SpinTunes 1: Round 1 Review

Find out all about SpinTunes (what? why? who?)! Spoiler: It’s a songwriting contest.

Listen to all the songs! For free.

And here goes my review: at first I was put of by the lack of band names in the file names (of the album download). But then I figured it’s a blessing, because new and old faces/voices would have an equal chance of making a good (first) impression. I avoided listening to the whole bunch in order – take that, primacy and recency effect! I only knew I’d start with the Poodlz. And the rest is, well, not really silence.

  • Godz Poodlz appear to think that opposites attract. Or at least that’s how “The Human Bomb” sounds. Combining the explosive superhero trait with a soft, sad song Russ and Rhod flirt with They Might Be Giants-like vocals and a few well-placed sudden stops. This is certainly a fluent transition from Song Fu to Spin Tunes.
  • Jenny Katz has a really good voice but the song drifts off towards jazzy regions. The hurried performance would have worked better with more obvious irony/humor in the lyrics (in addition to all those clever rhymes); or the other way round: the dark prequel story could have had a more serious impact with a bit more depth to let the emotions unfold. Bottom line: excellent vocals and a solid tune, slightly beyond my personal taste.
  • Edric Haleen plays with opposites as well, I think (am at 1:30 now). What sounds like a charming Broadway rendition of a love song is in fact the evil speech of evil, the insane view of, well, a superhero gone bad. The orchestra sounds give the song a great atmosphere and the vocal performance is among Edric’s best.
  • Heather Miller provides a somewhat monotonous pop song. I didn’t get the superhero connection the first time around and I’m not tempted to get it again.
  • I don’t really get what Bram Tant’s song has to do with the challenge. I’m confused.
  • JoAnn Abbott’s entry has the feeling of an old movie’s musical number; you know, those black and white dramas/comedies where halfway through the protagonist breaks in to a song to illustrate his/her emotional state. Naturally, the idea of a black and white superhero movie in the times of the recent Bat-/Superman flicks is somewhat ironic. The sincerity of the song works surprisingly well and makes it easy to relate. The lyrics are great. This is my favourite song so far, slightly ahead of Edric’s.
  • Buckethat Bobby Matheson spices up his relaxed blues with some tasteful accordion playing. The outburst at the end helps to maintain the plot throughout the whole song. The lyrical approach shows a lot of creativity, I think. If I were to vote for five songs or so, this would be a contender.
  • Kevin Savino-Riker has probably the most 70s vibes in this round. The vocals are quite passionate, making the song worthwhile. The melody lines tend to stray; the fuzzy guitar and the constant changes of mood make it a bit difficult (for me) to focus on the actual song. So its individual parts that appeal more to me than the song as a whole.
  • Ross Durand is another singer I haven’t heard of before. His sounds fine, but at times he seems to try too hard. Also, the backing vocals could have been more subtle, more melodic, less just hanging there. The song itself has enjoyable feature, namely melody and catchiness. Still, the entry as a whole doesn’t convince me 100% with regard to the challenge. Maybe 75%?
  • Dr. Lindyke: my first thought was ‘Is Mike Lombardo shadowing?’ Well, he isn’t. Dr. Lindyke starts out with a moody, good piano solo rock piece (?) and just when you want it to become more the vocals accelerate and provide the necessary increase of drama. And then the chords become even more tense. The superhero theme is woven seamlessly into the song, making it a highlight of this round. I can imagine this one with a full band, although it’s already great as it is. (And just afterwards did I figure out that this is actually Dave Leigh of Leigh & Hoover fame and who I first heard/saw playing Jonathan Coulton songs on his keyboard with passion and talent – great to see/hear him here in perfect shape!)
  • Danny Blackwell: the guitar seems to be slightly out of tune; or maybe it’s just too loud. At any rate I struggle to follow the lyrical plot and the despite a few nice chord progressions I don’t mind that the tune is over after less than two minutes.
  • Emperor Gum almost blow my speaker. And then things go to hell. I was intrigued by the song title, but the mellow vocals and the indistinguishable background noise are a bad combination. What I can make out from the lyrics the challenge was met well; still, this entry became a victim of the unbalanced production and the artifical drums.
  • Charlie McCarron starts out more promising than the previous song. Is this going to be a Toto-ballad? No. The overly dramatic (?) vocals are irritating at first, but soon I found myself appreciating the change of tone. Bonus points for originality! The end comes rather suddenly. I’ll keep this one around and give it a few more spin(tune)s.
  • Ryan Welton plays his e-piano very well. Too bad I’m more of a punk rock-inspired pop music junkie. The song does have its appeal – the vocals are fine and self-assured – but I just can’t connect. Sorry.
  • Jon Eric plays his camp fire guitar well. Too bad I’m more of a punk rock-inspired pop music junkie. The song does have its appeal – the vocals come from the heart and sound good – but I just can’t connect. Sorry.
  • Boffo Yux Dudes remind of the time I played in a big band. Songs like this make me wonder why there aren’t more geek musicals around. The tune becomes a bit repetitious after a while. Maybe a middle-eight in minor would have spiced things up. The vocals are a bit too much on the safe side – as a comparison, Jon Eric’s voice isn’t Freddie Mercury’s, but he managed to transport some kind of feeling better.
  • Denise Hudson is behind the second song where the title had me curious. The song is a little opera in itself. The glockenspiel/vibes/whatever is really sublime. The vocals fit the song perfectly; they could have been more prominent in the mix, though. Good tune, anyway.
  • The Offhand Band – Caleb Hines plays progressive rock? I like the parallel of superman and supervision. The orchestral parts sounds great. The vocals don’t; I mean, the melody lines are just too ambitious, so while not destroying the song they leave me with mixed feelings once the song is over. If I were to rank all entries this one would come before several alleged better songs. Still, it’s no top five candidate.
  • Gorbzilla locked out Nick Nolte and pulled out his 60s folk singer personality. Frankly, I do like the general atmosphere of this song. The feeling of departure lingers even though I can’t really follow the story of all the -mans in the lyrics. The guitar playing is a nice contrast to all the digital recording loops that prevail in several of the other songs. The vocals are a bit low on the long run for my taste; how about a soaring middle-eight the next time around?
  • Steve Durand must have known that I have a weak spot for minor chords. I’m not a big fan of brass, but hey, it just works fine here. The rhythm changes are great. The plethora of instruments is mixed well. A positive surprise from an artist I hadn’t heard (of) before.
  • Caleb Hines – finally! Good intro. Is this a condensed audio book? Or is there an actual song coming? Ah, yes. The clock noises are awesome. The harmonies are, as expected, flawless. And just like that the chorus comes around and turns out to be something They Might Be Giants would have been proud of having written it. Too bad Caleb only has one voice. The chorus would be even better with a “dialogue”, meaning two voices trading parts. Anyway, beautiful song. Oh, and the middle part sounds different and while I’m still wondering why this is the clock starts ticking again and I realize it was the absence of something I had noticed. Vote – if I could vote. (Oh wait, I can!)
  • Radiohead, eh no, Governing Dynamics start out promising. The vocals are a bit too soft and, wait, 1:25 now, here is the gripping vibration of charismatic vocal chords. I don’t really pay attention to the lyrics because I’m busy pretending they’re about rainy weather and how rainy weather isn’t so bad, after all, although it’s, well, rainy. /me likes “Origin”.
  • Sara Parsons sings one of those songs that sound good but don’t linger on. I envy her talent for harmony vocals.

So all in all I’m (a) pleasantly surprised with the quality of this round – there’s some great stuff here – and (b) glad I didn’t participate because I have no idea what to do with the challenge. In the end I voted for Caleb, JoAnn and Gorbzilla for three very original and inventive songs. And Dave Leigh gets an imaginary vote from me for his excellent shadow entry.


  1. Heather:

    Hi Jutze! Looks like my review got merged into Edric’s.

    My idea with the song was to have a new superheroine express her frustration with the typical uniform/costume. She’s not comfortable with her new found powers and responsibilities, and wearing a tight fitting costume makes her even more insecure.

    If you didn’t get that the first time around though, I obviously didn’t do a very good job of getting the point across! I was wanting to make some edits to the song anyway, so thanks for the feedback there!

  2. Jutze:

    Whoops, sorry Heather, you have your own paragraph now. As for your lyrics – I’m not a native speaker, so anything too subtle (read not totally obvious) escapes me. And somehow I always expected your song to be Robin Hood-related, having just watched Mel Brooks’s Men in Tights a couple of days ago. I now see that you tackled the challenge very well. Good luck with the jury’s verdict!

  3. Dave Leigh:

    Jutze, Bram’s villain is deliberately spreading disease and death by way of infected kebabs. I had a ‘wtf’ moment when I first heard it, and when I realized what he was doing I was howling with laughter… it surprised me that much. I didn’t give it a vote only because as villains go, this one wasn’t as “super” as he could have been.

    Thanks for the imaginary vote! I hope we get to hear a shadow from you in the next round!

  4. The Offhand Band:

    Hey, there, glad you liked the song. I actually mentioned on the text chat during the listening party last night that my vocals weren’t very good, before it even came on as well as during. I’m glad it’s a contest about songwriting and not singing or production. I only hope people who judge and vote actually remember that :)

  5. Graham Porter (Emperor Gum):

    Emperor Gum almost blow my speaker. And then things go to hell. I was intrigued by the song title, but the mellow vocals and the indistinguishable background noise are a bad combination. What I can make out from the lyrics the challenge was met well; still, this entry became a victim of the unbalanced production and the artifical drums.

    Thanks for the comments, Jutze. Is the version of my song you heard the original mess I submitted, or the improved one I fixed which you can now hear on SpinTunes? If the former, I agree with you 100%. If the latter, then I have desperate recording problems.

  6. JoAnn Abbott:

    You know I will be floating happily for a week at LEAST after reading your review of my song- thank you so much for your nice comments!

  7. Denise Hudson:

    I love your blog and I’m watching your yourtube channel. You are really funny. I like your football kitteh song a whole lot and I always enjoy your comments about me. I liked you since I heard you sing of Natalie Portman and I’m looking for your bandcamp. :)

    The vocals thing is something I am trying to work on in my own way and I’ll get there I think. I try to do things subtly. I’m hoping to fix the issue by next round but who knows what will happen?! :)