Saturday, February 27, 2016

SpinTunes #11 Round 3 Reviews: Ted Kiper

Welcome again, this time to Round 3! The past two rounds weren’t so bad, were they? Not when compared to this one: “Write a song with no chorus based on an ancient mythological figure/story”. Some of us judges had great pleasure creating and inflicting this challenge to your talents, and I have to admit, I knew perfectly well it would be no easy task. Some artists are perfectly content writing nothing but freeform verses anyway, and some had previous experiences with mythological concepts. Good for you. But some, such as myself, would probably find the challenge too daunting to join. So to those of you who submitted an entry for this round, you deserve my utmost appreciation. Goodness knows my work would be garbage compared to your brave masterpieces. (Yes, they would really would be garbage; my past submissions on similar rounds seem to confirm these failures.)

It’s unfortunate to see less competitors for this round; not only did some of the dropped had cool ideas, but it also makes picking out the best even harder.

Many songs had good myths, but the ones that made the biggest impressions to me are the myths that are clear and unheard. I love learning new myths, and I was interested to research some for the fun of it. And as for the chorus-free requirement, I probably didn’t care for verse-only songs as much as I did for ones with an evolving structure.

Understanding the limitations of the round, I was prepared to listen with lenient ears and to accept whatever projects were pushed forward. Thankfully, you guys have made a good effort sticking close to the challenge. Even to those who’ve I felt skirted close to getting in trouble, I didn’t have to think hard whether you passed the challenge or not. Again, excellent job!


Reviews


Governing Dynamics – Wax Wings
Rank: 1
Score: 46

Challenge – 10
Actually, I haven’t heard any songs about Icarus, or at least I don’t think so. Heard of the myth, but not the details of the story. I hope it pleases you that you are the first person to tell me the myth.
Lyrics - 5
Part I reads vague and shapeless, Part II seems lofty, and Part III plays drastic regret—and they all fit rather well in a progressive platform.
Composition - 6
This was quite a journey, from beginning to end. I can feel the change of settings between the parts like the shifts of biomes in a video game. Quite imaginative and extensive.
Songcrafting - 7
What elevates this song to the top spot is the audacity to turn this Greek tragedy into three succinct acts that stand well apart or with each other. Part II is my favorite. Best piece of the round.
Arrangement - 4
Diverse and refreshing. New sounds for new parts, showing how much you cared to make this epic.
Performance – 4
What is that instrumental (?guitar) solo in Part 2, with the weak attack/bendy effect? I must know how you did that.
Recording - 4
I couldn’t have asked for a better mix.
Judge’s Whim - 6
It’s not a perfect song, but isn’t that the beauty of the myth? Reaching for epic but falls apart by its mortal weight? Regardless, this took the challenge head-on and successfully transformed your idea into the most memorable entry of the round. Brilliant job.


Ominous Ride – Sisyphus
Rank = 2
Score = 45

Challenge = 10
I actually never heard of the story of Sisyphus, so I’m glad you have clarified the story. Despite a repeating tag ending, I sense no chorus here, so excellent job.
Lyrics = 6
The right kind of words for an ancient setting. The characters are well crafted and differentiated.
Composition = 7
There is a grand variety of music. Nothing wild or out of control, but enough transformations to deliver the change of situation for Sisyphus.
Songcrafting = 6
One type of verse after another, a duet of narrators, a rolling tag line. It’s quite a form of elaborate story-telling, and yet everything ties together quite smoothly.
Arrangement = 3
The arrangement does well to keep the song flowing.
Performance = 4
The Zeus part was a brave performance. It reminds me of a judge delivering a sentence. Very, very effective.
Recording = 3
Nothing wrong can be pointed out. I’m glad the vocals and their various doubling tracks carry the song more than anything else.
Judge’s Whim = 6
I don’t find it as charming as your first entry, but this song managed to be even more intelligent and thoughtful. This came very close to take my top rank for the round, by marginal differences. And to top it all, I wished the ending hadn’t ended so soon. Let him keep pushing!—Sounds too good to stop.


Megalodon – Cassandra
Rank: 3
Score = 45

Challenge = 8
I really loved this pick! Not sure how I’ve come across this myth before. So you got the myth requirement done pat. Unfortunately, out of all entries, this managed to tread dangerous waters for non-chorus. The tempo appeared slow enough to make out the last two lines of the stanzas seem like a chorus. It’s especially tricky when you repeat them at the very end.
Lyrics = 6
I’m not sure if this really describes the actual myth of Cassandra, but I really admire how you connect it to modern society. I am also amazed with the rhyme scheme—smart and fun. And the Stevie Nicks’ tricks line is my favorite of the round.
Composition = 6
Everything fits the feel of what I expect from the myth, but what really stands out is the off-beat bar for the secondary lines. It gives such a master touch.
Songcrafting = 7
Flowy and smooth. I can’t find any problems, but if I had to pick on it, I suppose I should note it’s not as bold as previous entries. Not a bad decision. Should you make it, you’ll need to reign some of this control for the last round.
Arrangement = 4
For some reason, I find this as a strange but good Greek taste. Down to last ding.
Performance = 4
The guitar solo was kinda funky, but it was well executed and the song needed it.
Recording = 4
Everything is well blended.
Judge’s Whim = 6
If only the chorus-crisis was resolved, this would’ve been my top rank. I didn’t know it, but this is the song I was hoping to hear. Thank you for making it.


Mark Humble – Waiting For Persephone
Rank: 4
Score: 43

Challenge - 8
I’ve heard of Persephone, but I didn’t realize her role in the whole Greek mythology. After doing my research, I can conclude you did well to reflect the myth. I wonder, though, what you call those stanzas. Verses? I would’ve thought they would then need to be more descriptive. It doesn’t matter; I hardly feel them as choruses.
Lyrics - 6
I’ve always been a fan of minimalism. Simple words bring clear imagery.
Composition – 6
Excellent tempo and time signature for a waiting mood.
Songcrafting - 6
The gentle delivery really brings a pleasant maturity.
Arrangement - 4
Excellent blend of instruments. Very calming.
Performance - 4
Very controlled, but still organic.
Recording - 4
Can hear nothing wrong.
Judge’s Whim - 5
Goodness, you can do any style! From heartbreak to harshness to holistic. You’ve made quite a fan out of me.


Jeff Brown – Orion (Shadow)
Potential Rank: 5
Score: 41

Challenge – 9
Having taken various space classes, the story of Orion is more familiar to me than most myths. But your description on the Bandcamp page adds a couple more details that was worth remembering.
Lyrics - 5
I’m nervous how many times you’ve used the line “The Archer and the Thief”. It consumes almost as much as a third of the song. But the minimal approach leaves more room for the pensive imagination to take over.
Composition - 5
Chord-wise, this isn’t so much more different than the previous effort, despite a stronger strum rhythm. Yet somehow, this time, I feel the simplicity adds a primal element. Very reminiscent of a mature camping setting under an open night sky.
Songcrafting - 6
I found the song a little on the long side, perhaps because it was a little on the slow side. But to be sincere, I can’t imagine how it can be shortened or hastened any more.
Arrangement - 3
The very subtle guitar track under-laying the rhythm guitar makes such a good difference, like the warmth of a campfire glow.
Performance – 3
With very minor faults, nothing significantly detracts from the effect of the entry.
Recording - 4
Much cleaner than your last entry. Some white noise during the quitter attempts, but honestly, not a big deal.
Judge’s Whim - 6
I was really impressed with this entry. The dynamics, especially the cut off at the “Draw fast” line, seriously elevates the song. Sucks that it’s a Shadow. But that’s how it goes in Spintunes: some of the best songs I’ve heard were Shadows. Thank you so much for sharing!


Emperor Gum – Pyramus
Rank: 5
Score = 40

Challenge = 8
I’ve never heard of Pyramus, yet I feel like I should have. So this was before Romeo and Juliet? Interesting. Well, you get points for making me research. It’s a myth I think more people should know.
Lyrics = 5
The lyrics cover the myth generally and well enough, even though I might have desired more specific storytelling. Although it seems a little on the light side, perhaps I should be thankful. Shorter myths seem slightly more attractive.
Composition = 6
Much like a play about a myth, the music is creatively segmented, and the change of tempos between the sections highlight a thoughtfulness to the feel of the story. Quite fresh.
Songcrafting = 6
My favorite part is the “Thisbe” motif, which is played at the very end for her death. A simple addition to a song that resonates well with me.
Arrangement = 4
Instrumentation fits the theme nicely. Low woodwinds seems perfectly brooding for the upcoming death.
Performance = 2
The last lines feels like an unraveling in the singing. I suppose that matches the instability of the story’s situation.
Recording = 3
I sense nothing wrong here to note.
Judge’s Whim = 6
The “We’ll run away” tempo-shifting made the whole song shine a bit more. It’s not a technique I typically see on Spintunes, so thank you for adding the nice change.


Glen Raphael – Elisha The Prophet
Rank: 6
Score = 38

Challenge = 8
Using a biblical character was to be expected, but the story of Elisha is quite a pick. However, I find this song dancing uncomfortably close to the no-chorus boundary of suspicion. Twice, in fact: first felt at the lines of “holiest of holies”, which take the stanzas in strong parallels; second felt at the very end, which I will conclude is a tag line without a verse between the repeats.  
Lyrics = 6
It’s not the most cohesive story, but I appreciate all the little narrative nuggets throughout the song.
Composition = 5
The composition is creatively OK. I guess I was hoping for more magic/miracle exclamations of sound.
Songcrafting = 5
It gives the impression that Elisha was all over the place, practicing his many magical powers. I’d say this was successful.
Arrangement = 3
I didn’t know if I liked the choice of style of the song, but for some it fits perfectly with the imagery of kids getting mauled by bears. It’s like a gruesome scene where the music says “yeah, so that happened”.
Performance = 3
Quite a gospelly “saved” on the third stanza. Something fun about that.
Recording = 3
Pretty clean and nothing wrong.
Judge’s Whim = 5
Aside from the humor in the third verse, the consistent tone throughout the song isn’t as fun as I want it to be. But I do think it is enjoyable, despite some dark bits here and there.


Edric Haleen – Is That Too Much Too Ask? 
Rank: 7
Score = 38

Challenge = 6
I suspected someone would pull the Jesus card on the mythological scene, an idea completely understandable. What makes this song special is how it brings the myth to present day, and no other song seems to see connect the mythology to the people who celebrate it. A very creative angle.
Lyrics = 6
I’d be a fool not see the many layers of wit. My only point I’d like to make is that this song focuses a lot into the development of the myth, and not so much on the base of the story or character.
Composition = 7
Classic Edric. It’s the stuff that makes you the myth to celebrate. Wonderful work.
Songcrafting = 6
In your dramatic fashion, both sides of words and tunes blend well into excellent storytelling. Just when I think you’ve reached the pinnacle of your skills in dynamics, you come out with another song that expresses even more emotion.
Arrangement = 2
I guess I was expecting something that sounded more in the style of Christmas. Perhaps that would really complete the satire.
Performance = 4
The “War” bit is riveting. It’s very powerful amidst the expected message of “peace on earth” for the holiday.
Recording = 3
Yes, the piano is well welcomed back.
Judge’s Whim = 3
It feels a little more Edric and a little less Jesus. And I happen to love Christmas. Brilliant song, though.


Jailhouse Payback – The Story Of Xenu And The Revolt In The Stars
Rank: 8
Score: 37

Challenge = 8
Xenu is an interesting pick, as I think many people today still hold this to be true. Although I’m not one of them, I was very enlightened with your descriptive narration. I guess the lack of exposure makes this feel like a myth.
Lyrics = 6
The story sounds so crazy I want to believe it’s not true. I imagine the myth is very extensive, perhaps too much to capture in a three-minute song. Still, the amount of details were stitched together in such a personal way quite successfully.
Composition = 4
I’m not so thrilled with the music. Such complicated vocabulary deserve a more complex composition. Otherwise, it’s a looped-up repeat of music with very subtle addition of layers. It sounds like you were afraid to explore outside of verses.
Songcrafting = 5
Despite my disapproval of the unchanging music, the whole concept of the story-telling singing sounds oddly fitting for the lengthy story of Xenu. In fact, most of the dynamics of storytelling is found in the singing. But when the title claims “Revolt in the Stars”, I’m expecting to feel the revolt. This just sounds slightly complacent.
Arrangement = 2
Banjo, take three. Not sure if Xenu would approve. I think he wanted something more mystical.
Performance = 3
Not too shabby in the country delivery.
Recording = 4
Clean and tasty. Nice and punchy.
Judge’s Whim = 5
Please be safe. After this song, I don’t want to hear on the news how scientologists bagged you away.


Rob From Amersfoort – Pygmalion & Galatea
Rank: 9
Score = 37

Challenge = 9
Pygmalion is not a foreign concept to Spintunes; I believe I heard a couple of takes on the story in past competitions. It works well here in this round.
Lyrics = 5
Tricky to put the stanzas with the “fantasy” lines. They appear like some sort of pseudo-chorus, but I’m trying to be lenient.
Composition = 5
I’m kind of disappointed with the simplicity, when compared to your last entries. I’m not sure why you stuck with an A-B format, even with the instrumentals.
Songcrafting = 5
Everything fits how a song should be. Very safe, but aside from the very beginning and end, it is unfortunately not as memorable as I wished it could be.
Arrangement = 3
It’s a clean blend, nothing much to note.
Performance = 3
No faults could be found. Good job!
Recording = 2
I can’t hear the vocals very well.
Judge’s Whim = 5
Well, I like the song. But it’s so clean, when I’ve grown quite fond to the psychedelic twists and turns of your usual music. For a Round 3 entry, this was the time to pull out more creative risks.


James Young – Unbound
Rank: 10
Score: 36

Challenge - 8
At first, I wasn’t sure what the myth was supposed to be until I went on the Bandcamp page for the lyrics. Prometheus is a good pick, especially when, I hate to admit, I only heard lightly about him.
Lyrics - 5
The lyrics successfully explains the role of Prometheus to society.
Composition - 5
The heavy rock sound feels a tad bit too slow to grab my full attention. Leans more on dreamy than on strength.
Songcrafting - 5
There isn’t anything particularly wrong with it. It actually reminds me of Creed, but much better and much more focused.
Arrangement - 3
Yes, it’s the right instruments for the important Prometheus.
Performance - 3
Pretty daring to bring some harsh vocals.
Recording - 3
Sounds pretty standard.
Judge’s Whim - 4
I know this was going for power, but I can’t bring myself to follow along. I apologize for this analogy, but it reminds me of the last motorcyclist in a riding gang of bikers, seemingly struggling to catch up to the front and gain the star attention.


Ross Durand  – Sympathy For Hades
Rank = 11
Score = 35

Challenge = 8
A song for Hades is satisfying enough, but inviting me into his point-of-view was an intelligent mode to show me his mythological world. I didn’t get it at first, but you convinced me that this direction of the song was definitely the way to go.
Lyrics = 5
The point-of-view gives the song a personal connection, with lots of “you”s and “I”s. It was unexpectedly pleasant.
Composition = 4
Although there are times of well-placed slow-downs in the music, it feels rather bread-and-butter for a dark song about Hades.
Songcrafting = 5
No, I don’t see or feel any choruses, but I have a hard time distinguishing any stanza from another verse.
Arrangement = 2
The blend doesn’t sound as dark as I expected. It sounds like a fun ride with Hades.
Performance = 3
Nothing to note here. Well done, especially the ending.
Recording = 4
Sounds clean.
Judge’s Whim = 4
This is not a bad song in any respect, and I think you know that. But this is Round 3, and in my world of how I rank, your tune may have turned out too safe among the bolder entries.


Conclusion
Well, thankfully, I didn’t need to pull a third all-nighter for this review. But this round was not easy to judge. I found the submissions from the previous round much more addicting. Here, it’s about the creativity to make a good song while completing a difficult challenge.

Good luck to the four finalists. But to those who stayed with us every round, despite making it or not, I want to send my personal thank you for your hard work. It was a lot of fun to listen!