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:

THESE PEOPLE ARE MOVING ON:
 
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.

Megalodon
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.

MC OHM I
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!

THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT MOVING FORWARD:

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.

SHADOWS:

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.

Plenitude
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.