Saturday, March 21, 2020

SpinTunes 16 Round 4 RESULTS


nuclear explosion mushroom cloud atomic bomb free photo
SpinTunes 16 Champion!
Had to go with the explosion. 
Fireworks don't contain enough heavy metal

Temnere wins the coveted no-prize, and also earns a spot as a judge in our next contest, where he can give as well as he received.

And this, Ladies and Gentlebeings, is why you shadow.

Thanks to everyone who participated, and special thanks to the judges (Micah Sommersmith, Joe Lamb, Russ Rogers, Mary Ann Randall, and Travis Langworthy, as well as William Hoover); to Tom Giarrosso for his deft performace as MC at our listening parties; and to Matt "Shoobs" Schubbe for the exquisite cover art.

Be sure to check out the Two Jerks One Vote podcast, on which Temnere coincidentally appears as a special guest!

Here's the voting:

Steve Stearns
Ross Durand
Boffo Yux Dudes1234
Faster Jackalope4312
Governing Dynamics3124
Jocko Homomorphism4123
Lichen Throat4312
Menage a Tune1234
Mike Lamb3214
Nick Work4213
Ominous Ride3421
PigFarmer Jr1243
Ross Durand2431
Steve Stearns1432
The Brewhouse Sessions2314
Timothy Patrick Hinkle3214
Vowl Sounds4213


Steve Stearns
Ross Durand
Dr. Lindyke1432
Mary Ann1423

As you can tell from the above, a number of competitors did not make the deadline for rankings. I waited an extra hour before closing submissions, so late entries will not affect the rankings and results as reported above. Nevertheless, if you'd like to have your voice heard, send them in and I'll post them here.

Jerkatorium: 1. Temnere, 2. Steve Stearns, 3. Jerktorium, 4. Ross Durand.
[editorial comment: not voting for yourself is laudably honest, though borderline Darwin-worthy]

ST16R4 REVIEWS - Joe Lamb

Joe asked me [Dave]  to pass on this message:

I found it hard to see most of the songs meeting the challenge, but Mandibles would have won it for me across the board.

For Joe's rankings,  see the results page.

ST16R4 REVIEWS - Micah Sommersmith


This challenge had lots of possible ways to interpret it, although the title of the challenge had me worried we’d have a bunch of joke songs about stupid people dying. Fortunately, there was some very nice variety in the directions people took - which of course can make ranking difficult. Lucky for me, my votes don’t matter all that much this round. With that it mind, here are all the entries in their original album order:


Steve Stearns - Surf of Die
The production is impeccable, and those electric piano sounds are oh so tasty. The melody is not very sticky, and aside from the title none of the lyrics are particularly memorable either, so while I enjoy it while listening, as soon as it’s done I remember it only as that pleasant song about surfing while there are sharks around. It comes across as a comedy song, but comedy songs require actual jokes in the lyrics and not just a jokey premise.

Temnere - In Flames
In SpinTuneses past, your resolute commitment to your chosen genre has ultimately been your downfall, when you were asked to either provide a theme song for the community as a whole (ST14R4), or venture as far from your regular sound as possible (ST15R3). I don’t think that’s a problem here, as you lean into your strengths and deliver an undeniably epic listening experience.
Musically, you know exactly what you’re doing and you do it extremely well, so I’m not sure all that much feedback is necessary. I will offer three comments on the music, two positive and one negative.
Positive: I love the unison guitar+organ lines at 2:40, and the increasing vibrato on the word “done” at around 2:10 is very cool - it’s an effect I am used to hearing on electric guitars, especially in this genre. I don’t know how much you’re actually doing with your voice and how much is an effect in production, but I love it.
Negative: The instrumental intro is great, but the splash cymbal that hits every four beats for almost the entire first minute of the song gets old fast. I tiny thing but something I definitely noticed.
As for the lyrics, the general storyline of “leader fails to warn his people of impending catastrophe” is clear enough, but I need more details to fill in the very sketchy narrative. I THINK it’s about Trump and COVID-19? But maybe I’m projecting my own political biases onto the blank canvas of your song. One more tiny technical note: your use of the word “okay” feels out of place and anachronistic within the more formal tone of the rest of the lyrics.

Jerkatorium - Oh Pandora
Great choice of subject matter, and great title hook - it got stuck in my head instantly and has stayed there ever since. The verses don’t match the catchiness of the chorus (which I suppose is to be expected) and sort of get bogged down in their wordiness and exposition. I do like the Pandora-Eve connection you made, and I think that was very well done.
The instrumental backing is groovy but gets fatiguing, as it is fairly homogenous throughout the song - part of the problem is that there is no melodic/lead instrument until the guitar solo comes in. It also makes the shift from verse to chorus feel awkward and abrupt as the drums change to a new pattern with no warning - a guitar or organ fill or something leading into the change would help a lot.
The bells tolling after “that bell can’t be unrung” are a great touch, but - like your “Ya-hoo!”s in the last round - they’re buried so far in the mix that I they lose their impact. I had to rewind a few times to make sure I actually heard them and didn’t imagine it. If you’re doing something for effect you have to commit to it!

Ross Durand - One Last Drink
This song could benefit from a fuller instrumentation and/or trimming down the length - the barebones acoustic guitar and light percussion, combined with the very standard verse/chorus form, means the song starts to overstay its welcome.
But the story is fairly compelling, helped out by specific and concrete images in the lyrics - the wine glasses are low; her hand on my knee; picks me up by the hair; etc etc etc. The lyrics do the heavy lifting to carry the song forward - although the melody is decently catchy too - “One last drink, yeah one for the ro-o-oad” sticks in my head. Changing the lyrics of the last chorus to reflect on the poor decision is a great choice and wraps up the song nicely. I can imagine this as a barroom sing-along favorite, with the audience joining in for the choruses.


Glen Raphael - Hand Washing
This is a catchy ditty that I could imagine being used in a humorous PSA along the lines of the army cartoons with the infantryman who does everything wrong. The large number of verses and the same-ness of the music from one to the next means even its short runtime starts to drag while listening, but I bet this would work great as a group sing-along. Too bad there aren’t too many live music opportunities to share it at right now…

Jocko Homomorphism - Minnow (2020) - Marketing Pitch
I’m glad I don’t have to rank the shadows because I have no idea where I’d put this, but it succeeds brilliantly at what it sets out to do. The seriousness of the voice-over really sells it, along with the sound effects of the seagulls and the bell. The “SS Gill Lagan” is so brilliantly dumb.

Menage a Tune - BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
I get it the joke, and it’s consistently maintained throughout, but it’s just a bit too mean-spirited for me to enjoy (a danger inherent in this challenge). The chorus is memorable, but maybe because it’s almost identical to a polka whose name I can’t remember right now, and the verses feel similarly formulaic. The most musically interesting section is the (maybe racist?) bridge.

Micah Sommersmith - Nuclear
This was inspired by a recent article entitled “The nuclear family was a mistake” written by David Brooks, who I normally don’t expect to agree with all that much, but it was a compelling article about how upholding the model of parents and young children as a self-sufficient unit, at the expense of maintaining strong extended family and community ties, has weakened society as a whole. It’s a great article and my song wandered from the point a bit. I recorded it hastily on the night of the deadline, so the production is… not great, and the flaws in the vocal performance are very apparent to me.

Mandibles - Hurricane Camille
This is just as mean-spirited as Menage a Tune’s, in that it very deliberately finds humor in somebody dying stupidly, but this entry fully commits to wringing all the absurdity out of the situation that it can. The hurricane puns come in almost every line, and the expertly done island-inspired music fits the setting perfectly. I feel bad for laughing, but I’m laughing anyway.

Governing Dynamics - Sink
The melody and instrumental production are gorgeous here - the ebow is fantastic and I wish it featured more prominently throughout the song and not just in the introduction.
The lyrics set the tone and mood very well, although a few lines are very oddly phrased - e.g. “all WILL turn to mist” … “someHOW not well enough”. The song could use some revision of these and other lines, and maybe shortening a bit - the nearly 5-minute runtime feels long to me, but it’s a really lovely song on the whole.

Cavedwellers - Kissing Contest
Sorry, Song Fight is down the hall.

ST16R4 REVIEWS - Dr. Lindyke

FINAL ROUND! Dave here. And this round, having consulted with William Hoover, we're judging as Dr. Lindyke, who now takes over as "I" (it's like Firestorm... just go with it).

Here was the challenge:
Darwin Awards: Write a song about something that seemed a good idea at the time, but ended very badly. Maybe you should have given it a little more thought...
In addition, we gave you this very good piece of advice:
For a good idea of what we have in mind here, I suggest you look at the criteria for the actual Darwin Awards. Keep in mind that a Darwin Award does not require death.
I feel I have to point this stuff out because of an overwhelming tendency (among competitors and judges alike) to inadvertently overlook the challenge in the zeal to make a song. As for me, I'm going to judge you on exactly what you were asked to produce.

You can win a Darwin Award for some incredibly stupid choice leading to an absolutely ironic and avoidable result that removes you personally from the gene pool. And while you can survive, your reproductive ability cannot. Furthermore, you never, never, never get such an award for causing the deaths of others. Keep the consequences of your dumbassedness to yourself, please. For me, this made it pretty easy to sort the entries based on story, even when the musicality is impossible to rank. So don't expect a lot of feedback on your excellent music other than to say it's excellent.

I'll list these in order of preference, best first.

1. Steve Stearns - Surf or Die
You never disappoint, Steve. And neither does the ghost of your surfing doppelganger. Removal from the gene pool? Check. Stupid choice? Check. Targeted at the idiot? Check. The music is, as always, infectious. Solid, tight lyrics and solid musical craftsmanship. It's the one song from this group that I found myself just humming or whistling during the week. For me, you win. Let's see what the crowd says.
2. Ross Durand - One Last Drink
Nice attention to detail on this one. "One for the road" is both stupid and avoidable, but it's that kick "you know where" that wins the Darwin. And, you didn't even have to die to do it! You're getting dinged a bit for some difficult lyrical phrasing, but I think you know that was coming. No points off at all for the busking style, by the way. I'd throw some money in the guitar case.
3. Temnere - In Flames
I'm not ready to give this one a Darwin Award. It is literally overkill. And there's no indication that the protagonist actually removes himself from the gene pool. While I thoroughly enjoy the performance on every level; on grounds of weakly meeting the challenge, I can't let it break into the top two.
4. Jerkatorium - Oh Pandora
Guys, I love ya. But I've got the same problem here as with Temnere's entry. It's both overkill and not enough. Yup, she sets evil loose on the world; but Pandora herself (at least in this song)...? Meh. She just gets a bad rep and a new address. Besides, I don't think you adequately sold the stupidity of the decision. Give it some foreshadowing besides one "leave it alone" from your dumbass brother-in-law. How good could his advice be, anyway? The moron winds up chained to a rock getting eaten by birds. As you note yourself, she was set up. No Darwin.


Glen Raphael - Hand Washing (SHADOW) 
Cute song, but no Darwin. See above.

Jocko Homomorphism - Minnow (2020) - Marketing Pitch (SHADOW) 
No Darwin. If anything, Robert's chances of procreation have exponentially increased.

Menage A Tune - BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! (SHADOW) 
This gets not merely a Darwin, but are actual Darwin Award winners. I wouldn't exactly call the tune inspired (it's a pretty standard formula), but it's a neat concept and could be developed. I suspect you'll get grief for the 'politically incorrect' bridge. I wouldn't let that bother you too much. Ironic humor is a part of the Darwins, and this does describe an actual winner.

Micah Sommersmith - Nuclear (SHADOW) 
While it's a nice commentary on the suburban American nuclear family in the tradition of 'Little Boxes' and 'Pleasant Valley Sunday', I don't see anything actually Darwin-winning happening here. Societal malaise isn't what we're looking for. Now, if the "when this family goes nuclear" line were not metaphorical it would be a different story entirely. It still wouldn't be Darwin Award-winning (as the idiot wouldn't be taking out just himself), but at least it would be another story entirely.

Mandibles - Hurricane Camille (SHADOW) 
As a native son of Charleston, SC, I can tell you that hurricane parties are ABSOLUTELY Darwin-worthy!  Or can be, if you don't survive. I wish this were an official entry.  I'd have given it some love.

Governing Dynamics - Sink (SHADOW)
I'm SO glad you broke out the eBow. I love that thing. A nice anthem-ish tune going on here, not rambling at all. And good Darwin-worthy choice of subject. Listening to sirens at sea...? Not a good decision.

Cavedwellers - Kissing Contest (SHADOW) 
What's a Cavedweller? It's like a Jackelope, only slower. Unfortunately, getting sick ain't enough for a Darwin, with certain very specific exceptions that don't appear in this song.


[Re-joining us this round is Spin himself - Travis Langworthy]

(in Album Order)

Steve Stearns - Surf Of Die
Music sounded great, the vocals were good, and the lyrics flowed well.  I have no idea if surfers use the lingo that you gave them in the song, but it sounded ?surfery? to me.  I can’t really think of anything bad to say.  The lyrics were a bit humorous being so over the top with the stereotype, but it wasn’t a laugh out loud type funny.  The music set the tone & I was chill & relaxed the entire way through.  This will be hard to beat.

Temnere - In Flames
Doesn’t mention Trump or the coronavirus, but it’s kinda an obvious jump if this isn’t about that.  Doesn’t have to be though, you left it vague enough that people can fill in their own blanks.  Which is good.  I mean taking on politics in SpinTunes is very risky.  You get 1 judge who isn’t all that great at staying objective about your message & you’re at the bottom instantly.  The opening was a bit long, but it sounded killer, so I didn’t mind.  The instrumental bridge was again great.  I’ve got no idea if you brought your vocals up in the mix any from previous songs, but after the first listen, I listened again without reading the lyrics & I was able to pick up the vast majority of them.  There were still places I struggled a bit, but I don’t know if that’s just me or not.

Jerkatorium - Oh Pandora
This is great storytelling, and it’s another song I’d struggle to find anything bad to say about.  I think it would think this is a winner on most days.  After repeated listens I just don’t find the level of enjoyment I got from Steve or Temnere.  I think it’s because I don’t find the chorus as catchy.  It’s the “Oh Pandora” line.  Just doesn’t flow like I want it to when I’m singing I guess.  Stupid reason to knock the song?  Probably, but I’m struggling to find negatives with any of these songs.  So you just have to deal with it.

Ross Durand - One Last Drink
Again great storytelling.  A couple places that didn’t flow too well or seemed forced (backwards ABC’s).  The production was a lot simpler than the other songs, but that doesn’t really matter.  What you did fit the song, and it didn’t make it less entertaining.  At the moment you & the Jerks are in the same boat.  You got great songs that would normally win or have a good chance at it.  Unfortunately I got 2 other songs I can’t really find anything bad to say about.  I haven’t made my final rankings at the time of writing this, but I expect you both to fight over the 3rd & 4th spots.  Which says a lot about the level of songs in this round.


Steve Stearns
Ross Durand

SpinTunes 16 Round 4 Songs

The final round songs, with Darwin-Award-winning cover art by Matt "Shoobs" Schubbe.

Monday, March 16, 2020

SpinTunes 16 Round 4 Listening Party

Join us on YouTube at 9pm Eastern time for the  SpinTunes 16 Round 4 Finals Show, where a quarantined Tom Giarrosso will be hosting the event while on post - JoCo Cruise Self Quarantine!

11 world premiere songs and live chat with the artists themselves!

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

SpinTunes Round 3 Songs

Here are the songs, in order of finish, with outstanding cover art by Matt 'Shoobs' Schubbe!

Sunday, March 8, 2020

ST13R3 Reviews - Mary Ann Randall

There were so many great songs this round – but since it’s a contest, well, they have to be ranked! There’s so much talent here it’s crazy… I hope y’all are copyrighting this stuff. Just sayin’…

  1. Vowl Sounds – having a child graduating high school this year, this song really hit home for me.  If we all really admit it, a LOT of what we learn in high school is hard to understand how to apply in real life.  I think I heard that a million times from my daughter!  Not to mention all the over-romanticized experiences like prom, your senior year, being a cheerleader etc.  She cannot WAIT for college.  You had me at the line “nobody likes junior high except sychophants and psychopaths.”  I only ranked you down a little because of the cynicism was a little too noticeable and graduation is supposed to be a time of pride and inspiration – but you nailed the truth with the lyrics, you really did.
  2. Glen Raphael – Um, I really struggled on how to process this one. Another song where I’m thinking – is this cynical? Is this funny? Is it supposed to let us know it’s going to be ok?  I guess it depends on the listener…  I don’t know if it would be appropriate for a wedding though.  I liked the song,  the lyrics versus the tune was just a little confusing to me. 
  3. Nick Work – I like the kind of generic inspirational thing going on here, a folk rock let’s go drive somewhere and be free kind of thing.  And the guitar solo gave it absolute life.  I hope you’re performing this in public, it’s a song that should be shared and I think it would definitely be enjoyed by a wide variety of listeners.  Not super sure what “event” I would apply this to though…
  4. Good Guy Sojabe – I am so sorry Dude, even though my inner goth tried to like this I thought the music should have been much darker to go with the lyrics.  Another song becoming victim to trying to make the music “relatable” with some pretty dark unrelatable lyrics.  This song didn’t need channeling “The Cure” it needed some “Type O Negative”.  I’m gonna give you the same advice as I did Tenmere on the last challenge… if you’re gonna pick a lane, pick it and commit!!! 
  5. Outlyer – Awwwwwwww  the sincerity of this song just tugged at me.  It was really a genuinely sweet tribute!  I think maybe it was put together in a way that it came across a little clunky and preachy.  The only reason I marked it down was I just couldn’t see it performed outside a more “personal” setting like a teacher actually singing to their direct students. 
  6. Steve Stearns –  Okay so THIS is the narrative for 2020.  I love this song! Can I share it? 
  7. Bobby Matheson – Another sincere song that tugged at the old heart strings!  The singing was pretty raw though, but the song was super heart felt, and I think that was going outside your comfort zone and I felt like it contributed to the song being a little awkward to listen to.  Let it go next time and don’t be afraid to show your feelings 
  8. Faster Jackalope – I’m gonna confess I had this ranked low the first time I listened to it.  But the more I listened to it the more I liked it and started to get it.  A little pitchy in a few places but I had to be really really picky this round…  
  9. Ross Durand – The tune was pleasant enough – but the singing was a bit pitchy and again I had to be very picky this round.  It met the challenge, the song was sweet, the words were everything they needed to be, it was just a little too formulaic for me.  But I had to rank it because it’s a contest, and a really really really really tough round at that!!!!
  10. Governing Dynamics – I really enjoyed and got the “driving” feeling from this song.  I got what it was about the first time listening and it’s a great tune!   The only thing is I feel like it hit that “generic feel good” inspiration and seeing as to how there were SO many great songs this round, I had to apply the “how close did it meet the actual challenge” subject in order to make a ranking.
  11. Jerkatorium -  My daughter is graduating this year – and I can actually see us playing this song at her and her friends graduation party – you good if I do that?  HAHAHAHA you had me at the break with the sample of pomp and circumstance – brilliant!! 
  12. Temnere – I’m so PROUD of you!!  No wishy washy commitment on your entry this time and it worked!!!  Power ballad at its finest.  The only thing I can say is the ended could have been a little stronger strung out on those last few notes, I saw where you were going and it was just a wee abrupt on the very final follow through.  Could have been a longer fade out ending with the just the piano as an alternative imo.
  13. Jocko Homomophism – I get it lol but I wasn’t a fan of the tune.  I had very high hopes based on the intro and instrumental part but the singing needs some more work to make this work for me.  
  14. Menage a Tune – I wish you well – I think this is a nice song, I just think it needs to be performed stronger with a guitar and maybe some drums??
  15. Menage a Tune – Rainbow Bridge – I’m so sorry about your beloved fur baby
  16. Mandibles – This is a great tune – I liked it, I just think it didn’t make it due to relative perspective.  Maybe enter it into a future challenge? 
  17. Brewhouse – Not bad, just not inspiring.. good lyrics though!
  18. Just Ducky – Um all things considered, should be played at a high volume in every bathroom in America right now!!!  Not a contender, but I can see a purpose.
  19. The Quantifiers – I get the theme, but it’s just a no for me this time.  Maybe we need a new music genre for this?  Librarianist literary musical interpretative?  

Best Regards,

Mary Ann Randall

Saturday, March 7, 2020


You worked, you slaved, you created, and you were upbeat and uplifting on demand.

Let's see how that turned out.  Moving on to the final round are (in order of finish):

Steve Stearns
Ross Durand

Congratulations are in order for our finalists as well as everyone who has participated so far!

And keep shadowing! Temnere made it back from the brink of death and is moving into the final round. If (God forbid!) one or more of these four succumb to the dreaded deadline, any one of you who were just eliminated and the eligible shadows could actually still win this thing!

Here are the rankings and tallies:

JoeDave*MicahMary AnnRussTotal
Steve Stearns6271218
Ross Durand15611124
Nick Work51038531
Vowl Sounds86541134
Faster Jackelope71117834
Good Guy Sôjàbé934121240
“BucketHat” Bobby Matheson117109340
Governing Dynamics108951042
Glen Raphael412126943

“Eligible” Shadows **

Jocko Homomorphism

Menage a Tune


The Brewhouse Sessions

* scores used in place of reigning champion Zoe Gray.
** Bands that were eliminated for reasons other than disqualification, and which have submitted non-disqualifying shadows every round since their elimination

We had one deadline casualty, Caravan Ray.

The final round challenge has already been posted: [click here] to refresh your memory.

Good luck with it, and see you at the checkered (or chequered) flag.

ST16R3 Reviews - Joe 'Covenant' Lamb

Hello all.

This round was difficult in a way.  Beyond my top three I found it VERY hard to separate the rest of the pack. Tiny things made differences. But, (sorry) the drop from third to fourth was marked. For a round made of supposed uplifting songs, I just didn't feel it. Can a slow song be uplifting, yes, in a "You'll never walk alone" sort of way - but most of the songs in this round were just too slow and a bit cloiched, frankly to be uplifting at all.
(Or maybe I'm just too down because the entire family (except me) are down with the lurgy and I'm knackered)
Anyway, for better or worse.. here's mine in order of preference...
Ross Durand - Follow Your Heart 03:13
Ross... I would have loved to have sung this...
The 3/4 eight to the key change worked, but would have worked being a little longer.
This is my winner.
(And Ross, if it's not too cheeky... I'd love to have a go at this one.)
Jerkatorium - Something Right 02:28
Bouncy, fun, actually 'sounds' like a celebratory song.
They-Might-Be-Giants-ish... Well played and sung... 
Hard top say anything else about this!
Really close to being my top pick.. REALLY close.
Temnere - Unbreakable 03:57
Wonderfully played... musically excellent. 
(Really pleased to see you guys come back into the fray. (Manowar? More like TYR to me! :) ))
But again, vocals too low in the mix. And the chorus has the cheesiest of lines.. followed by a damned inspiring one! This is top three stuff! (But where was my hard rocking mid song instrumental and searing guitar solo???!!!)
Glen Raphael - Wedding Day 03:14
What do you get when you cross Edric Haleen with Brian Gray?
Beautifully played, well sung AND well mixed. I'd love to hear this redone as a straight song.
Shame about the very end.
Nick Work - Long Way (To Go) 03:30
Had throw the sound up for this one.
Nice build as well as some metaphors and stuff.
Reminds me of early Rush! Instrumental section should have been longer and more ambitious! :)
The key change just before the 3m mark was nice, but would have worked better in the middle of the song, for me.
Steve Stearns - People Be Kind 03:35
Check title.. No this ISN'T Dave Leigh!
Neither is it Mid Eighties Supertramp!
(I also thought it was gonna start with "People need hope.. people need loving..." (Abba))
Or Dean Freidman, or  Randy Newman... I think that was my problem, it was like so many other things it seemed unoriginal. Good, mid-level, song.
Faster Jackelope - The Matter Doesn't Matter 03:52
I like traffic lights... (that is what I said).
(Lyric on page doesn't gel with lyric on page but that's all the better for it.)
Musically ambitious and it works, the lyric strays a bit, as do the vocals.
Interesting entropic end, but sort of ruins the song.
Vowl Sounds - Graduation Day 03:28
A decent, run of the mill, pop rock song.
Reminded me of someone but for the life of me can't think who.
But again with the vocals fighting to be heard above the music at times.
I could not make out a word of the middle (3/4s) eight.
From what I could hear of the BVs they sounded well done. Good song, mix needs redone. 
Good Guy Sôjàbé - Bride 03:10
Ooooo sound effects! I always like a good sound effect!
Shades of Sisters of Mercy and that ilk... I liked it, but I kept waiting for it to get going, and it never did.It just didn't gel with me guys, sorry.
Governing Dynamics - Hello Kansas City 04:00
Is that line a quote? (Hello Kansas City you really showed up)" cos its a strange lyric to have written. A bit unwieldy. If it's not a quote, oh well... If it is... maybe shouldn't have hooked the song around it? It's all a bit.. bitsy and never really seems to get going, even with the "I'll ride this feeling" section which could have really taken off.
"BucketHat" Bobby Matheson - Perfect Together 05:09
OKay, this was not what I was expecting from Mr Matheson...
But, that's nothing to do with the judging.
The whole thing (vocally) sounds forced, and for over 5 minutes, it was just too much.
BVs were all over the place, a bit sloppy to be honest ( :( sorry) choice of instrument didn't help, especially as a solo instrument.
Should have finished at 3:22.
OutLyer - Congratulations 02:48
lyric is a wee bit tortured in places, but the music is gorgeous.
The melody just seems to basic for such a rich background.
(No Cliff Richard, though)    

Jocko Homomorphism - I Changed My Name (SHADOW) 03:05
Bouncy electro-pop - loved it - til the vocals came in. Nothing against the subject at all... But basing a whole song on "long" "strong" "song" "name" "same", just didn't hold me at all.
Menage A Tune - I Wish You Well (SHADOW) 02:04
Gimme a Gospel Chorus singing this! And it might just work!
This would have top five'd and is the best Menage a Tune song I have ever heard, ...
Menage A Tune - Rainbow Bridge (SHADOW) 01:16
... which is unfortunately followed by this one.
I can hear the heart behind this, but it doesn't work as a song, I'm afraid.
And the second half... okay... I see what you're doing, but...
Mandibles - You Are Free (SHADOW) 03:55
I loved this. Absolutely loved it. This would have won this round for me.
Well played, well sung, well mixed, great voals and better, great lyirc - poingnant without being cheesy or cliched. Superb. (But the BVs near the end almost blow it... mix em down a bit! :) )
The Brewhouse Sessions - You Are The Shining Star (SHADOW) 04:24
Musically excellent (Although George Harrison might sue you for nicking "My Sweet Lord"  :). Lyrically weak - not very uplifting however, seems way too plodding, and although it's only just over four minutes it seems way too long. (And I think you 'know' the "So many questions, no answers, rhythm, or rhyme " line doesn't work to well...)
Just Ducky - Wash Your Hands (SHADOW) 02:17
How very topical!
Kraftwerk do Public Information Films!
I kinda liked this... but then I'm weird.
(If this was Uber Auto-tuned (To beyond Cher standards) I think it would work even MORE!)
And the last line was superb. Uplifting, not really, so it would have been a DQ for me.. but as a song? Might have squeeeezed into the top five! :) )    
The Quantifiers - The Impossible Journey (SHADOW) 02:56 
Okay... let's talk "Phantom Tollbooth" I know both the book and the movie very well. So I appreciate the BARRAGE of references in this song. But that's it's problem. It's too dense and just become a list of things that happen. It's too simplistic and the lyric gets more and more tortured as it goes on.
I think you probably spent more time trying to work the book/film into the song, than you could have saved by just writing a song NOT about The Phantom Tollbooth. 
There's a lesson there...
(L-e-s-s-o-n... Lesson.)

ST16R3 Reviews - Micah Sommersmith


Before I dig into each individual song, I’d like to make some broader comments that will be more or less applicable to each song. In this round, we’ve asked you to write an “uplifting” song appropriate for a public event. Essentially we’ve asked you to write a song that is 1) emotionally impactful to 2) ideally, a broad group of people. (This is especially true for those who have gone with graduation/coming-of-age type events; weddings and funerals [or in one case, a wedding-funeral] are a little different, which I’ll get to.)

Writers (including songwriters) are often given the advice to be specific rather than general. This is certainly true in prose fiction - the details are what make a reader actually interested in the story. Leonard Cohen has been quoted giving the songwriting advice that "your most particular answer will be your most universal one." It certainly worked for him - in a song like Cohen’s “Suzanne”, we remember the “tea and oranges that come all the way from China”, and the constant references to boats and rivers and harbors and seaweed set the scene and paint a vivid picture even if you’re not exactly sure what the hell the song is actually “about”.

But I don’t think that specific > general is actually always the right way of thinking about making sure your songs make an impression. Too much specificity means the audience can’t actually relate to the situation depicted. After all, the songs we remember most from musicals often don’t say much about the details of the plot. In the context of the film The Wizard of Oz, “Over the Rainbow” is about a young farm girl wanting to escape her dreary life on the family farm in Kansas and the oppressive meddling of her unpleasant neighbor, but removed from the context of the film, it’s about anyone wanting to escape any negative situation in favor of some imagined better alternative. If the lyrics had gone into detail about the drudgery of her chores or the nagging interference of Miss Gulch, the song wouldn’t have the universal relevance and staying power that it does.

Likewise, if your coming-of-age song includes too many specific details about your adolescent problems or your hopes for the future, it might not have any relevance to me and my (possibly very different) experience. So we want to extract the commonalities of our experiences in order to come up with a song that’s meaningful to both of us (and hopefully everyone else). The danger, of course, is in going too far in the other direction: you end up speaking in empty generalities that don’t mean anything to anyone at all.

The solution is not specific > general, but rather concrete > abstract. Dorothy doesn’t imagine a better life “somewhere else” but “somewhere over the rainbow”. Her troubles won’t “disappear”, they’ll “melt like lemon drops”. The metaphor of physical ascent is consistent throughout, and supported by concrete images: clouds behind me, above the chimney tops, bluebirds flying.

So one good strategy for writing an effectively affecting song is to focus on a general desire, feeling, or experience that many will relate to, and consistently supporting it with concrete and memorable imagery. I will refer to the specific/general and concrete/abstract distinctions throughout many of my individual reviews, but this is just one strategy, not necessarily appropriate for all songs, even all songs in this round. Sometimes other considerations will be more relevant.

At this point, you’ve made it through two rounds and proven yourselves in the top half of an already very talented group of songwriters. Judging gets harder at this point, and judges might be using very different criteria, resulting in wide discrepancies in the results. Like always, I struggled in weighing the importance of the challenge - and whether the song was truly appropriate for the type of public event it was written for - against other considerations of song quality.

I wrote reviews before assigning my final rankings, and I apologize if you don’t see justification for your ranking within the review I wrote. All that said, here we go.

Official Entries 
in ascending order of excellence:

12. Glen Raphael - Wedding Day
The singer doth protest too much, methinks. I won’t call for your disqualification, because I’m sure there are plenty of couples that would think it was hilarious if you sang this at their wedding. But you’d damn well better make sure before you do!

I predict that each attendee at an actual wedding will react in one of four ways to this song, depending on whether they like the song or not, and whether they get the joke or not, as laid out in this chart:

Ideally all responses would be in the top left quadrant, but given how many couples choose “Every Breath You Take” for their first dance, I wouldn’t count it.

As for the quality of the song, aside from the validity of its central concept - it shares strengths and weaknesses with most other Glen Raphael songs I’ve heard. I’m starting to recognize melodic Glen-isms - such as the melody on “Just a silly story that you’ve heard” - that make the music predictable enough to not be particularly interesting. I know that you have a pretty firmly established style in which you do very well, but I wouldn’t complain about a little more experimentation.

11. OutLyer - Congratulations
Here are lyrics that come off as sincere and heartfelt but suffer from a lack of concrete images or specific details. Aside from the rhymes, the lyrics sound exactly like something a teacher would say with no planning or preparation to their students. One pleasure of hearing well-crafted lyrics is having a familiar feeling or experience presented in an unfamiliar or unexpected way, making you look at it in a different light and maybe gain some new insight from it. This song presents a familiar feeling in a familiar light, and the listener doesn’t gain much as a result.

The music is pretty well done and does serve to elevate the ho-hum lyrics. The sped-up rhythm of “I wish I could call you all my daughters and sons” is a great touch, and you cut out the accompaniment and then bring it back in at just the right times to accentuate it. The repeated descending line on “Follow your dreams” is also a great hook.

You have a great sense for how to build up your instrumentation over the course of the song and maintain interest by varying it. I do think that the thirty seconds of acoustic guitar strumming is unnecessary, and you could find a better way to start things off and keep the listener’s interest before the vocals come in.

10. “BucketHat” Bobby Matheson - Perfect Together
Lyrically, here’s a great example of a song that’s both general and concrete. The lyrics don’t include specific details that identify any particular couple, but the concrete imagery of plants growing together is carried through the first half of the lyrics and makes them memorable and satisfying. The result is a song that any couple in love can relate to. The second half of the lyrics, starting with “With these rings / you will tie” wanders into more generic wedding cliché territory - I’d recommend cutting it altogether except for the repeat of the refrain after the instrumental verse. This would both improve the lyrical focus and shorten the 5-minute runtime to something a little more manageable.

Musically, the melody and instrumentation are certainly appropriate to this genre. The finger-picking guitar comes off somewhat clumsy, and the droning accordion doesn’t add much. I’d rather the accordion be given more to do, or else give that part to a synth pad or something similarly less harsh.

The vocal performance is very strained, which I think might be solved by transposing to a lower key. The lead and backing vocals are not very well coordinated, either pitch-wise or timing-wise - maybe a result of insufficient time to teach yourself the song. If you’re still rehearsing as you’re recording, the end result isn’t necessarily going to be great.

9. Governing Dynamics - Hello Kansas City
This is maybe the most left-field concept in the fight, but it’s a great idea and it fits the challenge. The drums and guitar harmonics that start the song off are instantly catchy, and the energy stays up for the whole duration of the song, although the song may overstay its welcome somewhat - I think you could go right from the “ride this feeling to the moon” bridge to the final “Goodnight Kansas City” chorus, omitting the noodly instrumental bit and the cluttered, messy-sounding overlapping vocal section.

The melody doesn’t stick in my head between listens, and I have the same problems with your voice that I usually do - it feels strained even when the melody doesn’t demand that you work that hard. I don’t know exactly what advice to give other than “Sing more like you did on your Bob Dylan tribute” (not a sentence one hears often).

8. Temnere - Unbreakable
I’m not clear on what specific type of real-world public event this would be appropriate for, but it is certainly anthemic. The soaring chorus could be appropriate for an epic sing-along, although the sprawling metal song structure means the chorus is not as prominent as it might be in a simpler song.

You are obviously a talented musician and a skilled producer, as evidenced by your consistently high-quality performances and mixes, which makes it all the more frustrating that the piano in this song sounds so stiff and lifeless. Whether it was sequenced or played on a keyboard with no velocity sensitivity and then quantized to hell, it just sounds entirely artificial. It wouldn’t be such a big deal except you start with the piano alone and end with it as the only instrument under the vocals, and maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal if the piano part didn’t feature so many repeated block chords. Every other musical element feels organic and dynamic, and the piano under everything else within the full band arrangement is fine since it’s not featured prominently, but otherwise the piano makes a bad first and last impression.

7. Steve Stearns - People Be Kind
The influence of the artists that you mention in your song bio is definitely evident, such that the song almost feels more like a pastiche than an original work. It is certainly competently put together and you do a good job capturing the melodic and harmonic language you’re going for, although the piano feels very rigid. It’s not an issue when it’s part of a full band instrumentation, but when it’s the piano on its own, the stiffness in both rhythm and dynamics is very noticeable.

Thematically, the lyrics fit in with the style, and the sentiment is lovely but the lack of concrete images means they don’t make much of an impression. I’d love it if there was a central image or metaphor that the lyrics were built around (like “Grandma’s Hands” or “Lean on Me” which you cite as inspirations), but instead we have “People gotta be kind to each other”, which I don’t disagree with but which doesn’t inspire me either.

6. Ross Durand - Follow Your Heart
“Life transition as leap” is a tried and true image, and the first verse employs it well. The lyrics offer familiar, dare I say cliché, advice. The one line that sticks out as a somewhat original thought is “You’re moving forward, not forgetting.” There’s something interesting there!

There is a small but neat formal trick you employ in your lyrics: chiasmus, in which you repeat ideas in the form ABBA (no, not the band). So your chorus begins “Follow your heart / follow your dream” and ends “Follow your dream / follow your heart.” It gives the chorus a sense of completeness. Again, it’s a small thing but it’s nice.

Your vocal melody is strong, although I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the melody of the hook “So just follow your heart” somewhere else. The vocal range for the verses is quite low - scraping the bottom of your usable range especially on the falling figure e.g. on “between” in the first verse. The bridge and chorus are much higher in your range, and you pull them off. I’ll give you credit for writing a song with a large overall vocal range, and finding the right key to make it fit your voice.

The vocal delivery is confident and on-pitch although there’s some questionable rhythmic delivery - maybe you’re still getting to know the melody as you record it. Minor differences in the lyrics as typed and sung might suggest this also.

The instrumentation and overall verse-chorus-bridge form don’t feature any surprises, although I do like how the bridge leads directly into the chorus and keeps the energy up.

Overall, this comes across as very earnest and genuine if not particularly original.

5. Vowl Sounds - Graduation Day
It’s always nice to hear Owl and Vom’s voices together, and they blend very nicely here. The music is suitably upbeat and anthemic for the momentous occasion, and the “graduation day!” hook sticks easily.

The lyrics of the first verse are pretty relentlessly negative and dismissive of the very idea of the education system. They’re good lyrics and I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise (and have written some similar lyrics myself), but I don’t think this challenge is the place for them. There are ways to acknowledge the frustrations and difficulties of school without throwing the whole institution under the bus (heh).

“You haven't met everyone who will love you yet” is a great line and a great sentiment, and the bridge provides a nice lull before bringing the energy back for the last chorus. Omitting the title hook from the second chorus going into the bridge and making the listener wait all the way until the end of the song is a clever trick to keep the listener engaged.

4. Good Guy Sôjàbé - Bride
This definitely feels like it’s skirting the intent of the challenge. Maybe there are a few actual people deep enough into this particular subculture that they’d play this at their wedding (or, hell, their funeral), but this is a cop out; you know it and I know it. The problem is that it’s also a really good song.

Musically, this is impeccable: the vocal performances are excellent, the melodies are catchy, the production is lush and it’s all in service of the specific atmosphere you’re going for.

Lyrically, it’s great too, again in service of the overall theme. I have three complaints about the lyrics, all of which you may consider petty as hell.

  1. It’s been a while since I took high school Latin, but that Latin sentence does not seem right to me. “Somnum” is a noun in the accusative case but there’s no verb for it to be the direct object of. “Mea” is the adjective “my”/”mine” but there’s no noun for it to modify. “Vos” is plural, not singular, “you”. “Quia” is the conjunction “because”/”for” but there’s only one verb so there aren’t actually two clauses to conjoin… But I allow the possibility that your knowledge of Latin is actually much more sophisticated than mine, everything is well-formed and I’m just dumb.
  2. Clearly she is dead, but it’s unclear about him - you have the line “Walk down the aisle in my afterlife” implying they will be together when they’re both dead, but you also have “tonight I summon thee / and bond your soul to me” implying they’ll be together while he’s still alive?
  3. Thee vs. you. Pick one and stick with it. Using “thee” inconsistently for effect is lazy. If you don’t actually know how thou/thee works, don’t use it.

3. Nick Work - Long Way (To Go)
“Life as journey” is not the most original concrete image, but it is a concrete image, and it's supported through the lyrics. Similar to your round 1 entry, a very strong title hook makes the song instantly memorable, and the verse lyrics, while not groundbreaking, are fun to sing along to, and I always appreciate a consistent ABAB rhyme scheme. I especially like the bartered/learned/faltered/turned verse.

I don't like the off-beat acoustic guitar that opens the song. It works fine within the full band sound you bring in later, but it's grating to listen to on its own. I like starting with less complex instrumentation and building it up as the song progresses, but I didn't like this specific choice. Otherwise, the instruments are great - the lead guitar riffs that fill in the empty space between vocal lines are very tasty - the lack thereof was a (minor) complaint of mine about your first round entry, so I'll happily imagine that my advice is being taken to heart.

2. Jerkatorium - Something Right
This entry eschews advice and sentimentality, instead delivering a song that sounds like graduation feels (at least in the popular imagination) - exuberant, relieved, with an eye to the future but mostly enjoying the moment. Of course this choice plays to your strengths and you pull it off very well. The tasty musical quote from “Pomp and Circumstance” is the icing on the cake.

Ending the chorus on the dominant chord on the word “right” instead of resolving to the tonic is an interesting choice - it sort of caught me off guard even when I knew it was coming, but I suppose it serves to keep the song moving forward and rolling right into the next section, rather than resolving and losing energy.

Ryan’s aversion to anyone hearing what his voice actually sounds like is well documented, but it seems like the backing vocals are even more buried than usual here. The imitative echo on “Buck up and take heart” is great, and the brilliantly absurd “Ya-hoo!” at the end of the chorus could be a high point of the song, but both moments are so muffled that they barely make an impact. This is disappointing especially since I have firsthand knowledge of the amount you usually tinker with the mix to get every element to stand out.

1. Faster Jackelope - The Matter Doesn’t Matter
Contrary to what I suggested in my preamble, sometimes specific really is better than general - especially when you are paying tribute to a particular person. Of course you don’t offer many biographical details, but the lyrics do a great job conveying a particular point of view that respects the mystery of life and death but doesn’t take it too seriously.

I complain a lot about “call and response with no response” but here in the verses you actually do it well, as each vocal line is followed by a catchy instrumental line featuring your trademark interlocking guitar parts. The verse vocal melody itself is not particularly interesting, but the chorus melody is great - the contrast in melodic shape and rhythmic density (fast for verses, slow for chorus) makes the chorus stand out.

There are some discrepancies between the lyrics as typed and the lyrics as sung. In these cases I usually judge by what I hear, which is lucky for you: “Paste together dust of stars” is an extremely dumb line; “Paste together the dust of all the stars” is fine. There is some awkward vocal delivery in the second pre-chorus on the line “free parking AND baby kittens”, which stands out because your vocal work is usually impeccable. Otherwise I don’t really have any complaints about this song - it’s beautiful and heartfelt and the performance and production is up to your very high standards.


Jocko Homomorphism - I Changed My Name
I don’t know why no one else went for straight-up dance music this round. This is brilliant - the choice of subject matter is inspired, the sung lyrics celebrate the feelings involved, and invite the listener to join in the celebration (“Come sing my song”), but also hint at the defiance required to go through with it (“Now say my name” … “There is no shame”).

The spoken lyrics are fun - but I’m curious about Jocko and Goobus’s relationship. Coworkers? Roommates? They see each other two days in a row, and they’re close enough that Jocko is sharing the details of, and their feelings about, the name change - but not so close that Goobus actually accompanied Jocko to either the courthouse or the club.

The music is eminently danceable and maintains a strong beat while also containing enough variation to keep the interest up off the dancefloor.

I had an idea of the kind of song I was hoping this challenge would produce. This was not it at all - it’s better.

Menage A Tune - I Wish You Well
A jaunty country tune. It feels like this song can’t decide if it’s a joke or not. That might sound hypocritical coming from me, but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to laugh at the “heaven or hell” and “meet your fate” lines or not.

Menage A Tune - Rainbow Bridge
Impressive adaptation of the toy melody, and great contrasting moods - the somber piano middle section gives added weight and melancholy to the return of the upbeat section.

Mandibles - You Are Free
This is exactly what I was hoping for from this challenge - a beautiful, memorable, uplifting tune celebrating the moment and looking to the future. The interconnection of freedom and responsibility is a great idea to explore. The religious element is clear to a listener who’s also active in that world (me), but I think (or hope) the song communicates and is meaningful to non-religious people as well.

The Brewhouse Sessions - You Are The Shining Star
There’s a lot of familiar coming-of-age language in here, but the central idea - “Be your shining star and follow your own lead” sticks out as its own idea. Nice job.

Just Ducky - Wash Your Hands
As a compulsive hand-washer myself, I appreciate your sharing this important message with the rest of the SpinTunes world!

The Quantifiers - The Impossible Journey
Song sing-along melody, especially the choruses. The verses drag on a bit too long, some lines end with one-syllable words e.g. “strife” that get dragged out unnaturally. The brass sounds are surprisingly pleasant to listen to. This could serve as a solid conclusion to your PT cycle - will you find a way to continue in Round 4??? I hope so!