Saturday, August 26, 2017

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 hurricane...so apologies for errors and lateness.
Denise

JAILHOUSE PAYBACK
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.

JERKATORIUM (ft. SHERI HINSHAW) - ‘OH NO / SUNBLOCK'
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.

MENAGE A TUNE
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.

SARA PARSONS
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.

GOVERNING DYNAMICS - ‘TENSION’ (shadow)
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.

GLEN RAPHAEL (ft. MELISSA PHILLIPS) - ‘BE KIND’ (shadow)
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.

MICAH SOMMERSMITH - ‘SONG ABOUT THE SUN AND THE MOON’ (shadow)
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.

ROB FROM AMERSFOORT - ‘DANCE AROUND THE SUN-THE MOON KING’ (Shadow)
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.

ARMY DEFENSE - 'WABASHA SHADOWS' (shadow)
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.