Saturday, July 13, 2013

SpinTunes #7 Round 1 Review: Brian Gray

I suppose some manner of preface regarding my judging style is long overdue. Apologies to any who in retrospect could have achieved a better score if I had written this before my first judging session. First of all, this is indeed my first time judging... pretty much anything. So please don’t judge me too harshly if I judge you too harshly. Maybe you have listened to some of my songs in the past, maybe not. In any event I’m not sure how much that would help, as I occasionally listen to old songs I wrote, and decide I would have ranked them absurdly low in a contest like this. Secondly, I have decided to make an attempt at judging this as a pure songwriting competition. That means to the extent possible, I’m attempting not to be biased by arrangement, production, or performance except insofar as they reveal something significant about the song itself. In an ideal world, I would be sitting down at a piano with only the submitted sheet music to all your songs. But of course that’s not possible, and I’m sure I have allowed myself to be biased in favor of good production or a nice arrangement in spite of my efforts.

How am I scoring this? I decided to rank three aspects of each song:

  1. The Big Picture: the concept on which the song is based, the quality of the narrative and believability of the narrator, and the emotion conveyed to the listener.
  2. Lyrics: I often value some of the same things that people look for in poetry, but recognize that lyric writing is an art in itself. As such, I look for additional aspects such as the way the words fall in the rhythm of the music, and I’m much more insistent that sentence structure make the singer sound believable as a real person. A poem can get away with Yoda-speak. I’m not a fan of that in most songs, unless the song really commits to being sung poetry.
  3. Music: This one is tricky. Sometimes I want to hear key changes, off-notes, secondary dominants. Other times I want to settle into the groove and not be knocked out of it by unexpected contention for my brain. Ultimately, it primarily depends on what I believe to be the core feel of the song. Some songs call for complexity, others for simplicity. I’ll let you know if I disagreed with your choice. I do not have perfect pitch, and I didn’t do all of this in front of a tuned instrument, so I refer to your chords in terms of Roman numerals. Also, since I’m not in front of a piano, I may have gotten some of it wrong. That happens. My scoring was influenced by how the music worked in the song, not by any particular number combination.

Each of the three aspects is scored the same way SpinTunes is scored. I rank each song strictly from 1 to 21 in each category, subtract the result from 22, and there’s your score. I put the score in parentheses next to each aspect, and the resulting average next to the song title. This average determined my ultimate rankings, and is weighted. The big picture counts for 40%, music 30%, and lyrics 30%.

Oh yeah, this might be important... In a few places I may have mentioned that some portion or other of a song reminds me of another song. In doing so I am NOT suggesting the music is at all stolen. It’s hard to imagine any piece of music written in the last thousand years or so won’t remind someone of something else. There’s just really a lot of music out there.

  1. Mariah Mercedes - This One’s for Blankie (18.2)
    1. The Big Picture (17): Emotional in an implied, understated way. You don’t have to say you’re in love, or nostalgic, or guilty if you can show us why a person would feel that way in your situation.
    2. Lyrics (20): Simple and natural, an excellent fit for the song. Rhyme/verse in a set of abcbdb triples makes the chorus pop in strongly. Relaxed. “Bet you’ve never tried”? No, actually everyone has tried that, and you missed a perfect opportunity to get the listener on your side and get them to identify with you about this forgotten piece of childhood. That line also feels made up just to rhyme. Maybe you could solve both problems at the same time with some kind of tweak.
    3. Music (18): Simple. Simple chords (I-IV-V-IV) match simple melody and theme. Still, even with the intended simplicity, there’s a lot of empty space that could be filled with a more involved performance. Nothing surprising except maybe how the bridge merges back into the chorus in a way that changes its initial feel as it changes key. The bridge reminds me of Bjork’s “Hunter”: I like the harmony line below the melody.
    4. Performance/Production: I think this may be the most enjoyable song of the round. Great voice and vocal harmonies. Melody, lyrics, and accompaniment that do not outreach the concept. Very well balanced.
  2. Edric Haleen - Twenty Years On (17.2)
    1. The Big Picture (16): Someone figured out they can sing to a toy about something other than the toy (you’re not the only one, but you are the first in the playlist). Bravo. Your narrator is either you, every dad in the universe, or a Calvin who has become just like every dad in the universe. “Hard not to see boundless potential”? Calvin could see it. Has Calvin lost his cynicism? His misanthropy? Borderline narcissism? If this is what you’re going for, the song could be said to be “about” the retrospective turnaround of Calvin’s character as he grew up, but from only one perspective, one data point. For all that, it’s a brilliant concept I’m only criticizing so much because it had the potential to nab my top “big picture” spot this round.
    2. Lyrics (21): Excellent. Nothing to comment on, which once you get to know me you’ll understand means good news.
    3. Music (15): Pausing on the suspended 4ths, good mood setting. Sparse throughout, and maybe too consistent emotionally. It swells somewhat at “will he ride”, but you’ve done this exact thing better in the past. It could be the point that he’s in the room and doesn’t want to wake the baby. Even then, you could do the musical theatre thing where other people can’t hear the singer, or even have his volume and emotion get out of control, have the baby stir, and the singer tones it back down. There must be an excuse to get the energy to vary and keep the song interesting.
    4. Performance/Production: Very nice to listen to. Your voice is always enjoyable, and the piano rings out pleasantly.
  3. Blimp Exhaust - My Nerf Gun and I (15.2)
    1. The Big Picture (20): Very immersive. Gets right into the mind of a kid who’s focused on and serious about this imaginary task, with appropriate call-out to mom calling you to come home. Keeping a Twix in your pocket is a mistake; you’ll figure out why when you go to eat it. I almost wrote a software engineer Nerf gun parody of “Pumped Up Kicks” once (“All the other nerds with the tucked-in shirts better run, better run...”).
    2. Lyrics (3): Some fits and starts, trying to get the timing right and the stresses and rhymes lined up. Could stand to be revised with some more attention paid to how the words sit in the rhythm, making their expression end up more natural.
    3. Music (21): One of only a handful of pieces here that are musically adventurous enough that I’ve made a note to analyze it later. Was that an augmented (13th) dominant? Lots of interesting stuff going on, and a really good setting for it. The same complexity in a wistful nostalgia piece would be out of place.
    4. Performance/Production: Very good production. Fills up the aural space. Echoes should sound different from first instance; that is to say, I’d like to hear your repeated lines as echoes.
  4. RC - Pong Song (14.8)
    1. The Big Picture (13): A good, basic nostalgia song. The emotion is there, in a light-hearted, humorous way. Good treatment of the theme. I expected a lot of these types of songs.
    2. Lyrics (12): I like the varying rhyme scheme. Not sure if you intended to switch it up in the 2nd verse or not. As written, you keep abcb from the 1st verse, but you sing abbc. I liked rhyming “retro” with “get go”.
    3. Music (20): Simple, in a way that fits the theme well. A simple ballad conveying a simple message of love and appreciation. Shows a good understanding of the musical meaning of tonics, dominants, relative minor, etc. in that passages lead into each other naturally. Starting the chorus on iii-vi is understated and feels nice, as does the bVII as the lead-in back to the intro.
    4. Performance/Production: Smooth, bouncy and enjoyable, but again, starts to get boring. I can’t put my finger on it, as you do break up the momentum with a solid bridge and it ought to give it energy for the stretch run. I wish I had better feedback here. It’s a case where you do everything right and I’m still not feeling it. Maybe you should try doing something wrong (
  5. Menage a Tune - Perfect Place (14.7)
    1. The Big Picture (21): Excellent concept. The narrator tells the story beautifully through the voice of a confused girl. She doesn’t feel the fear we do, knowing what’s happening. This is a perfect example of how you can make the listener feel something completely different than the POV character. Good “oh shit” moment.
    2. Lyrics (2): Significant sloppiness, not all of which can be explained by fitting into the mind of a child. Inconsistencies in subject-object “Summer won’t last for long you see. Fresh air and sunshine is good for me!”, many rhymes that feel made up just because they rhyme, and syllables that don’t match up stress-wise.
    3. Music (19): Adventurous to an extent I’m not hearing from very many songs so far in this round. Most composers are sticking to the common in-key chords. You introduce a lot of secondary dominants that resolve to a minor mode just off of what might naturally be expected. Makes for a very mysterious setting; a lot of movie scores use this kind of composition to allow a passage to kind of “sink into” another rather than grab attention away from the narrative with an ill-fitting strong resolution. It works very well.
    4. Performance/Production: Orchestral execution is all but impossible with MIDI (I know, I’ve failed at it many times), and your voice is not the smooth, sweet, naive voice the song needs. In all, I didn’t really enjoy this production, but the song underneath is strong.
  6. Glen Raphael - I Like Pong (14.6)
    1. The Big Picture (14): Perfect energy to start. You’re an old man reminiscing about the good old days, but I guess now we’ve reached the point where the good old days have video games in them instead of jacks and stickball.
    2. Lyrics (16): You obviously get some things. The power of three. That it’s perfectly acceptable to hit a rhyme on a syllable that doesn’t quite end the line. In fact, some of the lyrical things you do I’m tempted to think of as too sophisticated for this song as they push against its simplicity. But then right afterward you take it down and give us a few seconds to chill and all is right with the world again. Some negatives: “on this toy we’d pounce”? Sounds like you looked through a rhyming dictionary, found a rhyme, and shoehorned it in. Also not sure about the main “what is the point of this song?”. The idiom “what’s the point?” is so often used to imply “there is no point” that I think a more neutral phrase may be in order there.
    3. Music (14): Not challenging, in a good way. I’ll criticize other songwriters here for not pushing themselves musically, and one may get the idea I only want weird chords all over the place. Really all I want is music that fits the rest of the song. You have a simple song with a simple theme, simple lyrics, and simple music.
    4. Performance/Production: Nice guitar work. The plucking at the beginning is fun, though I still can’t pinpoint which notes fall precisely where in the meter. Sometimes I’m hearing sixteenth notes, sometimes eighth-note triplets.
  7. Jasper Lewis - Slinky (13.7)
    1. The Big Picture (8): Is there some way subways, greyhounds, seat belts, and black holes are like slinkys in any way? What ties them together? Could have used other toys a slinky might have seen in its room, or things around a house. Given they do tie together, why contradict with “I wish” vs. “I don’t care”? “I could have been a subway...” would set up that these things were possible, but I discarded the option in favor of falling down stairs.
    2. Lyrics (18): Solid. Very classic blues. Might want to consider making all “stair” rhymes different rather than using “care” twice, or else make them all the same and use “care” for all four. “I’m a slinky”: hmm, not sure I like this. Feels too blunt, like maybe this could have been a great song to keep ambiguous if you haven’t read the title.
    3. Music (17): Nice pervasive dominant and minor 7ths, keeping the iv and v minor. Sounds like it’s going to go to a variant of 12-bar, but lengthens the phrase into more of a “refrain” model. Nice instrumental drop out at the end of each verse. Maybe the high pitch on “I’m a slinky” is throwing me. The energy peaks too soon. Could have taken that down and built the guitar up until it drops out for “and I’m falling”. Would keep the chill feel flowing. Could use a bridge or better yet guitar solo leading into the last verse, to break up the monotony.
    4. Performance/Production: Loses some by exceeding your comfortable range at “slinky”. Consider transposing down a bit. Some of the guitar stumbles at times, which ADDS to the enjoyability.
  8. MC Ohm-I - Furby Life (13.4)
    1. The Big Picture (11): Simple concept. A lot of exposition and outright statement of emotion (“love the best”). Not much deeper than that, and does not stray from the main theme. Actually makes me want to get a Furby, so that’s pretty cool. Plus, the narrator does fully commit to his feelings rather than hedging or not bothering to express them.
    2. Lyrics (19): The rhymes are quite excellent. There are a couple places where you had to dip into Yoda-speak to get them to line up (“But for 500 miles this nerd would walk”), but that’s made up for by the way they roll into one another very naturally and lend energy to the following stanza. The lyrical rhythms is very appropriate to the genre, and very pleasant to experience.
    3. Music (11): Not bad, pretty straightforward i-bVII-bVI-bVII-i. Rating the music alone, this song is pretty firmly in the middle, in the not-much-to-it-but-appropriate-for-the-concept department.
    4. Performance/Production: The production is tops in this round. It’s great to listen to and I wouldn’t change a thing.
  9. TurboShandy - (The Mandatory Retirement of) Action Man (12)
    1. The Big Picture (12): I’m having trouble pinpointing the narrator’s perspective. Is he sad to be retiring the doll? “I’ll replace you...” sounds almost like a threat. Singing in the 2nd person is intimate; you need to give an emotional perspective to your relationship with the object. I’m getting nothing here. I do like the setting established by the carpet crease. Talking seriously about war, then setting that war in a carpeted room is nostalgically comfortable.
    2. Lyrics (17): They flow pretty well. The steady 8th notes lend themselves well to a bit of ambiguity in the meter, but you still manage to establish a (mostly) trochaic pattern that sounds natural. The rhymes also feel natural, with pairs like “M16”/”magazine” and the near rhyme “briefs”/”East” feeling like they all fit the story. Only the final rhyme felt a bit forced, with “drastic” feeling very much selected only to set up the rhyme with “plastic”. Some syllabic stressing felt off.
    3. Music (7): I like the major 7th descending in the melody over the tonic. Other than that, nothing remarkable going on. The way the repeated lines happen with the same melody over different harmonies is nice.
    4. Performance/Production: I think the performance may have caused some of the emotional ambiguity. It sounds almost mocking in tone, where the lyrics felt like they wanted to go in a softer direction. If you figure out what the song is about in a deeper sense than just a cold report of a toy that needs replacing, I’d suggest updating the lyrics to reflect that and singing either softer, or harder, or something that matches the intent.
  10. Ominous Ride - Teddy (11.7)
    1. The Big Picture (17): Very clear, well communicated. Adds a layer of forced separation to the classic nostalgia concept.
    2. Lyrics (7): Rhyming “go” with “go”? Tsk tsk. The chorus is all “tell”, no “show”. Would it hurt to stay a confused kid there with something like “When did I reach ‘in between’? What does ‘codependent’ mean? Can the things they’re saying be the truth?” Very much not meaning to write for you, just trying to illustrate my point. Sorry if it’s presumptuous.
    3. Music (8): Moves well between vi and IV, but needs more variety. I’m praising others for keeping their songs simple, but here, with these lyrics and this structure, I feel I would have liked to hear some modulation, some weirdity. I welcomed this in the bridge, but it’s not enough. Maybe the chorus is what feels weak, and you could have gone to the I there as well (instead of?). I like the 6/8 time in a sea of 4/4.
    4. Performance/Production: Good vocals, good instrumentals, nothing standing out in the production that impacts it negatively. Just the repetitive nature of the piece detracts from its enjoyability.
  11. Niveous - Eat Your Hair (11.1)
    1. The Big Picture (9): I’m only mostly sold on the concept. There’s some doubt as to whether I understood it right, but it seems the hair eating is a misguided act of love? Like “if you take me with you and play with me, I promise to eat your hair”? Or is it just a compulsion (“I have a disorder”) of which the narrator is ashamed and hopes its owner will grow tolerant? Or just a statement of fact, as in, “And oh BTW, just wanted you to know I’m gonna eat your hair. It’s kinda my thing.”?
    2. Lyrics (9): The lyrics could clear up the intent behind the song, if that’s what you want. Sometimes mystery can be a point of a song. For me, it got in the way of figuring out what -- if anything -- I ought to feel about this doll. Also some timing issues. In other songs I’ve criticised the lyrics for straying from the rhythm in order to fit them in. Your song is just the opposite. I hear adherence to the timing at the expense of clarity and natural speech flow. For example, “I could never be perfect” with the downbeat on “could” could be backed up so the downbeat is on “never” and the word stresses line up naturally.
    3. Music (16): Kind of slick with the i-III-bVII-V and sliding up to each, gives it a unique feel and a bit of key ambiguity until the melody resolves it definitively. After that, pretty basic rock chords and melody. Up to relative major for the chorus gives it an energy bump at the right time. Solid.
    4. Performance/Production: I can see the value in the grungy, gravelly voice of a doll that’s supposed to be ugly, insane, and maybe even mean. At first I thought it was getting in the way of feeling compassion for the doll, but now I think it’s appropriate, and the same compassion could have been achieved by means of different lyrics.
  12. Governing Dynamics - You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out (10.6)
    1. The Big Picture (18): Seems the narrator is ambitious, wants power to accomplish “great” things, and believes that might makes right, literally. I can get behind a song with this theme (could be a supervillain origin story for example). Kind of a power corrupts kind of thing, with the subject not knowing he’s being corrupted.
    2. Lyrics (5): I like the lyrical framing (breathe in, breathe out). Tends to be either too vague or too on the nose alternately; I never feel a balance where I clearly understand what you’re saying while not having it spelled out explicitly. What’s with the last line though? Some combination of “unreliable narrator is now suddenly an omniscient one” with a little bit of “fuck you, judges! I’m going to claim not to be meeting the challenge and dare you to DQ me!” topped off with just a touch of “this has been a public service message”?
    3. Music (5): Always a fan of IVmaj7. The melody loses power in the pre-chorus with some non-chord notes that feel either wrong in a way that saps energy (many “wrong” notes can do the opposite and add a jarring kind of energy), or that should be treated as suspended or leading tones to something stronger. So when we get to the chorus, we’re not building to it, but have lost speed shifting gears. Also, maybe tighten up the timing. 30 seconds for the intro, 2 verse stanzas and a pre-chorus means we’re not hitting the hook until 1:46.
    4. Performance/Production: Very related to the above musical criticism. The performance is good. The guitars in their dissonance is great. The voice -- while this particular style of singing is not typically my thing -- fits the mood really well. It’s the melody bringing you down.
  13. Riker’s Island - Play Doh (10.2)
    1. The Big Picture (15): Please don’t just mash down the Play Doh. Separate it first to keep the colors from mixing. Just sayin’.
    2. Lyrics (4): I like rhyming “planets” with “inhabits”. Some gymnastics required to find a place for some of the words; there must be a more elegant way to do some of those.
    3. Music (10): Feels longer than it is. Needs some musical variety. Even a short riff in between verses might open that up a bit. The music itself is solid, I like the punctuated guitar followed by rests while the vocals do their thing, and the 9ths and suspended/added notes give it a good color.
    4. Performance/Production: I always like your voice, and you give it a little edge that gives the song just enough energy to keep me listening until the end. The song as written though shouldn’t need a great performance to make it not get boring.
  14. The Orion Sound - Turn You On (10)
    1. The Big Picture (4): Sorry, but I’m getting kind of tired of this. Not the innuendo, that can be awesome. No, it’s the necessity of everyone who writes such a song to disclaim their insecurity with an “I’m not gay.” Smacks of “no homo”. Why not just leave it alone? Maybe you’re gay, maybe it’s Pokemon (is that a Maybelline commercial?). A couple minor tweaks could make for a very clever song without the homophobia.
    2. Lyrics (15): I found some of the jokes to be a little too blunt, but that could just be a bias. I prefer my sexual jokes to be more subtle than “holes for me to fit ma dixel”. Other than that though, the writing was pretty tight, pretty fluid with the rhyming. Maybe that “as hot as 50 shades of grey” simile could be rephrased more elegantly (I love the reference in response to black and white display, it’s just the expression is jarring).
    3. Music (13): Nice interplay between swung and straight rhythms. That makes for a good contrast between the first verse and chorus. Good for you in committing to the minor. A lot of songwriters will play at minor while only ever descending to bVII and bVI, indicating the “minor” is really just a vi of the relative major key. Now of course you do use the bVII (a lot), but you also dip down to that true V7 for your dominant. There’s a certain feel that gives that solidifies the key, and I liked hearing it to lead out of the chorus.
    4. Performance/Production: A bit thin, but balanced. Nothing special, but it keeps everything out of the way so I could evaluate the music. So that makes me happy.
  15. Sid Brown - 8-bit Skies (8.2)
    1. The Big Picture (7): The 8-bit skies concept is poetic, I like it. Feels like you’re going for a Sisyphean feeling, but it’s not quite landing. Are we just noting that Mario does this all over and over, or are we supposed to feel bad about it? Should we feel good? Comfortable with the predictability?
    2. Lyrics (14): Overall solid. I’d have to get picky to point out minor issues I had with your verse lyrics. In the chorus, I might have liked it if you could have found a way to say “Mario” with a strong stress on the first syllable and a weak one on the third. I know it seems also to be a minor nitpick, but in this case it’s the hook of the song and the name of the song’s subject. Ending on “You’re not so super” almost feels like taunting. Unless that was your intention, something like “you don’t always have to be super” or “you’re always Super Mario to me” would put you (and the audience) on his side.
    3. Music (4): The intro sets up an easy repeating I-V pattern that winds up betrayed by the I-V-I-IV-I-V of the verse. It’s the first half of this that sounds weak, resolving too soon where I was expecting to hang on the dominant. Even a deceptive cadence to vi would give us context, telling us we’re going to continue and the phrase is not over. As is, it just feels like the intro and verse were not written to be part of the same song. The chorus doesn’t change up much musically, but you get a somewhat different feeling out of lengthening the “whoa” and “oh no”, so at least we can tell it’s the chorus. The middle of the chorus reminds me of “Friends” by Flight of the Conchords:
    4. Performance/Production: One person, by himself, is perfectly capable of playing guitar and singing at the same time. So for whom are you counting in? Nice harmonica riffs, decent vocals.
  16. Steve Durand - Fireball XL5 (7.4)
    1. The Big Picture (2): Not really getting anything special here. Kid gets a toy rocket ship. Likes it. Plays with it. Yay. Could be ok as an ad for the toy, and maybe some lyrics to leverage that would have saved the song.
    2. Lyrics (13): Some forced rhymes, but overall pretty good lyrical craftsmanship.
    3. Music (9): Nothing special. Major I-ii-V. The V/vi resolves as expected to vi and back to ii-V again. Likewise the melody is good, but nothing to grab my attention.
    4. Performance/Production: Good instruments and production. Even got good trumpets in there, and the feel is appropriate to 1964. Your voice is shaky, and at times sounds almost bored, at odds with the lyrics claiming to be excited about the topic.
  17. Boffo Yux Dudes - Super-Elastic Bubble-Plastic Fabulous Rubber-Stretch Man (7.3)
    1. The Big Picture (10): 2 of these in a row! This is a more courageous commitment to the gay innuendo angle, with a connection to growing up, so you get points for the concept.
    2. Lyrics (8): They’re fun to read off the page, but lose something when I hear the song. I’m pretty sure it’s (as it is with me in a lot of other songs, sorry everyone) in how the words line up with the rhythm of the song. There are times I might write this off as a performance decision and not blame the songwriting, but this is more structural than that. The lyrical flow stalls and starts, speeds to catch up, kind of lurches around. The chorus is quite smooth, and I get the feeling you came up with the title first and only then wrote the chorus melody to fit those lyrics. It works well there, with the syllables anticipating the beats.
    3. Music (3): Weak chords, very even energy, no contrast. Maybe it’s the resolution to vi to start the chorus (on the same melodic note the verses start on)? No, I think maybe it’s a lack of strength in the bass, or are you inverting some of the chords to use weaker bottom notes? There’s no anchor, it just seems to float around, which would be nice in another song. But this song with its strong drum beat, staccato piano, and crisp lyrics cries out for strong chords to keep up with it, and they’re missing. The harmony building and counterpoint in the chorus helps, but overall an underwhelming composition effort.
    4. Performance/Production: No issues with the production. Simple instruments that fit well, accurate harmony, sounds good.
  18. Army Defense - Stretch Armstrong (7)
    1. The Big Picture (1): I apologize in advance for not getting it. I feel like there may be a meaning to this song that I don’t see. Stretch is the 3rd person object, yet at the end the narrator sings “I return to my shape”. So is there a metaphor going on? What does it mean that something is needed “to make him good”? Is he bad now? In the end I don’t know who your character is, and why he cares enough to sing this song.
    2. Lyrics (10): Barely any rhymes, gutsy. Some good poetry, the words flow well and don’t feel out of place. They leave room for singing. It’s decently crafted. I just don’t know what it means (I do know what Stretch Armstrong is, just not the song). And in not knowing what it means, the lyrics don’t feel especially weird or mysterious to compensate for the confusion, like a Duran Duran song that no one understands. It just feels like maybe you’re pulling random childhood thoughts out of your head. Am I close?
    3. Music (12): I like the guitar, the major 7ths, etc. Nice and overtoney, nice chromatics in the instrumentals in between lyrics. Could use more variation, maybe a bridge to break things up.
    4. Performance/Production:
  19. Trader Jack - Baseball Cards (6)
    1. The Big Picture (6): Good concept, solid narrative, moderately believable emotion. Does a kid really invest in baseball cards for retirement? I spent on comics, but the investment was just an excuse; I got actual entertainment out of them. I could see a kid using the cards to learn career stats or even collect for its own sake, but you “don’t even like baseball”. Sounds more like something an adult would do, aren’t kids more id-focused, or was that just me?
    2. Lyrics (6): minimalist, free verse. Too many repeated lines, got tedious. I’m not talking about the prices. The tedium actually fits great there, as you’re wasting time looking up the values. All the other places where it seemed every line was repeated. And the same thing is done whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic, so it’s not some kind of signaling mechanism. I don’t miss the rhymes, going without them worked here.
    3. Music (6): Whistling and tambourine when talking about childhood, guitar and drum when adult. The rise and fall of the melody does a good job of reflecting the emotion of the piece. Not much harmonic variation.
    4. Performance/Production: This is not a particularly pleasant song, but I get the impression it’s not supposed to be.
  20. Jailhouse Payback - WillieTalk (5.6)
    1. The Big Picture (5): Content is Poltergeist-esque, with the puppet staring at him throughout the night. Starts off great, mysterious lyrics, getting ready for an evil, horror song. Then I’m not sure where it goes. Can’t tell what the central theme, message, or narrative is.
    2. Lyrics (11): The first stanza is great. It sets up the mystery, and the play on meaning with “into what I wasn’t sure” is a great line. Then the chorus lyrics are composed well, but the meaning starts to wander. Are we still afraid? Why then did we believe in the doll? Then the doll is sold, but I can’t tell if that’s a good or bad thing. Still, that’s more a failure in concept than in the lyrics themselves.
    3. Music (1): Hard to hear not only the words (which I can read), but the melody itself. So it’s hard to come to a complete opinion. From what I could hear, it sounds like a not-very-thought-out melody. Very little range and no leading from one lyrical line to the next. Harmonically, it works well enough, but if you’re going to have a simple harmonic structure, I’d like to be impressed by the melody.
    4. Performance/Production: This is one song for which the production actually got in the way of evaluating it as a song. The inflection on the lyrics, the melody, even some of the instruments got muddled up and unintelligible to a point where maybe some good decisions got overlooked by me. If that’s the case I apologize.
  21. Emperor Gum - Guardian (2.1)
    1. The Big Picture (3): Kind of like Fireball XL5, I’m kind of getting a flat concept here. Yes you do more than just say you like the Guardian. It protects you and you draw an emotional connection between fear and security. So there’s something, but I’m not feeling all that much. The same song could have set up an event, like the knocking at the window after the first chorus. Walk us through what happens and how you feel. It all goes so fast and with a high energy that we never have time to feel at all afraid of anything. It’s all just happiness over not being afraid anymore.
    2. Lyrics (1): Kind of cringing here. Forced rhymes, weird forced grammar to make them line up. It all just sounds very poorly crafted. Try speaking it without the music, in normal speech. Does any of it sound like anything a regular person would say?
    3. Music (2): Very little contrast between verse and chorus, no energy flow. The melody is all over the place, lending little ability left after trying to hit all the notes to tell the story.
    4. Performance/Production: The production is not bad, and in the end it sounds pleasing to the ear. But that’s not what I’m judging. Sorry.