SpinTunes #10, Round 1 According to Jutze

Here are my impressions from the first round of SpinTunes #10 (listen here!) – written and presented in the order in which I listened to the entries. The rating at the end reflects a) sympathy and b) nailing the challenge.

Gorbzilla – First Kiss: The ride cymbal is a bit too prominent in the mix. Otherwise, this is a good tune that suits the challenge/mood perfectly. It has this movie soundtrack feeling to it. The lead guitar in the middle is restrained enough to not distract from the romantic mood. The breaks come at the right moments. Good vocals, by the way. The mood reminds me a bit of “Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles (which itself suits the challenge well). 9/10

Governing Dynamics – Introvert Asks to Spend the Night: The big question here was whether I can still enjoy Travis’s music now that he cut his hair. The answer is yes. The song sounds a bit fast for a candlelight soundtrack. I might have prefered a more melancholic tune, yet it brings a smile to my face to find Governing Dynamics in a good mood. Rock on! 6/10

Jailhouse Payback – Another Line: A nice pop song with a bit of country here and there. The production sounds good (harmonica! slide guitar or pedal steel or whatever that is); the vocals are okay. The few minor chords in between spice things up in a nice way. 8/10

Pete Murphy – (I Wanna) Get It on With You: Whoa, professional production. Funky guitars. Soundtrack for a candlelight dinner AT A BAR. Judging from the title this is a bit more straightforward than most of the other entries. (What do I know, I’m only four songs into the round.) The rating is torn between a good fit regarding the challenge and a musical style I do not like that much. 6/10

Dreiviertel Drei – Gag Reflex: The music spreads a mellow summer evening’s atmosphere. Lyrically, mh, forget what I wrote about the previous song; this one here aims way beyond a romantic embrace. Consequently, things get creepy during the song. I wouldn’t want this hear this song during a date (or during a wedding or a funeral for that matter). The final twist got lost on me the first time I listened to “Gag Reflex”. Maybe it should have been featured more prominent. 3/10

Ominous Ride – Open Your Fire: The singing voice is quite low; maybe spice things up with more variation next time? The song starts out very un-intrusive. It takes up pace and ends up in Funkytown. Personally, I prefer the piano parts of the verses. All in all this is a solid effort. The lyrics contain no real surprises – which isn’t that bad for this challenge. 5/10

Pigfarmer Jr – Hold You Tonight: He: Here, have a seat; I’ll just put away that guitar. She: You play guitar? He: Well, a bit. She: Will you play me a song? He: Nah, I don’t know. She: Come on, please? He: Okay *sings this song*. The tune sounds a bit clumsy, but in the scenario I just described it should work perfectly. Nice bass notes towards the end. Charming lyrics. 7/10

Buckethat Bobby – Glad You Came: I find little I like here, sorry. I don’t think the vocal melodies suit a romantic evening. 2/10

Brian Gray – Just You and Me: There is a restless undercurrent that might distract from romantic endeavours. The vocals are great as expected. The breaks are a bit off; maybe I’m still too impressed by Gorbzilla’s entry. Anyway, Brian Gray does not disappoint. 7/10

Charlie McCarron – If You Need Romance: Soft, pop meets jazz. Certainly meeting the challenge. The singer seems a bit reluctant. The ending is, mh, too real to be good? 5/10

David J – Language of Love: Finally, a nice lyrical twist. The music is very laid back. This could have ended up way worse. (But also more to the point, tighter.) 5/10

Dex01 – Get Together: Blues is sort of a contrast to happily getting together music. The resulting song is nice and makes me wish I’d be more generous with my ratings. 4/10

The Buffo Yux Dudes – I Can’t Get Enough: The Buffo Yux Dudes explore their 70s pop roots. This song should help to ‘break the ice’, even if it’s just a relaxed talk about the strange sounds of the stereo. I’m very much looking forward to see Sammy Kablam get annoyed by this one. Meanwhile I’ll give it 2/10

Jutze – This Could Be the Night: I was trying to channel Chris de Burgh. My vocals suck, but I just had to do a ‘serious’ entry. I’m rather satisfied with the backing track production. ?/10

The Ken Kesey Fan Club – How to Seduce Women: Pigfamer Jr gone bad? Creepy stuff. Lyrically AND musically. It somehow underscores the difficulty of approaching this challenge with sarcasm. I find little to like here, sorry. 1/10

Atom & EV – Tarzan and Jane: Simple, primal, effective. At first the song is weird, and in between it gets a bit dirty. Nevertheless, I find the concept refreshing. The execution reflects the primitive story of (mutual?) affection. 6/10

Ben and the Angel Fish – Love’s Lost: Beautiful piano playing. The voice is nice, but its production is somewhat poor. I’m afraid, the song is too sad for the challenge. It’s not too sad for my taste, though. The challenge demanded a soundtrack for a candlelight dinner – NOT necessarily a song about a candlelight dinner. Consequently, “Love’s Lost” could work, after all. 7/10

Ben Taggart – The Story of Us: It’s easy to rate this one, but hard to comment on it. The vocals sound somewhat undecided. The guitar is lonely rather than romantic. The lyrics don’t stand out, go on a tangent or two. The song remains too plain to be sweet in my ears. In the end, it’s a solid effort but nothing I’ll return to when compiling a date CD. 4/10

Megalodon – Can’t Weight: Another song that’s more suited for a date in a bar than for a date at home. Bonus points for the saxophone – not an instrument I usually enjoy but the definite romance instrument, anyway. Moving the lyrics to space is a nice idea, one of the more successful attempts of humor in this round (in my opinion). In the end, it’s just my personal taste that prevents a higher rating, sorry. 4/10

Emperor Gum – Tianjin: This tune sounds rather bland to my ears. I’d consider this dating music only if it were played quietly – at which point almost all music becomes dating music. Okay, not all music. This is more a soundtrack for an old black and white home movie than for a candlelight dinner. Maybe for an old black and white movie about a candlelight dinner? 3/10

Julian and the Self – Love Is in the Air: High male vocals meet uninspired vocal melodies – is this going to be a progressive rock song? No, it’s not. It keeps lacking direction. A mellow acoustic guitar meets a hungry cat. The mood is consistent throughout the song, but (apart from the solid lyrics) I don’t see much dating soundtrack potential. 2/10

Taylor Rundell – Make a Move: Could be the sonical backdrop in a club or at a bar. The song doesn’t appeal to me. The lyrics leave a taunting impression on me. The mellow moments in between are a tiny bit irritating. Make a move, but hey, just relax? The production is all right. Certainly not one of my favourites, though. 2/10

Dr. Lindyke – Date Night: A song about a date rather than for a date – the mood is good. The performance is flawless (or rather quite appropriate), as I’ve come to expect from Dr. Lindyke. The tone of the lyrics might be a bit too offensive.  5/10

Army Defense – Sexiest Sex: Various stuff happens throughout this song, but I struggle to connect it to a romantic date. The electric guitar has a few nice moments. The lyrics have a hard time being subtle. Musically, I would have liked more direction. 2/10

Ross Durand – I Wish: A song about a date AND a song for a date – Ross Durand doesn’t disappoint. It helps that he has a great voice. The song develops in a nice, cozy fashion. The guitar playing is spot on, the additional tracks enhance the song without taking away from the main melody and overall mood. The part before the ending is a bit too loud, I guess. Then again, the actual ending is just beautiful. 8/10

Domingo – Escondidas: A song in Spanish (which I don’t speak) – tricky. It suits the candlelight dinner rather well. The middle parts a bit too dense. The vocals lose their emotion here. Anyway, the song could suit a date, so I’ll give it 4/10

Adam Sakellarides – All I Wanna Do: Sheryl Crow did it better, I’m afraid. This tune here aims at a similar groove. It should facilitate good feelings rather than romance. The ending, well, doesn’t really facilitate either. 2/10

Mariah Mercedes – As Charming as You: Jazz alarm. Strong vocals. Suitable lyrics. The song suits a cozy date, preferably late at night. A person who likes jazz would give this one certainly more than 5/10

James Young – In the Dark of the Night: Rock alarm. Pop rock. This song is probable suited for a drunk-at-the-bar-sort of date. I fail to see how it should draw two souls closer together. The lyrics attempt to link the song to romance. They just don’t stand out in any way. The wailing solo guitar sounds nice but the last thing you want during the date is the other person making eyes at a fancy guitar player, instead. 3/10

Kolton H – Binary Love: A computer love song that works to a certain degree. It suits an LED light dinner better than a candlelight dinner. The keyboard sounds and the computerized vocals make this song stand out from the rest of the field. I applaud the audacity but the actual song is too flat most of the time to elicit more than a nod. 4/10

Jurek Mika – The Mood for You: Sublety? No way! Not my cup of tea – no clear melody, monotone lyrics, lacklustering vocals. And way too much repetition. 1/10

Melissa Leona –  Rocking in the Waves: Finally, some more 80s drum computers. The production is a bit unbalanced: sometimes the vocals get buried, sometimes the piano becomes rather loud. Apart from this, the song has a subtle tension that suits the challenge. The change to major chords halfway through the song is surprising. I could do without it. Keep the tension and hope that the listeners find a way to loosen things. 4/10

Zoe Gray – Make the Most of It: A good balance between mellow and energetic. The higher vocals in the chorus spice things up before the title line gets back to a more subtle mood. The lyrics seem a bit crammed and over the top here and there. Less sarcasm might have improved the song. Still, it’s one of the better ones this round. 7/10

Red Watcher – Hopeless Dreamer: Do I spot a progressive rock vibe here? And is this a bad thing given that progressive rock is not suited as date music? Is it wrong to write these remark entirely as questions? The lyrics clearly aim at the challenge whereas the music relies on a beat I’d consider unromantic (3-3-2 claves or whatever you want to call it). 2/10

Edric Haleen –  2-14-11: The low voice is a bit creepy. Am I surprised that Edric chose a sarcastic/science-related approach? No. Would I have preferred a cheesy piano ballad? Hell yeah! Linking the song to Valentine’s Day is not helpful, in my opinion. The tune could have been way shorter, too. 2/10

How We Ended Up in Detroit

This song is part of Edric Haleen’s Songwriting Cycle #3. I like the challenges Spencer Sokol gave me. I don’t like how I struggled to create a proper story. At some point I had this glorious idea of the first verse being as it is, but then the couple ends up at his brother’s house, only to find that his brother, who had wanted to go to the beach, did end up at Grandma’s place. The final verse saw Grandma happy at the beach. Anyway, I ran out of time and ideas. There was no brilliant insight at the eleventh hour, so I present you this littly ditty. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found the time to listen to the other entries, but I’m sure they’re far better than mine!

Yesterday we took our car to drive to grandma’s house
I sat behind the steering wheel right next to my spouse

She was really confident we didn’t need a map
But I had just installed a new direction finding app
So five miles down the dusty road
My smart phone said: “turn right”
My wife protested: “no, no, no
Turn left by the traffic light”
I didn’t know just what to do
So I kept driving straight ahead
My phone said: “calculating new route”
While my wife was getting mad

After three such incidents things getting tense
My phone said we were getting there, ignoring some dead ends
But ten miles down the dusty road
It said: “please turn around”
My wife protested: “no, no, no
We should be westward bound”
I didn’t know just what to do
So I kept driving straight ahead
My phone said: “calculating new route”
While my wife was getting mad
My wife was getting mad

Planet Earth Role Playing

This is my entry for White Elephant Music Club‘s Skultar challenge. It’s about sword and sorcery (which I know nothing about). And role-playing (which I know almost nothing about).

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.