Friday, July 31, 2015

Competitor Reviews

Reviews Posted Elsewhere:
- Dave Leigh of Dr. Lindyke posted reviews of the Champions.
- Al Morgan, Scott Mercer & Tom Giarrosso ALL posted reviews of EVERYONE.

James Young Reviews:
1st - Matt & Donna - love it, catchy & funny, soundtracks the current phase of my life perfectly.

2nd - MC Ohm-I - best production of the bunch methinks. Liking the borrowed Sound of Music motif, if only the von Trapps had a PS4, eh?

3rd - Jenny Katz - simple, haunting arrangement suits the subject matter, beautifully played & sung.

4th - Governing Dynamics - digging the driving beat & vocal performance, though overall a bit chaotic musically for me. Also seems the least aligned to the "list" aspect of the challenge.

1) Zoe Gray - tapping Tim Burton vibes with epic results. Hard to imagine anything else winning this round.

2) Jutze - funny & catchy, love the thought of the Emperor strumming that jaunty rhythm, perhaps with Darth helpings with the BVs.

3) Dr. Lindyke - an entry that (like my own) highlights the oft overlooked emotional trauma associated with beach vacations and / or the limited building skills of the songwriter. (Joking aside, this is lovely).

4) The Boffo Yux Dudes - musically tight, esp the groovy bassline, dialog & lyrics made me laugh.

5) Rob from Amersfoort- quirky & unpredictable, great mix of sounds, top production.

6) Bubba & The Amiable Kraken - rhythm captures the sense of enthusiastic construction, the vocal, whistling & guitar melodies are a great fit with the bird theme.

7) Pigfarmer Jr - heartfelt writing & performance, esp the guitar work & harmonies.

8) Brian Gray - like the way this rushes along musically matching the exasperation of the narrator, keyboard stabs are a nice aesthetic fit with the technical theme too.

9) Hotel Rex - not my genre, but performance & production are strong.

10) Ben Taggart - a shadow in the shadow album... Warning, infinite loop! Liking the lyrics & the mournful piano, vocals perhaps a tad overpowering in places.

11) Trader Jack - musically unsettling, lyrically bonkers, not sure I'm geometrically literate enough to follow what you're actually building also!

Jutze Reviews:
Jenny Katz - Thoughts On Leaving You
The pros are: I like the beat, the original approach to the list challenge. By the way, great performance.
The cons are: The verse is catchier in my ears than the chorus. (Not really a bad thing.)

Governing Dynamics - Room Stop Spinning
A driving beat? Good. But isn’t this Governing Dynamics? Yes, it is. The guitar sounds good; the tempo matches the spinning room lyrics. I struggle to make out the list in the lyrics.

Matt & Donna - Reasons My Kid Is Crying
Piano, vocals, synthesizer? Again, I expected this sort of song from the artists. Yet, the lyrics are barely a list. I mean, I have a hard time imagining bullet points here. The title helps a bit, but only a bit.

MC Ohm-I - Favorite Games
This song approaches the challenge in a way I approve. The list is not just a compilation of items. We also get a lot of comment on each item. The mix of a shuffle rhythm and piano melodies that are 6/8 (or 3/4 or whatever) is nice. The only problem I have with this entry? I don’t like rap/hip hop. Also, the mood is a bit melancholic whereas the topic is positive (fav games, yay!).

Pigfarmer Jr Reviews:
Jenny Katz: I love the vocals. The tone and performance are good, the melody good and I think it works very well with the stripped down arrangement. My only reservation was that every once in a while I wondered what a "prosar" was.  Is it like a quasar only more professional? I really liked the pros vs cons angle and I think you implemented it very well.

Governing Dynamics: Good energy, another good vocal performance. I like the melody which floated over the guitars and rhythm. That single note guitar sounded a hair thin in places but it worked and was a good sound on top of the other guitars. The list of things to do works marvelously and that feeling of lost time or faded youth or what the hell ever it is struck a chord. 

Matt & Donna: My first thought is the piano is a hair thin, but man, it's hard to record a piano and get that full sound. It really is. And the… stylophone? works a whole lot better than I could have made it. Melody and vocals are good. It's been a while since my kids were of the crying age, but I liked the angle.  I find your list song to be a bit less listy than the previous two.  Yeah, it's a list, but that second half of the song reads like a story more than a list. That doesn't mean you did poorly and I like your song. But if I were judging I would have noted it.  Your song definitely brought back memories of my two girls. Before they were black belts and could inflict pain and bruises on their father-figure. 

MC Ohm-I: That underlying piano theme throughout was a nice touch. And I like the sound. It isn't quite as immediate as some, but it has a nice depth (reverb) that makes it sit back just enough. Your angle is excellent. Your arrangement is good. My only reservation is that by the end of the second listen I was down right tired of that melody in the piano. It is relentless. First listen great, second listen….  and by third listen… I was never a gamer in the truest sense, but I have a soft spot for this angle. Production is top notch, performance is top notch.  No-one can say you didn't bring it.

Jenny Katz Reviews:
1. River of Tears, Pigfarmer
Although I liked all the songs this round, some very much indeed, this song was my favorite. Although the song is simple, the build was well done, and the chorus sounds to me like a classic American folk or gospel song that’s been around forever (along the same lines as “Shenandoah”). I even think you could rewrite the lyrics of the verses to reflect some of the social justice issues of our time and have yourself an anthem that might actually be sung and played by many, many people. I also think you might try changing the chord at the end of the verse from the I to the IV (in this case, the C instead of the G), just to differentiate it from the chorus and to give it a little momentum. 

2. Sandcastles, James Young
My son and I were trying to figure out which band this song reminded us of… Nirvana was the one we both agreed on (“with shades of Lynyrd Skynyrd,” he said). A strong contender, this one: very well constructed (speaking of the theme) and performed. Love the drone string. 

3. Satisfaction Guaranteed, Zoe Gray
I didn’t know Lily Allen was competing in SpinTunes. This is so well written AND performed AND produced, which of course we have all come to expect from you, Zoe. The verses are the strongest of any entry. The chorus is enjoyable, too, but almost plays to me like a pre-chorus, rather than fully “landing"... I found myself wanting a chorus with fewer words and more hook. (This is pot calling the kettle black; I’m notoriously wordy. I was once given the advice to use “half as many words” in my choruses, and it was good advice—though of course rules are made to be broken.) The “your wish… is her command” (so creepy!) could be the foundation of a great repeating hook.

4. My Tiny House is Too Tiny, BYD
I loved this so much. Hilarious and fun to listen to, even repeatedly. (It may also help that my parents live in a tiny house.) The bass line in the intro is just great, and the solo makes me laugh every time I play the song. (“Hey! Don’t touch me there!”) I also love the doubled vocal in line 4 of the verses. I do think the chord progression in the chorus could be strengthened a little bit. Overall, I loved it. 

5. Bluebird, Bubba & the Amiable Kraken
I was a child in the ’70s and this song could be the soundtrack to my life in memory. Gorgeous intro, beautifully performed, love the structure and the chord progression, especially the skillful transition at the end of “bluebird has it all.” (I was wishing I could hear the guitar riff come in on beat 2 instead of 3, but that’s a tiny quibble.) I think the only reason this song didn’t rank at the top was because the lyrics left me relatively unmoved. I LIKED them, but somehow I wanted them to be metaphorical, too, or something…? Something slightly deeper. 

6. Day After Day, Dr. Lindyke
This was lovely. Kudos to you, Dr. Lindyke, for allowing yourself to write and perform a tender, vulnerable song. Funny songs are great, and clever songs can be interesting, but going for emotion (especially not in a soap-opera-y way, but a real way) requires a real artist’s courage. With the exception of verse 2, which I thought was a little too specific/chatty, I thought your lyrics were excellent—especially the REbuilding take on the building challenge. “Day after day we build castles in the sand/Night after night the tide comes rushing in” is as good a description of a marriage as I’ve ever heard. Tighten this one up to 3:30 when you get a chance and re-release for our pleasure and edification. 

7. Bridge, Hotel Rex
Total Beatles vibe in the intro—what more could you ask? Love the harmonies and the melodic line is strong. The lyrics aren’t as strong as the vibe, though—with the exception of “you’re trembling to the car,” which is beautiful to listen to—because I couldn’t tell if you were being serious or being a clueless slacker. I think you could enhance the jokey vibe by spelling out some of the (unwittingly dumb) steps you’re taking to try and build that bridge (“I don’t know what your problem is; I recorded your favorite show!” or whatever.) 

8. I’ll Do it Myself, Brian Gray
It’s odd for me to find Brian’s song halfway down the list, because I’m a big fan. (I still sing “Walk” from time to time.) This one didn’t work quite as well for me, not because it’s not well written/performed/produced (as your songs always are), but because it skewed “clever” for me rather than “satisfying." I love the drums. I might have liked to hear it even more punk, roughed up, screamed rather than sung, with a screeching guitar instead of keys. 

9. Ballad of the Emperor, Jutze
I always like your songs, Jutze. Hooky and funny, in your usual style. (I am a very hook-oriented listener, so hooks count for a lot with me.) Nice warm recording of the guitar. The only wish I had with this one was for a twist of some kind in the lyrics, something that gives it slightly more depth in the second half of the song. That’s a minor point, though. 

10. Dream House, Rob from Amersfoot
This one made me happy. The pulsing organ, the slightly creepy panned vocals, the lyric "I buy a brick/and a brick/and brick by brick”… it all has integrity, like a little dream house of its own. 

11. Building, Trader Jack
I found this interesting, but I had trouble understanding the craft/structure of it… I would have liked there to be some more correspondence between the lyrics and the backgrounds (though I don’t mean “sing in time” or anything as obvious as that :). You have interesting ideas and I look forward to hearing more. Great drums and weird melodic lines.

Shadow. Building Me, Ben Taggart
Great voice, Ben! And a strong lyrical twist. This is a lovely little song that I heard in my head for a while after listening. I’d be interested in hearing the keys play a more melodic or rhythmically “softer” accompaniment, rather than straight quarter notes. This was one of the best conceptual responses to the challenge, I thought.

James Rechs Reviews:
#1 Jenny Katz:  Loved it.  Beautiful as always.  

#2 Governing Dynamics:   I really liked pretty much everything about this.   Great job! 

#3 McOhm-I:   As with all your stuff, I like it.  A list of favorite video games just isn't going to do it for me.   But you still managed to make it good.  

#4 Matt and Donna:   A nice song, but just not as good as the others.

Rob Stevens Reviews:

1. Jenny Katz
Intricate lyrics, love the alliterations, and well sung!

2. Matt & Donna 
Original instruments. Original song subject!

3. Governing Dynamics
Fun with tragic undertones. Love the last two lines. Not really a list song?  

4. MC Ohm-I 
I’m always interested to hear what games people are playing. Much better than hearing about “doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles” and such.