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Saturday, February 22, 2020

ST16R2 REVIEWS - Dave Leigh

With a five judges on the roster this round, my rankings won't be used. However, I still write reviews, and here they are...

Of course we knew that in giving a bunch of highly intelligent geeks a challenge involving math, we'd be swamped with every obscure counting method in the book... and probably some new ones. That's perfectly OK. As for me, I'm not looking so much at the cleverness of the number sequence, but the cleverness and utility of the song. Does it sound natural? Is the counting appropriately integrated or just stuck on? Does the song have merit outside the challenge? Does it make me feel? And, of course, how does it sound?

To be sure, you guys did a better job than I would have. I offer for your amusement this hook from an unpublished opus:
Let me be your abacus, Baby
Let me be your rosary beads
In your trials and tribulations
Baby, you can count on me
Yeah... this is why I let other people write lyrics for me.

Here's how I think you did...

In order of submission:

1. Caravan Ray - Peak Misery 02:13
It's well-done technically. I must be in a really weird mood, though, as I've just been unable to get into it. I had a bit of a time understanding the repetitious "Peak Misery". It's something that easily falls into "misheard lyrics" territory. I kept hearing "eat" something, even when I knew the words.

2. Timothy Patrick Hinkle - Number Line 04:10
Let's just stop for a moment and acknowledge the baritone grandeur that is your singing voice, Tim. That's a great instrument you've got, and there's definitely an audience for men who sound like men. And let's face it, you sound like Ron Ely looked. Now, the song: nothin' really wrong there. Good use of counting, and I like the schtick where you're discounting while counting. ;) I've got a few a little higher on my list, but you can blame it on those folks. Honestly, some of these bands are in dead heats, but I've got to put some ahead of others.  

3. Jocko Homomorphism - Discretion 02:51
JAZZ! Real, almost anarchic jazz! And a truly unique counting method using mod 13 arithmetic. Unfortunately, while having "roundabout" lyrics is totally in keeping with the subject, the result is so obscure that it doesn't work as a bit of instruction, and isn't really intelligible except to those already in-the-know (again, totally in keeping with the subject!). And while I do like me some smooth jazz, this one's a little brash for my taste.

4. BucketHat Bobby Matheson - Countin' Dice 02:15
You got my attention with the first line. By the third line you had me hooked. I love a little D&D geekery! The counting bit as a bridge is a leeeetle bit "tacked on", but I don't much care, because it's just such a fun little song. There's no way to not like this song, as everything about it illustrates the tag, "It's having fun that counts."

5. Steve Stearns - The Fibonacci Sequence 03:05
I'm not even going to pretend to be coy about this: there simply isn't another choice for first place. This ranks up with the very best Schoolhouse Rock songs, and I've already put it in a playlist next to Tom Lehrer's "The Elements" and Jonathan Coulton's "Mandlebrot Set" (as well as our own Edric Haleen's "0.999999..."). It's got everything you need... history, exposition, the actual sequence, how to calculate the sequence, the significance of it, and some humor to keep you interested. The lyrics do not sound stilted or pedantic. The music is engaging, the syncopation superb. There is nothing about this song I do not like. It did make me laugh out loud in the listening party that you had the confidence to pull this off as an electric jazz piece while simultaneously being so cautious as to put in a straight counting section. Your trepidation was unwarranted, though the feeling of power it fills me with is exhilarating. And though it might sound strange to talk of "feels" with regard to an educational song, the overall effect here is joyful. "Happy" and "sad" are emotions that are primary colors... anybody can paint with those. This one's more subtle: the elated joy of discovery, and it counts as art in my book. Well done!

6. Faster Jackelope - Limerence 04:17
I love the name. For some reason it reminded me of "Jabberwocky", as if it were a made-up word. So of course, I looked it up and found that it's "the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship." I loined somethin' today; namely, that some psychologist felt the need for this label. This is the sort of easy-listening song that doesn't call attention to itself, making it perfect to keep on in the background at work. Unfortunately, it's the sort of easy-listening song that doesn't call attention to itself... double-edged sword. It's going to go somewhere safely in the middle of the pack.

7. Rob From Amersfoort - Count Me Out 02:11
I have to say that this is one of the more interesting tunes that I've heard from you, Rob. Your style is really getting better, or I'm getting used to it. But that's the tune. Lyric-wise, I'm not sure this has a lot to say, so it's not going to rank as high as some.

8. Vowl Sounds - Blood on the Tracks 03:38
I spent several listens having no idea what this is about. Then I realized it's a pun... blood on the tracks... in the jukebox. D'oh! This doesn't really stand out for me, except for the fact that when taken as a whole it's really nice to listen to. And oddly enough, I'm in the sort of mood where that counts.

9. The Quantifiers - The Terrible Trivium 04:16
"With tweezers!" OK, that made me laugh out loud... and not just me, but everyone in the room with me at the listening party. I kind of get the feeling that you're trying very hard not to wake the neighbors while recording this. As with the last entry, I think a bit more commitment to the performance would help sell the piece. You talk quite a lot about counting, but there's very little counting that you do. So while this may semantically meet the challenge; given the examples we gave it's not as close to the spirit of what we asked for as other entries.

10. Good Guy Sôjàbé - The Wire 03:19
Oh, HELL yeah. This must be the day for metal. This is very much a 'mood' song which relies on invoking visual imagery as opposed to a clear narrative (not unlike Outlyer's "Napalm" in that respect). I rarely like metal... it's just a personal genre bias... but I have to respect the work that went into this. Very cleanly done!

11. Governing Dynamics - Get Lost! 02:27
Pardon the pun, but the vocal harmonies have gotten a little lost. I think they undermine what would otherwise be a very nice hook. Then again, the fault might lie in my ears. 

12. Outlyer - Napalm 03:31
Handheld shakey-cam, urban streets, hoodies, homies, cash transactions in back alleys... somewhere in this story is arson. There's not much in the lyrics alone, but the words, style, tone, and that weird dyad on the word "time!" all combine into a song with illustrative POWER, adding mood to the visual piece that you know it MUST accompany. Great work.

13. Nick Work - Reasons (That I Love You) 02:39
Well, this is embarrassing. I have nothing to say about this. That's not a bad thing... it's just a thing. I'm going to park this in the middle while I think about it. (The bassline does sound like "Lady Godiva" ;) )

14. Ross Durand - Don't Blink 02:49
Dammit, Ross, you made me shed an actual salty tear. This is a perfect example of "less is more". Where Outlyer's entry is all in the music, this one's all in the story. I don't know how this affects others, but when you're my age and the 'kids' are grown men, a song like this hits like a gut punch. Perfect.

15. Glen Raphael - Song of Many 02:29
VERY nice. Reminds me a bit of "Just One Person", and I'd love to hear the expanded version that counts to five. If you send it after judging I'll put it on the album. The "Badela dah dahs" get a little too chaotic at the end, but I love the idea of counting singers.

16. Temnere - Cynics Anxiety 04:04
If there were such a genre as "Polished Metal", this would be it. This takes "Space Opera" literally, and the interstellar theme gives a classic excuse to incorporate a countdown. Great vocal reach and control on those extended notes. Clean guitar throughout and robotically precise percussion.

17. Jerkatorium - 8-bit Love 03:27
If you're going to count, why not count by powers of two? I eight-bit love it. One thing about a Jerkatorium tune is that it will always demand attention. ALWAYS!! That's not a bad thing: like a B52s tune, there is no just leaving it on and going about your business. Unless, of course, your business happens to be modding C64s, Ataris, and Amstrads in 1984. This just about cries out for a chiptune solo and I was ever-so-slightly disappointed that it wasn't there. In places the vocals sound positively Beatlesque (As in the word "love" in "This eight bit love is commin' straight at you / this eight bit love evaluates as true"). 

18. Ominous Ride - Seven Naughty Children 05:06
Holy smoke, the story...! I love this! Counting up (and down) children is so completely central and necessary to the song that it can't sound contrived. It doesn't sound like a challenge song, just a nice little novelty song. The folks listening with me thought the 'ominous' transitions were a bit jarring, but I say they're meant to be. Nevertheless, I see the point that the transitions themselves could be just a bit smoother. As it is it sounds like it completely jumps to a different song. Coming out of those sections is much smoother.

19. Mandibles - Breathe 05:41
With a song called 'Breathe' you'd better have mastered vocal control, and Cybronica, you have. I don't even feel qualified to opine on it. I'll just enjoy it. If one were just to read the lyrics it would seem that the lyrics were just tacked on. But the song puts the lie to that. The story and the backstory are the same story, and I find it a fascinating choice of subject. I'm finding it hard to describe my overall reaction to the piece, as I find it smooth and harsh at the same time. Possibly the choice of tinny piano might have something to do with it. In any event, that bit of off-center balance works well with the "panic attack" theme.

20. Boffo Yux Dudes - When The Band Counts Down 01:55
At the beginning it sounded like you were just playing radio drops. Of course, you were; but that's the song, too! Good choice of subject matter! Structurally... maybe it's a little formulaic. Doesn't mean I don't like it. 


21. Menage a Tune - Same Old Dance (SHADOW) 
Much more upbeat and accessible than your first-round song! I think I'd prefer the opening "1,2,3" on the beats. Other than that, it's a nice li'l waltz, and we don't get many of those!

22. The Brewhouse Sessions - Please Come Home Faye (SHADOW) 
I normally don't like Autotune, but I know you were fighting a head cold, Mike. And to be honest, this is one of those situations where you just have to acknowledge with solid respect the "nothing's going to keep me down" attitude that gets an entry in on time despite every excuse to miss the deadline. This is more your singing range anyway, so despite the cold I'm counting it as progress. Now let's talk about the song, and specifically the story. Counting the minutes since a child has disappeared...? Easily the most heart-wrenching subject choice on the album. I'd say more, but I've got something in my eye.

23. Jeb and Iwa - Fibonnacci Encounters Pie (SHADOW) 
You were so preoccupied with
whether or not you could, you
didn't stop to think if you should.
13 inches + 5 hours = 18 hundred calories. It sounds surreal, but so does everything about this one. The song bio is essential to work out what's going on here... The Fibonacci sequence is somehow mashed up with the value of Pi and Valentine's day and with a delivery that somehow, inexplicably, reminds me of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. To any other band I'd say, "you tried too hard," but I suspect you know exactly what you created here. I will not try to explain it. I will not try to understand it. But honestly, I'm keeping this song on a playlist. Go figure.

24. PigFarmer Jr - Gal For Me (SHADOW)
Counting strikes? I think the counting could be a little more explicit, but we did say that the song should "prominently feature counting": we didn't actually say that you have to count. A description of counting is a technical pass on the challenge. I love these autobiographical songs. ;) 

25. Micah Sommersmith - Chuck and Juanita (SHADOW) 03:38
If I want really, really clever lyrics, you're my go-to guy, Micah. 
Well... you and Edric Haleen. 

26. Heather Miller - The Good Stuff (SHADOW) 02:18
It's been AGES since we've heard from you, Heather! Welcome back! And thanks for bringing the good stuff!

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