Saturday, August 13, 2016

SpinTunes 12 Will Be My Last

Just to be clear, it'll be my last time running the contest.  It does NOT mean that SpinTunes is ending.  SpinTunes isn't really mine to end, it belongs to everyone who has participated over the years.  After SpinTunes 12, I'll be handing over the keys to Dave Leigh (aka half of Dr. Lindyke).  At that point Dave will have final say in all matters SpinTunes.  Not that his opinion (or mine) was ever more important than any other SpinTuner, but it's important to have 1 person able to make on the fly decisions without calling for a vote over every little thing.  I could have asked any number of people in the contest to take over, and I'm sure they would have done just fine.  I ended up going to Dave first because he's already been involved in almost every aspect of the contest anyways.  He's competed, he's judged, he's shadowed, he's my go to file converter guy, he already has access to the blog+Bancamp page & I've gone to him for advice on multiple things.  He's also one of the many people that's been here from the start.

My time running this contest has been a great experience.  It started off as a group project with a bunch of friends, and I've made three times as many friends because of it.  Of the many things I've contributed to online over the years, it's by FAR the thing I'm most proud of being a part of.  It's definitely been a team effort the entire way as well.  Remember how awful the LP's used to be when I ran them on U-Stream?  Now we got Tom doing a fantastic job on YouTube.  Remember how only some of the albums had album art?  Now we have Matt giving us professional quality art for every album.  There have been others a long the way who stepped up to help out whenever needed.  Whether it was Joe doing a LP when Tom was out of town, Jules working my poll like a boss, someone filling in as a judge or guest judge when needed, and even Sammy Kablam for giving me album title suggestions.  I couldn't possibly name everyone who helped out in some way, so all I can do is say a general thank you to you all.

I'm sure some of you are curious about WHY I'm quitting.  To be completely honest it's a number of things.  Aside from hearing the music & just being a part of something so awesome, one of the things that always motivated me was GROWING the contest.  Now, I don't mean to say that I wanted to grow SpinTunes into some massive website & eventually turn a profit from it.  That was NEVER on the table.  But to maintain this as a annual or bi-annual event I thought it was important to constantly be growing our community.  And of late, I think I've been failing.

We had 20 competitors in the first contest.  The likelihood of all 20 showing up for every contest after that is unlikely.  You're going to have people come & go as real life clearly should take priority.  You also have to consider sometimes people just move along to other things.  To offset this you need to be bringing in new people each contest, even if it's just a few.  Early on this wasn't a huge problem for me.  I knew about a lot of independent musicians from years of running my other blog.  So I reached out to some of these people I'd been following.  Some of them were Song Fighters, some of them YouTubers, and some were from other networks.  The only problem was, I eventually quit doing that other blog, and I ran out of people to contact each year.  And eventually I just got tired of blindly running around asking people to judge & finding new communities to pull from.  The 2 weeks before the contest just not fun at all for me.  After that...cake.  But those 2 weeks prior are pretty important, and I haven't been putting in enough work.

I've got other interests & real life problems taking up more time than I used to have as well.  So combine that with me just not doing as good a job for SpinTunes as I think I spells "Time to pass the torch."

So, next January...will be my last time running the contest.  I'll still be around though.  I'm still going to listen to all the music, volunteer to be judge or guest judge whenever needed & help out Dave the way you've all helped me over the years.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Champion: Governing Dynamics

Winner: Governing Dynamics
Runner Up: Heather Zink

Congrats to Governing Dynamics.  He has evened the CvS series 1-1, and in doing so has become the only person to win multiple contests here!  Make sure you e-mail me about your free t-shirt, so I can get that to you.

Judges: Jailhouse Payback, Ted Kiper, Emperor Gum & T.C. Elliott
Guest Judges: Ian Ferguson & Zack Scott
Alternate Judge: N/A

I want to give a big THANK YOU to all the competitors, judges, guest judges, fans, Tom for hosting the LP's, Matt for the album art, and anyone that had anything to do with this contest.  None of this is possible without the participation of all you wonderful people.

Here's how the winner was decided.  6 competitors sent in their votes, and it was a tie 3-3.  The tie breaker was the judges votes.  That ended up being 5-1 in favor of Governing Dynamics.

This was a fun side project, but we will get back to SpinTunes in January.  The exact date won't be set for a few months, but expect sign-ups to go up in mid-late December.  Make sure you follow @SpinTunes on Twitter for contest updates.


Governing Dynamics: Governing Dynamics won Spintunes 5, allegedly.

LinksWebsite - @travisnorris

R1:  Rise

R2:  Dark Energy (Winner)

Kevin Savino-Riker:  The champion of Spintunes #1, and coming out of semi-retirement, Kevin has served as drummer, bassist, guitarist and lead vocalist in a number of bands over the last two decades.  He is uncomfortable writing about himself in the 3rd person.

LinksWebsite - @RITmusic2k - YouTube

R1:  Wait Right There

R2:  Deadline Victim


Heather Zink: Don't act like you don't know me.


R1:  Dementia

R2:  Ms. Pac-Man (Runner Up)

Ben Taggart: I'm a software engineer that loves music.  I have decided that I have music to share.  Time will tell if I am right, or if any of it is any good.


R1:  Master Of My Destiny

R2:  Ballad Of The Mushroom Kingdom (Shadow) Deadline Victim

Mick Bordet: Since his last SpinTunes outing, Mick has released two albums of instrumental music featuring everything from zither and bouzouki to flutes made from walnuts and a drawer full of kitchen knives. Who knows which weapons of musical destruction he will deploy from his arsenal this time around? One thing is for sure: it won't result in a top ten hit single. Thank goodness.

LinksWebsite - @MickBordet

R1:  You Remind Me

R2:  Deadline Victim

Rob From Amersfoort: Although born one year after their break-up I grew up listening to The Beatles. I like to be creative, that's why I write and record music. I call my music PRIP (post-retro indie-pop); catchy, acoustic-electric slightly psycho/experimental songs with personal lyrics and lots of backing vocals. I don't like dull & boring so that's why most of my songs tend to be short.

LinksWebsite - YouTube

R1:  I'm So Stable

R2:  Deadline Victim

The Boffo Yux Dudes: Old guys who do know better. The Dudes started in 1987, reformed in 2009, and got time off for good behavior. Now they attempt to do music. Allan Morgan, Tom Giarrosso and Scott Mercer head this version of BYD with rabid optimism that they'll be remembered for more than just all those replays on Dr. Demento. Record holder of most shadow songs submitted. Piggly Wiggly Enthusiasts. We live 3000 miles apart, so cut us some slack.

LinksWebsite - @BoffoYuxDudes - YouTube

R1:  Instability

R2:  Deadline Victim

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Round 2 Reviews: T.C. Elliott

1) Governing Dynamics - Dark Energy - I've researched your game choice and sound bites. It's almost cheating to be able to use these speeches this way… almost. Or genius. Because it works perfectly. The production is very good, the overall sound is good. The synth work with the piano line panned to the right is a nice counterbalance that works beautifully, imo. The vocals are excellent, as well. The lyric and melody work well together. The chorus is just catchy enough to satisfy my need for light in this otherwise dark song. But I like the dark, too. I don't have anything I dislike about the song. I'll be listening to this one again. You nailed it in my opinion.

2) Heather Zink - Ms. Pac-Man - I like the passing tone/slight dissonance in the main melody run in the piano line. The harmony vox works very well for me. The lyric is a good one, at least the angle is, the idea behind the song. I like the point of view and I think you've successfully put that point of view outside the game and into song.  It works for me.  You used the sound effects well enough. Overall this is a well written and well performed song. The sound could have been better, though. I've found it difficult to record a piano well and the production on this song is fine, but it suffers in comparison to the competition.  

Shadow) Ben Taggart - Ballad Of The Mushroom Kingdom - I'm kind of surprised at how well the sound effects work with the acoustic guitar, folk ballad story telling. Well done on that front. I liked the angle on the lyric, the focus on the mushrooms was a killer idea. *slaps knee*  The song works, but not having to be compared to the entries is helpful, as I feel the idea is good, the implementation is fine, but overall it just isn't as creative as either of the "official" entries. The production meets expectation and it works fine for what is. I enjoyed listening well enough and it's probably better than I would have done, but I liked the two entries a bit more.

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Round 2 Reviews: Ian Ferguson

Today's guest judge is Ian Ferguson from the Completely Unnecessary Podcast.  On the podcast Ian & Pat (Contri) discuss videogame news, retro gaming, collecting & movies.  I've been watching clips from this podcast on YouTube for awhile now, and thought Ian would be a perfect guy to have judge this gaming themed challenge.  To listen to full episodes of their podcast go to or if you want to contact Ian his Twitter is @pxlsicle.  I'll embed one of their YouTube clips below in case you want to sub to the channel.  I highly recommend it.

- Spin


Kudos to everyone involved!

All three songs were fun to listen to and I found the last two to be especially catchy. With that being said I think the first track may fit the criteria the best.

Governing Dynamics - Dark Energy uses a good chunk of speech samples from a couple characters in Half-Life woven throughout a song about the general story and themes of the game itself. It has a nice composition and at no point do the these samples feel shoe-horned in, in fact they create a sense of flow to the song that really gives it a story quality of its own. It would feel right in the game, an advert, or on a completely unrelated concept album.

Heather Zink - Ms. Pac Man is incredibly catchy with it's piano and sing song lyrics. At first listen I felt the video game samples used were more or less tacked on which didn't detract from what I enjoyed about the song but would dock points based on the criteria of the competition. I kept listening to the track, however, and realized the whole thing, especially WITH the samples, had this wonderful cartoon chase-like quality to it, exactly what a song about Ms Pac Man should sound like. It is straight to the point, simple, and fun like any good old arcade game.

Ben Taggart - Ballad Of The Mushroom Kingdom (Shadow) - A wonderfully produced track in the style of a ballad with excellent and truly funny lyrics telling the other side of the story, the tale of Bowser from Super Mario Bros. as the hero of the day. It's memorable, clever, and sticks in one's brain and obvious a lot of effort was put into this track. Problematically I don't feel the samples were used to their greatest effect, mostly being used as punctuation and not particularly integral to the actual music. The use of some of the most familiar samples, bite sized ones at that, could be seen as a good idea as they are immediately recognizable but the flipside to this is that this can also cause them to barely register on the ears of certain listeners. An excellent track about a video game but perhaps not the best use of video game samples.

I think overall Dark Energy is the most cohesive use of samples, Ms Pac Man is the best overall snapshot of what an arcade game would sound like in song form, and Ballad is the best lyrically of the bunch. By the guidelines set out by the competition I believe this means my vote would have to go to Governing Dynamics - Dark Energy. It was definitely a very close call between them and Heather Zink but at the end of the day A decision had to be made.

Ian Ferguson

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Round 2 Reviews: Emperor Gum

Governing Dynamics: Dark Energy

This is fantastic. The broad mechanical SFX percussion elevates the huge brash synth which the intricate and code generated sounding piano complements exquisitely. The voice samples fit perfectly as verses into this sci soundscape, I can see City 17 when I close my eyes. The phrase 'dark energy' could be G-Man's puppet strings or Dr. Breen rejection of humanities base nature, perhaps simply the future itself. I couldn't pick up on Jenny's vocal parts, are they buried too deep in the mix?

This is great stuff, Travis. You should seriously consider mixing more synth and samples into your alt guitar rock from here on out. My friend has G-Man as his Sat-Nav voice, it it deeply unsettling. D:

Heather Zink: Ms Pac-Man

The unshakeable left hand of the piano evokes Pac-Man's incessant beeping without growing wearisome. The right hand and samples adds flourish, the pauses in the arrangement during the sorta-Chorus keep the tune fresh. The melody is lovely and memorable; in particular the harmonies and gravitas of the finish are splendid. The girl-power elements are a nice touch. This is good work!

Whilst both songs are good, ultimately GD and 'Half Life 2' have greater depth and are more anthemic than HZ and 'Ms. Pac Man'.

1. Governing Dynamics
2. Heather Zink

Ben Taggart: Ballad Of The Mountain King

This strip backed Mario ballad blends video game lore with folk legend well, smartly holding off its twist for a full minute. There's some nice stereo guitar strumming and the spoken/sung vocals add good dynamics. The SFX don't add much and become annoying pretty quickly, they don't work as a percussive element and might have been better utilized quirks to end sections with.

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Round 2 Reviews: Ted Kiper

I hate writing these reviews so late, especially at the last round, when everyone usually puts in their A-game. At first, I didn't very much care for these entries. They seemed to lack some power. But over time, I've grown to adore all three of them in their own ways. So here is the challenge:

Arcade Anthem - Write a song about a classic videogame & include an audio sample from the game.  The sample shouldn’t just be tacked on, it should be an integral part of the music.  As an added challenge, you need to collaborate with someone else on your team.  (2 minimum length) (they had 8 days)

Now let's see how I thought you guys handled it:


1. Heather Zink - Ms. Pac-Man
Score: 44

Challenge: 9
Lyrics: 5
Composition: 7
Songcrafting: 7
Arrangement: 3
Performance: 4
Recording: 3
Judge's Whim: 6
Summary: Simple and catchy, just like the game. The sound effect inputs are precisely enough to be there, not distracting. Early 20th century feel? I like it. And the swirly melody? Quite captivating. You've done very well this competition, and I think you should win because everything here and last round fits together in a tighter package.

2. Governing Dynamics - Dark Energy
Score: 44

Challenge: 9
Lyrics: 3
Songcrafting: 6
Arrangement: 4
Performance: 4
Recording: 4
Judge's Whim: 7
Summary: Compared to the last entry, this is much cleaner, and I absolutely appreciate it. So you've used all these sound effects for the drummy percussion? Excellent job! I would've never guessed. My big criticism is the excessive monologues. (Maybe if I had played Half-Life 2 like I always wanted, then I wouldn't mind it, I guess.) I think I will say this is my favorite composition of the round, perhaps even the last one.

3. Ben Taggart - Ballad Of The Mushroom Kingdom
Score: 41

Challenge: 10
Lyrics: 6
Composition: 5
Songcrafting: 6
Arrangement: 2
Performance: 3
Recording: 4
Judge's Whim: 5
Summary: Solid song, but perhaps a bit too safe. It justs seems a bit long, with sudden events not as powerful as your previous entry. You certainly use sound effects, but I'm afraid the other two competitors had either better execution or better creativity. But these past two rounds have showcased your composing skills much better, and I can't wait to hear more of what you offer.


This was a floppy summer, wasn't it? Or perhaps you're happy to not have too many competitors to defeat? But you three should be proud to completing a song for the round--(faster than I can complete my reviews!)--and it was an honor to judge your works. I hope I get to hear you guys again for the next competition!

1. Heather Zink - Ms. Pac-Man
2. Governing Dynamics - Black Energy
3. Ben Taggart - Ballad Of The Mushroom Kingdom

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Round 2 Reviews: Jailhouse Payback

Governing Dynamics - Dark Energy.     I think this song is really cool.  I love the samples.   I am not a video game person, and I don't understand any of the references.  But the music is great.  I love the piano bits, the electronic bits.  I also love the harmonies, although I'd like to hear the harmony vocal turned up a little bit.  You did a great job of incorporating the samples into the song and really making the song about that.  I feel like you really accomplished the challenge better than anyone else this round.  Very unique, I really enjoyed it more than any of the songs in the previous round.   Total 9 points out of 10.

Heather Zink - Ms. Pac Man.   This is so quiet,  I've got the volume all the way up and I can't hear it that well. You did a nice job,  I like the melody.   The arrangement is pretty sparse, I would have liked to hear more instruments in the mix.   This is totally cheesy, but it has charm.  Sampling feels a little tacked on.  Total 7 out of 10.

Ben Taggart - Ballad Of The Mushroom Kingdom.   Great lyrics, but man, it's a little long.  I would have liked to hear more variation throughout the song, it's fairly repetitive.  The sampling feels a little tacked on.  Total 6.5 out of 10.

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Round 2 Reviews: Zack Scott

Zack Scott is a friend of mine who games on YouTube.  He's been into gaming a long time, classic & current games.  He's also a musician so I thought this challenge was a good fit for him to guest judge.

I'll embed one of his recent videos below.  You should check him out if you like watching LP's on YouTube.

- Spin


1. Governing Dynamics - Dark Energy
I felt like this song was the best example of how the samples should be incorporated. The samples felt less tacked on and more part of the song's soul. Ignoring that, it was also my favorite track of the three in terms of production quality and performance. I listened to this one the most. I love the synth work!

2. Ben Taggart - Ballad Of The Mushroom Kingdom (Shadow)
I love the idea of Bowser being the good guy. Not necessarily my preferred style of music, but I do like storytelling in music. It's interesting to hear the samples used as percussion. The samples are so well known though, that they almost feel tacked on.

3. Heather Zink - Ms. Pac-Man
A happy song that takes the game topic literally. I like the layers of vocals, but the samples don't really feel like part of the song.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Champions Vs Shadows #2 Round 2 Songs

With only 3 songs & 1 new cover of "Today's The Day" it was a short LP.  So if you missed it, make sure you check out the new album.  Also, if you signed up for the contest & turned in at least 1 song, you need to VOTE.  You decide who wins & who loses.  I've sent out reminder e-mails, so just reply to that e-mail letting me know which entry you liked best.

The songs are now available for FREE download on the album below.

(Album cover by Matt Schubbe)

- Judges, guest judges AND competitors need to turn in their reviews & rankings by August 6th 11PM (Sat).

Reviews are posted & the winner is announced on August 7th before 8PM (Sun).

Links Of Interest:

Monday, August 1, 2016

Round 2 LP & Deadline News

For now you should know:
- There are 2 official entries...1 from the Champions & 1 from the Shadows.
- There is 1 shadow.
- I think I responded to all e-mails (eventually).
- The listening party will be hosted by Tom on YouTube tonight at 8PM EST.
- There will be a new "Today's The Day" cover played during the LP as well.

LP Location: