Saturday, July 15, 2017

ST13R1 Reviews - DJ Ranger Den

Hello, my name is Denise, or “DJ Ranger Den.” I am not a DJ, so this should tell you something right away.

All of these songs were good. None of these songs were bad. I notice nobody wrote about Epimenides.

I have to say that I am grateful for your songs, particularly the songs I have ranked last or too low; as they are the ones that I feel the most passionately about right now and have wronged the most. Your songs are not REALLY in this cheated place, the song faerie that lives in the best place of all knows that they are actually better than I could rank or describe them … they are gifts you gave me but this all sounds like bullshit right now and nothing I say makes any difference.

The way I ranked songs was “would I put them in my player and listen to them over and over.” “Do I think they they are groovy and do they make me feel good.” Only a few of them actually made it that far for me. I don’t like that many songs because I am picky and cantankerous even though I smile and nod on the outside.

So I ranked these songs entirely according to my personal preferences and whether or not I think they are:
  • either songlike or clever in an experimental or unorthodox way
  • pleasing to my particular ears
  • well written" either on behalf of or in spite of themselves (in my ridiculous opinion) memorable and ear-wormy
  • COOL.
  • probably some factors I have forgotten or stuff that is too rude or personal to mention.
As for these reviews, I have probably written too much in some, too little in others. Some things I say probably come off as haughty and I don’t mean to. I tried. Some people I truly did not know what to say to. Perhaps I didn’t emotionally connect with your song, and sadly, this happens all the time with songs. and in many human relationships (and also sandwiches). It’s so tricky.

Bottom line. Gut reaction. Some of these should clearly be ranked higher and some of you clearly lucked out. There is often no rhyme or reason to why one judge likes songs. Some judges cannot even be relied upon to like one artist’s songs 100% of the time, so do not think because I scored you high on this round that you can count on me later, or that if I toasted you today that should you make it through that I will spurn you again. These places are fickle and somewhat unreliable. I feel my musical taste at it’s most dodgy, as a judge. So it sucks to be you.

Thank you for your time, and your music. Bless you all.

Denise H - planet Xondor.

1. Rob From Amersfoort - The Blonde Bombshell
Stylish and cool with great structure. Lots of engineering treats to keep the ear occupied. My favorite! I have little more to say except that I would like to buy an egg chair now for some reason.

2. Micah Sommersmith - The Sisters of Mercy Again
Loved this charming song that sat in my head the whole week. A really touching and fitting tribute and I love that it was done in precisely this way with this vocal style and instrumentation. Such a catchy verse AND chorus. Now I want an accordion.

3. Ominous Ride - Line After Line (Wired)
In the intro, there is something about this melody that is really familiar. Can’t put my finger on it though and because I don’t know if I heard that melody somewhere you win this prize. I wanted even more aggressive vocals on that amazing hook. This ‘line after line' bit was one of the best hooks I heard this whole contest, and such a nice groove! These two things pop you up.

4. W8 What - Wake Up!
I thought that this was so cool! A happy-campy song (as was proper) with great vocal and super clever lyrics. The synth work on this was so pleasing and the arrangement/backup vocals/production puts this into a greatness place. Stays interesting and could go on longer. I watched so many old videos after George Michael died, and Faith was my second cassette tape—so the tribute aspect was well done particularly for the subject.

5. Matt Walton - The Coming of Enlightenment
For me, you really scored with the Hildegarde von Bingen choice. I have a Hildegarde t-shirt. It says ‘A feather on the breath of God’ on the back of it. Ah, music school … Your performance was convincing and interesting and you pulled off the artistry angle. There were a lot of ways to have messed this up, but you chose the right format and took risks that paid off. Also sensitively well mixed.

6. Edric Haleen - In Memoriam
You have benefitted from the fact that the first time I heard this, I had just finished driving home from the last meeting of my singing improv class and was a little bummed. So your knowing how to set that stage works in your favor here. Well done, and you’ll be glad to know a tear in the eye as well—you sunk the putt. That somber piano chord with soft-concept-edric-voice coming in to do the slow escalation does its trick. Stellar vocal and maybe should even be higher as is a true memorial song.

7. Jailhouse Payback ft. John Sievers - The Greatest Bond
I agree with the point you made about this character being the greatest Bond guy. Your lyrics juuuuuuuuust ride the edge of cheesy, but so do the films, so you you end up sitting pretty in the rankings and walking slowly away from an exploding car because your track presented with a martini-smooth finish. Ambiance points for you. I know I shouldn’t REWARD you for just playing the James Bond theme call back so much, but it melded nicely into the rest of your song and the vocals were great with good harmonies and layering. The song was just FUN and nicely presented.

8. Sara Parsons - Crikey!
Despite this being unfortunately recorded to the point of vocal distortion … everything checks out on this for a solid Sara Parsons. Clever lyrics - check. Textbook bridge - check. Memorable chorus - for sure. Singing - fab as usual. Solid because of hooky melody, memorable hook, and pretty-but-not-cloying vocals.

9. Governing Dynamics - Final Flight of the Electra
This is a raw-er than I am used to from you. Chorus solid enough but doing better on tuning could make it really stick (you probably know this). "Goodbye Electra” really sells it as do driving guitars and the high note. Production is not as tight as other things you have done and it’s mostly structure and put-togetherness that saves you—plus those couple of special moments that stick you out and make the track memorable over others as a lightpost.

10. Emperor Gum - He
This is different singing for you which should be UP in the mix and sounds somewhat apologetic. It suffers for being out balanced by backup vocals. You benefitted from making fantastic quality arrangement choices that could have been mixed just a bit better. You also have little devices inside your tune which make the time spent memorable despite your volume concerns. The overall package fit your celebrity choice really well and the song is well written, charming, and an exquisitely perfect length.

11. Jerkatorium - Center Square
Your production is always beyond fantastic, but there’s something so hectic and casino about it—which of course is probably subject-appropriate. I think without the distraction you would have easily beaten out several of your obviously less well produced compatriots, so when you most likely get through next round they need to watch out. Nevertheless, I had to keep going back and listening to the song to remind myself which one was yours, so for me it didn’t have that “it” factor or soar above even some of your other material. It’s just good formula songwriting but it evaporates for me.

12. Melissa Phillips - Never the Fool
Your voice was beautiful, as was your guitar. This was a solid, decent recording in which we can hear you. This is actually the sort of voice I wish I had. However, sometimes a vocalist sings a song, sometimes a song sings a vocalist (you being the former). The melody line does showcase a strong vocal, but never quite achieves “hook” status for me. Even better recording and a super solid hook in v/c and bridge, with some arrangement behind you and you might be unbeatable.

13. James Young - Singularity
This nailed the tribute factor and was hard hitting. I just felt like the structure and the mood of this was really well done, simple and didn’t include anything that it didn’t need to. It rocked really hard, but came across as deeply emotional somehow. Hm. The way you came off some of the notes was a little bit much-ish and the solemnity is almost lost, but it’s still solid and the slowdowns in intensity before the reprise is a nice touch. Great guitar tone.

14. Alex Valentine - Adolescent Minds
Now, I think the sound itself was not anything I really liked a lot. It was really somewhat grating to me actually and the distortion rubbed me the wrong way. But you have written a great hook and an ear worm with a solid three-line verse structure. And something about your voice in the choruses is so RIGHT for this. And the movement in the bridge was really strong and solid. The tribute worked and it’s because of the straightforwardness of the structure. A success.  :)

15. Boy on the Wall - Bail Me Out
Bass really drives and song really moves. Good solid song with all the right song formula stuff. Would be good live in a club. I don’t really have a lot to say about this and it didn’t feel positive or negative to me in any way. This sounds like a ‘meh’ but is sort of a compliment. It means that I would put this on if I wanted to feel good about my day. Also that I can’t really review this track to save my life-solid middle of the pack track. This is another case of me not remembering a song and having to go back and listen again.

16. Little Bobby Tables - Star Man
This is so, so understated and low key. And then this amazing chorus hook comes in. One of the strongest here today, that you could probably play at a songwriter circle and drag out all night. You’ve got nice-guy voice too. 😃 Super super mellow track award. This is one of those Hey Jude or Hotel California types of Hooks. I know I’m on and on about hooks but this is how it works with me.

17. Gorbzilla - Drowned in Moonlight
Here again with your great blues voice and lots of healthy atmosphere. It’s a little ethereal and underwatery. Some distracting pops but that’s okay. Feels campfirey. I like the solo instrument, it makes things sound plaintive. This had good structure, funky recording, fun guitar strums, and a word missing. The word BRA. 😃 But I like it, I like it.

18. Kevin Savino-Riker - Ode to the Sportsman
You’re a fantastic singer. This guitar sounds amazing. Recorded beautifully. This feels so much like an improv. Or a music-poem. A meandering but intelligently touching tribute. I didn’t remember this SONG, but I didn’t have to go back and listen to it again because you don’t have to be reminded what YOU sound like. Your whole voice is a pleasing and easy ear worm and you should be grateful that you don’t ever actually have to do anything but write poetic things and strum chords. But if you wrote something super hooky with structure and sang a duet with Melissa up there, we’d all be out of a job we don’t have.

APPARENTLY DQed as Addicted to Puns
Boffo Yux Dudes - What Ailes You

You can’t help yourself with the puns, and it did you in. I only found out at the last minute and this is where you would have been ranked. You did a lot of arranging and yes, the BYD wall of sound did you the usual Wall of Favors. :) Charming.

19. Glen Raphael - One More Thing
Your melody is endearing and tuneful but doesn’t hook into my ear and against the thinness of the accompaniment I want a bigger arrangement and more production to make something stick. The song is well structured and your singing is agile and pleasing to the ear as usual. It’s a sweet song but I want something more.

20. Megalodon -The Quiet One
The mix is great on this, as was the instrumentation. Here is the worst song contradiction ever because I shouldn’t have scored this so low and I hope I don’t knock you out. 😔 This is a song that I just didn’t emotionally respond to despite the subject matter, like when you say you like one of the other Beatles better but you shouldn’t. Dammit. I found myself skipping around the song because I Am Horrible. Maybe it was the time changes, which intellectually I should have liked, so this made me feel stupid. Maybe this ranking is punitive because I feel intimidated and if you get knocked out it will be All My Fault. Well Crap. I have no reason to dislike this other than I just kinda don’t fancy it really and this is why rankings are Stupid.

21. Jordan Carrol - Trickle Down
This was a clever idea and a cute rap. It was distorty and the horns were grate-y. I did like the style of rap, which was very 80s evocative. Lyrics great. Something about the presentation of it and the fuzzy feel of it in my ears got on my nerves and I want rap-things to be smoother.

22. Inflatable Vegetables - Another Blackstar
The vocals start out very expositional but then it gets an interesting vocal effect with some neat wormy synth stuff and shifty singsonging against a plodding bass that make it all work along. This fit the tribute subject extremely well, especially with the vocal affect. A structurally solid song and the high vocal part “Phoenix BURSTING….” and the way you say “shiny craaabs” is classic. I really like your guitar tone.

23. Jubilation - The Delirious Lord Made Flesh
Distortion is distracting, but really well constructed noise art. I don’t have a lot more to say except it’s great in the dark on speakers that can handle it. If anything is improv-y this sure is. This is 'so metal.' Except it’s not. Dark and weirdly disturbing-beautiful. I’m so glad you’re here. This was a pleasure.

24. JoAnn Abbott & M.A.T. -Fly …And Be
The production and musicality on this is great. Structurally there is a LOT going on. Lyrics are sensitively and beautifully arranged. I wish your vocal was more out front and clearer and less smuffly. Vocal tuning held up well and is coming along nicely. Structure of entirety is a bit lackadaisical. A great bio and a lovely tribute. You are still working well together. Get a little better and you’ll be good and then great. You’re doing okay right now.

25. Army Defense - The Ultimate Gift
This did have a charm and I liked that straight four piano and the chorus is tight. Drums a bit distracting for me and presentation a bit noisy. It is very evocative of a more casual and windswept TV time so it was good for the tribute subject. Vocals fit the atmosphere well. This is put together pretty well at times but there were all these reasons that it didn’t stick for me that are emotional in nature.

26. Lucky Witch and the Righteous Ghost - Sour Boy
I don’t know what to think of this. Very whispery. A little creepy. It rubbed me the wrong way but there were all these interesting chord changes that happened that I liked on Principle. Kinda groovy-throwbacky and I can see that you’re having good fun and a good experimental vibe. Memorable-ish hook but a little all over the place in my headphones/speakers. It jumped around a bit much like a creeper vine that won’t take a hint but could grow on you like a fungus in a beloved plant.

27. \alpha.(b)eta\ - Relativity
This was actually a lot of fun and I hate to have to put you at the bottom. I headbanged to this mosh fabulousness at the listening party and I liked the swooshes. This was very chanty and fist pumpy. Good fun. This shouldn’t be last. There shouldn’t be a last.


Zoe Gray - Play On (Shadow)
This is wonderful and sweet. It is reminiscent of Garfunkel and Oates, a little bit. It would have scored very highly and you have a lovely vibrato and your chorus is solid.

Pigfarmer, Jr. - Cheeto Blues (Shadow)
I would not have disqualified this. This is the winning entry and the blues song of the year. Bravo, sir! #sweetassguitar