpler: Write a song inspired by the Ronan Murray picture provided.

As you can imagine, "inspired by" covers a lot of ground. For instance, when I first saw the photo, I thought of a toll booth in the desert from Blazing Saddles and imagined the title "The Road to Rock Ridge". Then I thought of a UFO because of that crazy sky. I thought of the ornithopters from Dune because of those winglike overhangs (the crappy David Lynch kind). Literally anything goes here so long as you got there by looking at that picture.

That's why I asked people for song bios in Facebook, though I didn't see many from the competitors. Though these actual entries are pretty plain, It's always nice to see how somebody's mind got him to the final product from this prompt.

My placements count for pretty much nothing this round. The former competitors get to vote. However, I am reviewing... and this time, given no guidelines or restrictions other than a picture to inspire you, I have nothing to judge you by except my own personal preference. So I'm going to rank you purely by which songs I like to listen to the most. That's easier than it sounds, as this is the toughest choice of the competition. I'm glad my opinion is non-binding.

The Songs:

Ominous Ride - Waiting for Julietta
I will admit to being biased. I just love Ominous Ride's style in general, and this song has EVERYTHING I love about it. Great vocals and harmonies, great arrangement with interesting variations, and that that late 60s reverb that I grew up with. It reminds me of one of The Monkees, and that's a HUGE compliment.

RC - Home
I could listen to this song all day long. You've got the rhythm, the arrangement, the voice, the message... it's just bloody awesome. It's easy on the ears while still commanding attention. I don't get bored listening to it. Really, RC, this is great.

Edric Haleen - Reality
SEVEN AND A HALF MINUTES! It certainly doesn't feel nearly that long, because the parables are so very compelling and the various movements are distinct enough to periodically re-engage the listener. I read your song bio**, and I can certainly see the Phantom Tollbooth  influence, though unprompted I'd have guessed it was a large smattering of Jonathan Swift, and it even reminds me of Pink Floyd's The Wall. I have heard comments that the politics are somewhat heavy-handed, but I think they're incisive, as good satire should be. Truth be told, I spent the entire week waffling between putting the song here and at the very top of my list. It is certainly a tour de force.It is cutting social commentary. It is thoroughly entertaining. It's also terribly long and demands attention; so in the end, if I'm just going to casually listen to a song, it's going to be "Waiting for Julietta" or "Home". I'll save "Reality" for special occasions. And, I know you don't "compete". But Bravo, sir!

** (You confused me in the song bio... you describe the influence of The Phantom Tollbooth at length, then after that you toss in Daniel Quinn (whose work I haven't read) out of nowhere.  Care to go back and explain that?) 

Blimp Exhaust - Miss Leon
I absolutely love the orchestration and the melody on this. First class, really! It's a brave step to go rhymeless here, and I'm not sure it works entirely here for me. Rhymeless lyrics work best when you don't notice the lack of rhyme, but this meter highlights those spots where the rhyme would normally go. That's balanced out, though, by the fact that this is a REALLY great story. Miss Leon would be heartless not to accept the apology.

The Shadows:
(in album order)

Dr. Lindyke - HDR 
Listening to the competitors, I wish I'd had the time to really do some orchestration. But meh... it's a shadow. Rather than write about the subject of the photo, I chose to write about the photo itself. The colors and textures of the HDR technique jump out at you and sock you in the eye, but there's always something unnatural about it, to my mind. So I used the opportunity to have a little fun. I was suprised when I finished it to find that it's under 3 minutes long... it feels longer to me.

Brian Gray - Grind 
Brian's one of my favorite artists. I'd rather listen to something he churned out on a Tuesday evening in his spare time to most things I could buy from a record label. This is a character portrait using the circus as a metaphor. The rhymes are intricate and entertaining, the emotions are clearly painted. The arrangement is jealousy-inducing. The metaphor of the organ grinder relating to the daily grind is inspired. Two big thumbs up.

Trader Jack - Miscreant Love 
I listened to this a lot, and it's definitely listenable enough to do that.
Every word of it is English (yes, even lapis lazuli).
I see all the elements of the picture in it.
I still have no idea what it means.

Menage a Tune - Johnny's All Weather Drive-In 
This is another non-rhyming song, but in this case you don't really notice the missing rhymes. The "stream of consciousness" structure and backing vocals keep you occupied. Really nice arrangement! Great use of the Long Island accent. I suggest that the vocal sounds a little sedate in places where it would be nice to have a little more energy (not volume), particularly in the repetitive chorus (btw, "repetitive" is descriptive, not a complaint). This is the sort of thing that might work well in a musical... it has that theatrical feel, and I can certainly see it as a video... poodle skirts, bobby socks and pony tails; button-down shirts, jeans and duck tails. Great job!

SpinTunes #7 Round 4 Review: Ross Durand

Well, last round. A bit bittersweet, as this marks the end of my reign as Spintunes champion, it will be interesting to see who the eliminees decide is worthy of becoming the new champ. Congrats to all four finalists, it would be hard to argue against any one of you winning, but my opinions are below..

I'll go ahead and say I think RC wins this round, hands-down. Perhaps it is partly due to my own musical tastes and/or my own feel for this photo (disclosure: the photographer is a close personal friend), but I feel that RC captured a nostalgic feel in both the music and words that reflects a lost past that once shown and is now worn better than any of the other participants. And the writing and word work is just damned good!

Ominous ride is my second, I like the story and I get that you were going for an old fashioned style with the music, but it just didn't come together as a complete package as well as the RC song. Julietta is a great name choice.

I think third I would place Blimp Exhaust. The opening felt sort of forced and not well crafted to me. The images work, but the words don't flow. I like the idea of the story and nostalgia and I'm glad you went for that ending, but the two other songs are better.

Edric has the usual ambition, and I like the sentiment but I just don't feel like it's the right song for this photo. First, I just don't get that this is the ticket booth for a circus side show, the way the opening implies to me. It just looks too permanent, and I see circuses as running off trailers or tents. Second, I think you just run too far with what the tickets are for. Inspired by... sure. But just not the right match for me and this photo. I do like that you went for more arrangement than usual. (Ps - some of the lyrics and/or images seemed very familiar from your protest songs from last Spintunes, yeah?)

SpinTunes #7 Round 4 Review: Brian Gray

Ahh, how good it feels to know that my vote is extremely unlikely to matter at all. Because of this fortunate status, I changed some stuff up as regards my system. First, I ditched the points. I still gave feedback on each primary criterion as I did in the previous rounds, but when I started tallying everything up it was all too close. This was probably because you’re all the contestants who made it to the finals, and thus the quality was more consistent, plus the factor that each number only ranged from 1-4 so even worst-to-best only had a 3-point swing. Long story short, I ended up ranking the songs holistically this time. Secondly, I left out the part where I comment on your production and performance. The reason for this is I found myself saying the same general thing to everyone: I can tell you recorded this at home, solid performance, the vocals could be seated farther back in the mix, etc. All very good quality recordings, you gave me very little to pick apart.

  1. Ominous Ride - Waiting For Julietta
    1. The Big Picture: I really dig the mystery. Your narrator is utterly void of agency of any sort. Even when there is active voice, the whiskey or flirting are the actors. The only time your POV character “acts” is when he sits and waits. This blends well with the easy minor music that hints at some kind of resignation and surrender. I get a similar feeling to what I was trying for in Christine, from a rusted out car that can’t do anything but wait in the woods.
    2. Lyrics: Good instincts regarding where to rhyme and where not to. It makes the listener feel comfortable but occasionally just a little bit off balance. As far as the timing goes, some things could be cleaned up, like how “asked if I could take her away” feel crowded. “Asked if we could run away” would fit nicer and feel smoother to match the surrounding song. But mostly very smooth. The syllables stress where they should and flow conversationally.
    3. Music: This reminds me of a Beatles song that I can’t manage to place. I feel like it’s one of their early ones. Anyway, you do a very good job of matching music to lyrics given that my assessment of your mood is correct. If you mean to communicate frustration or anger or excitement… well then not so much. But I think I’m right, and that it’s good.
  2. Edric Haleen - Reality
    1. The Big Picture: Hmm, a carnival-themed song about living a life according to how other people say is the correct way to live it? Sounds pretty far-fetched :-P  I like the conceit, with the pitchman calling out the freaks for people to see. In all, I did get weary of the song by the end. I think focusing on one of the “attractions”, or -- likely more appropriate to your intent -- tightening up each section would have kept the song more engaging. Or go the other way… leaving it just as long or even longer but distinctly breaking the song up into separate movements with very different music (maybe even keys/instruments/voice). Almost like the through-composed song but periodically returning to the common theme of “and they honestly don’t understand...”.
    2. Lyrics: Am I picking up some Dr. Seuss influence here? There are parts of very rigid stresses and rhymes that remind me of the good doctor. A nice mix of end and internal rhymes, varying patterns, very nice. The major criticism is no different from my primary concern in Big Picture, that being I think you could have gotten your point across effectively while being more concise. Also, perhaps there was another appropriate metaphor other than a box? For better or worse, it seems Malvina Reynolds may have the market cornered on that one, at least in my mind. But as always, your lyrics feel extremely crafted and cared for.
    3. Music: Some really awesome combinations in the background (like the alternating tri-tones) set the mood. Add to that seemingly obvious resolutions that you execute deceptively, like the transition to “Money!”, keep it moving. This is the most musically sophisticated piece in this round.
  3. RC - Home
    1. The Big Picture: At first I thought it was a comment on nostalgia and how the things from our youth don’t alway stand up to reconsideration from our adult selves. But the bridge clued me in that the disintegrating hometown is meant to be a metaphor for how things and people wear down as we age. And it works.
    2. Lyrics: Throughout most of the song everything feels natural. I thought you got off on the wrong foot with “napping” though. As a rhyme that felt quite forced to me, and everywhere else they’re either transparent, or -- as in “remorseless” and “divorces” -- clever. That aside however, I thought the lyrics were well done. They tell your story well and surprise with their imagery in places. I particularly liked “unhappens”, “stones do not remember”, and “best that they can’t do”.
    3. Music: I like the out-of-key bVII. You use it pretty judiciously so it keeps its punch. Somehow I feel the transition from verse to chorus could be stronger, even keeping in mind you chose to start on the vi. You go IV-V-vi to get there, so maybe play around with IV-I-vi? Some bass leading? I’m not sure, but there has to be a way to make it so we’re really ready for that chorus to happen.
  4. Blimp  Exhaust - Miss Leon
    1. The Big Picture: So pretty much your narrator here is an asshole? He left his first date for a prettier girl, only asked her to the prom as a favor and then ditched her again, and then even his “apology” appears to be followed by “yeah, but what are ya’ gonna do?” It would have been nice to see some growth or maturity in retrospect, and it occurs to me maybe you were trying for that. Maybe what doesn’t stop until you’re dead isn’t the dickishness, but the regret? If that’s it, I would have liked to be sold somewhat more on the sorrow, rather than hearing something that to my ears comes across as just “oops, my bad”.
    2. Lyrics: Something about the first two lines really makes me want that 4th line to rhyme with “white”, and I feel cheated when we get there. Also the lyrics could stand to be smoother. Once again I’m hearing an attempt to sing fast and squeeze words into the allotted time, rather than rewriting and crafting the lyrics so that the singer doesn’t have to do that.
    3. Music: The choruses are solid, I like the energy and the movement. But you’re using that IV to transition pretty much everywhere in the song, never leaving any feeling of resolution anywhere. You start on the IV-iii-vi-V-IV train and repeat it, leading that end IV into the next start IV and it just sounds like it’s hanging there not doing anything but waiting for something else to happen. I think even a quick move to the V in between phrases would help you out.

SpinTunes #7 Round 4 Review: T.C. Elliott

I thought judging 45 second jingles was hard. I did. But in a way this was harder.  Judging from these four songs I am fully confident that we have four deserving finalists in this last round.  For this round my opinion (probably) doesn't matter. And that's a good thing, I think.  I could easily see all four of these songs being someone's favorite. I'm submitting this now because I will keep changing the order of all four songs and drive myself crazy if I don't.
Blimp Exhaust - Miss Leon
I liked the song on first listen, I liked it even more on second listen and after reading the lyric I was a full blown fan. The arrangement works really well for me, like the strings coming in on the second verse and dropping down to piano at the last verse.   I like the repeating lines as a bridge or a extended chorus build up before the last verse.  This one just feels right to me.
Edric Haleen - Reality
You had me liking the song from the beginning, I liked the announcer intro. And I think your singing works great here. The synth lines work very well for this setting.  I love how you took a ticket booth as a means to tackle such a grand idea. I think it feels a little heavy but I think it works. There is no doubt that you're creativity did not let you down with this one.
RC - Home
You've capture the feeling of a lost place and time nearly perfectly. I like the tone of your vox on this one, it really supports the emotion of the song. The arrangement is good from the panning at the beginning to the layers of guitars (perfectly mixed distorted guitar.)  The bridge works great and I like that first rhyme and the feeling it captures. The guitar solo is nicely placed and it, too, supports the song.  You've taken the shabby ticket booth and turned it into a longing for a place that doesn't exist and you've done it with style.
Ominous Ride - Waiting For Julietta
I love the fact that you took the ticket booth and turned it into a look at this brief relationship. There is something about the melody in a couple of places that makes me think of a oldie to classic rock melodies. It reminds me of songs like "Bus Stop" by the Hollies and  "Red Rubber Ball" by the Cyrkle (written by Paul Simon) in places. But the slower pace and the lyric gives it a weight that works beautifully.  I mention all that because I love how much emotional weight the singer is giving us in a relationship that is barely a day old and started with whiskey. It's a great combination of new love and longing that has an underlying element of "what the hell did you expect?"   This song also has an arrangement I love. The vocal harmonies are great, the pauses in the melody in places is perfect.  The simple bass line supports the song and if it were more active could ruin the feeling.  Okay, I'm gonna mention the vocal harmonies again. You use them so damn well from a doubled line to an alternate melody. They are great.
Dr. Lindyke - HDR
I like how you took the movie aspect of the picture and ran with it. And incorporated the ticket booth in the lyric as well. The piano sounds good and works remarkably well with the drum track. I don't hear bass in there which is surprising because it sounded find on first listen. Although the bass in the piano fills it out nicely.
Brian Gray - Grind
I like the chord choices and the use of slight dissonance compared to the more melodic parts. You've really taken the ticket booth and turned it into a snap shot of life under the big tent. It's both personal sounding and ironic. The circus style music is just enough off to make it give a hint of wrongness but not creepy or jarring.  I'm impressed with the music and the angle you took.
Trader Jack - Miscreant Love
Well, that is quite the journey. I'm not sure I've gotten my mind around this, but I know I like it. There are moments in the melody that I love. There are lines in there that are awesome by themselves. Taken as a whole it's like a story song that doesn't really tell a story, rather it tells a state of mind. At least to me. And I like it.
Menage A Tune - Johnny's All Weather Drive-In
I love that first verse and the steamed windows line.  It was a little odd of going to kids in PJ's after that, but it tells a nice story. I like that you focused on the drive in as a way to think of the good times. I figured that would be more prevalent in angles to take but it really wasn't.

SpinTunes #7 Round 4 Review: Felix Frost

Blimp Exhaust
This is easily my favorite song of the bunch as far as lyrics go. I love the story (whether it’s fictional or not I don’t care) and the leading melody is really strong. But this track really lacked the force and fine-tuning that My Nerf Gun and I had. Man that song was good, and I’ve been sort of waiting for your past entries to hit that same level of quality ever since. The vocal track on this song seems narrow and compressed—which I only criticize because the vocals in Nerf Gun were some of the best sounding of this whole competition. The vocals sometimes miss the mark in this recording in terms of hitting the notes and sounding confident as well. Maybe it was the shift to a piano-centric song that lost the oomph for me; but I will say the piano is good. The song craft itself of this song is good though. It could benefit from re-record with a few different approaches to both the musical arrangements and the performances.
Edric Haleen
About a minute into this song I thought it was going to be one of the best songs of the competition. And it is very good, but after awhile I sort of felt like it was mainly a lot of shouting and generally similar sounds stretched out for seven minutes. I LOVE the carnival-feel to it and the organ, but I definitely thing it could have had a fuller carousel sound. At any one time, it’s mainly an organ, that bass sound and voices—many of which aren’t perfectly lined up to one another, which can be kind of frustrating to listen to. It left me craving that crazy complex theme park music with counter melodies and maybe even an “oom pa pa” part happening in the background. I do really love that rumbling rhythm/bass sound that holds the piece together though.
The lyrics are great and meaningful, albeit a little preachy. When the song started I was excited to think it might be a song about a fictional attraction of some kind, and then was a little disappointed when I learned it was a commentary on the inequities of life.
The clear winner, in my opinion. Another pristine RC classic. This song sounds really professional, particular the acoustic guitar parts. That’s what you excel at, you’ve proven that much this competition. The vocals are good too, although sometimes fall a little short of the higher notes. I think this song also, more than the others, reflected the “feel” or the “mood” of the photo. I would have failed miserably trying to illustrate that dusty, country, worn-down feeling of the picture if I’d tried—but your style fits it perfectly. The back-up vocals are amazing and not too loud or attention grabbing. A great, relaxing song. Makes me nostalgic for a place I’ve never been to!
Ominous Ride
I had a really hard time trying to decide if I loved this song or if I didn’t care for it all. The melody is haunting, certainly, but I think I wanted more changes to occur. By the end of the runtime I feel like I’ve heard that strum—strum—strum part a thousand times. It sounds good, but it comes across as a little droning. The vocals are great, very stylized. And I really like the way you structured the lyric stanzas, and the rhyme-scheme was clever and interesting. The chorus part, where more instruments and back-up vocals come in and the song is meant to pick up energy actually seems to lose a little bit of life. That might be a production issue because the acoustic strums are taken out of the side channels and forced into mono. The chorus should never feel weaker than the verses, in my opinion. I like the mood this song sets the most. It’s smoky, sad and a little suspicious.

Monday, August 19, 2013

SpinTunes #7:Round 4 Songs

NOTE: If you competed in SpinTunes 7 you need to e-mail me your vote. The popular vote is totally different from how the competitors vote.
The songs are now available for FREE download, and you can vote for your favorite entries as well. Many of you will be asking friends and family to support you in the popular vote. That's great, but when you do, please ask them to listen to all the songs. You can only vote for 1 person this time around.

Until the new champion is announced you will only be allowed to download the round 4 album as a whole. BandCamp limits how many free downloads I can give away, and 1 album download counts the same as 1 song download.

Nobody was cut by the deadline, YOU (the competitors of SpinTunes 7) have to eliminate 3 people this round. Good luck everyone.

You can find the album on BandCamp by clicking the image below:

Album art by Matt Schubbe
Special thanks to Ronan Murray for letting us use his picture.
August 24th noon (Sat) - Judges reviews are due.
- Eliminated competitors rankings are due.
- Popular vote closes.
August 24th 8PM (Sat) - Reviews are posted & the winner is announced.

If anyone wants to make a video for their song, I'll include it here:

Reviews & Links Of Interest For This Round:

(If anyone writes any reviews or song bios please send me the links & I'll link to them here.)
- Edric wrote a bio for his song.

Round 4 LP & Deadline News

For now you should know:
- There are 4 official entries on the album & 3 shadows so far.
- There are NO deadline eliminations.
- The listening party will be hosted by Tom on U-stream tonight. It's at 8PM.
Listening Party Location:

This is it! The final round! The last one standing will be the winner!

REMEMBER! You guys all pick the winner of this round.  Everyone who signed up for the contest, and also contributed at least 1 song...gets to rank the four final songs.  There are tie breakers in place...but the first deciding factor in who will be the new you guys.

Good luck to the Final Four! See ya at the LP!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

SpinTunes #7: Round 4 Challenge

Photo Finish - Write a song inspired by the Ronan Murray picture below:

(2 minute minimum) (your submission is due Sunday, August 18th 11:59PM)
Big thanks to Ronan Murray for allowing us to use his art to inspire even more art in this final round.

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.

- 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.

- 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!

- Other file sharing options if you need them: YouSendItSound Cloud & Drop Box. 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.

Side Notes:

- 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 #7, 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.

- The only other way to get your music played at the LP is to cover "Today's The Day" by Inverse T. Clown.

- Feel free to leave any questions in the comments.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

SpinTunes #7 Round 3 Totals

Here are the links to your reviews:

Official Judges:

Dr. Lindyke - Felix Frost - T.C. Elliott - Brian Gray - Ross Durand

Guest Judges: N/A
Alternate Judge's Review: N/A

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

The 5 names in bold have been eliminated from the competition.  The Boffo Yux Dudes were DQed this round, and were moved to the bottom of all the rankings.  It was a tight race for that last spot in round 4.  With the competitors finally being whittled down to the final 4...your final challenge will be coming soon.  I look forward to hearing what everyone comes up with, and hope there's lots of shadows (or "Today's The Day" covers) in the mix as well.

Feel free to check for mistakes in my math...again.

Totals: (Dr. Lindyke) (Felix Frost) (T.C. Elliott) (Brian Gray) (Ross Durand)
Ominous Ride - 6 - 7 - 6 - 9 - 9 (37)
Edric Haleen - 8 - 8 - 4 - 8 - 7 (35)
Blimp Exhaust - 5 - 5 - 8 - 5 - 8 (31)
RC - 9 - 6 - 7 - 7 - 2 (31)
TurboShandy - 2 - 9 - 9 - 4 - 6 (30)
Menage a Tune - 7 - 4 - 2 - 6 - 3 (22)
Governing Dynamics - 3 - 2 - 5 - 3 - 4 (17)
Maria Mercedes - 4 - 3 - 3 - 2 - 5 (17)
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 (5)

Dr. Lindyke:
RC - 9
Edric Haleen - 8
Menage a Tune - 7
Ominous Ride - 6
Blimp Exhaust - 5
Maria Mercedes - 4
Governing Dynamics - 3
TurboShandy - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

Felix Frost:
TurboShandy - 9
Edric Haleen - 8
Ominous Ride - 7
RC - 6
Blimp Exhaust - 5
Menage a Tune - 4
Maria Mercedes - 3
Governing Dynamics - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

T.C. Elliott:
TurboShandy - 9
Blimp Exhaust - 8
RC - 7
Ominous Ride - 6
Governing Dynamics - 5
Edric Haleen - 4
Maria Mercedes - 3
Menage a Tune - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

Brian Gray:
Ominous Ride - 9
Edric Haleen - 8
RC - 7
Menage a Tune - 6
Blimp Exhaust - 5
TurboShandy - 4
Governing Dynamics - 3
Maria Mercedes - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

Ross Durand:
Ominous Ride - 9
Blimp Exhaust - 8
Edric Haleen - 7
TurboShandy - 6
Maria Mercedes - 5
Governing Dynamics - 4
Menage a Tune - 3
RC - 2
Boffo Yux Dudes - 1

Popular Vote:
Menage a Tune - 13
Ominous Ride - 12
Governing Dynamics - 9
Edric Haleen - 6
Mariah Mercedes - 4
Blimp Exhaust - 3
Boffo Yux Dudes - 3
TurboShandy - 2
RC - 0
(52 Total Votes)

SpinTunes #7 Round 3 Review: Dr. Lindyke

This round's challenge:
Write a product jingle for a real product that does not currently have a jingle.  This should be a real product you've seen advertised on TV or the internet.  So the judges can see what you're advertising, we will also require a link to an official product description. (your jingle must be EXACTLY 30 seconds)
On FaceBook I mentioned 3 things to remember (all of which are contained or implied in the challenge itself:
  1. The entry must be time limited. That is, it must fill a 30-second commercial.
  2. It must be for a REAL product. NOT fictional.
  3. Sell it. Make us want to buy. 
That third one is the hallmark of a jingle. It means that if you're going to be funny, you have to be funny in a way that still makes me want to buy. So parody jingles would have to be amazingly subtle and effective to score highly with me. What I'm really looking for is an honest attempt to sell this product.

Another thing is that it should be for a product, simply because that's in the challenge itself. However, I spent too much time consulting in the insurance industry (where the word "product" is applied to all manner of financial wrangling) to balk at somebody trying to sell services. So for me, products or services would be just fine. Just sell something. I'm also not too keen on enforcing the "that doesn't already have a jingle" requirement. A lot of products are long-lived,  and I'm simply not going to do the research it takes to determine whether a product ever had a jingle. (The first jingle ever was for Wheaties... who would've thunk that?) I also wasn't keen on insisting that it's a product that's still sold, as that's not stated in the challenge.  Finally, I'm also inclined to allow a second or two of leeway on either side of 30 seconds to allow for compression artifacts and leaders. So there's a lot of leeway here, and a few subject matter nooks and crannies that nobody explored. (You hear that, Oliver Parsons? I'm lookin' at you)

But you've really got to sell it.

And now, the reviews, in ranked order, best first.

RC - Chillow
RC's entry is at the top of this list for one reason above all others. My wife sat in at the listening party. After the chat and a re-listen, Lisa made me go to the product page, and then made me buy two Chillows. The definitive test of a jingle is sales, and by that criteria, this is a home run with the bases loaded. RC leverages the 'cool' name of the product to chill out to some relaxing, seductive beats. It works.

Edric Haleen - Summer (Simply Lemonade)
Edric went the extra mile here and published an actual video advert on YouTube. I wouldn't be surprised if the company issued a DMCA takedown notice. If that were to happen, Edric could count it as an Epic Win.  This is a simple "feel good" ad, of the sort you might see for Werther's Originals. It's the sort of ad meant to tie the product in to all of the other enjoyable pastimes of Summer. I think it does that. And, I think it was rather good product placement to create a seasonal ad for a seasonal product IN the proper season. Bottom line: based on this jingle, I would try Simply Lemonade.

Menage A Tune - Cialis
I placed this one here because it's cute and witty and it ties in with Eli Lilly's other advertising. With slight production tweaks, this could be exactly the sort of song they'd use in paid adverts. That's all I have to say about that.

Ominous Ride - Beano Jingle
Clever, and a perfect use of humor in advertising. It's not like we don't all know what the product is for, and let's face it, farts and gas are funny.  Ominous Ride plays this up with the instrumentation which allows them to slip in the tuba joke. The vocals in ads tend to be a little hotter than in rock music, so these vocals could stand to be ever-so-slightly higher in the mix, but that is such a picky, picky quibble. Great job!

Blimp Exhaust - K. K. Jingle
I wish we could pass five songs into the final round. This barely misses my top four, but only because one of these five has to, and I think this one isn't as closely aligned to the target audience as it could be. It doesn't have the same feel as the game.  To be fair, I don't actually have Animal Crossing New Leaf, but I sat through all of a six part walk-through by Zack Scott, and I think if I were to buy the game based on this jingle I might be disappointed (that's a compliment).

Maria Mercedes - Catan Jingle
I tried to close my eyes and imagine a television commercial for this one, with the camera panning slowly over the game board. It certainly works, but not as well for me as some of the other entries. I think it would work a little less well on the radio. Like the Beano jingle, the vocals here could stand to be hotter. Audiences can't get hooked on something they can't clearly hear.

Governing Dynamics - Kim's Etsy Store
Whoof... I did say I'd extend "products" to include "services", but this isn't really for either... it's for the establishment... unless I choose to count the store as offering the service of selling products. Well, some products were mentioned.  But Travis, all doubts are waived when I consider the fact that you took this opportunity to drum up views for your friend Kim's store. Now, that kind of chutzpah should keep anybody out of the dog pound. And it's cheerful, too! You should hang out with Kim more often! Amazingly, the jingle itself manages to ramble a little bit in thirty short seconds. I really love the closing line, though.

TurboShandy - Haggis in a Can
The vocals here are unintelligible. You've completely stepped all over them with the instrumentation.  While that happens a lot with rock and bagpipes and  such... in an advert you want the vocals clear and audible, so I read the lyrics and imagined that you had recorded it that way. So it's not the garbled vocals that lands you this far down in my list... it's the fact that you didn't include the product name. If I were to hear this, I still wouldn't know to buy Grant's Haggis. Even with my curiosity piqued by this ad, I might buy the wrong product! I could get my haggis-in-a-can from Stahly Quality Foods or The Caledonian Kitchen... and that would just suck for Grant's.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Krypton
It pains me to do this because I was one of the ones who thought the BYD would walk away with this round. This is a fine 30-second radio spot. Not so much a 'jingle', though. What music there is is incidental and in the background. The tiny part that is sung has no discernible tune. Now... to your credit, you're radio guys, and I have it on authority that "jingle" can refer to all manner of radio branding and identification; and one of the definitions in the describes it as "a catchy, often musical advertising slogan" (emphasis added). But we asked for a 30-second jingle and you hosed yourselves by labeling the jingle content in the lyrics sheet (it comes to about 7 seconds), so I think you knew what we wanted. In a songwriting contest I have to put it last, even without a disqualification.

(not ranked)

Menage a Tune - Viagra
Well, score one for equal time. Lots of puns here, but I don't think it's nearly as effective as the Cialis jingle. The Viagra ad spends a little too much time on the problem, and 'shame' isn't something you want to bring the attention of the guy with E.D... I think you put the right entry in as your primary.

PigFarmerJr - Chicago Handcuffs
Theme 1 - Police
Really effective. I like it. It's edgy and raw, and would stand in well as an ad during an episode of C.O.P.S. I can 'see' the visuals, filmed at night under bright streetlamps and red-and-blue flashing lights.

PigFarmerJr - Chicago Handcuffs
Theme 2 - Bondage
That stuff I said about edgy and raw applies here, only in this case it's not a good thing. I'm glad you recorded the "working out on the town" lyric instead of what you wrote. The concept is sound, but the execution just isn't right. Give the drummer a 'lude,  pick whether you're going to seduce or dominate and focus on that. (BTW, my safe word is now "Chicago Handcuffs"). Themes you did not explore include "Pimping out the rear-view mirror in my Impala", "Bike Lock", and the "Stay-in-the-damned-cart parental shopping aid".

SpinTunes #7 Round 3 Review: Felix Frost

Edric Haleen

Really one of the most impressive submissions this round. I was so excited to hear a rhythm track to one of your songs, because they tend to be a bit of a rarity with you. But I think you knew it was needed, and you knew how to add one perfectly without distracting from the rest of the music.

 In reference to your song bio, I love the rhymes and the fact that you chose to write a jingle that “earnestly” sells the product, instead of trying to make a joke out of it or doing some kind of gimmick. I think that was both a bold and a safe choice, if that’s possible—safe because it makes the most sense but bold because I think you’re the only one this round who didn’t write a song that was supposed to be at least a little bit funny.

The deep, rich piano chords on this track really sold it, I think—but I guess the vocals are always solid with you, so maybe that’s the best thing about it. The vocals were mixed a little too loud I think. This recording is a slight production tweak away from sounding like a perfect commercial track.

You should do these kinds of songs for money, because you know how to write commercial jingles. Also, Simply Lemonade is delicious.


You’ve impressed me again. I think this is the only song this round that in its entirety could be used in a commercial. It’s incredibly full of sound and power, and you put so much production and composition into a tiny little space. If haggis was a thing that lent itself to commercial jingles, I would say you should approach some big corporation with this song.

I also love that you kind of did a genre here and you did it quite convincingly. Thank you for not making the vocals painfully loud like so many others do. I like to hear everything else that’s going on without having to shut out the lyrics.

I’m putting you at the top of the list simply because of how much you crammed into this recording. I feel like even though you only had to write a 30 second song, you put just as much work into this as last time.

Blimp Exhaust

I LOVE Animal Crossing New Leaf. I was just playing it before writing this. Great choice of product, but I wonder if it might confuse a few other Spin-Tuners out there who don’t play video games as much? Who cares, it doesn’t matter!

It’s a pretty great song too. The guitar could be as angry as your other songs have been, and there could be a stronger drum track—it’s a little lighter flatter this time around, but otherwise it’s another Blimp Exhaust classic. It took me till my third listen to really catch that piano hiding out in the background. I like that part a lot. Maybe you should have used acoustic instead of electric guitar? I don’t know. When I think of Animal Crossing, I think of that white dog with his little guitar playing gentle music.

Menage a Tune

Really impressive piano part going on the background, but like I’ve said many times before the vocals are way too loud. If this was played on a commercial I guarantee the audience would be alarmed by how prominent they are. But it’s more of an irreverent song, I realize. You wrote about two sexual enhancement pills, so there was obviously a sense of humor involved.

The song writing’s actually pretty clean and careful for such a short piece. You didn’t slack off just because of the short runtime. Amazing work.

Ominous Ride

A wonderful little waltz about gas relief! This is one of my favorites on this album. The orchestral part, whether synthetic or not, is definitely the best thing about this song. The contrast of those gentle strings to the subject matter is brilliant. Also they just sound gorgeous in my ears. So soft and crystal clear. I almost feel like you stole the score from some classical ballad and parodied them with new lyrics, but I know you didn’t—and that’s what makes this so good.

Also the tuba coming in to symbolize the sound of a fart is hysterical and brilliant. I can’t believe you guys have been hiding this brilliance all this time. And it didn’t come out until a song about Beano! Oh well, you’re getting a high ranking from me this time, so best of luck to you in the home stretch!

Oh, and I almost forgot, the lyrics are really clever. “Volatile food on your plate.” Yes.

Governing Dynamics

Peddling an etsy store is an amazing idea, and one that I feel like we could maybe use someday. I know a friend of mine would love to have a jingle about her embroidery store. And you actually put the link to her store, which I love. I hope she gets some traffic after this.

That said I expected a different sound from this song. Etsy stores are usually delicate little things selling beautiful trinkets and artisan crafts, so you wouldn’t expect an upbeat guitar track. Then again, that’s maybe the point—because it’s obvious you didn’t take it too seriously. I don’t know what you could have done that wouldn’t have turned people off to the idea of visiting the store, so maybe a powerpop song was a good choice.

Some of the notes don’t sound right in this song though, like various parts—both instrumentally and vocally—just hit the wrong spot every now and then, but you didn’t have time to go back and get the polished recordings we’re used to hearing from you.


I can’t believe you wrote a sexy funky song this round. You freaking nailed it. You’ve been doing this great country, folky, rock songs and suddenly you pull this versatility out of left-field. Outstanding.  I wouldn’t even know how to approach a song like this, so I’m really impressed. It’s funny and interesting and unforgettable. I haven’t heard of the product either, but I don’t doubt it exists.

The “Chillow” vocal parts sometimes seem to clash, but that’s the only bad thing I have to say about this song. I think the Chillow people might actually consider using this to market their product.

Boffo Yux Dudes

Great background track, but I was disappointed that 95% of this song was spoken word. It’s totally legitimate for advertising, but I feel like it was dodging the challenge a bit. You only have to do half the work with spoken word music. That probably makes me come across as a snob and a jerk to people who make spoken word music, but hey I love spoken word. My two favorite bands use it all the time. But in a songwriting contest, it’s just not as likely to impress. The production of this track is perfect though, with the sound effects and vocal filters. This could definitely be the entire recording of a toy commercial.

Mariah Mercedes

I love that you wrote about Settlers of Catan. It’s a fantastic game. And the mood and style of the song perfectly fit the color and character of the game, so well done with that. The synth orchestra parts make me feel like I’ve been dropped right into the medieval age or some other antiquated era of building brick walls and cobblestone roads.

The end of the song leaves me feeling unfulfilled for some reason, like maybe you could have expanded the sounds a bit and done more with it.

SpinTunes #7 Round 3 Review: Brian Gray

By now everyone should be familiar with my system. This challenge served the purpose of challenging me to apply it to good effect. In previous rounds I judged not only your song, but what your song was “about” and what it communicated. This time, we chose your basic approach for you to a greater extent than before. I made a concerted effort not to judge your choice of product in the same way as I’m not judging arrangement, performance, and production. That said, you’re still responsible for selling me something, whether or not it’s something I’m already predisposed to want. I reconciled these competing forces by attempting to gauge how much more I wanted or how much less I did not want the product. I’m not about to go on Amazon and buy a bag of poo no matter what your song says. But if you made me think, “Hmm, that trick with the fire does sound clever,” you could still get points for Big Picture.

In the end, Animal Crossing and Settlers of Catan were the only two products sung about that I actually use and like. I really wanted to get to the shadows this time, but I barely made the deadline as it is.

  1. Ominous Ride - Beano Jingle (7.4)
    1. The Big Picture (8): Ah yes, of course what to write a song about if not the original “musical fruit”? Unlike the Cialis song where comedy would have failed to sell the product, I believe the same thing in this case is perfectly in line with cultural opinions about flatulence. I know what Beano is, so I understood the song. I wonder if the message would have gotten through to someone who has need of the product but has never heard of it by name. Probably, with your choice of instrumentation and accompanied by a video that made things clear.
    2. Lyrics (8): I think these are great! It’s all allusion and metaphor, it’s sophisticated in both its triplet spondees and triple-rhymes, and the repeated refrain that spells out the product all work excellently. In my opinion these are the best constructed humorous lyrics thus far in the contest.
    3. Music (6): Very simple and accessible. Tried and true I-IV-V-I, and when it repeats (and sits on I), it doesn’t drag because you change up the melody by going to the 3rd instead of the 1st. Pretty classic, and whereas it’s not my favorite in the round (I think you had room for some chromatic movement), it’s up there.
    4. Performance/Production: The tuba is awesome. The vocals not so much. You sing well, but the doubling makes the lyrics less understandable. Plus, I think they’re too far back in the mix, so that adds to the need for the listener to put in more work to hear it.
  2. Edric Haleen - Summer (a jingle) (6.2)
    1. The Big Picture (5): Not a fan of lemonade at all, just wanted to get that out of the way. I’m not even the hugest fan of summer, what with the sweat and mosquitoes and all, but this song made me remember a time when I did love summer, and did all these things (and didn’t even have to work). You tapped into some excellent nostalgia and almost made me think I might want some lemonade.
    2. Lyrics (7): I don’t know if it was your intent, but I love the way the lyrical energy sinks from very active, to fun and refreshing, to relaxing. It sets up the ending nicely, as the activities listed get simpler and simpler. I think I’d have gone even simpler at the end and settled on one set of lyrics (skies/flies or sun/fun) to repeat. You’re already using the harmony to create variation there, so the lyrics could continue their path to simplicity.
    3. Music (7): The I-iii-IV-V progression still works. I think for the second stanza, since everything else is repeated but you’re leading into a new section, you could have altered the melody, maybe having “movies after dark” go B-A-G-F#-E or something (maybe switch what I just said with the first stanza?). Then in the third, the rhythm for “resting in the shade”, rather than repeating the syncopation, could go more even to make the melodic energy match the lyrics. Finally, taking the melody for the final repeated line up instead of down both ends on a sweet high, and avoids having the most memorable part of the song be too similar to the equally memorable “Every kiss begins with Kay”.
    4. Performance/Production: Very good production and vocals. Very clear, sells it well. The arrangement is just full enough to set the singing in a supportive context. I don’t know that the bass drum at the beginning is the best call. Maybe a swelling crash cymbal roll that cuts out as the lyrics enter?
  3. RC - Chillow (6.1)
    1. The Big Picture (7): Excellent choice of groove and flow. The name of the product just calls for this in retrospect. I wouldn’t have thought of doing this, but I’m glad you did. One small thing: it’s mostly in the name of the product, but you never actually say what it does. Does it keep you cool, or does it keep you calm?
    2. Lyrics (6): Nice and sparse. It’s tempting to try to get everything you can think about the product said in 30 seconds, but sometimes you just need to communicate a feeling. Not sure about the testimonials at the end, it kind of breaks the spell, but other than that I like it.
    3. Music (5): Very appropriate to the feeling, and I can’t think of another way to do it. The 9ths are straight out of the source music on which it based. Just swinging back and forth on two chords snuggled into the groove, head on a pillow pad.
    4. Performance/Production: Very dense arrangement. Great use of effects and layering, really sets the mood.
  4. Menage a Tune - Cialis (4.5)
    1. The Big Picture (6): Appropriately sincere approach. It would be very tempting to take a comedic approach to this song, but that’s not going to sell your product. Good end-run around blatantly stating the actual problem by focusing on the timing aspect. This is exactly what a real commercial would have done (and after some Google searches, I see the Cialis people do approach it similarly).
    2. Lyrics (5): Mostly solid. I think maybe you use too many words, where the exact same thing could be said with less clutter and a more relaxed feeling. Right off the bat you could strike the second “you” from line 2, the “and” from line 3, and “you’ve” from line 4. The sparser lines would fit the relaxed theme you’re trying to promote. “Right there and then” I discuss below, but I think I’d get rid of that too, leaving the entire song smooth and peaceful.
    3. Music (2): Something about the music under “love right there and then” is bothering me. That progression feels like there should be a joke that gets its punchline right at that point. Just ending at “love” and doing something more muted with the music until “When it’s...” would work better. Moving forward, I think the final three lines need less-adventurous music. This is the part where your audience needs to remember your message, and the music is too challenging. It distracts. The final line is good in this regard, but I’d maybe keep the previous one in the same scale. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed your music to a large extent because of the chances you take. In this case, I think you may have overreached for the purposes of writing a jingle.
    4. Performance/Production: As in previous rounds, I’m still getting a lot of breathing and popping. Your production would benefit from some zooming in on the vocal tracks and cutting out the non-performance parts. Don’t bother being careful about making the sounds in the first place, as that will distract you from your performance. Just edit them out later.
  5. Blimp Exhaust - K. K. Jingle (4.3)
    1. The Big Picture (4): I actually have played Animal Crossing: City Folk, though by now I’m sure my character has some birds’ nests where his hair used to be. This song brought me back there and made me want to look into New Leaf. As a potential customer, you have me intrigued by the prospect of being the mayor. As a returning customer you remind me of the relaxing time fishing.
    2. Lyrics (1): Kind of hit or miss on the rhymes. Love the internal rhymes, they match the quick, lively music. I really want the 4th line of each stanza to rhyme with the lines 1 and 2 (limerick pattern), unless “round” is meant to do that? And in both stanzas I don’t like the rhyming with “leaf”. “Speed” as a near rhyme is not near enough, and “relief” is too close (feels like a word rhyming with itself). The first could replaced one-to-one with “grief”, I’d have to think about what to do for the second.
    3. Music (8): I really like the progressions. The I-V/ii-ii-V turns around really well. That plus the bass keep the song moving forward. There must be a good way to have something different under “no need for feeling cross, and” to keep the movement from stalling there. Maybe even switch to spoken word if you can pull that off convincingly.
    4. Performance/Production: Well done. The lyrics stand in front of the music properly, everything is clear. The choice of instruments is appropriate.
  6. TurboShandy - Haggis in a Can (3)
    1. The Big Picture (3): Mmm boy, just what I always wanted. I’ve never tried haggis, but I guess I wouldn’t mind giving it a go. I’d probably try the original stuff though.
    2. Lyrics (3): I like the end where you say “aye we can”, because, you know, “can”. Still, I think maybe the product name proper could have been repeated somehow, somewhere. Starting with “Forget about” instead of “You can forget” would clean up a weird bit of syllable stressing that draws attention just as you’re trying to focus your audience on the content. “Just as nice” by itself raises the question “as what?” You’ve already broken the news about the contents, may as well mention the traditional container. I also disagree with the overlapping contents repeated over the product name. That’s the part you want more clear than anything else.
    3. Music (3): I have to admit I don’t know much about Scottish music. The harmonic patterns you use are very similar to what I’ve heard from Irish folk music, and Scotland is near Ireland, so... sure, I’ll assume it’s authentic! And really, it needs to be, because you’re obviously selling to an audience that eats haggis enough that they need it in can form. That means Scots or expatriates. I think to get a fuller resolution on “haggis”, you really need a V before it, be it holding up the preceding melody over the V or just quickly going there on “It’s”. That should be the strongest part of the song in all respects, and musically I feel the strongest part is on “heart” for this exact reason.
    4. Performance/Production: Well mixed for a radio song, but for a commercial I’d have had the lyrics farther forward, or at least cut some presence out of the distorted guitar and bagpipes (both have overtones in the 3-4k range) to clear up the lyrics.
  7. Governing Dynamics - Kim’s Etsy Store (2.8)
    1. The Big Picture (1): Even on first listen I did manage to get that this is a store that sells craft dishes, but really felt like I had to listen hard and work to get it. Then you tell me that I missed a promo. Then you yell at me. Then you make me feel like I’m supposed to buy out of a sense of charity. I’m very uncomfortable right now.
    2. Lyrics (4): I like the lyrics. You get to “cranes” and nothing rhymed yet, but I feel like they’re going to. Then in the next stanza you get rhymes out of lines 1 and 4 and I feel validated. A lot of what the lyrics talk about is the stuff I said above in the Big Picture, so I won’t mark off twice for that. I will say that for some reason the non-parallel timing on the two mentions of the site name throws me. I usually like staggering repeated phrases in that manner, but maybe because it’s yelled I don’t feel it works and putting the second on at the beginning of the line would have worked better. Also, you don’t say how to get there. Just hearing the song (without seeing your Facebook post) I have no way of finding the product. Finally, the lyrics are somewhat crowded. I think you could have said the same thing in fewer syllables to allow room for melody.
    3. Music (4): Overall good. You even found room for some structure, with somewhat of a pre-chorus in the middle and good ramp up to the chorus (for lack of a better term). The secondary dominant in the second (Kim’s Etsy store) feels a little out of place, like you should have left it out or gone with more of it throughout the song (I do hear it a bit in “dishwasher”). I don’t think we need to be musically surprised right at the moment you’re shouting out the product name. The melody has potential, but like I said above the lyrics sometimes get in the way.
    4. Performance/Production: Pretty good. The attention to the stereo spectrum allows for separation of voices between stanzas. I still disagree with the yelling as a performance decision, but that’s just, like, my opinion man.
  8. Mariah Mercedes - Catan Jingle (1.7)
    1. The Big Picture (2): I’m sorry, but this song really isn’t selling me on the product. I mean I own the game and I enjoy playing it, but if I didn’t I wouldn’t buy it based on this song. It just doesn’t sound exciting as a game. You give up valuable exposition time at the beginning, so while that happens I envision a video zooming in on miners, farmers, adventurers in anticipation of the lyrics. Then the lyrics come in and sound like they’re talking about something really exciting, but it’s delivered as possessing resources and traveling around... I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just not getting me pumped about the product.
    2. Lyrics (2): Maybe what’s needed here is perspective. I’m only halfway immersed in the world of the game (raising cities, traveling to ports), and I’m half aware that I’m really just sitting at a table (my palm, the board). It shifts back and forth rather than delivering a believable point of view.
    3. Music (1): I think I understand where the low pitch is coming from. Going for a mining, chopping wood, Les Miserables “Look Down” kind of feel? That has potential, but maybe you went too low, or maybe you’d benefit from having another voice up on the fifth as a static harmony (kind of like how a bagpipe sits on the 5th). I think the end was delivered poorly, but composed well. Just needs a fuller vocal performance and better production.
    4. Performance/Production: I mentioned the end. Actually, all through the song you need much more presence in the vocals, much more strength.

BYD was disqualified, but as I had already written my review...

  • Boffo Yux Dudes - Krypton
    • The Big Picture: Ok, well first off... yes I totally want one of these! That said, maybe a bit of false advertising? Did I read the specs wrong, or at 1400mW is the Arctic actually more powerful (and brighter?) than the 500mW Krypton? Maybe the 532nm light is brighter at lower power? Also, given the range it’s not a real-life lightsaber. You might get some legal action over that claim too. I’m not overly bothered by the spoken commercial, but given the barkering style a faster pace with more words feels like a truer approach. You do a great job of highlighting the product name. Honestly I get annoyed by commercials like this, but there’s a reason they exist.
    • Lyrics: Strictly speaking, I’d be evaluating “Krypton - Krypton - Krypton!” in this section. If I’m doing that, I have nothing to complain about. It’s your product name, you get it out there, and the listener knows what your product is. Being a little more encompassing, the narrative progression is good. Vague but intriguing teaser up front, then a plain statement of what it is, then a more technical description, then how to get it.
    • Music: No melody at all, the way I see it. Even the sung part at the end is just an arpeggiation of the harmony. Beneath that a simple progression that stays out of the way of everything. It serves its purpose, but I don’t know what I can really do here, as this is still a songwriting contest. I could even see a song with minimal lyrics if the music were the focus (Koyaanisqatsi?), but this is not that. It’s not bad, it’s just almost not a song at all.
    • Performance/Production: A decent job of recreating a tried-and-true approach. Lyrics far forward and very distinguishable, as an advertisement is no place for ambiguity or mumbling. Given there are only three words, six syllables over three notes as actually sung content, you could have given yourself a few more takes to get those notes in tune.