Friday, December 26, 2014

SpinTunes #10: Sign Up Page

It's time for SpinTunes #10. The rules are in place. New judges are...well...I'm working on it.  But they will be working on the challenges soon. Now it's time to see who's going to be competing in our 10th contest.

I will need everyone who wants to participate to copy & paste the following text into their e-mail. Fill in the needed info, and then e-mail it to me at the address I provided below. Make sure you put "Spintown Contest" as the subject of the e-mail so I don't think it's spam. Also use an e-mail that I can reach you at if need be. Don't panic if you don't get a confirmation e-mail immediately after signing up. I'll message you back within 24 hours of getting your e-mail.

I _____________ give Travis Langworthy permission to upload any music I submit into his contest onto his blog (Spintown) & bandcamp. I realize it will become part of an album consisting of numerous other artists, and that it will be available for anyone to download for free. I also promise to give my very best effort in each round to complete the challenges. Providing NEW songs that have not been released before in any form. I also agree that anything that goes wrong during this competition is Heather's fault.
Name: (The name you or your group wants to be referred to during the competition.)
Bio: (Give a brief description of your group/music/history in 500 CHARACTERS or less. I know it's brief, but it's more than Twitter allows. :p Besides, links to your sites will be provided if people want to learn more about you. No URL’s or links will be allowed in the bio section.)
Twitter: (If you got one & want to share. *optional* If there's multiple accounts for multiple band members that's fine.)
YouTube: (If you got one & want to share. *optional*)
Band Website: (If it's different than either of the above. *optional*)
Pictures: (I need a band picture or logo. The image should be 100x100, and if it's not I'll do my best to make it so. Don't forget to actually attach the picture.)

Here's a list of the people that will be making the challenges, reviewing your work & of course voting on the songs:

4.  The Dreamstalks (Karen Bray & Zach Miko)
5.  Rusty Cage

Sign ups will last until January 8th 11:59PM (R).

The first challenge will be posted January 9th 1AM (F).

My best guess as to what the whole schedule will look like can be found HERE

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SpinTunes #10: Official Rules

If something is confusing, needs clarification, if you just think I made a mistake or forgot something feel free to mention your concern in the comments below. It will be addressed in good time.

The schedule will be similar to past contests. There will be 4 rounds. You will have 8-11 days to write, record & send in your song. There will be a short break between each round. During this time the song will be voted on, reviewed & prep for the next round will be made. For more info click: HERE.

Judges Voting:
There will be at least 5 judges who are not participating in the contest, but will be allowed to shadow. Each round they will individually rate all the songs from favorite to least favorite. Then the judges scores will be posted & added up. Here's an example of what the judges scoring would look like:

Cumulative Scoring:
In past contests, points never carried over to the next round.  This will be the first time we've attempted cumulative scoring.  In round 1 rankings & points will work exactly as the example above shows, with there being a 1 point difference between each successive rank.  Round 2 & 3 will be slightly different.  There are always a couple people who drop out of the contest or get DQ'ed.  Too keep the rounds weighted evenly, the most points you can get in rounds 2 & 3 will be the same as round 1.  So if 21 people turn in a song for round 1, but 3 people drop out for round 2 here's how we would score it.  We would rank the 18 remaining people as we did in round 1.  Then we would divide 21 by 18 to get 1.16 (not going to use numbers past the 100th).  The first place person will get 21 points, and then we'll subtract 1.16 from 21 to get the score for the 2nd place person.  And keep subtracting 1.16 for each person down the list.  If more people drop out in round 3, we will use the same process to find a new number to subtract by.

The top 4 scoring competitors after round 3 will move onto round 4, where their points would NOT carry over.  In the final round the 4 finalist all start on a level playing field & will as judged by their fellow competitors.

With cumulative scoring their will not be as many eliminations each round.  HOWEVER, if you fail to meet a deadline or challenge (determined by judges) you can & will be eliminated from the contest.  You HAVE to complete every challenge of the contest on time to have a chance of winning SpinTunes 10.  Just like past contests.

Popular Vote:
There will continue to be a popular vote in the sidebar, but only in rounds 3 & 4.  It will only be used as a tiebreaker if needed.  If somehow that is a tie as well, the final deciding factor is me.

Final Round:
In the last round, everyone who has been eliminated (who also submitted at least 1 song) will be allowed to rank the songs. This round the judges have no say in matters, but they will still be required to review each song. Rules for a tie are altered just a bit. Popular vote is the first deciding factor, then the judges, and then I am the last deciding factor.

If you go through the old challenges you'll see that they could be anything. You could be given a theme, restrictions, a technical challenge and hopefully you're forced to do things you've never done before. The challenges will be created by myself & the other judges before the contest even starts.

Submitting Entries:
- Entries must be received by the given deadline. Otherwise it'll be posted as a shadow. Received means that it has to appear in my e-mail inbox by the given deadline. I will be going by the time stamp on the e-mail in my inbox. PLEASE do not wait until the last hour to send me something. If there is a blackout in your area, your computer crashes, or your dog actually eats your thumb drive...I will not care. You are allowed to send in a draft of your song early just in case something horrible happens & you miss the deadline. Then you can add polish to your song & send in a better version closer to the deadline. 1 minute late is still late people.

- Send your file in a format that Bandcamp accepts. (.aiff, .wav or .flac) (at least 16-bit/44.1kHz) You can find the specific requirements for Bandcamp files HERE. You do not need to send in MP3's.
- Name your file the song's title, but without spaces & punctuation.
- Title of the e-mail should be the title of the Challenge & your band's name.
- Include the song lyrics in the body of the e-mail. (If your song doesn't have lyrics...consider yourself eliminated. Instrumentals can be pretty, but SpinTunes does require lyrics.)
- Include information on anyone that needs credited if you collaborated with someone.
- If you have a BandCamp account, you can just send me a link to your song on BandCamp if you include all the info I mentioned above. Make sure you have it set as a free download, and have it set so that I don't have to put in an e-mail to download it if you pick this option. THIS IS THE BEST FILE SHARING OPTION!
- Alternate file sharing options if you need them: Sound Cloud, & Drop Box. Please send an e-mail as I already stated, but with the download link if you need one of these services. Please follow directions so your file doesn't wind up in my spam or trash folder accidentally.

Each round I'll be uploading the songs onto BandCamp as an album. The songs will be set for free download only. BandCamp makes it easy to download songs, you can share 1 song individually or the album as a whole.

If you want to be entered into the contest, your song must be on the album & made available to everyone for free. Otherwise you are DQed from the contest.

I didn't plan on there being a prize. No trophy. No cash. I’ll be happy to mail you a t-shirt that says you’re the new champion, but the real prize is knowing you won & the music itself. If you need gifts & thousands of fans to motivate you to write songs in this ain't for you.

The winner will be allowed to be a judge in the next competition, unless they wish to compete.

Listening Party:
Tom Giarrosso will be hosting the listening party for each round (he will also help with uploading). Hopefully we can all get together in one virtual place while the songs are played for the very first time for people.

Meet The Judges:
Here's a list of the people that will be making the challenges, reviewing your work & of course voting on the songs:

4.  The Dreamstalks (Karen Bray & Zach Miko)

* I am the alternate judge. If a judge is unable to do his/her job, I'll step in and take over. If the judge has to withdraw from the contest totally, I'll fill in until I can find a replacement. If I happen to have a guest judge lined up already, there will be no need for me to step in as alternate.

* There could be "Guest Judges" who drop by from time to time. A guest judge has to be approved by me ahead of time. I'm not promising anything, but if I can swing something cool for you all I want to leave that open as a possibility. When a guest judge ranks & reviews a round, it does count toward the scores for the round. If a song is disqualified by the regular judges, the guest judge's rankings will be edited to stay in line with the judges decision. There will be 1 or 2 guest judges each round if I can swing it. No promises though.

Judge Responsibilities:
- Reviewing/ranking entries each round. Shadow entries don't have to be reviewed, but it would be nice if you found the time. You can type up your review or you can vlog it on YouTube. If you decide to vlog your review on YouTube, it needs to be kept private until after I post the reviews on the blog.
- Making the challenges via a super secret website I set up.
- After the songs get posted each round the judges will be allowed to post their thoughts on who failed to met the challenge. (in the super secret location) 48 hours after the songs get posted we need to have a decision on what songs did or didn't meet the challenge. If you don't speak up in that window of time you'll have to live with a decision I make on my own.  I typically go with the majority decision of those who speak up.
- Checking your e-mail.  Especially on deadline nights.

For those of you that don't want to check this blog every day, but also use Twitter, I'll be posting updates on Twitter as well. @SpinTunes was created just for this contest. You can unfollow it right after the contest if you want, my ego can take it. There is a Twitter list that includes all the judges & competitors (SpinTunes List). Well, at least all the ones I know that are on Twitter.

Song Sharing:
You are allowed to share your songs before the LP. In my opinion the songs will be better if you can go to another musician in this contest, share what you've got & get feedback. So if you want to share with a few friends or fellow competitors before the listening party feel free to do so.


I would prefer it if you kept it low key, and not pimp it all over the net (via Twitter, YouTube, etc...) until after the LP, but that's up to you as well. It does take a little excitement away from the LP if people have already heard the songs. Common sense. Just don't try to get feedback from a judge, or from me since I'm an alternate.

Rerecording & Remixes:
In previous contests some people sent their song in ON TIME, but then after the deadline wanted me to post an updated version onto the album (they added bells & whistles). My response to that is ok, BUT you will be judged by what you turned in before the deadline. So anyone who decides they want to make a better mix of their song, and have it replace the one they sent before...that's fine. Send me the info, and I'll switch the files out. I might not do it instantly, but it will be done. Now I'm not going to have someone send me a new mix every month because they like remixing their own stuff all the time, but I'll allow 1 update of each song down the road. These songs are something you should be proud of, and some people are bugged by not being able to add everything they want in that small window I give hopefully this helps...while still being fair.

In the end, album order is determined by how you scored in the round. But until the judges have scored the round, album order is originally determined by submission order. Your order on the album will change if you send in an updated file.

Multiple Songs:
You can enter 1 song each round until you are eliminated. There is no limit on how many shadow songs you can enter each round though. If you are still in the contest & have multiple songs you wish to enter, you just have to pick 1 song to be your official entry, while the other is listed as a shadow song.

You are not allowed to enter the contest as a part of more than 1 group. So if you enter as yourself, you will not be allowed to enter again as a part of another band

Wrap Up:
I will once again be busy with work & other responsibilities. I will enlist the help of judges & a few other trusted members of our community to help out from time to time. Don't be shocked if someone other than myself responds to you via one of the SpinTunes social media outlets. 

Banned Individuals:
If someone is banned from SpinTunes it means they are banned from competing, shadowing, judging, & all the social parts of SpinTunes I administrate. They are also not allowed to collaborate on songs.  Anyone collaborating with a banned individual will be DQ'ed from the round & their song will not be played at the LP or put on the album.  Helping someone evade a ban can also lead to me banning another person.  I don't like banning people, so when I do, it's for a good reason.  The people listed below are currently the only people banned from SpinTunes.

Ban List:
JoAnn Abbott
Mike Derma
Stephen Hancock

Sunday, December 7, 2014

SpinTunes #10: Schedule

Remember that this isn't set in stone. We usually stick VERY close to the schedule, but sometimes things happen & we need to keep the schedule a little flexible.

December 26th (F) - Sign ups start.

January 8th 11:59PM (R) - Sign ups end.

January 9th (F) - First challenge is announced.

January 18th 11:59PM (Sun) - First song deadline.

January 19th 8PM (M) - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.

January 20th (T) - Songs are made available for free download on BandCamp.

*During this gap:
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

January 24th before noon (Sat) - Judges reviews are due.

January 24th before 11PM (Sat) - Reviews & scores are posted.

January 25th 1AM (Sun) - Second challenge is announced.

February 1st 11:59PM (Sun) - Second song deadline.

February 2nd 8PM (M) - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.

February 3rd (T) - Songs are made available for free download on BandCamp.

*During this gap:
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

February 7th before noon (Sat) - Judges reviews are due.

February 7th before 11PM (Sat) - Reviews & scores are posted.

February 8th 1AM (Sun) - Third challenge is announced.

February 15th 11:59PM (Sun) - Third song deadline.

February 16th 8PM (M) - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.

February 17th (T) - Songs are made available for free download on BandCamp.

*During this gap:
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

February 20th before 11PM (F) - Judges reviews are due.

February 21st before 11PM (Sat) - Reviews & scores are posted.

February 22nd 1AM (Sun) - Final challenge is announced.

March 1st 11:59PM (Sun) - Final song deadline.

March 2nd 8PM (M) - Listening party will be held HERE, and hosted by Tom.

March 3rd (T) - Songs are made available for free download on BandCamp.

*During this gap:
- previously eliminated competitors will rank the songs
- judges will rank the songs
- judges will review the songs*

March 6th 6PM (F) - Judges reviews are due.
- Eliminated competitors rankings are due.

March 7th (Sat) - Reviews are posted & the winner is announced.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

SpinTunes #9 Champion: MC Ohm-i

SpinTunes #9 Champion: MC Ohm-i
Runner Up: Brian Gray
3rd: James Young
4th: TurboShandy

Congrats to MC Ohm-i, who is now our new #SpinTunes champion! MC Ohm-I, you gave the people what they wanted, and your reward is a heartfelt "well done!", the respect of the community (complete with kow-tows and cries of "we're not worthy!") and possibly some manky old shirt that 's sitting in the bottom of Travis' closet.

As the current champion of SpinTunes, you have the option of judging SpinTunes #10.  When Travis starts preparing for the next contest, he will e-mail you to find out if you plan on wielding the gavel or not. (do it! do it! do it!)

The other finalists should hold their heads high.  They faced 4 challenges, conquered them all, and created 4 new songs for the world to enjoy.  Well done.

Totals & Reviews:
In the end 12 competitors of SpinTunes 9 sent in their votes/rankings.

MC Ohm-I Brian Gray James Young TurboShandy
points: 2 3 4 1

4 2 1 3

3 4 1 2

3 4 2 1

4 2 1 3

2 3 4 1

3 4 1 2

4 3 1 2

1 2 4 3

4 3 1 2

3 2 4 1

2 1 3 4
Total 35 33 27 25
Rank 1 2 3 4

Popular Vote:
James Young (15)
Brian Gray (6)
MC Ohm-i (2)
TurboShandy (2)
(25 total votes cast)

Judges: Dr Lindyke, James Rechs, John DiBello, Ted Kiper, Scott Mercer 
Guest Judge:  Greg Benson; Spintunes 8 Winner Jenny Katz
Alternate Judge: N/A

Thank You from Travis Langworthy
Competitors, judges, guest judges, shadowers, fans, Tom for hosting the LP, Matt for the album art, and anyone that had anything to do with this contest.  I just happen to be the guy that makes this shit up as I go, but none of it is possible without the participation of all you wonderful people.

The next contest will start when it starts, probably around the beginning of the year. Make sure you follow @SpinTuneson Twitter for contest updates. Between Song FightNur Ein & various other projects, there should be plenty to keep you busy until the milestone SpinTunes #10. If you've completed at least 1 song for SpinTunes, 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

SpinTunes #9 Round 4 Reviews: Greg Benson

I've been a fan of Mediocre Films for a long time now. It's one of the first channels I can remember subscribing to on YouTube.  Greg rarely fails to entertain, and has created a lot of very memorable videos & characters.  You got Yeshmin Blechin, Retarded Policeman, Positive Pranks, Girls Of Comic-Con & more... I know he's written a lot of songs & jingles for his own videos, so I thought I'd ask him to guest judge this round.  Lucky for us, he was nice enough to give our 4 finalist a little feedback.  Here's a look at one of his videos, and below that are the reviews.



#1 Brian Gray - All You Can Eat
Nice acoustic guitar work plus a pleasing voice reminiscent of Dean Friedman and singalong chorus harmonies means this one wins in my book.  It's light, harmless and delightful, like a Twinkie if its ingredients weren't damaging to your health.

#2 MC Ohm-I - Black People Don't Swim
I've always agreed with what George Harrison said when asked how he felt about rap music: "It's just talking."  However, this one is filled with great self-referential humor and features a solid hook on the chorus.

#3 TurboShandy - Twenty-Two
Solid harmonies run throughout this pounding but rather dull and depressing song about juvenile, misplaced anger.

#4 James Young - When The Morning Comes
A decent try by a guy who sounds to me like he fell through a time hole from the 1980s.  The vocals are too self-consciously "cool" for my taste, and ultimately the song feels a little too self-important.

SpinTunes #9 Round 4 Reviews: Scott Mercer

For me, this was a very close shave between the top two finishers.  The bottom two were also quite good, and in other circumstances (including rounds earlier in this very contest) would have been the winner.  But there’s just one champion.  Here we go, in ascending order, with the winner revealed last.

Turbo Shandy - Twenty Two, Twenty Two

This is very respectable and sturdy.  It’s a great kiss-off song.  Cool metaphor about human memory and the timeless of the Earth and nature, compared with petty, passing human emotions and concerns.  On the Listening Party, we were pantingly waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the big, big guitar solo that never came.  So, some points deducted there.  However,  you had me at Elvis Costello.  Like Brian Gray, your entry was very good and something to be proud of.  It just wasn’t as good as the top two songs.

Brian Gray - All You Can Eat

I don’t know how you wrote a romantic ballad about sharks eating and killing people, based on an old movie.  But that’s what you have done.  And oh, yes, does it ever work.  It is super clever and lovable.  And I’m pretty sure you have broken new ground here with a song written from the perspective of a great white.  Kudos for the Moves Like Jagger reference and the “message in a bottlenose” line.  That had me choking on my krill.  Your only problem was that you had very stiff competition this time around.

MC Ohm-I - Black People Don’t Swim

Maybe we could put this on a playlist with “White People Can’t Dance” by Was(Not Was).
I thought this was up there with “Merriam Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus,” but not quite as good.  Once again, the chorus was extremely catchy and the rapping was fine but not quite as inspired as the previous entry.  I did really enjoy “melanin” rhyming with “dwellin’ in,” but that was the only line that stood out that much for me.   Have to give it points for being the only entry that wasn’t an introspective ballad.  It was a close call, a game of inches, but in the end I had to elevate another song to be the winner.


James Young - When The Morning Comes

The lyrics are poetic.  Not too specific, applicable to most people that would be listening.  Really draws the listener in.  It has a really big, radio ready sound.  It sounds like some huge hit from the 1980’s or 1990’s.  It reminds me of -- I dunno, Love and Rockets, or Gene Loves Jezebel, or something like that.  Really well done.  Can’t believe you put this together in mere days.  People sometimes work for weeks or months trying get a sound like this.   I listened to it multiple, multiple times.  Fantastic quality that utterly defies the circumstances of its creation.

A well deserved win!


Steven Wesley Guiles

Yet another introspective ballad of lost love, but really good!  Better than any of Steven’s other entries in the other rounds.  Again, the arrangement was fantastic and there are some substantial hooks.   Could have stood a great chance in an earlier round.

Governing Dynamics

Can’t put my finger on what this is reminding me of, but it’s something good.  This also has a nice, polished sound.  I think on the listening party they said Tom Petty, and yeah, there’s that, but I think there’s something else more obscure that this is reminding me of.   Again, a longer guitar solo would have been welcome in this case.  I guess in the end, this is a portrait of onrushing doom and fiddling while Rome burns, but quite a joyous one.  Points for doing an uptempo song.  After listening to it a couple times, I have to say, again, yeah, this is REALLY catchy and sounds like something I’ve been listening to on the radio for 30 years.  This is a good thing.  A winner.

Zoe Gray

Yet another unexpected artistic employment of sharks, this time as a metaphor for menses.  Okay, once again breaking new ground.   You know, the internet is a wonderful thing.  If you had told me 20 years ago that one day I’d be judging an online songwriting contest featuring a person doing a ukulele ditty about Aunt Flo using the metaphor of sharks and the title of a programming gimmick from The Discovery Channel, I would have told you to take some medication.  But, here we are, and it’s awesome.  However, should I not ask the question: how is this related to the photograph?  Okay, whatever, it’s a shadow.  It IS always good to get the female perspective on things.  This contest is loaded with dudes, so yes, more women, please.  Why the hell not.   This is a worthy addition to the small but potent subgenre of female ukulele novelty songs.

Boffo Yux Dudes

These are my brochachos.  Though they are shadows and I had nothing to do personally with these particular tracks (full disclosure, I have written lyrics for a bunch of them in the past), I mean, what am I going to say?  Al does his Beach Boys thing and it’s awesome.  I have to admit to you that Allan is more of a Brian Wilson acolyte than a Mike Love fan, though here he is channeling the earlier, Mike Love festooned Beach Boy hits era.  Though I thought I couldn’t help but detect a bit of Pet Sounds in there somewhere.  Panorama is great techno-pop.  Am I detecting a bit of Fripp or Eno in there?  Whatever, it’s catchier than ebola.  Good work.

SpinTunes #9 Round 4 Reviews: John DiBello

Hullo folks hullo! My apologies for missing the previous round of judging. You haven't gotten rid of me yet! You can blame dental surgery for my M.I.A. status in round 3, but as I've now graduated away from Carnation Instant Breakfast and back to Space Food Sticks, let's put a cork in this bottle and polish up the strawberry patch* by listening to your fine quartet of songs (plus a handful of Shadows) in Round 4!

*My goofy metaphors may be caused by too much pain medication.

1. James Young "When the Morning Comes"

My symbolic hat is off to all the SpinTuners this time around, because I gaze at that public-domain photo of Lincolnville Beach and all I can think about is what a kinda sad beach that looks. Where are the MTV Spring Break revelers; where is Spuds MacKenzie surfing the waves, where's Roy Scheider closing it? That's why I dig James's tuneful, mournful track, one of those full, lush sound late summer songs that sum up disappeared love come September. There's very strong vocals and instrumentals on this one, and though the lyrics water-ski on the edge of lost-love clich&#233, hey, isn't that what lost love is all about? It's beautifully produced, aiming and hitting square center in the heart: a power ballad that won't wear out its welcome after the first few hearings. The sound is sharp and crisp, but I almost feel for authenticity this would be best heard from a cheap 1960s transistor radio with sand in it, fresh from a summer at the beach.

2. TurboShandy "Twenty-Two"

TurboShandy takes a similar thematic approach to the photo as James Young: the memory of a lost love from the seaside. With its strong alt-rock sound and driving beat, it's mired in more discouragement and anger than Young's, so this would appeal to everyone (like me) who only ever wound up with shorts full of sand at the end of the season. In fact, it punches all those pain-toned buttons of memory with the trigger sound of a cheap Super 8 film projector to open and close the track: these are faded, jittery memories that you thought were worth preserving at the time. (Also, I'm a sucker for an angry, abrupt ending.) It's a fine song, vivid and sharp — I think that even if T.S. hadn't including the Irish Sea in his lyrics, he's referencing the somewhat faded, slightly sad beaches I've seen in the UK and Ireland. Major points up for not only giving an Elvis Costello reference but actually sounding a bit like an early Costello song.

3. MC Ohm-I "Black People Don't Swim"

I've been fully enjoying MC Ohm-I's contributions to SpinTunes #9 — his songs are fresh, funny, and funky, mixing some really competent rapping and clever lyrics, plus inventive and innovative answers to each challenge; he's taken them in bizarrely beautiful directions that are unexpected and inspiring. "Black People Don't Swim" is no exception. It's a solid rap with a great beat and yes, and incredibly infectious hook of a refrain-slash-title. I'm been humming it all week and I have to remember, big goofy white guy that I am, not to sing it aloud in public. But I'm paradoxically pulled in two different directions on my final critique —  I felt this one both needed to have a bigger, lusher instrumental sound behind the rap, and that it could have been tightened and shortened, not for economy but for impact: it should hit hard and sharp like a rapid-fire, well-timed comedy routine. The extended intro disclaimer section especially, while humorous, isn't really needed and delays MC Ohm-I's best strength: his lyrics and rapping. That said, it's an incredible earworm of a tune, a simple, funny idea expanded by sheer talent into a strong, beefy track.

4. Brian Gray "All You Can Eat"

Well, of course, when you think of the beach, you're going to think of sharks, especially in and around Discovery Channel's Shark Week (which admittedly I only consider a rude interruption to my weekly viewing of MythBusters. When I first saw the photo, I had a vague guess in the shadowy cobwebs of my head that at least one SpinTuner might contribute a track about sharks, and y'all haven't disappointed me. I good make a dozen puns about how this song sunk its teeth into me and that the lyrics have bite, but I'm just going to sum it up instead as Brian's song is the loveliest and most heart-felt ode to sharks doing what they do best that has yet been set to MP3. The lyrics are full of clever humor and shark trivia, and I like the story-telling feel to it. Curiously or ironically (or maybe both), it's also a lost love song, so there must be something to an expanse of panaroma-lensed sand that brings out the melancholy, missin' that girl sound in everyone. It's accompanied by wonderfully slow-bounce guitar backing, and I found Brian's song bio especially illuminating on how he achieved that effect. The lightness of the theme made it feel less substantial than the others in this round; it's a tall-tale style extended joke, and the melody and lyrics didn't chomp as firmly as the others. Sorry, I did need to use one shark-biting pun. After all.


While listening to form my review thoughts, I mixed these four tracks up and played them on random shuffle. Still, for whatever bizarre coincidence, they ran into win, place, show, and shark (in my extended horse-race metaphor judging style) in exactly the sequence as the original downloadable album — 1, 2, 3, 4 — and I worried about that for a few minutes before I reminded myself to vote with my ear and my heart, as messy as that might be typing up the reviews. As to who won and who lost, well, that's one of those things we may never know (until the final results are posted) and I wish everybody coulda got a big blue ribbon and a basket full of peaches.


Steven Wesley Guiles "If It's All The Same to You"
Lemme tell you what I wish I could have written upon seeing the photo: a song as lovely as "Sea of Love" by the Honeydrippers, one of my favorite love songs of all time — or at least the 1980s, when, as we all know, all the finest music came into being. I can't write music (I think we proved that several weeks ago with my Princess Leia song), so I'm glad Steven targeted and hit my Honeydrippers-lovin' heart with this slow-dance ballad with a lyrical doo-wop chorus.

Zoe Gray "Shark Week"
Hey, more sharks! (Cool!) And hey, why did the song I love best from Zoe Ball have to be a ShadowTune instead of one I could vote on? (Because you didn't give her a good grade in round 2, I tell myself with shame). I'm just delighted by the whole thing here. This is just sheer lunatic loveliness, and by golly, Zoe, if Discovery Channel doesn't hire you to sing this in bumpers for S.W. '15, there's no justice in the world. Wonderful.

Governing Dynamics "Surf Whatever"
I was wondering if anyone was going to turn up at this party with some good old surf rock, and Governing Dynamics delights me by subverting the trope (yes, I've spent too much time on recently) with a 21st century version of 60s surf rock. It's got an indie-alt sound and a po-mo attitude to modern environmental concerns...but, like the Ventures, the guitars are still wailing strongly — love the too-short instrumental break — and at the heart of it all is the joy of surf, the allure of that Endless Summer.

Boffo Yux Dudes "Beach Chairs"
I was spared my continuing moral dilemma of judging someone I've known since high school when Boffo Yux Dudes didn't contribute a Round 2 track, but I've been missing the familiar sound, so I'm glad there's at last a couple ShadowTunes to enjoy. This track takes the summer song and Beach Boys song to its illogical conclusion: it's a '60s-style rock anthem to beach chairs, without which our asses would all get burnt on the sand. "They come in different colors kinda like a porn star" is surely the winner of the Most Valuable Lyric of Round 4 Award, and while it's all about as lightweight as a sandy towel in a strong breeze, it's a helluva lotta fun.

Boffo Yux Dudes "Panorama"
What an absolutely spot-on and appropriate song to close out the (arbitrary) sequence of SpinTunes #9 Round 4: an ode to, like that familiar public-domain photo, a panoramic wide-vision view of the world. It's short — barely a squeak over the two-minute minimum — and yet absolutely pitch-perfect, reminding me of Jonathan Coulton or Barenaked Ladies.

And of course, the theme of "Panorama" reminds me of the many, many views we've gotten throughout this ninth SpinTunes: a series of dozens of inventive variations on four simple themes. I'm in awe of the SpinTunes project. This round gave us fifty-nine songs in a handful of weeks, and I'm in awe of it, and all of the skill everyone's shown throughout. Whether I ranked you high or low, know this: these are all wonderful and show immense skill, dedication, imagination and most of all, sheer brave guts to put them out there to be critiqued. Bravo to every single one of you; thank you for sharing, and thank you for letting me be a part of it.

SpinTunes #9 Round 4 Reviews: James Rechs


MC Ohm-I.   Black people don't swim.   As I'm writing this, I'm getting ready to participate in a triathlon.  I'm going to swim 1.5 kilometers, before I bike 25 kilometers, and run 10 kilometers.  I also participate in a number of long distance swimming events throughout the summer.  And you know what I've noticed, while there are a few people of color, triathlons and competitive swimming could probably be found on the blog "stuff white people like".   Anyway, this song is hilarious.   Love it.   I fucking love everything about this.  And because I'm white, this song is now stuff white people like.  

Turbo Shandy -  A shitload of shells would have been a better title.  Actually, you should change your band name to shitload of shells, although people will assume it's the explosive kind.    I've criticized your lyrics in past rounds, and I find these to be your best so far!!   I really, really  like what you did with this challenge.    I feel like you took it in a different direction from your last couple songs, and you sound like you have pushed yourselves.  I feel like this tune is really genuine, but not overly so.  I would take this one to the beach with me.   Excellent job!   Only ranked number two because I so loved black people can't swim. 

Brian Gray - All you can eat.   This is a fun song, and captures the laid back beach feel.  Once again, you're full of terrific melodies and harmonies and clever lyrics.  Although it didn't blow me away, I certainly enjoyed it.  If there were 20 contestants here, you'd probably still be ranked third for me.    All the songs are good this round, but 1 and 2 really stood out for me.   This is definitely a solid effort and holds up to the other great stuff you have done.  But I'm afraid I'm ranking you number three due to the tough competition! 

James Young - When the Morning Comes.   Once again, James, a well put together song that is well performed.   Your chorus is nice and unpredictable.   Some sweet guitar riffs and cool solo.    The lyrics are ok.   I hate to say it, but nothing really stands out to me lyrically.     I hate to be critical at this point because I feel like I've gotten to know you all through your music, and I do enjoy the song.  However this one just didn't strike me quite as much as your song last round, or the other songs still in the contest.   Still, a very nice job and overall I continue to be impressed.  


SWG - All the same to you.   I love the feel of this one.    I love how your songs don't all sound the same.  this one is right up my alley.   definitely one of my favorites of this round.   I could put this one in my playlist and listen to it many times.  

Zoe Gray - Shark Week.   I like sharks.  I like this song.  I like how we're not all taking ourselves too seriously this round.    This song is absolutely hilarious.   "I want to stroke you... with a knife".   Heheheh.   This song is a bold statement about shark week that needed to be made.   Eat it, sharks.    By the way, I want to hear a Zoey Gray and Mc Ohm-I duet.  How freaking cool would that be?     

Governing Dynamics - Surf Whatever.    You stepped outside of your usual sound here, and I love it.   You should do more songs like this!   It sounds like the Replacements, I even hear a hint of John Mellencamp (some of his late stuff is surprisingly cool), or a little early Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty.    Once again, I love how you're not overly serious and just having fun with it.  This is one of my favorites from you this whole contest.  And you were probably thinking "what the hell" when you wrote it.   

BYD - Beach Chairs.    Hilarious.   Beach chairs have been waiting a long time for this song to be written.  when I need a song that is freakin' ridiculous, you guys rarely disappoint me.  

BYD - Panorama.   Two shadows for BYD.    This ones a little more serious and makes a great B-side for Beach Chairs.  Or maybe this is side A.   Either way, I'll spend the $3.99 for that record. 

SpinTunes #9 Round 4 Reviews: Jenny Katz

Our mighty champion is back to guest judge & help pass the torch to our next champion.  Jenny has been a part of SpinTunes since the very first contest, and it's always a joy to hear from her any way we can get her involved. - Spin


James Young, When the Morning Comes
Quite a lovely intro. I really liked this, James, especially the chorus sections—epic. Nice chord changes and momentum. I’m envious of your clean guitar skills. I could hear Boston playing this song for a packed crowd of thousands. I thought you nailed the reverb for the chorus sections, but in the verses I would like to hear a slightly more intimate sound, a little less room space. Obviously you want to have the whole thing sound of a piece, but with the extra spareness of the verses I found myself a little distracted by the reverb. Having said that, I *did* like the kinda funky, extra-distant reverb in the semi-chorus at the end. Overall, I found this to be very listenable, and even get better on repeated listenings. Nice job.

TurboShandy, Twenty-two, Twenty-two
Love the hipster beginning and ending, and the dissonant chords before the verse. I’m also a melody junkie, and the verse really satisfies me. The harmonies also sound great, especially after the break: really nice! I’d like to hear one measure fewer as you transition into the chorus… every time, my ear wanted it to happen one measure earlier. I also found myself wishing you didn’t resolve to the tonic in the middle of the chorus (on “twenty-two”); I wanted you to hold me off until the very end of the chorus. I also wanted some drum changes here and there, just to break it up. My favorite part is the bridge and the end of the bridge (“Guess I really kinda miss that beach”)—brilliant stuff there, very satisfying. One minor issue with the lyrics: I didn’t love the swearing in verse one; it seemed a little… lazy, I guess, considering some of the other gems you have in the song. 

MC-Ohm-I, Black People Don’t Swim
I listen to rap all day long, because my two sons listen to rap all day long. This is better than a lot of what they play me. I think you’re brilliant. Honestly, the only suggestion I have is to lose the explanatory intro—it’s not as funny as the rest of the song, and it’s not necessary. Oh, and in the chorus you might consider saying “prob'ly” rather than “probably”—the chorus sounds just a tiny bit clunkier or stiffer than the rest of the song, which is so, so smooth. And your lyrics are really hilarious (Changing my stance…/Changing my pants/into swim trunks) (Or go for a nice walk) (Pelican/Melanin/Dwellin in)! Did I mention that I loved this?

Brian Gray, All You Can Eat
Brian, you are such a gifted songwriter. So intelligent, harmonically, rhythmically, and lyrically. (I wonder where Zoe gets it?) SUCH delicious chords in the intro, and I love the transition into the chorus. I find myself longing for a different chord progression in the verse, though—something NOT major. You’ve just tempted and promised me with the unusualness of the intro—don’t let me down in the chorus. You could even just continue the first two chords from the intro

Stephen Wesley Guiles, If It’s All the Same to You
This could go on this radio today. There’s an earworm quality about it that would keep people singing it. And your voice and delivery are really pleasing to listen to listen to, rough and smooth at the same time, sort of the way Mark Wahlberg looks. Kinda Grateful-Dead-ish, especially the “woo-hoo” parts, which is a style I don’t generally like

Zoe Gray
Hahahahahahahaahahahahahahahaahaha. Zoe Gray for president! “Stroke you/with a knife” made me laugh out loud. I suggest losing the most obvious explanatory details (“uterii”/“could insert the thing that holds in all the blood”)… they’re not necessary. Zoe, you crack me up. I want you to take up bass or drums and work on groove. You will be completely unstoppable. 

Governing Dynamics, Surf Whatever
This was my favorite song of the round. It’s just hooky. Well written, well sung. And the surf guitar is, of course, the perfect accompaniment. 

Boffo Yux Dudes, Beach Chairs
You guys never cease to amuse—and also to impress. Special bonus points for working in “Calvin Coolidge.” (Btw, you probably know this, but it’s “barista,” unless you’re ordering your coffee from your family lawyer or I’m not getting the joke.) I would have liked a bridge, maybe? I like how it ends. Fun to listen to this one.

Boffo Yux Dudes, Panorama
I was impressed with the thought given to the mix on this one; you worked the stereo field really well. The background vox sound great (really nice harmonies) and are set at the appropriate volume and depth; the panning of the keyboards is nice. I liked this one a lot. 

SpinTunes #9 Round 4 Reviews: Ted Kiper

We've come to the last round, and not a moment too soon! I am currently returning back to college, so my priorities are pleasantly shifting. I would never have thought critiquing would be so exhausting, especially when there has been such great entries from the competitors.
It's a pity I didn't go through with my podcast idea. My wife Erica and I have worked hard all summer. She said that we could do audio recording of our reactions to the songs. Unfortunately, I express my thoughts better in writing than I do in speech. And if you have ever seen my lyrics, you'll know I even do that poorly.
So, the challenge is write a song about the panoramic image posted from Spin. The lengthy photo includes people on beach chairs, boats at a distance in the sea, some structures, electrical lines, lots of sand, and various other typical things. And I think "lengthy" is quite the word: apparently every song seems rather long. (Except for BYD's "Panorama", which
To be utterly fair, it didn't take much to meet the challenge in my eyes (or ears). I've always loved the idea of these Photo Finish rounds because they let the finalists have incredible amount of freedom.
However, I will be judging as to what you have done with your freedom. I've listened to all the previous rounds, so now I can compare the current entries with their predecessors. With that comparison, it's hard not to conclude what feels comfortable for the artist.
I will therefore be judging in favor for risks and creativity. What makes these songs sound more like the posted image than past submissions?
I was hoping to write longer reviews, but I neither had the time nor the computer reliability to go through what I promised. I apologize. With the way my computer has been crashing, I’ll be lucky to send these reviews in one piece…
My Reviews
Brian Gray – All You Can Eat
Score: 46
Ranked: 1
Challenge: 10
            The idea is rather interesting. When you mention “Buffet”, I had thought it would be a pun to Jimmy Buffett. Silly me. If there were inside references to Jaws, I’m sad to say I’ve never watched the movie. For no reason, I promise, it’s just no friend has referred.
Lyrics: 6
            If there was a story, I got lost. But I did enjoy the various one-liners.
Composition: 7
            Rather listenable. Bridge got serious, and then back to casual fun. Good transitions.
Songwriting Craft: 7
            I’m not sure if this was your best, but the creativity took me everywhere. My favorite part is the last part of the bridge. Slightly unsettling and mysterious.
Arrangement: 3
            Although everything fits together, it sounds too pleasant for a potentially upsetting situation about shark-feeding.
Performance: 4
            “Peed right through my skin”? Sounded like you especially enjoyed that.
Recording: 3
            It sounded a little raw, but whatever. I guess the beach can get a little raw, so interesting reflection.
Judge’s Whim: 6
            You have impressed me all throughout the rounds. This isn’t the best I’ve heard from you, but I hope you reign champion based on your cumulative effort.
My Favorite:
            I’ve enjoyed all your entries, but the one that still warms me is “St. Agnes”. It had very wise directions.
MC Ohm-I – Black People Don’t Swim
Score: 45
Ranked: 2
Challenge: 9
            Is that the only one black person in the photo?
Lyrics: 8
            Your story-telling is quite embarrassingly amusing.
Composition: 5
            The design is not all too new, as it serves as a rather safe background for the rest of your song.
Songwriting Craft: 7
            Your delivery is as smooth as ever, which is nothing different from your previous submissions.
Arrangement: 4
            You have an amazing ability to pick the right sounds and instruments for the story. From watery trumpets to wavy synths. Always thoughtful.
Performance: 3
            Those low notes are low, aren’t they?
Recording: 3
            I like reverb in your speaking is a little distracting. Overall, nothing wrong here.
Judge’s Whim: 6
            The song is unfortunately enlightening and nostalgic. As a Hispanic, swimming comes quite naturally. We kind of need to be, so that we can cross the rivers and gulfs to get our eventual green cards.
My Favorite:
            Oh goodness, you’ve done all sorts of good stuff. Although this entry was very well likable, I believe “Love Her Again In Hell” was better executed, and the performance couldn’t be more perfect.
James Young – When The Morning Comes
Score: 43
Ranked: 3
Challenge: 8
            I wouldn’t have any problem with your idea, but it sounds more like the sequel to your last entry than a caption of the photo.
Lyrics: 6
            “You forget the things you’ve done \ And what she said”—this matches very well to my idea of a casual, carefree beach.
Composition: 6
            Overall refreshing, with the instrumental bridge balancing for insistent heavy guitar riff.
Songwriting Craft: 8
            In almost every round, you’ve delivered some excellent forms of songs. Quite smooth.
Arrangement: 3
            The heavier guitar work is a bit out of place for a soft, casual beach.
Performance: 3
            I’m very impressed how you handle those low-notes for singing.
Recording: 4
            The soundscape is expansive as the photo or even the ocean.
Judge’s Whim: 5
            Although there are some subtle differences with this song and your past submissions, I didn’t feel there was enough creative risk. You played it very safe.
My Favorite:
            “Moth”—although “Elbonia!” was rather creative and daring, this entry reminded me of The Cure and much more replayable.
TurboShandy – Twenty-Two
Score: 38
Ranked: 4
Challenge: 7
            This feels quite drawn out, but I suppose the panorama calls for it.
Lyrics: 5
            I hardly know why your choice needed to be so extreme. It’s just a beach, from what I see.
Composition: 5
            It reminds me of Coldplay, mix “Politik” and “Yellow”, and I happen to love all of such mentioned, nostalgia compounded. The shift of the flat 5th note to natural is particularly satisfying.
Songwriting Craft: 7
            The tempo allows for a more dramatic performance from you. Compared to your other songs, it’s a pleasant turn.
Arrangement: 4
            The Celtic overtones are appreciated.
Performance: 3
            Nothing wrong here. It’s as expected.
Recording: 3
            The opening and ending camera-reel sound is again a nice and thoughtful add-on.
Judge’s Whim: 4
            This song feels rather long, but I do like and respect your rarely softer, smoother sound.
My Favorite:
            You’ve done very well throughout the competition, but my pick would’ve been “Ready Player One”. Maybe it’s the chorus, maybe it’s the electronic outro. Isn’t it interesting that it was #1 for the round, even if the judges didn’t specifically pick it first? It was meant to be.