Saturday, August 26, 2017

SpinTunes #13 Winner: JERKATORIUM!

Winner: Jerkatorium (31 points)

Runner Up: Menage a Tune (38 points)
3rd: Jailhouse Payback (44 points)
4th: Sara Parsons (47 points)

Jerkatorium: (3 + 1 2 1 1 1 1 3 4 1 2 1 2)
Menage a Tune: (4 3 1 1 1 4 4 3 2 2 2 2 1 2 4 2)
Jailhouse Payback: (2 2 4 4 3 3 2 2 3 1 3 4 3 4 3 1)
Sara Parsons: (1 4 3 2 4 2 3 4 4 4 1 3 4 3 1 4)

Votes* were cast by:
Army Defense - Micah Sommersmith - Rob from Amersfoort - Governing Dynamics - Melissa Phillips - Kevin Savino-Riker - Boffo Yux Dudes - Megalodon - Jerkatorium - Jailhouse Payback - Boy on the Wall - Sara Parsons - Emperor Gum - Little Bobby Tables - Edric Haleen - Menage a Tune

* With the exception of Boy on the Wall (who wrote reviews), votes are private so the order of both these names and the scores were scrambled.

Congratulations JERKATORIUM!

Thanks and congrats to every one of the finalists, as well as to all those who competed as well as the judges and anyone I've left out. If you've done this, you already know that while winning is nice, the real reward is getting together to make and share music with friends both new and old.

Special thank-yous to Tom Giarrosso, who hosts our listening parties, as well as to Matt "Shoobs" Schubbe, the superb graphic designer who constantly delights us with his album covers, each one a graphical take on the challenge that you answer musically.

SpinTunes #13 Judges: 
Brian Gray - Denise Hudson - Paul Rosenbluth - Daniel Prince - Dave Cheetham
Guest Judges: 
Round 2: Josh Holober-Ward
Round 4: Caleb Hines
Alternate Judge: Dave Leigh

I've had a blast being in the driver's seat this first time. The next scheduled SpinTunes will be this Winter, so make sure you follow @SpinTunes on Twitter for contest updates.  

But we will have OTHER SPECIAL EVENTS from time-to-time! One of the suggestions we received in the Suggestion Box is to have year-long string of Holiday challenges. Keep your eye on Twitter and Facebook for that as well!

And in the meantime, remember that you can keep writing songs and keep answering challenges. Song Fight offers a new prompt every week, and many SpinTuners compete there as well, so check it out!

If you've completed at least 1 song for SpinTunes, at any time now or in the past, 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, and generally just pal around.

ST13R4 Reviews: Boy on the Wall

Dave's Note: Boy on the Wall stepped it up a notch and sent in reviews of the four contestants along with his rankings. They're presented here. And if anyone else wants to write reviews, feel free to do so... I'll be happy to post them.

1. Jerkatorium

Jerkatorium absolutely knocked it out of the park. The two distinct characters' voices, the two distinct musical moods to match those voices, the seamless "eclipse" effect, the merger of message and music, phewwwww this is probably my favorite song of any round of the whole contest, just brilliant stuff. I want to hear a whole Jerkatorium stage musical after hearing this!! Maaaybe the first "song" is a little short and spare - could it truly stand alone? I think so, at least up to the same standard as the example that Dave gave us when announcing the round. There are three distinct melodies/sections there, very very efficiently. Great job, guys. 

2. Menage a Tune

Ranking this one higher almost exclusively on the strength of the interlocking melodies and music of the "eclipse" portion of the piece - I really liked how the melodies worked and how the orchestration rose up in support of them at the end. It's beautiful. I can see this on the stage as well, though definitely with different lyrics. The lyrical content didn't rise to the same level as the music for me, at least not until that last line of "happy to share the sky with you," which is great, and "I have learned that I shine best in your reflected glory." I would have loved a version that started with those images, with the sun and moon as the actual characters. In this version, the word "rebels" especially took me out of the music - both because Civil War iconography is literally headline news this week - did you mean to invoke that? I kinda hope not! - and because it was never clear how songwriting competitors are rebelling against anything. But the music just really works so well for me in the end! 

3. Sara Parsons

Sara and Jailhouse were really really close for me, but I'm giving the edge to Sara because of the cool lyrical approach of taking two different moments in the same character's development/story. Sara's melodies are both great - they really match the moods of the lyrics well (not unlike Jerkatorium). I love when that happens! Also daring to try to map 4/4 on top of 3/4 time! Or merge your v1 4/4 melody into 3/4 at the end? I think that's what you did there. But, whether because of the meter(s) or the phrasing of the lines, the eclipse portion of the song wound up a little cluttered and hard to parse for me, and it didn't quite achieve that emotional elevating effect. 

4. Jailhouse Payback

It's brutal to have to put such a great effort last, sheesh! Such a strong round overall! And this one was an attempt to actually engage with pressing issues in the country in a thoughtful way, with powerful imagery linked to the eclipse - I really appreciated that. All three of these sections really stand alone as whole, complete songs, nice job. It does become a haul to get through, though; there are stops and starts and empty measures that I would have liked to see cut, and you probably exceeded the limit for (admittedly brilliant) guitar solos in one submission. The two characters seem like nice, thoughtful people (friends? romantic partners? family?), but their perspectives weren't really different, the way Jerkatorium's and Sara's were, to good effect. I do really like how the two chorus lines land on top of each other in the final portion, though. 

Thanks for everything! Looking forward to Spintunes 14!

ST13R4 Reviews: Paul Rosenbluth

Okay, round four.  Wow!  What great entries.  I’ve been told there was an easy way to approach this challenge but I honestly don’t know how you all pulled this off.  To be honest, the first time I listened through all the songs, I thought they were good, some things stood out but overall my impression was “okay.”  Then I listened again and again and again and each time I heard more complexity and depth.  Some really ingenious work here.  Congratulations to all!

So here we go…

Menage a Tune - Rebels Out For Glory / Reflected Glory 06:33
Such a pretty song melodically!  Really fine lyrics that paint some beautiful images. I really liked each song separately and really love them together.  In the second song, the moon really gets a personality.  The combined songs add an intangible element and are a whole new thing.  Also love the end of the song and the line “happy to share the sky with you.”  Simply gold!

Jailhouse Payback - Path of Totality / Oregon to Myrtle Beach 08:38
I really like the contrast of the longing style of the first with the upbeat tempo of the second.  The two complement each other very nicely.  I especially like the guitar work in the second piece.  Excellent lyrics and enjoyed the Spanish flavor to the music.  Excellent!

Sara Parsons - Eclipse 04:04
Smart lyrics.  A light, happy melody.  Beautiful vocals (as always).  Interesting to start the first song with the upbeat and follow with the slower song.  The two really sound good together.  Marvelous!

Jerkatorium - Oh No / Sunblock (ft Sheri Hinshaw) 02:52
This is quite genius the more I listen to it.  The first song really passes for an intro into the second as if one song and the combination is perfect.  The second song is catchy and fun with nice accents and harmonies with the background vocals.  So seamless.  Really impossible to tell if this is one song, two, or three.  Outstanding work!

Governing Dynamics - Tension (Shadow) 04:24
Really thoughtful lyrics in a very thoughtful piece.  Great delivery.  Some awesome lines in here: “and we try to let love win and hope that won’t leave us with nothing.”  Also, “there’s right and there’s wrong and there’s wool over eyes.”  Great images.  Very well done!

Glen Raphael - Be Kind / Call Names (ft. Melissa Phillips) (Shadow) 03:48
Really enjoyed hearing Glen and Melissa together.  Two good songs. Really nice together considering how different each is alone.  I like the cheeky mood of the second with the guitar punctuation marks and sassy vocal styling.  I also enjoyed the percussion element – spoons?  Very fine work!

Army Defense - Wabasha Shadows (Shadow) 10:04
A nice, catchy composition.  Smart, creative lyrics.  The songs complement each other well.  Love the line “Just because you want it doesn't make it so.”  Really fine work.

Micah Sommersmith - Song About the Sun and the Moon (Shadow) 03:32
Very Micah Sommersmith.  A signature style that made it a little difficult to distinguish the two songs but I guess how they work together is the point.  I could see this song being sung by minstrels in a “Game of Thrones” episode.  Nice work!

Rob From Amersfoort - Dance Around The Sun - The Moon King (Shadow) 03:13
Enjoyed this more and more the more I listened to it.  Reminiscent of a lost deep track from the Beatles’ “White Album.”  Nicely done!

ST13R4 Reviews: Caleb Hines

Dave's Note: Caleb had the temerity to come out of the hermit cave he's been in and express an interest in this challenge. Seeing as this musical technique (which is called ) originated during the baroque period which is still lives on in Caleb, I invited him to be a guest judge.


My name's Caleb. Many of you know me already, but for those who don't, I was an early contestant in SpinTunes, and it's predecessor, Masters of Song Fu (which I joined after discovering the music of Coutlon). Aside from that, I’m a software engineer with a strong interest in historical music, especially of the Baroque and Renaissance, and an interest in music theory. Since those eras deal heavily in counterpoint, and this challenge involves counterpoint, Dave asked if I'd guest judge this round. I agreed, although I haven't been following SpinTunes since I stopped participating, which means some of you may have been around for a while but I'm just hearing you for the first time.

One of the things I'll be looking for specifically in this round is how well contrasted the two songs are. The ranking probably doesn’t matter from me, but my method is really simple: everyone starts with a score of zero, and will get +/-1's for things I do or don't like. Yes, this means that zero and negative scores are possible. As with any music judging, my opinions, although hopefully informed and constructive, are subjectively my own: there may be things I don’t like that were deliberate choices on your part. Tough luck.

Jailhouse Payback: Path of Totality / Oregon
-1 This pair of songs lasted longer than my attention span; I got bored. It probably didn't need so many verses and solos.
-1 The two songs don't feel that different to me musically, one feels like a continuation of the other, making this entry's length feel all the more monotonous.
-1 The lyrics are phrased in such a way as they are often both on or both off. It might have been better if you could fill the "whitespace" between phrases in one song with a phrase from the other song.
+1 Although the chorus is just a short hook, I do like the counterpoint there.
+1 Even though the song was too long, I did enjoy the guitar solo, although I had hoped there would be a double-solo when the two songs combined.
+1 I'm not sure how, but your production does a good job of distinguishing the parts, so they are both easy to hear when together.

Total Score: +0

Jerkatorium: Oh No / Sunblock
+1 This is fun to listen to! And it doesn't overstay it's welcome.
+1 Musically, these songs are definitely different. Good combination of half-notes against sixteenth-notes. Almost like the first is a cantus firmus.
-1 The first set of lyrics are a bit hard to hear during the combined section. Maybe panning them would have helped
+1 The last four lines make effective use of whitespace between phrases to bounce between lyrics.

Total Score: +2

Menage a Tune: Rebels Out For Glory / Reflected Glory
-1 First song uses “meta-lyrics”. I've been there before: they can be fun to do, and it's an easy topic. But in the long run it reduces the repeatability of this song and it feels a bit lazy.
+1 I like the lyrics in the second half. At first, the two topics didn't seem that connected logically, but I there is a loose connection there in terms of seeking "glory".
+1 Good contrast between the guitar in the first half and the ethereal synth soundscape in the second half.
+0 Heavily EQ'ing the guitar as you did (and later, the male voice at the end) is a good idea to "make room" acoustically, but the mix still feels a bit crowded in the combined section, and JoAnn's voice is muddled in parts. Since this is more likely due to the available equipment I'm not taking off for it, but I can tell that you're working around it (been there, done that).

Total Score: +1

Sara Parsons: Eclipse
+1 Really great job combining major and minor keys to get two contrasting moods, and weaving them together seamlessly.
+1 Lyrically, these two songs clearly relate to each other and combine into a unified whole.
+0 Woot! Ukulele! No bonus points for that, but I won't hold it against you. :-D
-1 Clipping in the recording makes this painful on headphones. I expected better.
Total Score: +1

Tie breaker between Menage a Tune and Sara Parsons:
+0.5 to Sara Parsons for being the song that would be more enjoyable to re-listen to.

1 Jerkatorium
2 Sara Parsons
3 Menage a Tune
4 Jailhouse Payback


Governing Dynamics: Tension
+1 Good use of differing vocal registers and panning to distinguish your voices.
-1 Full disclosure: I often find GD's songs somewhat rambly for my taste (sorry Travis).
+1 Typical good performance and production values from GD to create a soothing electronic soundscape.

Total Score: +1

Glen Raphael: Be Kind / Call Names
+1 This is a good example of how to do political lyrics without incitement
+1 The rhyming of Fuhrer and Mao was cleverly done :-)
+1 Good independence between between the two melodies, (and when they both rest, you add interesting guitar fills).
+1 Exceptional production & performance
-1 Connection to the eclipse is weak

Total Score: +3 (This would have won for me, if it wasn't a shadow)

Micah Sommersmith: Song About the Sun and the Moon
+1 Finally! Some real Renaissance polyphony! And in Latin, even! Sweet! :-D
-1 The two main songs aren't that different stylistically, more like two half-songs (it actually works for what you're going for, but I need to be consistent).
+1 You throw in a third song that is stylistically different (the Latin), and fits over the other two so you get a bonus point back.
+1 The two main songs are well-designed to fit into each other. This takes my earlier advice about filling in the whitespace in one song with the other to the extreme.

Total Score: +2

Rob From Amersfoort - Dance Around The Sun - The Moon King
-1 The mood of the music should support the mood of the text: e.g. the first half is singing about being happy, but sounds like a dirge.
-1 The ponderously-repeated four block-chord phrases get very monotonous and make this difficult to listen to.
-1 Too much EQ on the second voice makes it hard to understand
+1 Combined vocals are well-panned

Total Score: -2

Army Defense - Wabasha Shadows
-1 I have no idea what these songs are about, or how the music supports it.
-1 This lasts way too long.
+1 There's some stylistic difference between the songs, and the mix is adequate.

Total Score: -1

ST13R4 Review: Denise Hudson

Welcome to Round Four. Thanks for playing and thanks for your effort. It’s raining quite a bit here now and I’m going to try my best to get these done. So here are my reviews, shadows included, in album order. Again, thank you and I hope no feelings are hurt during the course of these reviews. I rushed these a bit through a quite weird week with a cap off of a flood and then going out in the evening during a apologies for errors and lateness.

There’s nothing like several well placed Jailhouse Payback guitar breaks. An epic music journey about an epic journey-journey. I wanted things to blend a little better at the end. Perhaps if you had simplified one of your sets of verses—you would have gotten less clutter, as the singing in different registers was a REALLY good idea. The “Casper to Lincoln, we closed our eyes” part REALLY sang out in a pleasing way. Great second song overall, actually!
There was something jarringly discordant about the chorus in the wrap up. But of course, there is something jarringly discordant about the setting in the song, this tale you're describing; something fitting for a post-apocalyptic scenario. I think that you could have taken less time—not repeating your second chorus line four times into a solo with a clumsy fadeout/awkward strum-in and a full kind of musical ‘oh hell no’ later on. Although, sometimes your overall good production made you sound tight...and your start off was brilliant. Unfortunately, those transitions didn’t do you any justice and were out of character for your level of production. Hardly anyone truly nailed this challenge in my opinion because it is apparently tricky to fit two songs together into one. It was a noble effort and you did it proud.

I LOVED that this song was adorable, short, sweet, and felt a little bit snarky. For some reason it felt a little sockpuppet-ty for me (which I liked muchly); with the synthy vocal and the almost slapsticky, musical theater-appropriate fast-moving chord changes. You had SUCH a contrast between your two song styles and they fit together BEAUTIFULLY. The first one could have come up in the mix a bit, I think. Also, I think that "you're blocking the light” could have shown up in both segments as a chorus stinger. And I wanted you to pronounce 'be-gun' differently, but this is just personal preference stuff regarding where you emphasize lyrics and decide to make lyrics flow through a verse (I feel sometimes things sound a little awkward, but this could be regional or accent differences). This is nitpicky stuff, because you’re pretty close to perfect and this was cute as hell. I appreciate that you NAILED the challenge and were a clear winner in my book.

First of all, all the references and all of the studious application and care and concern—much appreciated tributes. The fact that you work hard and came up swinging, effectively casting yourselves as “the underdog of Spintunes,” is commendable. Of course that's all through now that you've been a finalist, so it's a bit silly to come at you from a standpoint of “oh goody yay! You wrote a song, here’s a gold star!” Perhaps I should not have read your song bio, this has hurt other people's rounds a bit before play is even pressed. I think I might have enjoyed you a bit more No Bio.
So … JoAnn is not in tune here a bit and there and that schmarmy synth isn’t helping her. It's playing the right lush notes though and sounds pretty when it all comes together. Luckily, her self-deprecratory POV is set well against her parts and it comes off a bit sweet and is appropriate to her role as the moon—it’s not even close to cloying. You’re don't come off silly as a rock star sun character, although a bit cheesy perhaps with the birds and the hackneyed count-off which all of us have done at one time or another. You both do this theatrical style well. Your vocals pretty solid. Even though you had the some of the same problems that other people did with blending at the end, your duo has begun to complement well and JoAnn is not the liability she makes herself out to be and her steady improvement is welcome. Overall the band sounds nicely balanced with well structured songs.

What a GREAT POV. What a clever set of lyrics, boss singing, and a fantastic set of melodies. It was surprising to me that you went a bit off-key at the end, which I think happened because your tunes did not fit together perhaps as well as they should have. Common complaint from me here. For you I think this happened because your tunes were well written as stand-alones and had too much unique and interesting phrasing that drew attention to themselves. The melody lines together got a bit cluttered and busy and at times the harmony did not come to the pleasing arrival points I have come to know you for.

I thought, what could have improved this? Perhaps you could have staggered your entrances, or made one part a bit slower, or started singing perhaps a beat later on some of your lines and it maybe would have fixed a few of the problems. And again, with the tweaks production complaints and the vocal distortion, an aspect which you cleverly worked into a song with a robotic vocal. But does it matter in a place where you’re making music for free and not getting paid? Maybe it does, if you’re in round four; and maybe it doesn't. Either way, good stuff the whole way through and you would have come out high if I’d been ranking which, blessedly, I didn’t have to.

You mention that this is unfinished, and I suppose I can tell because yeah, it’s barebones. You could do more to make the songs very distinct from one another (this may not be what you want, to fit a challenge after the challenge is no longer the driving point). That you are not as stapled to a challenge as others were benefits you here because the way that the two parts fit together as though it is a seamless conversation inside a conflicted head is breathtaking. I think if the songs were as different as perhaps they OFFICIALLY needed to be it would have been harder. As it was, yours came off perfect and also very artistic with the shifty timing and the conversational flow. It’s VERY Governing Dynamics and you are obviously pushing so much feeling into what I think is the best and most confidently performed vocal you’ve done this contest. “You're still surprised you're still the best liar you know” CRUSHES as a lyric. This is a real journey to assuredness and captured my mood this week in such an anthemic way. So excellent.

Your core message—that we should be kind to one another, that it is easy to call names, that we are all sisters and brothers, and that 'isn't free speech great?'--is a lovely idea. IF such things universally apply to you, it is good to remember this during fraught times.

Within the song, it seems like two different points of view are at work--but really they only differ in tone. This was very clever in the way gaslighting is a clever logic tool; giving you the feeling of being at a nice dinner party where you are intensely crushed by the elephant in a very small dining room--but to say The Thing would spoil the very nice meal with forks and knives all in their proper places. So it's professional-level songwriting with crafty lyrics in a very well woven approach which could be quite anthemic for any population of people who don't believe the extremes in society should ruffle the calm waters or rock the boat for The Rest of Us. It hardly needs saying that you are a fantastic songwriter and a great lyricist. I am going to tell you that your choice to include Melissa was a really GOOD choice because you sound spot on together and a duo between the two of you would be really sweet and super effective. Your best production yet and you obviously put a lot into this tune. The challenge was met in a way that might have taken a win--skillfully and technically on point. It’s just not exactly my cup of tea topically because right now, that particular cup of tea has been thrown into a harbor that is currently on fire.

Great use of pauses and the accordion not just your main instrument but as part of a trio with vocal and drummer. Bare bones and yet—not. This was so jazzy. It interlocked really well together and was tricky and rhythmically clever. Good, hopeful message as well. Simple and yet profound somehow. Good to keep on a playlist without being too specific to any one ideology or being preachy; which I think is what everyone could truly use right now. Your arrangements are typically pretty impeccable. Some tuning bobbles, but this is seriously forgivable, because it seemed to me that this song overlapped thricefold. Great ancient feel and I’ll be honest, I’ve been a consistent fan of you this whole run.

A fanciful series of songs that is typical for your style but which are too similar to one another to have nailed the two-different-songs-challenge for me. This, however, is fine with me in the same way that the Governing Dynamics tune was because you chose a straightforward drone that featured sweeping and easily complimentary lyrics and nicely mixable voicing choices. This thematically set apart your sections nicely and with your excellent production made for an easy and pleasant listen. You did this, rather than making distinctive writing or structural choices for a hard challenge nail. You layered lines over each other pretty nicely and the two distinct vocal treatments made things contrast well even if the two songs sounded a little much like a really good A and B section rather than two songs merging into one. A keeper for sure and a definite stylistic win.

Interesting and compelling plot with strong lyrical statements and a creative story/mythology. I have to be honest and say the song dragged on for quite a while and could have blended together better at the end, and while this is true of several of the songs in this round yours took it to a rather diabolical length. It was a cool plot idea though. There were things you could have done without--such as having an entire verse pattern in the first song statement that was done with no lyrics over it and too much gratuitous musical interlude for no reason in a ten minute number doing little for the structure. But this was a difficult challenge to construct, and at least your separate songs were easily distinguishable and harmonized well. Even with the hemming and hawing about as we lurched bravely forth toward the end. But there was a LOT going on and your vocals in particular were strong and steady, staying the course in champion fashion. Production was the kind of Adequate I am still striving for myself so the mixing complaints are mostly balance related and can be tweaked when you clean things up later in life.

ST13R4 Reviews: Daniel Prince

I thought everyone did really well this week in what had to be an extremely tough challenge. This is the first week in the entire contest that I'm not really second-guessing myself in my judging--maybe because there's a larger safety net of voters this time around in case I get it "wrong". There were several individual songs among all the entries that I really enjoyed, and a few that truly were better together. The shadow entries were very strong--three of them would have "eclipsed" my finalists had they been eligible. Thanks to everyone who gave of their time to bless me with your music these past few weeks. I hope my feedback was of some use to you, but if not, that's okay, too. You are all very talented songwriters.

Jailhouse Payback - Path of Totality
After listening to the songs separately, I was curious to see how they would sound together, as they didn't sound like they would fit. I was very pleasantly surprised to hear how well they integrated. I can tell you thought this challenge through, not just with the melodies but with the rhythms. I enjoyed the instrumentals throughout the songs. I thought the second song was stronger on its own than the first, though it seemed to end too abruptly for my liking. I didn't mind that ending when the two were meshed, though. I thought the chorus was repeated too often in the first song. Again, it worked when the two were together. The lyrics are poetic enough to leave the song open to a measure of interpretation, which is good. Very strong entry!

Sara Parsons - Eclipse
You don't waste any time in getting the eclipse mention out of the way, do you? At least it's not ONLY in the title. Beautifully sung, as always, and I'm a sucker for your musical style. After such a peppy and upbeat first song, I felt I knew where you'd be going in the second song, and you didn't disappoint. The key change definitely shifted the mood. Of the four finalists, yours was the only one where I felt the individual songs were equally strong. However, I didn't feel it worked very well together. It may be in the production--I'm not sure. They seem to compete for attention rather than being better together.

Menage a Tune - Rebels Out for Glory
I adore JoAnn's song. While your voice sometimes lacks polish, it's very real, and I think that works with this song, which also seems very real and personal. I caught and really appreciate the faith elements in that song hiding there in plain sight. Ted, I liked the homage to your fellow competitors. As a judge, I've come to appreciate just how difficult writing, composing, and producing these songs has to be, and as several of the judges have stated previously, I doubt I could rise to the level of the worst one ever presented. These songs didn't work as well for me together as separate. Maybe I'll change that opinion when I listen again--maybe I was still transfixed by the 2nd song.

Jerkatorium - Oh No
This one just didn't grab me as perhaps it would have if you had switched the positions of the songs. I like that you employed a different style with each song, but the first one ended up a little too ethereal, if that makes any sense. It's like it was sung as background vocals, but it needed to be in the foreground. That lightness and background style works when it is combined with the second song, but not as a standalone. I thought there was more substance and more to like about the second song, which is why I wish you had led with it.


Glen Raphael - Be Kind
I feel like you cheated by getting Melissa to sing on this one! Lol  As always, she does a beautiful job. The second song made me laugh. The songs meshed together quite well, and the different feel of the songs made them complement one another well. You would have taken first in my judging.

Micah Sommersmith - Song About the Sun and the Moon
Beautiful chant at the beginning, which supports the faith element throughout the songs, as well. I appreciate the complexity built into the verse of the first song. It took a while for me to realize that the second song was different from the first. I thought it was quite masterful when put together, and I loved that you also put the chant in that part, as well. Quite well done. You would have placed 2nd in my judging were you a finalist.

Rob From Amersfoort - Dance Around the Sun
Very nice production that didn't detract from the song. The melodies work well in the mesh, but I think the point was to sing the original two songs together, rather than putting in new lyrics. Despite that, job well done. I have you 4th in my overall judging if you were a finalist, but I would have agonized a little more over whether you actually met the challenge were you in there.

Governing Dynamics - Tension
I loved the feel of the first song, but I found myself wanting something a little more different for the second one. Nonetheless, the songs fit together well when put together, though the various guitar parts got a little much. Strong lyrics, I thought. I would have ranked you 5th among all submissions.

Army Defense - Wabasha Shadows
Curious if you got the title of your second song from Eclipse Records on Wabasha Street in St. Paul. If it's not intentional, it's one of the biggest coincidences I've encountered in a while. As far as the song goes, I don't think it needed to be 10 minutes long. You could have covered the ground just as easily in 5 or 6, I believe. The songs do mesh together solidly. The music throughout is good, and I don't have any problems with the lyrics, except for what I consider excessive repetition of your tag lines. You ended up 8th in my judging of all entries this week.

ST13R4 Reviews: Brian Gray

Woo-hoo, my rankings don’t count anymore! Thus, I’m not providing them, and to be honest not even deciding inside my own brain which songs I like better than others. In fact, I’m noticing as I write that I’m having things to say about songs I like that may make you think you’d have been at the bottom. You probably would not have been. I mean, maybe you would have been. It’s like a 25% shot. At any rate, it’s a good thing my vote doesn’t count, because with a week-long trip full of a whole bunch of no electronics, I didn’t have the same amount of time to digest your music. So this is based on just a few listens rather than charting out the harmonies, dissecting the lyrical patterns, etc.

The first thing that I noticed when we decided on the challenge was that this is basically the same thing as the previous round, but for harmony instead of lyrics. That is to say, you are probably writing two songs with the same chords and different melodies and lyrics, instead of two songs with the same lyrics but different harmonies and melodies. Except that one of you didn’t, did you? I’m sure you all suffered through how difficult it is to fit two songs together. How do you overlay them? Different voices? Left v. right ear? Counterpoint composition? Handing off or bouncing back and forth? One slow and one fast? Some combination of the above?

Jailhouse Payback: Path of Totality / Oregon to Myrtle Beach
Inventive! I was expecting a lot of very simple progressions – since two distinct melodies were going to have to fit over them – but you use almost all of the chords available to the relative major of your minor key. The melody flows well in the first part, less so in the second. I think I’m going to have a lot of opinions this round where I like one better than the other, them both being new and in such close comparison. The other suggestion I had was that you could work on the transitions to tie the whole piece together.
Some really clever stuff here with the way the lyrics interplay. Was it intentional to use “Casper” in the second song where it would overlay with “ghost”? It matches well with “Abe” and “Lincoln”. Plus, just the imagery of references to things like “Bruce” allows you to say a lot with a few words because you’re leveraging narratives established in much longer works.
The above lyrical combinations are inspired. Musically, I’d have liked to hear them blend together better. Maybe sparsify the lyrics in the second part so that they can alternate with the first without quite as much overlaying. Or perhaps it would be sufficient to have each lean to a side so they’re more separable, at least with headphones on.

Jerkatorium: Oh No / Sunblock (ft Sheri Hinshaw)
You made some adventurous choices, with both the harmonic style of the first part and some of the compositional decisions. I’m not sure of that secondary dominant (V/vi) that resolves back to the tonic (“I just want to sit and ponder my regrets”). Going to vi there would be cliché, but sometimes combinations become that way because they work so well. Here you took a chance and I think the song would have been better served by taking the road more traveled.
As an art form, I have nothing to call out about your lyrics, except perhaps how the word “begun” fits into the cadence. Some interesting ambiguity – and perhaps switching 1st person? – with respect to who first suggested the time off and who needs more or less of it. But all that mystery works together, and I think the listener gets the combination of frustration, sadness, and resignation you intended. One thing that bothers me, perhaps unreasonably, was the combination of talking about how it was supposed to be a “peaceful day”, but then the other person is back after “43 hours”. How long was it supposed to be? And if 43 hours is being back early, how did you not get a peaceful day? Or was it supposed to be 2 or 3 peaceful days, and your being back early prevents this one from being so?
Really, really good. You use both fast/slow and two different voices to accentuate the differences, but in a way that when you play them it comes across as something any normal songwriter/producer might have done to make the lead and backups blend (and it’s pretty clear the second part is the lead).

Menage a Tune: Rebels Out For Glory / Reflected Glory
Musically, this is kind of what I was expecting from the round, in terms of keeping the chords simple. The weirder you get, the less room you have for truly different melodies, which is part of why we have 47 million popular songs with different melodies built on top of variants of I-V-vi-IV (or I-vi-IV-V in the 50’s). You took a more middle road, but erred on the side of essential chords that allow more melodic flexibility, and I think that was a good decision.
Denser internal rhymes than we’ve seen in the past from you. They give this piece a nice layering, and a stylistic backing of the central theme, which is clearly quite meta. Even that exhausted “accidental” catch at the beginning feeds into a contrast with the light, easy, bouncy feel to “Rebels”. Had that been the only part written, I’d have asked if it was meant to color the song in an ironic hue. And if so, why leave it at that? If not, you’re better without it. Here though, with both parts they fit better having the labor, frustration, and emotional exposure inherent in the competition foreshadowed by this little part that doesn’t veen make it into the body of the song(s).
You can tell just by reading the lyrics that part 1 is denser than part 2, so I was expecting a faster, punctuated former over a long-phrased, slow latter. What ended up taking form is a 2nd part alternating fast lyrics with open space, and I’m not convinced it was to your benefit. When they come together, they kind of step on each other for a bit, then part 2 clears out and we hear part 1 clearly. Then we’re back to the stepping on each other. To get these to knit together better, I think try making JoAnn’s part use longer, legato notes taking the job of a pad, allowing Ted’s part to assume the percussive burden.

Sara Parsons: Eclipse
Ahh, the exception to the rule. You kept the same general harmonic “sense” as your songs progressed between passages, but part 2 was in the relative minor, reflecting very convincingly the change in mood as the relationship follows its path. But then how are you going to bring them back together? You sing the part 2 melody over the part 1 chords, which is an interesting chioce. Had you followed the minor version, I’d have interpreted this as the outcome of the relationship netagively coloring your memory of how it started. But doing it this way lightens the second part. Perhaps reflecting on the good times makes the rest not seem as bad? I might have to think on this more deeply, which is a good thing for a song.
Your lyrics always flow well, and are so pleasant to hear that they stay out of the way of your narrative. I do feel like “really super buff” might have jarred me out of this immersion a bit, it’s just a bit blunt. Beyond that, part 1 does its part masterfully in communicating its message. Part 2 has me a bit bewildered. The core of the music – the emotional content – remains intact and I can feel what I think you want me to feel, but I fall short in comprehending the narrative. I’m not sure who left whom, and why, only that the relationship ended and he’s still in love. Perhaps you got scared and broke up with him? I could imagine any of a dozen scenarios.
The synergy makes the piece, for the reasons noted above in “music”. More than any other song in this round, I believe yours needed a production-created way to differentiate the melodies when combined, the most naive (and style-preserving) being nudging them left and right.