Saturday, August 12, 2017

ST13R3 Reviews: DJ Ranger Den

This was the worst round of all to judge, for me, and the one I am most unsure about. The songs were great—I feel like everyone’s songs were just fine. If the challenge had not been a factor, my rankings would have been entirely different. If you think this means that I was unhappy with the challenge I gave you … _yep.

Sometimes I contradict myself from review to review, or from person to person. Some people didn’t fulfill the challenge very well. Some people did it TOO well, like this was all they really cared about and they might as well have just done their old song or something.

Comparatively—some songs I preferred over others quite a lot were simply outclassed by people who just followed directions better. Or broke the rules but in ways that didn’t make my eyeballs yawn. The challenge requested something that I felt like needed to be a song change… but also a *style* change at the CORE of a tune. Something that was the same, but a different song, a different ethic. The way I thought of it was ‘what if lyrics I wrote were handed to two different people who lived in the same body-brain?’

Then, there were a couple of people who wrote songs that made me remember how much better their other songs were—or how much they just were carrying out an activity or not really trying to do something different at all because they would have preferred to be playing their other song. It made me realize that I would have rather not been judging this round and that I liked their old song better as well. I don’t like rankings, and I have mentioned this before. You are all winners, unless you did not win—and then this sentence is also a loser. 

These rankings really went up and down, and at this point—I don’t have a lot to say to anyone except at this stage in the game on the list people are all ranked pretty well even if you’re down at the bottom. Plus, you’re showing up.

Thank you for your music, as always. :)

your friend
Denise H

ps. I am sorry for my lateness. I know there is no excuse for this, and that there are people having babies and building bridges and tall buildings, and that long ago others better than me used to judge songwriting contests uphill in the snow. 

pps. This is riddled with spelling and grammar errors, I am sure of it. Again, apologies. 


BOY ON THE WALL
This is a  massive upgrade on an already great song with accents, builds, and punch in all the right places. 
It made me think ‘I have never heard this song before,’ and I had to go back to double-check. I looked and I had described this as a ‘middle of the pack track’ before. When a new style makes the old words shine like they never had before—you have a real win. Not much else to say. You’ve been first in my book before. I’m a fan.

JAILHOUSE PAYBACK
With this, you took some aspects of the original that I thought were distracting and now there is nothing but flawless execution in a new style that is charming and fits your vocal and band style irresistibly. This is a sonic caramel apple. Old School. Your production values and intellectual prowess in the studio shine here, as well as your words like you just designed a perfect outfit for them. Swish.

SARA PARSONS
You have certainly outdone yourself. There were certain electronica things you did that I thought were a little jarring—but you were being robotic. The vocal distortion. The jittering. The wub. But it fits the plot. It’s stylistic. It was well executed. Simple, smooth, and with some sweet content and evocative lyric depth too that the new style sets off in a way the old didn’t. Kind of what we are looking for—in this exercise. Plus, it was cute; and may I say—I now have no complaints about the bridge when you stick some adorabear tinyvoices on it that sound like adora-squirrels. I am easily amused.

JERKATORIUM
This was a very well done recording, but something about the way you referred to the original recording—and kept hearkening back to it…and something about the melody, it makes me like the old one better. It made me like the original one SO much better than this one, it made me regret scoring it lower than I had in the original round. It’s weird that the rewrite would do this, when the rewrite is a perfectly fine song—because the way that this happened is not a bad thing. It’s like when you date a nice guy and end up marrying his brother I guess. This review is inappropriate, and tells you nothing about THIS song. But so are many of my Jerkatorium reviews. I’ll keep trying guys. :/

GOVERNING DYNAMICS
I am really missing the hook that this was originally here. I really resent the challenge for this. That being said—what you lack in an actual ‘enough of a style change' and almost ruin yourself with, you make up for in ambiance and changing your vocal delivery so much because you are exposed out there like in a swishy ballad style. Not your typical sort of ballad either. It’s very retro (I just said this). You seemed to rely on your vocal performance here, rather than your guitar playing so much. It’s very slow-dance, and sometimes weirdly bluesy almost. Like junior prom.

MENAGE-A-TUNE
What a strangely delightful, Rocky Horror-esque surprise. I don’t really even know what to make of this. Sometimes, you are tripping over your own busy-ness again and there’s too much lyricism and style and it’s like you’re trying to eat a banana split while tap dancing and juggling. You are, because you have an infant and you did … THIS! We’re left watching a talented, beautiful almost musical motorcyclist … will he crash? I don’t know. You didn’t, but you could have. An epic endeavor and some fun vocal calisthenics. I salute this.

KEVIN SAVINO-RIKER
You did a good job here going full tilt for a style change but I wish your vocal were grittier and nastier the whole time like you do two minutes in. REALLY let off into full nasty halfway in after doing it the whole time. The song is too long—but you were constrained by the challenge, a drawback of writing lyric-laden songs. A bit stuck into a style with the other songs where you had to sing and sing and sing. Good hook though-and that note at the end was fantastic, and didn’t require any artificial stretching (although this was a cool move). With a shorter song, you could really show off more rock vocal gymnastics, and SHOULD (for future reference). 

MELISSA PHILLIPS
This was a creative and open-aired way to solve your style challenge. I liked it. You have a lot of extra noise in your recordings, this might be something that you can address in the future. Your melody in this one was much improved and suited your vocals to a T, especially the shape of the melody. I knew where you were going with the chords—but your accompaniment got chopstick-y. This could be a fault of the judges for not having enough imagination … or yours for not soliciting an instrumentalist who would give you a track you wanted as though you were hiring a session player. But you needed more here. This was the right idea. Develop this.

ALEX VALENTINE
I feel like you have written this song before, which is fine—because it is a good song, a great song in fact. This was not the challenge however, so this affects you here because I wanted you to really depart from the YOU-style. I dislike telling anyone they do a particular style very, very well as though this is a negative. But you do. You mastered the style you were not supposed to do even better on this round all while trying to deviate from it. It could be another track on a fine EP—maybe giving this one different lyrics (perhaps with the same subject matter??) then combining it with the other two.

LITTLE BOBBY TABLES
This was a successful style change with a charming repeating instrumental synth hook and some wonderful subtle and swishy drum machine application. But it kind of let me down a little bit because I really missed your original Star Man. In some places, you are struggling with the vocal line—in this melancholic Depeche Mode melodic style. Your other attempt was sweeping, a bit more brave and epic. This is certainly different. But it sounds like a depressing song for robots and I miss the old you. I am not supposed to want the old you right now. This is anti-challenge, and I should really be rewarding you for this. It offends my sensibilities to reward a song for being less that its predecessor. A couple other people almost suffered the same fate as you—and they were only saved by some excellent production choices they made almost accidentally. I don't like penalizing in this way for just doing what you were told. Had you not been derivative in this fashion, you might have succeeded. I feel that perhaps you should blame the challenge here, and go back to the original Star Man with gusto as you revisit the things you wrote this contest, perhaps trying this electronic style again with a different set of lyrics. 

EDRIC HALEEN
I once got mad at someone who gave a challenge I didn’t like. I ended up making synth lyrics out of the Hungarian voices patch in my choir VST, and writing a little story about a little girl and some aliens. The march (which was the challenge) was contained in the people who were tromping through the gerbil cage trying to interact with the other “aliens” who were prettier. The song was full of sonic conflict. I was annoyed because I was finished with charming conservatory-styled antics being played out in our little songwriting contests. I thought I’d be the quirky one. Does this have any meaning for you in this time and place, and does this have anything to do with your low placement in my ranking? Probably not. Should I have placed you higher? Most likely. You actually wrote a fine piece of electronica and I am most likely missing the point and driving the bicycle over the garden. Did I listen enough and figure out your code and all of that? No, and you can blame Dave Leigh—who said that I didn’t have to because it was a PITA. I had to look that up because I’m not cool, but that’s a problem for another judge.

GLEN RAPHAEL
I am sorry you are here at the bottom. It’s a bit like a mild to moderate disqualification because I listened to these lyrics a lot and except for the weirdness of the markedly pointed opening intervals in the verses in your slow version; they are incredibly similar so much so that you could really mix the two tunes together quite usefully into some kind of medley for the kind of work that you do or weave slow and fast verses/choruses back and forth with each other. In fact, it might be a really neat thing to do, to mix up the verses in this way. The fact is, what you have done here is EXCEEDINGLY useful for what you do. You can FULLY use this song to do it—and I actually prefer the song played at this tempo with this instrument and with these slight melodic variations with the stronger hook to the original one you did. If you did do something in this vein, perhaps you could start in the slow way—and then go fast. Without the challenge factoring, this would have scored in my top seven at least. I love this hook and this sounds like a more developed demo of your first try at what you did in the first place. This is going to be a great song and should be on a recording in the future. :) But it was just too close, I think, to the original. 


SHADOW /alphaBeta/
This was the way this song is supposed to be. Fantastic and groovy/gorgeous. I don’t understand why this tune wasn’t just written FOR these words originally. It fits SO well! I can’t imagine anything else for it now. I’d love to hear this with a really dirty/gritty blues band and an angry dirty blues guitar. What a vocal! 

SHADOW: MEGALODON
This words so well as a punk song that I feel a little lame liking it so much. It was an intricate tribute number, and you made it smashy and raucous and swish and I liked this better. I guess I just like fun. I like all the shouting and the way your lyrics hit against the back beat was truly satisfying.

SHADOW: MICAH SOMERSMITH
Beginning with having to say that the original is MUCH better and cooler and I love it beyond belief, you certainly departed from it in a delicious and skillful way and your arrangement, production, and craftsmanship was spot-on. If you don’t get back in here…it’ll be a crime. You certainly know what you’re doing … and Sisters of Mercy is a great tune with some excellent cadences and a tune I have stuck in my head now.

SHADOW: ROB from AMERSFOORT
While nothing can ever outdo ‘The Blonde Bombshell,’ this is definitely great. It’s the chorus really. It’s so ploddingly mosh and that swirly ostinato is deliciously artistic. These mellotron-y sounds combined with your vocal presentation and your lyrics have such a cinematic feel to them in these arrangements. Because all you have to do to change ‘style’ is drastically warp tempo or change instrumentation—you have a lot of freedom in a challenge like this.

Letter to self has almost a punk feeling about it. It’s shorter. I don’t like it as much as the other—its a bit jarring. But it’s good at this short length as an endcap particularly considering your extremely strong beginning with original Blonde Bombshell. It’s a respectable short collection. :)

SHADOW: PIGFARMER
Oh, bless you good sir.