Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 2 Songs

It's very possible that I wrote down Tuesday on my calendar for the LP.  And it's very possible that I had nothing ready for Tom this evening.  Album wasn't prepped, blog posts not ready...nothing...because I was thinking I had this evening to do all that.  Despite my best efforts to screw up the LP & album release...Tom & Dave did an amazing job of picking up my slack.  Tom got into my e-mail & downloaded the tracks via your e-mails. Dave started working on the album around that same time.

While Tom & Dave were scrambling to get things together...I was sitting in front of my computer watching the Cincinnati Reds play.  When I stumbled onto Facebook around 8:10PM I happened to see Tom's post about the LP...and realized I had screwed up....ALL BECAUSE OF HEATHER THOUGH!

Anyways, I took over working on the album while the LP was going on. That's why I wasn't there, I was trying to get things uploaded as fast as possible & the LP just would have taken up bandwidth.  I managed to get the music uploaded by the end of the LP, and added in all the lyrics & details later on in the evening.  There was no "Deadline News" post this time...kinda combining it with this post.

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 & vote for their favorites. You can vote for multiple people, so they might as well listen to everyone.

Until the round 3 songs are posted I will only allow people to download the round 2 album as a whole. But even after that, PLEASE download the entire album vs downloading just a handful of songs while the contest is on going. BandCamp limits how many free downloads I can give away, and 1 album download counts the same as 1 song download.

Deadline Eliminations: Heather Zink, The Boffo Yux Dudes, Benjamin J Spencer & Caravan Ray.

We were supposed to have 6 eliminations this round.  So with 4 people getting cut by the deadline it leaves only 2 eliminations for the judges to make.

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

(Album cover by Matt Schubbe)
- You can vote for your favorite songs with the poll in the right sidebar.  -->

- Judges & guest judges need to turn in their reviews & rankings by August 1st 11PM (F) .  That is also when the poll closes for the popular vote.

- Reviews & Eliminations will be posted August 2nd before 11PM (Sat).

August 3rd 1AM (Sun) - Third challenge is announced.

If anyone wants to make a VIDEO for their song, I will include it here:

Links Of Interest:
- Heather Zink posted a song bio for her shadow.
- Governing Dynamics posted a song bio for his song.
- Dave Leigh wrote a song bio for Dr. Lindyke's shadow.
- Governing Dynamics posted a shadow for SpinTunes 7 Round 4.
- Governing Dynamics posted a shadow for SpinTunes 8 Round 4.
- Felix Frost posted a song bio for his shadow.
- Jerry Skids posted a song bio for his song.
- Brian Gray posted a song bio for his song.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

SpinTunes #9: Round 2 Challenge

Undeserved Love - Write a song about unconditionally loving someone who plainly isn't worth it. (example: "Grenade" by Bruno Mars) (2 minute minimum length) (your submission is due Sunday, July 27th 11:59PM)

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: Sound 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 #9, 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, July 19, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Round 1 Reviews: Scott Mercer

The Imaginational Anthem challenge is a unique one.  How to approach it?  Should one stay in their usual mode of pop and/or rock and/or soul and/or what-have-you songcraft, and just create some lyrics which could be interpreted to be an anthem?  Or should one create a production that is traditionally “anthem-like,” which to my mind leans toward the traditional, authoritarian, pompous, stentorian and martial, usually in both music and lyrics.  I would imagine that anyone choosing the latter approach would be doing so in a satirical manner, because why would a person compose an earnest, serious anthem for a non-serious (fictitious) nation?
So, the two basic approaches, as I see them.  Who will choose which approach, and to what end?

I also have to note that I was not aware of any of the name-checked nations other than Mordor, The Shire, Westeros and Oceania.  Not sure which of the others were pre-existing or made up by the song authors.  Except for BYD, as they explained the origin.   And I’m pretty familiar with Alcoholia.

On with the judging!  I seem to recall that 5 parties must get the boot this time.

In order of preference:

Caravan Ray
Here CR has split the difference: he uses a traditional anthem as a metaphor for an indie rock song about a lonely dude named Stan, namechecking both the old style anthem and a personal rock songwriting.  Pretty damn clever and catchy.  Like The Island, it’s still banging around my brain.  FULL OF WIN.
Turbo Shandy
Classic punk uptempo raver.  Oitopia I guess made up by the song author.  A bit of good pop hooks there, which is a compliment, not bad.  Even the most iconic punk bands knew their way around a great pop hook.  The Clash, Sex Pistols, Green Day, Nirvana.  Is this up there in that rareified air?  If not, it’s pretty damn close.  The fade out was even fantastic.  Here, not a traditional anthem approach, and success. YES.

Steve Durand
Here I am on more familiar ground with an anthem for George Orwell’s Oceania.  Great anthem like production and arrangement here, even the chord progression, with fantastic references to the novel in the lyrics. BIG UPS.

I love incorporating non-musical-instrument sounds into an arrangement and doing it successfully.  So, you’ve got modem buzz and 8 bit video game music type sounds here.  Or maybe it sounds like Perrey and Kingsley.  He’s not a great singer, but this is a novelty song and you don’t need great singers for that.    And actually singing “10101100011010101” had me cracking up. Clever.  Strong pass.

Jerry Skids
LOVE. IT.  This a hook laden power pop number.  Is this about LOST?  I never watched one second of LOST after getting burned by Twin Peaks decades ago.  It doesn’t work for me as an anthem, but it’s a great pop song.  So what’s the verdict?  If the goal was writing a great song, it succeeded.  If it was writing an anthem in the traditional sense, it didn’t work.  It just hits me as a quirky pop song with great hooks that are still bouncing around my head.  I don’t even know what the lyrics are referring to, if anything, but I don’t care.  And I LOVE the “Big Finish.”   If it had been more convincing as an anthem, I would have ranked it higher.

Benjamin J. Spencer
Well, I spent a lot of time in Alcoholia during college.  So I’m familiar with the place.  Some people are asking, where are the great drinking songs coming from anymore?  This song answers that question.  TRIVIA!  Our own national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, takes its music from an English drinking song!  So, Benjamin is on very solid ground here.  Okay, the SSB doesn’t have a guitar solo or a double time shout-out at the end.  But the spirit is there, pun intended.  MOVING FORWARD.

Governing Dynamics
Is this from Avatar?  I haven’t seen that either.  Yeah, I’m the one.  This is a heavy pop arrangement. Well, the instrumentation is very rock, but the vocal is more pop.  This is good.  I could imagine hearing this on the radio.  It pushes enough of the right buttons and has more than a few hooks.  A decent song.

Boffo Yux Dudes
Clearly a parody of the classic old style anthem.  Okay, it’s comic book stuff.  I’m not really a comic book guy.  Or Comic Book Guy, but closer to him because I did own a used record store.  Again, I think the production and songwriting are successful, but the lyrics don’t do anything for me.  And Tom’s interjections are chuckle worthy.  Mild pass.  

Army Defense
It’s classic rock, boogie style.  I like the music, but again I don’t get the references.  Well done arrangement and production.  Mild pass.

Brian Gray
Here we have a more traditional anthem style with a martial beat backing a children’s choir style vocal.   Again, the references are going way over my head.  Pretty, but not involving.  Mild pass.

Heather Zink
I like the chord progressions, they are very regal, and her vocals are very pretty.   Again, I don’t know what comic book/movie/video game this is from.  I might like it better if I did, but I have no criteria to judge how effective it is on that score.  Mild pass.

Kolton H
Back to George Orwell now, this time through EDM.  I like the marching soldiers used as a rhythm track.  However, I prefer Steve Durand’s approach to 1984, as a traditional anthem songwriting approach is more appropriate to the time period the novel was written (1948), and to the contest.  Mild pass.  Also some points for doing a song longer than 2 minutes.

Sid Brown
I like the song, but isn’t this Celtic style folk?  Or is it English?  Maybe I just can’t tell the difference.  I know that Tolkien specifically said that The Hobbits were stand-ins for the English.  Anyway, this is harkening back to a much older style of anthem of the Renaissance.  Well done though and good fiddle playing.  You’re in.

The only hip hop entry here.  It gets a bit of a Middle Eastern vibe.  I think it still works even though it’s a a hip hop anthem.   And how many songs were written about planking?  I mean, after 2009, that is.  Mild pass.

James Young
Okay, from hip hop to lite death metal.  Again, did James make up Elbonia?  No, I purposely did not Google it so I don’t know what it is.  It chugs along nicely.  Did not get me dancing, but it was fun.  Mild pass.

Mr. Gee
Stopped being funny after second number two of the song.  Yes, I have read LOTR. I know, it’s orcs singing.  That doesn’t make it any less annoying.  I don’t want to hear Klingon Opera either.  Beyond anthem into dirge.  NEXT!


Pigfarmer Jr
Going for the trad anthem approach here, but it just seems too lo-fi to pull off what was attempted.  Like the Orcs, it is very dirge like.  And what is Zamunda?  I dunno.  OUT.

Zoe Grey
I’m not getting any anthemic qualities here at all, just a love ballad.  It’s not a bad ballad, but there is not anything anthemic going on.  This does not meet the challenge.  OUT.

The Roy Hammer Trio
Well with that name I was expecting jazz.  But instead I got sloppy punk-pop.  Not hitting the beat.  Were they trying to do that?  I don’t think so.  Too rushed and sloppy in the production for me, and not in a good way.  And that coda?  WTF?  OUT.

Felix Frost
This is based on a science fiction universe that I have no familiarity with.  I thought that the melody was weak.  OUT.


Adam Saklarrides
Well, the approach is very anthemy.  Not sure what the references are.  Is it Star Trek?  The songwriting just did not get to me.  It was borderline, but I’m going to have to cut him loose.

This is a very professional sounding recording, in the Middle Eastern/North African mode.  Very pretty and intruiging.  I like very much.

Dr. Lindyke
Doctor, doctor, doctor.  Um...David Seville is dead.

SpinTunes #9 Round 1 Totals

Here are the links to your reviews:

Official Judges:

Guest Judges:  Donna Schubbe & Andy Borman
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, but I hope we have 4 new people shadowing the next round.  Even if you want to shadow older rounds of SpinTunes, I'll still put your song on the newest album so that it's listened to & played at the LP.

S(tephen) & M(ike) were DQ'ed for breaking one of our rules. Details were posted in the SpinTunes Facebook group.

The last cut off was tough this round.  There was a tie at the worst possible point so I went to the popular vote to break the tie. Popular vote totals are at the bottom of this page.

Feel free to check for mistakes in my math...as always.

Dr. L. - Scott - John - James - Ted - Andy - Donna
Brian Gray - 20 - 11 - 20 - 19 - 20 - 19 - 18 (127)
Heather Zink - 19 - 10 - 14 - 12 - 19 - 17 - 19 (110)
TurboShandy - 8 - 19 - 16 - 17 - 14 - 20 - 13 (107)
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 9 - 13 - 17 - 16 - 18 - 12 - 12 (97)
Sid Brown - 17 - 8 - 18 - 11 - 5 - 18 - 17 (94)
Steve Durand - 14 - 18 - 5 - 6 - 17 - 13 - 20 (93)
Mr. Gee - 13 - 5 - 15 - 9 - 16 - 15 - 15 (88)
Jerry Skids - 18 - 16 - 10 - 14 - 9 - 3 - 16 (86)
Governing Dynamics - 11 - 14 - 12 - 15 - 15 - 11 - 5 (83)
MC Ohm-I - 15 - 7 - 11 - 8 - 13 - 8 - 14 (76)
Benjamin J Spencer - 7 - 15 - 19 - 10 - 8 - 9 - 7 (75)
Kolton H. - 16 - 9 - 9 - 7 - 12 - 7 - 3 (63)
Caravan Ray - 10 - 20 - 4 - 13 - 10 - 1 - 1 (59)
James Young - 6 - 6 - 13 - 2 - 11 - 10 - 10 (58)
Zoe Gray - 12 - 3 - 1 - 20 - 1 - 14 - 6 (57)
Army Defense - 2 - 12 - 8 - 18 - 7 - 2 - 4 (53)
Megalodon - 5 - 17 - 6 - 5 - 6 - 6 - 8 (53)
Felix Frost - 4 - 1 - 3 - 3 - 4 - 16 - 9 (40)
Pigfarmer Jr - 3 - 4 - 2 - 1 - 3 - 4 - 11 (28)
The Roy Hammer Trio - 1 - 2 - 7 - 4 - 2 - 5 - 2 (23)
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 - 0 (0)

Dr. Lindyke:
Brian Gray - 20
Heather Zink - 19
Jerry Skids - 18
Sid Brown - 17
Kolton H. - 16
MC Ohm-I - 15
Steve Durand - 14
Mr. Gee - 13
Zoe Gray - 12
Governing Dynamics - 11
Caravan Ray - 10
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 9
TurboShandy - 8
Benjamin J Spencer - 7
James Young - 6
Megalodon - 5
Felix Frost - 4
Pigfarmer Jr - 3
Army Defense - 2
The Roy Hammer Trio - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0

Scott Mercer:
Caravan Ray - 20
TurboShandy - 19
Steve Durand - 18
Megalodon - 17
Jerry Skids - 16
Benjamin J Spencer - 15
Governing Dynamics - 14
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 13
Army Defense - 12
Brian Gray - 11
Heather Zink - 10
Kolton H. - 9
Sid Brown - 8
MC Ohm-I - 7
James Young - 6
Mr. Gee - 5
Pigfarmer Jr - 4
Zoe Gray - 3
The Roy Hammer Trio - 2
Felix Frost - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0

John DiBello:
Brian Gray - 20
Benjamin J Spencer - 19
Sid Brown - 18
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 17
TurboShandy - 16
Mr. Gee - 15
Heather Zink - 14
James Young - 13
Governing Dynamics - 12
MC Ohm-I - 11
Jerry Skids - 10
Kolton H. - 9
Army Defense - 8
The Roy Hammer Trio - 7
Megalodon - 6
Steve Durand - 5
Caravan Ray - 4
Felix Frost - 3
Pigfarmer Jr - 2
Zoe Gray - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0

James Rechs:
Zoe Gray - 20
Brian Gray - 19
Army Defense - 18
TurboShandy - 17
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 16
Governing Dynamics - 15
Jerry Skids - 14
Caravan Ray - 13
Heather Zink - 12
Sid Brown - 11
Benjamin J Spencer - 10
Mr. Gee - 9
MC Ohm-I - 8
Kolton H. - 7
Steve Durand - 6
Megalodon - 5
The Roy Hammer Trio - 4
Felix Frost - 3
James Young - 2
Pigfarmer Jr - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0

Ted Kiper:
Brian Gray - 20
Heather Zink - 19
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 18
Steve Durand - 17
Mr. Gee - 16
Governing Dynamics - 15
TurboShandy - 14
MC Ohm-I - 13
Kolton H. - 12
James Young - 11
Caravan Ray - 10
Jerry Skids - 9
Benjamin J Spencer - 8
Army Defense - 7
Megalodon - 6
Sid Brown - 5
Felix Frost - 4
Pigfarmer Jr - 3
The Roy Hammer Trio - 2
Zoe Gray - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0

Andy Borman:
TurboShandy - 20
Brian Gray - 19
Sid Brown - 18
Heather Zink - 17
Felix Frost - 16
Mr. Gee - 15
Zoe Gray - 14
Steve Durand - 13
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 12
Governing Dynamics - 11
James Young - 10
Benjamin J Spencer - 9
MC Ohm-I - 8
Kolton H. - 7
Megalodon - 6
The Roy Hammer Trio - 5
Pigfarmer Jr - 4
Jerry Skids - 3
Army Defense - 2
Caravan Ray - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0

Donna Schubbe:
Steve Durand - 20
Heather Zink - 19
Brian Gray - 18
Sid Brown - 17
Jerry Skids - 16
Mr. Gee - 15
MC Ohm-I - 14
TurboShandy - 13
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 12
Pigfarmer Jr - 11
James Young - 10
Felix Frost - 9
Megalodon - 8
Benjamin J Spencer - 7
Zoe Gray - 6
Governing Dynamics - 5
Army Defense - 4
Kolton H. - 3
The Roy Hammer Trio - 2
Caravan Ray - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 0

Popular Vote:
Jerry Skids - 26
Heather Zink - 11
Sid Brown - 7
Mr. Gee - 6
Felix Frost - 5
Governing Dynamics - 5
MC Ohm-I - 4
TurboShandy - 3
Brian Gray - 3
Army Defense - 3
Zoe Gray - 3
The Boffo Yux Dudes - 2
The Roy Hammer Trio - 2
Steve Durand - 2
Caravan Ray - 1
Megalodon - 1
Benjamin J Spencer - 1
Kolton H. - 1
S(tephen) & M(ike) - 1
Pigfarmer Jr - 0
James Young - 0
(51 total votes)

SpinTunes #9 Round 1 Reviews: John DiBello

Hello Tunesters! SpinTunesters? Spinners? (No, not Spinners.) I’m John DiBello, and as soon as I get this Monty Python-style British white legal wig settled on my head, I’ll be one of your ever-lovin’ blue-eyed* judges for the spectacle of sound that is SpinTunes #9. (*Disclaimer: eyes may not actually be blue.) So who am I, you’re probably asking, even though your question should be “Who are YOU?”
Together with my plush pal Bully the Little Stuffed Bull I curate the nation’s Third Most Popular Comic Book Blog Written by a Stuffed Animal™, Comics Oughta Be Fun!, plus I write for the also-it’s-about-comics newssite Dimension 13, the website that’s impossible by the standards of physics.
I learned about records, those big black things the size of a pizza that were created primarily to be natural dust  attractors, when I was just a wee tot. My favorite LPs to blast over and over again on my Close 'n Play were recordings of the Winnie the Pooh stories narrated by Maurice Evans, an album of Arthur Siegel and Kaye Ballard reading Charlie Brown vs. Lucy comic strips, and a 45 of the Utica Club brewery theme song. Then my mom made me watch “Yellow Submarine,” and I was hooked on music for life. Except for Kenny Rogers. Well, okay, “The Gambler” excepted.
In my judging I’m obviously going to be giving points for lyrics, tune, and keeping to the theme, which is going to of course be a subjective call. I’m not going to be too draconianly strict on that, at least not any stricter than I hope you are about me splitting an infinitive toward the end of that last sentence. Humor, cleverness, and audacious rhyme count too. (ARE there any lyrics greater than Murray Head’s in “One Night in Bangkok” where he rhymes: “This grips me more than woulda / Muddy old river or reclining Buddha”?) I’m less likely to grade on technical aspects but go ahead, impress me with a backwards masking chant of “vote for our song, John…it will bring you candy.” Any sort of surprises (musically or lyrically) that surprise me, make me giggle or guffaw, ooh or ahh, or indeed snort milk of any flavor out of my nose, are definitely a plus.
But be yourself, rock away, and most of all, have fun! I’m lookin’ forward to all your tunes. Go ahead; sock it to me.
Wow! There’s a whole lotta great tuneage here in round 1, and I’ll be hummin’ along with them for days. In fact, y’all inspired me to write my OWN anthem, which, although I know I can’t enter it, I thought I’d share with you lucky people. And because I can’t write music any more than a tortoise can climb a tree, it’s already set, like a MAD magazine musical parody, to the tune of “Princess Leia’s Theme” from Star Wars.
Oh Alderaan, our sweet Alderaan
A finer world you won’t chance upon
We are peaceful, we have no weapon
And surely we’ll never see our armageddon
(So there’s no reason at all to us threaten)
We’ve got rolling hills and grasslands and fine televised media
At least as far as we can tell from checking Wookieepedia

Oh Alderaan, our fine Alderaan
We’ll never have a sad denouement
We've got more seas than on Tatooine
And the Rebel Base is not here, it’s on Dantooine
(At least we think that, the last that we've seen)

Even Gungans could emigrate here but we don’t quite encourage it
(In truth, if we have to be clear, we actively discourage it)
(Disparage it)
Oh Alderaan, our dear Alderaan
We really don’t mean to prattle on
The galaxy’s filled with admiration
But what’s is that above our population?
It’s not a moon, more like a space station

And what is that beam that is aglow up
I think it’s going to
Okay, enough of that. LET’S PLAY COUNTDOWN! I mean, SPINTUNES!
1. Brian Gray “St. Agnes”
If “St. Agnes” has a literary or fictional inspiration, I didn’t catch it (I’m picturing something of a cross between Edward Gorey and an all-girl Oliver Twist), but while it anthemizes away, it paints such a vivid picture I don’t even need it to be based on something else. This is pretty much exactly the sort of song I was hoping for when we set challenge #1 for a national anthem: a melodic, rhythmic, absolutely singable tune (don’t try to hit those same high notes, though!). I love how it grows in strength and voice as the song progresses, the initial lonely drumbeat gaining a “full orchestra” backing to the plaintive chorus of young girls’ voices and their poignant lyrics for a newly founded, painted flag nation asserting their independence but still asking fro someone to recognize that. Better and more musical minds than mine will probably examine the gentle melody from a technical point of view, but “St. Agnes” can bring me to my feet and put a tear in my eye, too.
2. Benjamin J Spencer “Alcoholia”
Ah, we’ve all been there. Remember those old allegorical maps of Christian righteousness that showed you the proper path to Heaven, along the road of Good Deeds and just past Sacrifice? I was always much more interested in the route in the other direction — Lecheryburg, Gambling Town, and Whiskey Lake always sounded like much more interesting places to visit, if not set up a permanent afterlife. Benjamin J Spencer’s created a great anthem to this township of tipsiness in the form of a rollicking (what else?) drinking song, and I love the way it, like a night out on a pub crawl, deteriorates into chaos at the end. Like any good anthem it’s sung best while loud  and proud. You may swear the next morning you’ll never sing this anthem again, but it’s too darn catchy.

3. Sid Brown “The Shire”
There’s probably been about eleventy-one bad folk (or filk) songs about Middle Earth, and especially the Hobbit-infested Shire, enough to make Gandalf puff furiously on his pipeweed and glumly wish for the appearance of a Balrog. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of ‘em. Creating an anthem for the Shire seems uphill work against the history of Howard Shore’s lush score for the Lord of the Rings movies, but this is a Hobbitses-at-home tune of home celebration, a drinking song as cheery as a bottomless mug of beer.  It’s got a lovely fiddle and guitar backdrop against its flavor of a cheerful, homey Irish jig (I’d honestly love to hear this covered by the Pogues). The tempo is little bit quicker than you’d expect a national anthem, but hey, there’s drinkin’ to be done here. As snug and as homey as Sam Gamgee’s non-existent boots.
4. The Boffo Yux Dudes “Latveria, We Bow Before Our Doom”
As I said in my intro, “me loves the comic books.” (I think I said it more grammatically then, though.) This anthem to the miniscule world power that is the Balkan state of Latveria, ruled over by the iron fist of supervillain Victor von Doom and created in the pages of Fantastic Four comics by Stan Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby, hits me square in the middle of my Ruritanian-lovin’ heart.  Any Latverian anthem has got to be as much a salute to the tiny country as it is a HEEL, DOGS submission under Doctor Doom, the tin-plated dictator who actually IS plated in tin. Extra points for sounding like a REAL national anthem (with added death rays) and for beating me to my usual Dr. Doom punchline of “RICHARDS MUST DIE!” it succeeds in being pitch-perfect to its source material as well as infectiously hummable — not only a good anthem, it’s genuinely funny. (Disclosure Note Thingee: I do actually know the Boffo Yux Dudes in real life, and they know me. My enjoyment of “Latveria” is based purely on the song and not any personal connections. I’m pretty sure they’ll turn in some stinkers or two in upcoming rounds, and I won’t be afraid to say so, and yet they’ll still invite me over for Sunday meatloaf. Right, guys? … Guys?)

5. TurboShandy “Oitopia”
Cool! sez I, looking at the title of this track. Wonder if this is a punk/ska tune. YES IT IS AND DAMN YOU for playing to my ska-lovin’ weakness! A fine rockin’ tune that makes me wanna do the Madness walk (please excuse me while I round up several of my friends to help). Nice fuzzy grunge and a solid hard drumming beat to it drive an infectious rhythm, and bonus marks for the antiestablishment lyrics! I not only salute the checkered black-and-white flag of Oitopia, I wanna spend my next vacation there.

6. Mr. Gee “Mordor, O, Mordor (Orc National Anthem)”
Wins points with me for its darkly authentic slow-march drum beat but also the rasping vocals of an all-orc chorus. This would strike patriotism into the dark, dark hearts of any Black Rider and would bring a tear to the giant flaming eye of Sauron. Also, the lyrics show a fantastic familiarity with the minutia of Tolkien’s tar-filled fantasy dystopia. (Now go outside and play for a while!) It’s a really strong anthem that proves the maxim that one does not simply walk into SpinTunes, one marches under the ceaseless whip of a brutal sadistic chief orc, you know, Grungor, that guy who has the necklace made of pointy, pointy elf ears. Now excuse me, I gotta get this rock-heavy ring off from around my neck before I sing along with the fourth verse.
7. Heather Zink “Bless Our Land Hyrule”
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m so woefully video game unsavvy that I had to Google this one to get the reference. But it LINKS (y’all see what I did there?) a mythical land with lovely overlapping a cappella female vocals that soar above the SURFACE (get it? Get it?) of its source material. Bonus marks for yes, sounding like a true national anthem, although I challenge anyone male over the age of fifteen to hot those notes. Practically wonderful in every way; all that’s missing is an OCARINA (I’m kind of overdoing this, aren’t I? yes.)
8. James Young “Elbonia! Elbonia!”
Remember that Dilbert animated show from the turn of the century? With Daniel Stern and Chris Elliot? Heck, for that matter, anybody remember TV network UPN? Well, if you did and if that show had featured an elaborate musical number about its fourth world country of Elbonia, this would be it. It’s got an exceptionally apt grim rhythm and turnabout lyrics that actually have a punchline (i.e., Elbonia’s not fond of its neighbors). It captures with humor and tone the perfect pitch of a post-Communist semi-Soviet state, plus, you can dance to it. If you could dance in waist-deep mud.
9. Governing Dynamics “Roland Lives! (Battle Hymn of the Crimson Nation)”
Color me educated: from the title alone I’d thought this was a geeky reference to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, or an even geekier reference to Robert Browning’s perennial entry in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came."  Turns out to my video-game-ignorant surprise that it’s a geekiest reference to the Borderlands first-person shooter series, which only goes to prove how rich the variety of fictional nations is (even though no one ever writes one about the land of Swift’s Houyhnhnms, probably because no one wants to be bothered to check the spelling). I like the idea, unique among the entries, of this being a battle hymn — a perfectly acceptable subset of national anthems. It’s suitably rhythmic and driving with just that perfect touch of bloodthirstiness, although I’m wondering how well they can carry all those guitars into battle.
10. MC Ohm-I “Plankistan National Anthem”
Ah, fair Plankistan! The only country where you’re expected to be horizontal. MC Ohm-I tune has a great urban beat that would be fun to dance to if it weren’t more important to the natives to be lying down. The melody is catchy and the concept funny — I love the idea of basing a nation on a silly but harmless fad. (Anyone up for a trip to Slapbraceletania?) It’s probably the song in Round ! that I most would love to see an elaborately choreographed video for, and it does what the platonic idea of an anthem should do: celebrate the uniqueness of its country. At least until that tragic border war against Moonwalkia.

11.  Jerry Skids "The Island Is My Home"
Listening to this, I could picture a sumptuously filmed commercial for airline tourism to this idyllic island, and I’d be on Princeline.com post-haste, wrestling Bill Shatner for a cheap flight on a fine, safe airline to this paradise on the sea. Unlike its inspiration, it doesn’t cheapen out at the end, and I can easily see this tune as a theme not for saluting but for kickin’ back in the sand, and getting so relaxed you might feel you’ve died and gone to paradise. AIEEE WHAT’S THAT POLAR BEAR DOIN’ HERE?!?

12. Kolton H. “Oceania Prevails”
"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." wrote George Orwell. This song doesn’t last forever, but at over four minutes, it’s the longest in this round of SpinTunes. And it begins with the sound of boots stamping (or is that marching?) It’s the first of two anthems for Orwell’s Oceania, and tick off all the boxes for referring the novel. Airstrip One? Check. Ingsoc? Check. Big Brother? Doubleplusgoodcheck. An extremely competent and catchy song that has a dark (minor key?) undertone to its steady industrial beat. It wouldn’t have been out of place on the soundtrack of the John Hurt movie version. It’s a political song you can dance to. Here’s another quote: “A revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having.” — Emma Goldman.
13. Army Defense “Kron”
A clean, sharp guitar riff clashes against the fuzzy vocals as this one kicks off, and I can’t help thinking that the vocals could have been mixed a mite more cleaner, but then again, it’s METAL, and nobody ever gave points to the bands of the Great Metal Migration of the Dust Bowl era for incisive lyrics like “THE BUST BOWL SUCKS THE DUST BOWL SUCKS.” I’m not familiar with Kron as an imaginary country (then again, aren’t they all) and “Kron” sounds less like a country’s national anthem than a rock anthem. No patriotic crowd could keep up with the rich-rockin’ vocals of this one when they was required to stand for the Kron national Kronball season opener. But I’d certainly roughly bob my head up and down to the middle chorus of KRON KRON KRON KRON KRON KRON.

14. The Roy Hammer Trio “Costaguana”
Technically fun and tuneful, its layered, intricate, and lovely intro leads into a kick-ass little tune that has my head bobbing and my foot tapping. It’s utterly unsingable as a true national anthem, though, and while the lyrics spotlight the high points of its politics and geography, it lacks the dark South American feel of a dictatorship. I don’t know exactly where this tropical destination might be, but I’d definitely give a whole lighter of silver for transportation to this utopia, where surely nothing can go wrong.

15. Megalodon “Digitaistan”
This one reminded me of one of my favorite guilty pleasure songs, “Together in Electric Dreams,” Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder’s unlikely 1984 soundtrack hit. Aw, c’mon, what can I say but “I heart the eighties!” Megalodon’s anthem for a digital world has a similar charming retro (I dig the modem sound effects and 8-bit style melody). The lyrics are smart and clever, and there’s a digital Easter egg to decode in the middle, but the words obscured by fuzzy vocals (I had to read the lyrics to discern ‘em all). Might be a case of a little too much information crammed into a byte of space. The ragged vocals render moot both the relistenability of this song and the question of how long it would take it to download over a 28.8 k baud modem.
16. Steve Durand “Oceania, ‘Tis for Thee”
The second of two anthems for Orwell’s 1984 nation. It captures all the lyrical tropes of the book and its Newspeak “war equals peace,” but it has an almost-lighted quick rhythm and upbeat tune. It’s certainly fitting as an anthem (especially that dandy opening fanfare of trumpets), but to me, it’s a little more cheerful than the source material. I think you ought to feel oppressed by the anthem of Oceania. This might be a case of me docking a couple points because a song is TOO cheery.
17. Caravan Ray “The Lonelystani National Anthem”
This dandy alt-pop song about Lonely Stan in his Lonelystan (population 1) is witty, catchy, and a clever mindworm of a tune that I’ve been humming pretty much all afternoon — but it doesn’t feel or act in the least like an anthem and might have better been saved for another, more fitting, round of SpinTunes. It’s a great song and I like it a lot, but nobody’s singing and saluting this flag to this tune, not even Stan, who I’m guessing is lying on the couch covered in Cheetos crumbs. To use a baseball metaphor, it’s a solid crack on the bat but it’s hit straight into foul territory. And it’s the seventh inning stretch and I’m heading off to get a beer and maybe some of those excellent garlic fries, but I might need to head to the car before the game is over to beat the rush and I think my extended baseball metaphor went out of bounds a sentence ago.

18. Felix Frost “Croton Alley”
Points for sheer originality and uniqueness of concept: an atonal melody (over a Beatlesque calliope-like rhythm) and slightly mechanized vocal tells the tale of an alien-conquered Earth from the POV of the victors, but that would have to be some casually rockin’ Grays to promote this tune as Terra’s new national anthem. (When actually, as I’ve been told on good authority by listening to Coast to Coast AM, aliens actually prefer Elizabethan-era madrigals.) At just under four minutes it’s one of the longer tunes in Round One, and it grows a little weary around 2:15. It tells much more of a story than you’d expect, or want, in an anthem — a decent song, but seems more a refugee from a concept album than an obedient welcome to our alien masters.

19. Pigfarmer Jr “Zamunda National Anthem”
Very far down on the alphabetical List of Fictional Countries on Wikipedia (c’mon, ‘fess up: how many of you consulted that list when creating your tunes?) is Zamunda, the kingdom without a queen from Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America. Unfortunately, unlike the movie, this tune doesn’t tickle me: it’s slow, ponderous, and funereal, which, come to think of it, pretty much describes Eddie Murphy’s 21st century filmography. On the bright side, Pigfarmer Jr can rest assured there will be no court case against him by Art Buchwald claiming he was the one who wrote the Zamunda National Anthem.

20. Zoe Gray “Country of the Sun”
Zoe Gray’s got a high, lilting voice that with the proper training and some expert production would be, for me, a tasty slice of Tori Amos cake with some Kate Bush icing (hold the Alanis Morissette). But the production is definitely not professional (it sounds recorded on a hand-held cassette player) and her piano playing is a tad on the high school talent recital side of things. If this had been a proper anthem rather than a metaphor for…freedom? Independence? Stevie Nicksism?…it just might have squeaked by a little higher on my list, but alas, it’s a little too allegorical. But: nice lyrics, upgrade your recording, consider adding additional instruments. In other words, needs a lot of work. But do keep on working, there’s the seed of a strong voice here.

Adam Sakellarides "The Terran Empire Anthem"
That’s “Terran Empire” as in “the one where Spock has a beard,” and I can absolutely picture dress-uniformed McCoy and Scotty dutifully belting this one out while Kirk rolls his eyes and Sulu fingers a knife. It’s fun and the lyrics capture the innate sleaziness of a mirror dimension “where women bare midriffs.”

Plenitude “Santa Prisca National Anthem”
Ah, songs inspired by comic books, you are hitting me straight to the heart. I’m loving this Spanish and English anthem to the island home of Batman’s hyper-muscled nemesis Bane, which celebrates both the romantic and the sinister nature of the place. Even Bruce catches Alfred whistling this one from time to time in the Batcave.

Dr. Lindyke “O Hail To You Fidonia”
That thunderous clap your heard a few minutes ago was me slapping my hand to my forehead when I finally got what this song was about: cheerful, patriotic fleas celebrating their doggy home. Mega-applause for providing not only a hilarious concept perfectly realized, and for perhaps the only anthem for a three-dimensional world.

Whether I loved ‘em or had criticism for ‘em, this was a solid round and I applaud everybody’s creativity. Some of my favorite fictional lands have memorable national anthems — Freedonia, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Robonia (“a land I didn’t make up”) — and you’ve all added to that rich tradition.
I’m reminded of the Robert Wuhl stand-up routine about New Jersey’s real-life consideration to make Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” their state anthem. Because every anthem needs lyrics like “It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap” buried in the middle of it. You’d kind of need to re-define the whole concept of an anthem to make that work, not to mention being, along with Wendy, living with the sadness. The unsuitability of that classic for a state song was the concept for the intangible “anthemness” that was one of the factors I judged on, along with lyrics, melody, imagination, and whether it made me laugh like a loon. My favorite of the tunes captured all of those elements.
And in conclusion, did New Jersey really want an anthem that ended with “Ru-uh-uh-un / Mm-mm-mm-mm / Uh-uh-uh-oh-oh-oh-oh / Ru-uh-uh-uh-un /  Mm-mm-mm-mm / Whoa-oh-oh-oh / Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh / Ru-uh-uh-un?”
See you all next round!