Saturday, July 29, 2017

ST13R2 Reviews: Denise Hudson

Dear Spintuna-fishies.
Here are your reviews. This was a hard round. The judges’  opinions were widespread and the ranking proper is obstreperous and snarly. I apologize if anyone feels butthurt or saddened by these Results. Please know that everyone did so very well and you are all clever and your music is muchly appreciated. I was glad that you gave me the opportunity to listen to your songs and give you feedback. I never quite know what to say and I did my best to mention something that will help you to grow and also to convey that In Fact your song is appreciated by me. I could be either all negative or all positive but I would like to do neither in this instance. Everyone wants to improve; and everyone would like to read something nice about themselves. I hope I have provided some information here, and if you would like to know any more ever from me; I can give you a more comprehensive critique should you ever want that. About songwriting, my thoughts on production, my thoughts on performance, or whatever you like. This is not hugely comprehensive and is just a small judge-y taste of my thinking, otherwise I’d go into line by line depth and probably write reams.

Thank you for your songs.
Yours
Denise H.


BOY ON THE WALL - ALL THE WAY UP
I listened to this quite a few times and it is SOOOO catchy and well done. All the ingredients of this are right and just so. Your verses were clever, catchy, and meaningful without being precious or preachy. Your production seemed effortless and casual and seemed to get out of the way of good songwriting, facilitating the topic. Your bridge/outro didn’t do what bridges normally do, which is annoy me (as a songwriter I’m WAY over bridges and have bought into being spoon-fed the catchy)— in fact, I think that a bridge needs to either fully justify itself and either be the most amazing bridge we have all ever heard; or get in and then GTFO and you really did that they best way ever by ending the damn song … this is nice when you have a song you would rather not have end. Also I am usually super picky as well about obtrusive synth parts that are frat-party-tuneful, but this one just came across hooky as $#’’*&. This is great. And I am crusty and cynical and could use a letter back through time myself.  πŸ˜ƒ

MEGALODON - MIXTAPE 1987
This was easy to hear, effortlessly clever, and riddled with pleasant and skillfully nestled references and easter eggs. Like a well planned ice skating routine where it LOOKS easy, but you know that the dismounts take skill to pull off. Story telling-styled structure holds tight within production that doesn’t outshine content and showcases the lead line to enormous effect. I genuinely enjoyed fully ignoring your liner notes and trying to guess the clues for myself … and I’m never confused or left holding my breath thinking ‘wow…you sure have showcased amazing *musicianship/engineering* here, but I’m just not connecting emotionally .... This one is just solid good times and nostalgia I can taste. AND it really was good storytelling, sonically and lyrically. πŸ˜ƒYay.

MICAH SOMMERSMITH - TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
This is charming, weave-y, hooky, and clever. The instrumentation is unobtrusive and the songwriting can’t be argued with. Your singing fits the genre well, and the genre fits the song once again and doesn’t weigh itself down in the sort of way that overly genre-ed songs do that will never rise above themselves. Your production is in the pocket and you aren’t crutching on the fact that you’re The Accordion Guy which is really kind of Metal considering you’re up against all these bands and singer songwriter guitar/piano/uke/midi/whatever things all the time. And the song, I appreciate the message SO VERY MUCH and I wish that I’d written this letter to MYSELF, frankly. It IS okay to stay home!

ALEX VALENTINE - 12 YEARS PAST
I appreciated this song on a DEEPLY cellular and political level, and you pulled it off with sheer emotional drama and good instrumentation choices and a solid knowledge of your genre. Perhaps it is just because this is where we are stuck politically now, when there are so many letters from a much nicer future that seem to be sadly lost in transit for these unkind times. Consistent songwriting with poignant lyric choices are very appropriate to your perspective and age/timeline-in-life—a massive kick definately channels Green Day both literally and sonically alongside jangly guitar right into the angst-ridden chorus rise. Really good storyteller anthem with a LOT of emotional impact; genre choice showcases your headspace to great effect. I am still not in love with your vocal yet as part of the whole mix, but I think it’s growing on me as part of the sonic package.

JERKATORIUM - STEADY ON
This is a damn good song, with damn fine vocals and damn fine production. I don’t think that we have the same kind of preferences and mixing ears. This is a personal feeling thing, because I can intellectually tell you that things are balanced nicely but probably for a different kind of listening preference to mine. Perhaps some things about the guitar tone, or when drums are busy and when they are not, etc. Still, always skillfully played and nothing inappropriate in the least. I CAN say that this round, the songwriting came through clear and I was not distracted by the bang-and-whistle of engineering choices; your map was tight and your lyrics pulled me into the structure. THIS is an example of a bridge that did what I feel bridge is meant to do, and a well-placed and welcome guitar solo. 'Steady On’ chorus hook is fantastic, but this just barely misses being a hit for me. I did genuinely enjoy this song though.

GLEN RAPHAEL - DEAR ME
This song bounced around in the rank more than any other on my list. It’s tuneful and charming and makes a great story. I think that it’ll be so nice as a regular part of your set perhaps—because it’s clever and also endearing and personal. As a produced recording, it suffers in comparison to some of the others and you sound like you are singing cafe-charm from a well, but as your style is really adorable perhaps this really SHOULDN’T be compared here to the other kids on the song-playground and should run and breathe freely in a busking situation with the other song-children in front of other open guitars cases asking passersby for spare change on a moonlit boardwalk. Also, I feel the same way about Apple stock. So unfair. But your vocals really do the trick in these minstrel-stylings.

GOVERNING DYNAMICS - TO A STUBBORN YOUNG MAN IN THE YEAR 1998
There is some stuff going on here that I think of as Classic Governing Dynamics, which is just fantastic—since this is the letter to your young self. This is some Deep Sigh Shit right here. Your vocal is handled extremely well and is emo and quavery without being lazily-pitchy and you sound vulnerable and wistful. This goes with the lighter/darkness that is a Governing Dynamics Thing. Example. The thing you did when you hit what I think of as your ‘money line,’ where you said “Don’t waste your time /PAUSE/ trying to be …perfect” (and then you hit the change, and it was coupled with the tone and the tempo. These are the little things, the builds and the GOOD DECISIONS that are heart grabs and make you sound different from other people. If you expanded this song out to a big rock ballad, this will surely be a hit, and you should Do This.

SARA PARSONS - Better
Your brother is correct. Letters do not usually have choruses. But the way you handled your short verses with that drawn out, exquisitely harmonize-able note in the center made your extremely simple 2-line choruses so impactful that you could have built an extremely solid bridge off of your concept ‘to breathe,’ perhaps only including your "stop and smell the roses” concept. In my opinion the bridge goes on for an extremely long time. The song could do with being shorter, perhaps tighter in structure with some trimmed down content ideas. Where and what to cut down is entirely up to you, because the song is obviously deeply personal and you’re the content queen. Listening to your songs makes me wonder if nit picking about production and worrying about that hint of distortion you get when the vocal volume swells up is beside the point. Your songwriting work always stands out even if you are, literally, singing out of a well and somebody accidentally recorded you from a field far away. The instrumentation was a better showcase than last round for you, at any rate.

ROB FROM AMERSFOORT - DEAR 15-YEAR-OLD ME
A wise and comforting message from a ghostly emissary who comes across as a bit macabre and dramatically cinematic. This letter came across well and I really felt that the instrumentation and engineering choices (particularly as related to the development in your song)—as well as your abrupt and final end were an appropriate setting for your content. You come across as a kind of removed narrator in your music—and I thought that perhaps it was your accent, but I think that it is your production and some of your layering choices and your panning that makes things seem this way. Your pronunciation and instrumentation choices were great, by the way. All things worked in your favor, the field was tough this time and first round your stop song tempo was lush and stellar. Either way you slice it you are unique and always seem to have an ethereal flair.

EDRIC HALEEN - TO MY FIFTEEN YEAR OLD SELF
I really thought your song was clever and funny. I actually feel a bit gleeful when you ‘break the challenge.’ You went up and down a lot in the rankings too and here you are actually lower than I’d like because you wrote a goodly bit of dialoge-ing scene work/operetta-things that embedded one or two good songs. I counted one full song in the middle with a easy to grab on to structure but knowing you there were probably a few more and some that over-lapped, songs-within-songs. This is exhausting and also this wins for musical of the round. I thought you did THAT quite cleverly and I am still feeling a little guilty for not putting you higher. There is a LOT of dialogue. This is what you do. And you even said in your bio (please note, I NEVER read bios), that you did not like the challenge. This was kind of a problem. You ironically solved the problem and paid tribute to a hero of yours as well. And while some would argue and perhaps be right that this fits your formula and is not a ‘song,’ per se, you did this well and you get away with it and you frame it correctly and you amuse me because I wasn’t terribly fond of the challenge either. I laughed at the beginning.

JOANN ABBOTT & M.A.T. - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO WE!
You are extremely well served by an amazing and subtle arrangement behind you. Taking critique close to heart, orchestration is subtle, not busy, and appropriate. A bit preachier than I like, but I’m not taking any points off for that, and also I know you’re a grandma πŸ˜ƒ I also appreciated that your vocal did not sound like it was coming out of a well like a shrill gnome giving me unsolicited advice quite divorced from the mix it was intended to reside in. Things sounded more professional and smooth. Lyrics and ideas were showcased well and nothing was too precious or over the top. This was also awesome right before PigFarmer Jr.’s ‘DON’T EAT THE SHROOMS…’ which Evil Me appreciated.

KEVIN SAVINO-RIKER - CATCH-22
Beautiful voice as always and as usual; and these are definitely lyrics that are more up to par for you (I realized that you had a bit of a rush for last time, which I did not know before πŸ˜ƒ ). But it is certainly your way to still meander a lot and to tell a long story. This time it is a more structured story and it is tighter and easier to follow as a structured song. Your lyricism as I said before shines here, and your title/hook is one of the stronger ones in the round…but it gets lost here in exposition and overall song length. You, like me, are a person who would probably benefit from a band, a map, some structure, and some production; and it would be interesting to see you as a front man/songwriter forced by a producer into the structure of a tight hit—but would it crush your soul as these things often do? I find that these things do… πŸ˜ƒ

MELISSA  PHILLIPS - FOR YOU
I keep thinking that you would make a honey of a country singer and I keep forgetting the song you just sang the minute it goes away but your voice lingers on. It’s really a beautiful voice. Going back and hearing it again, and reading your words—there really is no reason that things should not be locked in because your structure is great and you’re writing the song and doing all the right stuff in all the right places. It’s just that I’m not remembering the hook. It could be that the melody is a little to stepwise here and reliant upon your good vibrato and a driving strum and a pretty mix. It would be good in the car and you’re nice to listen to and easy on the ears. Once again, sing a hit song, with a singer like Kevin or Glen or Sara or whoever else and you’re unbeatable.

JAMES YOUNG - HEY YOU
Almost more than any other, this read the most gently and most like a well written letter. The LENGTH benefitted from it not being a nine page letter. Short, sweet, and a nice non-sectioned page. So enjoyable and just a really nice musical ride through the concept. There was something weird about this one that I can’t put my finger on and I really wish that I’d had more time with it than a few days of a week, although it was short. Your vocal fit it well and it was really well done and layered. So subtle and sensitive. Not really much else to say except I wish I had MORE to say and I wish that you hadn’t suffered from competition. I’ll regret scoring you this low later. Maybe it was that little tambourine sound that did you in, but that just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Your vocal was really nice and there was something eerie and beautiful about this, from the moment the guitar began. I’m sorry this review sucks.

LITTLE BOBBY TABLES - HINDSIGHT
I appreciate the earnestness of this effort. Things like the cleverness of certain rhymes (‘gotta warn ya / California’) and the directness of your self-reference make this song really fit its hard rock drive. It’s got that classic feel of the classic rock inner-conflict song where you have a two characters warring inside the one personality, and that drive of a nostalgic vamp made me want to listen to some Heart or Pat Benatar or the Cars or something. Nice strong chorus breaks up a song that is real, real long. Vocal was a bit grating at that length—but perhaps this added to the genuineness, even if it didn’t give it a professional flair. I wouldn’t worry too much about that band, you’re doing fine now. $#@& Enron.

W8 WHAT - TO MY TEEN SELF
You were clever in the first round and you are clever now—with your premise mildly hysterical and the clever over-rhyming and almost robotic treatment on the voice pairing well with an easy-listening accompaniment that reminds me of a futuristic dentist’s office. Lyrics are cute but clunky alongside the bouncy time and tempo, but supremely relatable—having plot and almost an excess of substance.  Song does not outstay it’s welcome and ends well and definitively, but I had to go back again to remember your hook.

JAILHOUSE PAYBACK - DON’T LET MOM AND DAD
I liked your story and your structure, and your hook was familiar and swingy and this was cool enough in an Americana kind of way—but when your vocal comes in and starts telling the story I want it to be tighter and … just different. I really wanted your vocal to match up and reside unmistakably in the same sonic space with the silky production of the rest of the song. The hook was really great—cute and funny and audiophile preachy in a ‘don’t lose your music license cuz you don’t know the band’ kinda way … but like the wax God intended, I wanted everything to be super appropriate and beyond reproach if I was gonna listen to your younger self get told that it’s little old heart didn’t have The Right Sort of Taste. It made my young heart sad about all the crap I loved as a young’un (and honestly, a bit judged).

MATT WALTON - HEY ME YOU PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO HEAR THIS
For some reason this made me sad and also like I was camping in the woods somewhere. Lyrics frank and honest and probably more than a boy your elder-ag-you can deal with hearing these Hard Truths from which made me even more sad and like you needed a good Renaissance Fair. You are doing your own style a goodly amount of justice and I think that if your recorder part had played more of an accompaniment this had been shorter and tighter this would have fared better. This is a tough field. I do so love your recorder tone, I have to say; and perhaps shorter verses traded with tiny soloistic recorder refrains would be a cool letter-form tone-poem. But also you had a lot to say and that’s fine too.

JORDAN CAROL - SCHOOL REPORT
Once upon a time, this was a clever idea and a cute rap. It was distorty in the future, and I thought the horns were even grate-ier as an older 40-something year old than I did as a younger middle aged judge. The style of rap, which I feel I might have heard somewhere before, was very 80s evocative. Lyrics great but maybe you have borrowed them from somewhere, perhaps your mom or older brother. Something about the presentation of it and the fuzzy feel of it in my ears got on my cat’s nerves but I told her to shut up and stop trying to steal my sandwich. Y’all are funny. Reaganomics bites.

*SHADOWS* (in no particular order)

\alpha.*(Bb)eta\ - STOP!
It’s a damn shame that this arrived too late for wildcard reinstatement, because with this, you proved that you were really serious with content, message, and build. And that perhaps we were wrong, wrong, wrong to have eliminated you. You do genre hopping well, and also s strong vocal, a consistent groove and respectable structure for a dj mix to hang its possible hat on, it had serious hook. I’d follow this band. You are catchy as &*#@ … definitely what Cherry Pi wishes she was as the Iconopop of Spintunes.

PIGFARMER, JR.
Dude, you need a Grammy award. OUTSTANDING, once again. This goes on RE-PEAT. Some great production from some continuously funny shiz.

RED WATCHER - AS LONG AS THEY CHOOSE
I found your bio about Bossa Nova wry and entertaining and your piano sample really kind of oddly melancholic and appropriate. My ears pricked. Your voice is really gorgeous and your playing smooth and easy. References are beautiful and this would have scored high and competitively in the mix. Lyrics are a bit florid, but it fits the style, and you are referencing Pink Floyd and our own Governing Dynamics, for goodness sake!