The challenge of the third round of SpinTunes #10 was to write a song with long run-on sentences. It took me a while to get a vague idea what the challenge was about. Loooong sentences are rather common in German, but there was no way I could communicate a German song to the (mostly English-speaking) SpinTunes audience and, in particular, the judges. I was stumped. But hey, what if I sang about German(y)? Could this be a topic worth rambling about? I wasn’t sure. I still don’t know. My only alternative idea was a detailed description of the pain of getting a part of your body pierced (while trying to impress your latest flame that talked you into it). I didn’t want to focus on pain and negative emotions (even in a comical way), so I began writing about my home country. Writing a song about an specific idea/concept is usually work and this song was no exception. Thankfully, I never ran out of inspiration. Most of the lyrics were written in the order I sing them. I only updated a couple of parts before I recorded the vocals.

I began composing the music when I had the first few verses and a rough idea where the refrain was headed. At first I found myself resorting to the chords and melody of a German traditional song (“Der Mönch im Nonnenkloster“) but eventually I found a sufficiently original approach, a catchy chorus, a chorus after the chorus (with lots of room for me to butcher the pronunciation of squirrel), and also a quick bridge to make it all more dynamic. I considered inserting the melody of the Germany national hymn between verses, but the song was already getting long. (I even shortened the second chorus.)

I consider the lyrics to be just a few looong sentences. I added two more parts with free-style rambling just to be sure that my entry would be run-on enough. The middle-part allowed me to address the issue of sarcasm. I felt this was necessary, because the initial lyrics came across almost serious. I mean, lines like “Invincible, almighty and fearless in the night” might go unnoticed. Finally, I have no idea what people who don’t understand German think of the line “their Bandwurmsätze are really, really long their Bandwurmsätze are really, really long”. Maybe one of the judges remarks on it. Anyway, I was thinking of making a video for the song; I won’t have time for that any time soon, though. Meanwhile, here’s the music/lyrics:


When it comes to building cars, Germany’s the best
And Germans on the Autobahn drive faster than the rest
With the pedal to the metal and reckless as can be
Just like Michael Schumacher racing down the street
Nothing that can stop us on and off the road
Be it truck or airplane, be it bicycle or boat

And with regard to soccer, I’m sure that you all know
The Germans won the World Cup while England had to go
And while we don’t like to admit it, our country makes us proud
‘Cos Germans are the greatest – there is really no doubt
Invincible, almighty and fearless in the night
And if there’s something broken, we can fix it all right
Yes, there is nothing that we Germans cannot do
‘Cos we know everything so much better than you
But as a citizen of this nation
I struggle with the pronunciation of ‘squirrel’

Germans built the wall and they tore it down again
And they still miss the Deutschmark every now and then
For example when it’s time to pay at the Oktoberfest
Where schnitzel, wurst and sauerkraut are easy to digest
As long as there is order, as long as there is beer
With Merkel on our side, there is nothing to fear

German maids are beautiful and German men are strong
And their Bandwurmsätze are really, really long
And all the Black Forest cuckoo’s clocks are never running late
So why not book a trip and come to see the Brandenburg Gate
Enjoy some German music: Rammstein, Volksmusik
We rock you like a hurricane until you agree
That there is nothing that we Germans cannot do
‘Cos we know everything so much better than you
But as a citizen of this nation
I struggle with the pronunciation of ‘squirrel’

Anyway, Germans are always on time, sticking to the rules, very talented and charming, fantastic singers – like me, for example – builders, engineers, inventors, Nobel Prize winners, Friedrich Nietzsche, you know, and Dirk Nowitzki, Pope Benedict, Beethoven, Wagner, Nena, handsome German people each and every one of them, big fans of discipline, yes, that’s us, and when we use sarcasm, it’s always 100% obvious, smart, efficient, never making any mistakes – and most of all we are very modest!

Ja, there is nothing that we Germans cannot do
‘Cos we know everything so much better than you
But as someone who grew up in this nation
I struggle with the pronunciation of ‘squirrel’

Why couldn’t they just call it “Eichhörnchen”? I mean, they took so many German words for the English language like Rucksack or Kindergarten and we also took some words from them like Handy or like Public Viewing – okay, we misused them*, but anyway, it’s so weird and I can’t pronounce it; it’s a tongue twister and, ah, it’s driving me crazy and did you know that Chip an’ Dale are called Ahörnchen and Behörnchen in German?

* Handy = mobile/cell phone, Public Viewing = broadcast of soccer games in public places

(words and music by Johannes Schult 2015 Creative Commons by-nc 4.0)

SpinTunes 10, Round #3 According to Jutze

Once again, I wrote down my thoughts while listening to the recent SpinTunes round (the third of SpinTunes 10). The challenge allowed us to play “our” style for the most part. So it was interesting to see, how clearly the long sentences stood out in each entry. Once again, my rating are purely subjective. All songs met the challenge in my opinion, so I won’t point this out for every song. (Check out the next post for a song bio of my entry.)

Adam Sakellarides – Too Verbose: The rhythm does remind me of the Weird Al example. The song nicely picks up the challenge and uses it as a starting point for its plot. The upbeat rhythm is partially successful in compensating for the monotone verse vocals. Not that the vocals are bad, but well, they *are* rather verbose. The chorus is good. The ending, however, is a bit irritating in my opinion; I’d have cut off the song before the final refrain. Maybe add some fire noise. Sirens. Honestly, I couldn’t really make out the words to the backing vocals in the chorus. They could have been more prominent in the mix. 7/10

Governing Dynamics – Recursion: Finally a challenge that isn’t at odds with the Governing Dynamics style. The verses and the chorus sound a bit too similar. The words successfully indicate the chorus but the music (including the vocal melody) remains a bit tame. 5/10

Kolton H. – Muse of the Machine: Tough stuff; I mean, I can barely make out the vocals. The songs seems ok. I read the lyrics beforehand and liked them quite a lot. Still, the final outcome is a tad too much soundtrack and not enough song for my taste. 3/10

Dreiviertel Drei – Homosocksual: The contrast between the sinister mood and the pun is fun! A sock-eating monster in the washing machine could have been the cherry on top of the cake. The vocals are off-key every now and then. Jus tlike with Governing Dynamics’ entry, the chorus could stand out a bit more. The final reverb hints at the possibilities. The mandolin (?) works nicely. 4/10

Megalodon – You Need to Know: Real drums, nice. It takes the song 30 seconds to get going. There’s a progressive rock feeling to the tune that should appeal to me, but where is the standout chorus? The instrumental side is more convincing than the vocals. In fact, I struggle to make out anything. Is this the song about Minecraft? Mh, not that I know anything about that. Or do I need to know about it? The fancy break in the middle is fun; the ending spices things up, but the lyrics are just too repetitive. 3/10

Jurek Mika – Yagi: This song might just work after drinking one beer too many. The challenge is met headon, I can’t argue about that. Sadly, the whole thing becomes too repetitive too fast. The middle eight doesn’t help – unless illegal psychoactive substances come into play, I guess. The instrumental outro could have brought some air into the song if it had been put in the middle of the song. 2/10

Zoe Gray – When the Rain Falls: The mood is a nice change compared to the previous song. However, it’s rather monotonous. This seems to be a side effect of this challenge. Maybe the judges will even reward it. The arrangement could have put some air after the refrain, before the subsequent verses. 3/10

Charlie McCarron – The Animal Song: The sarcastic lyrics are fun – and the music doesn’t get in their way. The rhythm changes provide the necessary possibility to breathe. My ears applaud this approach! I feel bad for the plethora of animals mistreated in the lyrics. Being the second longest song this round, it could have been edited a bit, I guess (maybe sacrificing the A-Z gimmick). Those were my initial thoughts. After watching the video clip, I love this song. The chorus is great (“Screw you!”), the animation is spot on. I’m glad I’m not an official judge, because the video might bias me. 8/10

The Boffo Yux Dudes – Love You: I can’t do this song justice like Sammy Kablan certainly can. Did you guys ressurrect Roy Orbison? The atmosphere is surreal; I might just pretend this is about the afterlife. The vocals have way too much vibrato for my taste. 4/10

Edric Haleen – The Land of No Punctuation: 100% Edric. Excellent. I tried to figure out the meter but gave up halfway through. The lyrics are fab – and unlike some of the other entries in this round, the song takes a (much needed?) break just when the run-on sentence reaches the limits of my patience (after a quick detour to the Land of No Inflection). The middle part itself is pleasantly soothing. The ending is cool. While not a song I’ll listen to on repeat, it will certainly put a smile on my face every time I hear it. 9/10

Atom & EV – Conspiracy Theory: High ranking for idea, low ranking for execution. Similarities to Bob Dylan and Billy Joel are obvious. I like the lyrics, but yeah, the production could be way better. 3/10

James Young at the Bottom of a Well – How Was Your Day?: The vocals are drowned in the backing track. I have no idea how to describe the character of this song. It could rob a bank and I wouldn’t be able to pick from a line-up. There is a mood, but again, unable to make out the lyrics I struggle with this one. 2/10

Jailhouse Payback – Reflections in My Eggs: The music runs on and on like the lyrics, I guess. The guitar solo brightens things up. Sadly, I can’t get a grip on the story/on the song. 2/10
The rat says: Sounds quite good.

Pete Murphy – Liars: Starts out like a Deep Purple song. The vocals start out great but become repetitive. I know, that’s a run-on sentence in each verse. If I were a judge this might make me rank this song near the top. Personally, I’d love to hear a few more hooks in between. Hats off for the organic, clear production. 4/10

Ross Durand – Catch Me: I must confess that I recently watched a Ross Durand live video on his homepage. And now I can’t help but wonder if the song would sound more dynamic, more gripping if it were only acoustic guitar (picked?) and vocals. Only a few moments stand out – I wish I would have listened to this one first to appreciate it more. 5/10

Dr. Lyndike – No Time for Dreams: Another confession: I always imagine Dr. Lyndike as Dave hammering away on his keyboard in the basement (?), because that’s how I first saw him when he played some Jonathan Coulton songs. So now I’m irritated by the band arrangement. I mean, where does the band come from? Why are there tons of guitarists with harmonicas in front of them, but no piano players with harmonicas? I like the approach of the song; the mood suits the lyrics. Packing a whole lifetime into the song was ambitious but they pulled it off. 7/10

Ben Taggart – How Was Your Day? (Shadow): The music is (too) repetitive, but the lyrical approach is fine. 2.6/10

Ominous Ride – After Happily Ever After (Shadow): Again, the music is (too) repetitive. The song sounds a bit boring. No, wait it’s hypnotic. And also a bit boring. And hypnotic. 3/10

Being Edric Haleen

The challenge of the second round of SpinTunes #10 was to write a horror song. This reminded of the hate song challenge in a previous edition of SpinTunes. I could have easily written about a madman and his victim. I just don’t see how this makes the world a better, or at least a more interesting place. Also, I listened to Devil Doll‘s “Dies Irae” album for inspiration, which is horror music in perfection. No way I could rival such a masterpiece. So instead, I went looking for something different. And soon enough I found fellow SpinTunes musician Edric Haleen. Edric has a place in my music folder (as well as in my heart) ever since his excellent take on “It All Makes Sense at the End“. My hope was that I could a certain amount of horror while also being entertaining.

I began writing the lyrics the day the challenge was announced. Two days later most of the lyrics were in place. I had some preliminary melodies in my head, as well. The original plan, however, was to play expressive chords on the keyboard and adapt the lyrics to fit the piano extravaganza. The only problem was that I didn’t have a keyboard. Mine had broken a couple of months earlier and I hadn’t gotten a replacement. So I frantically ordered a new one at my formerly local dealer, hoping it’d arrive in time. It didn’t. Thursday evening I turned to Plan B, which involved composing the verse and bridge (and intro) on guitar. Friday found me returning to the initial refrain melody in my head and piecing together some chords to fit it. By chance, I got up rather early on Saturday and started programming the whole thing. Looking back, I’m not sure I could have produced the song faster with a keyboard. I guess the fills would have been more dynamic and weirder. The tempo changes throughout the song, so I kept building it from intro to outro, part by part, note by note. There are a few things I would change in hindsight, like the transition to the second chorus, the unnecessary repetition of the “seen” rhyme in the third chorus, the bars after “heavy metal connection” (with ascending three-note fills instead), and the jolly intermission after the third chorus (which I only included because I thought I should add something I played ad lib on my MacBook’s keyboard).

Recording the vocals was fun (but not for my throat). I cited some of Edric’s songs and alluded to his rather long entry in the previous round. I also included a couple of bars of the German national hymn (switched to a minor key) after the word “Germany”. I’m aware that the mathematical stuff in my lyrics is statistical stuff. The trouble with song writing contests is that there’s never enough time to research anything properly. I was tempted to interview Edric beforehand – or even invite him to play on the song. In the end, I wanted to keep the surprise. Also, he was probably busy with his entry (or his dog). And did I mention that there’s never enough time?

Being Edric Haleen

There was a little door behind my office desk
I was just curious when I looked inside
What happened next felt rather Kafkaesque
A metaphysical roller coaster ride to the other side

I woke up in a body that wasn’t mine
In a bedroom in a house that wasn’t mine
At least I had retained some of my volition
So I looked for a mirror to examine my condition
It was weirder than anything I had ever seen
I was trapped inside the body of Edric Haleen


I was no longer bald and I had a beard
Maybe this wasn’t as bad as I had feared
I looked down at my/his trembling hands
But I did not dare to peek into those pants
At least I hadn’t turned into Charlie Sheen
But it felt scary being trapped inside Edric Haleen

A woman I’d never seen came in and tried to kiss me
She said that I should hurry or else the kids would miss me
Did this mean that we had kids? Or that I was a teacher?
I really didn’t know the standard operating procedure
I ran out onto a street I’d never seen
And still I was trapped inside Edric Haleen

I just want to go back home to Germany
But now that I’m Edric – what if he’s me?
Will he go out and trade my heavy metal collection
For Billy Joel, Elton John, Barry White, Elvis Costello and the Attraction?
What have I done? What does it mean?
I’m trapped inside the body of Edric Haleen

I want to be Jutze again – I’ve had enough
But now I feel the urge to sing about mathematical stuff (…99999999999…)
The variance of a binary variable is p times (1 – p)
Why the heck does this dog keep barking at me?
This song must be at least 6 minutes 15
Oh the horror of being trapped inside Edric Haleen
It all makes sense at the end – but I’m stuck in between
Will I ever find a way out of Edric Haleen?
Just let me out!

(words and music by Johannes Schult 2015 Creative Commons by-nc 4.0)

SpinTunes #10, Round 2 According to Jutze

Here are my impressions from the second round of SpinTunes #10 (listen here!) – written and presented in the order in which I listened to the entries. This time around, my ratings reflect my personal taste (Do I like the song?) more than the successful induction of horror (Is it scary?). Why? Well, the first song I heard made me adopt this rule.

Dr. Lindyke – Happy Anniversary My Darling (shadow): Wonderful mood. Maybe a bit too much sadness, not enough horror. Of course, knowing that the song can be considered to be based on a true story, it is rather scary. The vocals become a bit too operatic as the dynamics rise. A little bit. Lots of bits here. Mh. I like the piano, I like the vocals. The “twist” at the end is rather disgusting than horrific. (Or should I have more empathy with the deceased?) Oh, screw the “low ratings for songs that don’t meet the challenge head on” attitude: 7/10

Dr. Lindyke – Howl in the Family: Mh, the happy country mood is not horrific at all. To be honest, I like both – Country and Western. So I really enjoy this song. But does it explore the horror genre musically? Thankfully, it’s a shadow, so I just refrain from rating it while I bop along. -/10

Kolton H. – Insanity’s Requiem: I’m not much of a techno fan. (Or whatever else this style should be called). I know I should elaborate how this song makes me feel. The problem is that there’s a void in my emotional core when I listen to this. The production is solid and the lyrics seem creepy. It’s me, not you. 2/10

Pete Murphy: Mellotron sounds in the background? The lyrics are rather sick. The slow built and the lush instrumentation prevent them from becoming too creepy. I really like the production of this one. The song could have been shorter as the lyrics don’t really go anywhere after the first third. I want to have a Mellotron! Mh, I really should look for some nice samples, at least. 4/10

Charlie McCarron – Knock at Your Door: Nick Cave? Tom Waits after rehab? Is this horrific? It’s a bit irritating. The lyrics could stand out a bit more. Listening to this, I feel uneasy. So bonus points for this. 4/10

Ross Durand – Lullaby?: Rock! Rock! Rock! Travis shouldn’t have mentioned Rob Zombie, I guess. I didn’t think Ross could rock like this. The song reaches a good conclusion around 1:11. Stupid 2 minute minimum rule. Dr. Lindyke wrote in their song bio that horror lyrics should be subtle. Ross isn’t subtle. I like Ross’s song. He should sell it to Alice Cooper. 6/10

The Masked Stranger – Oh So  Under Zyvytehliahtysrecht: This is madness! Nice grind core touch. No subtlety here, either. I can’t make out the lyrics; I have no clear memory of what they were about. Who cares? Evil voice at the very end, ha! 2/10

Dreiviertel Drei – Schnipp Schnapp: Finally, some music that is clearly in the tradition of horror movie soundtracks. The (male) vocals seem a bit childish. Which is good for the song. I’m just glad I didn’t follow my own “Schnipp Schnapp” idea. Overall, the song might be too quiet. An “Ouch” every now and then could have spiced things up. Do I like the song? No, it’s way too scary. So how the hell do I rate it given it’s the most spot on realization of the challenge? 5/10

Jurek Mika – Scream Funk (Screaming): This sounds horrific – and not in a horror challenge-meeting way. Sorry. The brutality I make out is appalling. The challenge was met, but I still give 1/10

James Young – She’s a Monster: Ah, the challenge was to write a smooth, relaxed song for the dance floor. No, wait. This turns into a rock song. Pop rock. Midnight Oil? Anyhow, this is groovy and laid back. The lyrics play around with love/hate feelings – they could as well be about your typical AOR topics. The music is nice. My rating isn’t (despite the good production). 3/10

Ben and the Angel Fish – Slaughterhouse of Mercy: Weird title. Weird intro. The lyrics are dark. Darkness is difficult if you’re not the Sisters of Mercy (see what I did here?). The music remains slow; it could have been a bit more engaging, I guess. No, I don’t exactly know what I mean by that. The harmonies are great for this challenge. As several previous entries, it’s difficult to discern the individual parts. Is there a refrain? Is there a climax? Is there a twist? I don’t know. 4/10

David J –  Sleep Child Sleep: Time for an autobiographical note: I’m very good at falling asleep. So this flood of lullabies sounds a bit pointless to me. It feels a bit as if you’re playing it safe. Which is okay. I’d rather have this than a song called “Oh So  Under Zyvytehliahtysrecht”. There is some kind of outburst in the middle of this song, but for the most part it doesn’t stand out (just like the previous song). 3/10

Edric Haleen – Sweet Dreams (2): What, no song about math test anxiety? I’m disappointed. Just kidding. Several people had remarked that the challenge was similar to the nightmare challenge from SpinTunes #4. Writing a sequel seems like a natural choice. The song turned out way too quiet, though. The non-piano instruments could have used more space to enhance the atmosphere, I guess. I’m thinking of chromatic lines and sudden outbursts here. I add a point because I’d certainly be more open to the approach if I hadn’t already heard several similar songs in this round. 4/10

Gorbzilla and the Gorbzookies – Tea Party: Finally, a song that deviates from the lullaby theme. I wish the lyrics wouldn’t be so buried in the distortion. Fortunately, I’ve read them beforehand. And now I feel the horror. Musically, this entry leave to be desired. And it could have been shorter. Still, I very much applaud the approach! 4/10

Atom & EV: The Demon Rig: The guitar needs more twang! I wish the playing was tighter. The narrative in the verses is wonderful. The melody line in the chorus is, mh, not so good. I can relate to suboptimal vocal talents. I can recommend triple-tracking the vocals – one voice in the middle along with one (slightly quieter) track on the left and one on the right. The story is scary enough and it doesn’t turn me off. Good! 5/10

Jailhouse Payback – The Doomed Guitar: More Country & Western? That’s fine with me – but again I get the feeling that it doesn’t really meet the challenge. The chords sound sad rather than creepy; the lyrics tend to support this notion. If I were a judge I’d give a lower rating but I enjoy listening to this one, so it’s 5/10.

Governing Dynamics – To the Honorable Charles W. Yancy, From Your Admirers: I want a SpinTunes edition with solely sad, melancholic, introverted indie rock songs. And I want Travis to win that competition. Meanwhile, here is an overlong song about I don’t know what. It breaks my heart to not find this more than okay-ish. 3/10

The Boffo Yux Dudes – Uninvited Guest: The voices in Tom’s head caught on tape? Weird? Yes. Scary? Sort of. Hilarious? Possibly. Once again, I feel uneasy. Bonus points for that. 3/10

Domingo – 4 Madrigals for Lilith: I had liked the lyrics when I read them online earlier. The choir approach sounds impressive. Making it four parts is a good way to avoid too much repetition. One note around 1:58 seems off key and the following transition takes away some of the atmosphere. Still, it’s a tense composition and each part is different enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Good work! 7/10

Army Defense – Asylum Nights: Another choir song? No, more pop rock. The production sounds good; the drums have a 70s vibe. Good vocals. Not a lot of horror here. Sure, the lyrics are not happy-go-lucky. Still, from a challenge point of view there is not much here. Nevertheless, I enjoy listening to the track. Here’s 6/10

“BucketHat” Bobby – Back from Hell: Hell’s a place where the singers are French, right? The music has a sad touch whereas the vocals bring some insanity to the song. It’s more a song than a horror movie soundtrack. So it could have been way more horrific. Still, one of the better songs this round in my opinion. 5/10

Megalodon – Daddy Daughter Day: Horror jazz? Well, I’ve heard worse jazz tunes. Ah, metal intermission with mad lyrics that totally destroy the song. I’m glad the song returns to the light jazz. The child’s vocals are irritating in this context. More metal. I better turn down the volume. Now the guitars play lullaby melodies. What an irritating track. This should rank high on most challenge criteria, although I don’t think it’s a “good” song. 2/10

Emperor Gum – Express: The background track is wonderfully creepy. The artifical hihat is slightly annoying. I know, I’m complaining a lot – earlier I said some songs were too quiet. Now I wish the initial mood would prevail. Instead, it’s time to rock. The melodies are weird. This might be good for the challenge. However, I find it hard to focus after the intro. Mayhem. Chaos. Almost done. Mh. 2/10 (which just shows that this is certainly not a unidimensional measurement, because this song is totally different from Megalodon’s, which got the same rating.)

Adam Sakellarides – For Sale: Lyrically, a traditional haunted house story. Sadly, the character of the ghost remains vague. The music is hesitant and not really creepy. Otherwise I might haven given more than 2/10

Zoe Gray – Grave: Yet another quiet song. A solid entry that could have been shorter, I guess. The sparse instrumentation makes it easier to digest, but it lacks some horror elements. 4/10
(The rat says: One of the better ones. Not that it is creepy. I don’t feel afraid. Anyway, nice melody, nice voice.)

Omnious Ride – White Rose (shadow): Interesting intro. Could be part of a creepy musical. The drums at 1:30 temporarily destroy some of the atmosphere. A few other parts could be shortened, as well. I think. The vocals need to make the story clearer. Make some central words/phrases stand out. Repeat them if necessary. 5/10

Melissa Leona –  Come With Me: The horror of having a rehearsal space with thin walls. The singer is trying to sing some nice melodies but noises intrude from all around. And then she can’t get the reverb out of the PA. What do you mean, this interpretation wasn’t intended? Well, I like it, thus: 4/10

Caleb Hines – Buried Alive (shadow): Ah, finally, some true horror music. Excellent choice of instruments. Spooky harmonies. Caleb manages to weave various creepy melodies into a tense atmosphere. No rock drums interrupt the flow. Instead, the pace quickens around 1:30 only to return to the initial state of suspense. And that return isn’t a discernible switch but a steady progression towards the core of my fears. Good albeit haunting work. 10/10

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

The Bleeding Dragon

Miracously, I made to the final round of SpinTunes #8. The challenge was:

Painful Progression – Write a song about PHYSICAL pain, and do so using a I-V-vi-IV chord progression in the chorus.

My naive assumption is that I can deal with the musical restriction more easily than the other contestants this round, who are a bit jazzier in my ear. Anyway, for this round I couldn’t just throw out a quick song like I did last round. I’m not a good singer, so a “normal” pop song wasn’t my aim. My first idea was to write some kind of Irish folk song, instead. Even before I picked up my guitar I decided to write about the pain of a menstruating dragon. I had this idea for the first time back in 2006, when I took the Hammerfall song title “The Dragon Lies Bleeding” literally. It took me a couple of hours to come up with a jolly chorus. The rest of the song manifested itself more quickly. I had a percussive click track resembling a bhodran, which I kept in the final version. I went a bit crazy with all kinds of keyboard sounds (including some banjo!) but most of them are buried in the mix. Needless to say, I would have loved to have real instruments. Anyway, there was a deadline to meet and I am quite satisfied with the outcome.

What made me very happy was the following review by Dave Leigh:

This sounds like the sort of thing that Hobbits would sing at the pub. Really demented, sick hobbits. Hobbits who need therapy. Who in his right mind writes a song about a menstruating dragon? Nobody, and that should tell us a thing about Jutze. However, this is the form of insanity that’s just really, really entertaining.

Check out all entries! I also filmed a quick sofa video that ended up with an over-enthusiastic preview thumbnail.

Deep under the mountain in the dark and the cold
Sheltered from the wind and the rain
Sitting on a pile of silver and of gold
The mighty dragon is in pain
Maybe it is time to leave this cave behind
Time to get some fresh air

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

Only the elders have seen this once before
Almost a century ago
They shut all the windows and they lock every door
Hiding in the cellars below
Maybe there’s a chance to escape the burning flames
Maybe they will survive

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

High above the lake the dragon’s breathing fire
Feeling that the cycle is complete – once again
There’s no way around it, no use in climbing higher
The time has come to bleed
Maybe it is time she should start to procreate
It sucks to menstruate

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
In agony and pain the dragon is flying
Nobody knows how much more it’s going to take
The dragon in the sky feels like dying

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

2014 Creative Commons by-nc Johannes “Jutze” Schult

SpinTunes #3 Round 2 Review

TL;DR Matt and Donna made a fantastic song. It’s my favourite one this round and you should check it out!

Judging this round is easier, because there are fewer entries; it’s also harder, because you need to consider the newspaper story for each song. Personally, I found this challenge a bit too liberal – so many possibilities. Then again, my personal style relies on puns, and ordinary news rarely provide them. I guess I liked those entries best that strayed from the original story a bit and developed a life on their own. Here’s the individual verdicts.

Godz Poodlz: The pop band production gives this one a Jonathan Coulton feeling, yet I’d prefer a more basic approach in the style of the folk singers from the 60s. The lyrics require knowledge of the story, which might diminish the impact of the song. Apart from that, the plot and the values sung about speak directly to the listener (at least to me) and there’s little to no part I’d skip / shorten. Nice one.

Caleb Hines: Great atmosphere, beautiful melodies. The instrumentation gives the song a movie soundtrack / music vibe. I’m not sure the handclaps belong there. Also, the chorus could have done with a bit more closure imho.

Matt and Donna: I like this one from the very start. Yes, I’m a sucker for synth melodies (and sounds) like this one. The rhythm is this perfect mix between sparse basics and driving beats. The changes to some minor chords throughout the track give the song enough emotional depth to render the lyrics somewhat unimportant. And then I read them and the annotation, and I wish I had a) found such a story and b) come up with such a small, yet clever idea. Hot contender for my favourite song of #3 so far. (PS: A different, more memorable title could have made more sense in the challenge, like “stuck between the bars”. Then again, the actual title fits the song and is clever.)

Alex Carpenter: The sound of this stripped recording reminds me of the German Monsters of Liedermaching. The quirky man-with-guitar approach isn’t the perfect vehicle for a rather serious, highly motivated lyric. Alex should have changed productions with the Godz Poodlz! The ending could have gotten bigger with some more instrumental toys, I guess. In the present state it sounds rather flat, and the song remains nice at best.

Ross Durand: Top notch vocals – love the many words in one line vs. short line endings contrast. The guitar playing is exquisite as well. Once again, switching to a minor chord (?) when it comes to “Land of the free” give the chorus an extra bit of emotion. I’m not sure how including three headlines in one song is in line with the challenge. Still, the way they are combined into something new (i.e., this song) works perfectly for me. Very good entry!

Dr. Lindyke: May I suggest you add some vinyl playing sounds (crackling?) to the recording? It’s difficult to compare this contemplative song to the rather upbeat entries most other contestants made. I like how peace is in the center of the whole song. A bit more “plot” in the lyrics (as in the third verse, where a person, a place, and an action is given) would have appealed to me, I guess.

Alexa Polaski: Mmh, this seems to suffer from deadline writer’s block. Or maybe the flat, sober rendition is intentional. I find myself impartial to this entry.

Matt Walton: I get the feeling that this is a good idea. But the execution lacks energy and passion. Or maybe it’s intentionally clean. Speeding up the whole thing and adding a jig somewhere in there would have spiced up things. Speeding up your song is generally a good idea to figure out possible changes/improvements. I’m not a native speaker, so my impression of the lyrics is rather vague. The verses sounded too much alike. It’s a song about demonstrating, so it could have done with more outgoing temperament – and possibly a mellow last verse for contrast.

Charlie McCarron: The production and performance sound quite good – still, it’s a tad too jazzy for my taste. The soaring vocals in between are a nice touch. The song managed to turn a newspaper story into a song story, thumbs up for that!

Jon Eric: Epic song, longest entry so far!? It starts out good, but the first chorus is already taking the drive out of the song. The atmosphere is gripping and it becomes clear that this will be a longer journey. The whole thing reminds me of Trans-Siberian Orchestra – probably the pathos in the vocals and the piano. When I say that this one’s too long, I don’t mean that parts are very enjoyable. The plot line holds the thing together and is one of the better ones this round.

Wait What: Did the planned marriage involve a robot? No? Then why the excessive auto-tune? The music is solid, creating a dense atmosphere. I like how it becomes bigger half-way through the song. Having the vocals in a higher register afterwards is a good idea. But why the auto-tune?

Governing Dynamics: Much better than the previous entry – or at least more true to the dynamics and the vocal/e-git combination I admire Travis for. The choice of the news item isn’t exactly quirky or anything. But the aura suits the musical style. Tip for future hit songs: Try writing a refrain that starts with an offbeat (that is, the vocals have a couple of notes before the 1 of the first chorus bar). Right now the song seems to me like a reflection of a big city in turmoil (which is an achievement), but with the right kind of hookline it could have been, well, catchier.

Pat and Gweebol: The topic of the song is rather serious, but the overall tone is quite joyful. Apart from this cognitive dissonance it’s a solid song, neatly produced and with much better vocals than I can ever hope to perform myself.

The Offhand Band: Did Billy Joel sneak into the contest? The style of the song along with its unintrosive melodies makes it easy to dismiss it as (quite flawless) background music for movies, elevators etc. The story told in the song has an important message and I wish it would have been put into more concise words.

Chris Cogott: Amazing vocals! The news were translated into highly original lyrics. I don’t think you can meet the challenge more than this entry does. There’s little to complain here, only that it’s ever so slightly outside my musical pleasure zone. Maybe it’s a bit too soft, a bit too much U2 (though there’s little to begin with), a bit too vast a harmonic soundscape. I don’t know. It boggles my mind that this appears to be one of the earliest submissions as it sound really professional. Maybe next time there will be rock guitars or melancholic twang guitars. No wait, we all will be rapping.

Steve Durand: I like how Steve has a rather unique sound that sets him apart from the other competitors. His tune is cheerful and less elaborate than some of his previous works. The vocals struggle with the higher notes – transposing is no crime, I think. The music is a bit too casual for my taste. The instrumental part in between hints at a bit more depths. But in the end it’s a plain waltz with a lot of happiness.

Gold Lion: Again, this is not exactly my cup of tea. However, the droning motive in the guitar and the strong vocals make me enjoy this song quite a bit. The refrain is beautiful and the story rather touching. The guitars could be a bit tighter, but this doesn’t keep me from enjoying the song. Also, the second vocal track is a bit confusing, at least to my ears. I could imagine that some more instruments here and there could give the whole thing a bit more colour. Anyway, a pleasant entry.

Inverse T. Clown: Oh boy, why isn’t the rhythm in the chorus a double-time feel? The verses are a bit dull, but the chorus is strong and the sounds fit the song well. The dramatic chord near the end of the refrain is very effective. The instrumental is kind of cool. There could have been a tad more plot development throughout the verses. Nice ending, good song.

Happi: Not a pleasant entry, partly because I’m not into rap. Oh, the irony. The plot fits the style, sort of. The individual parts a rather flat, but the transition keep the ball rolling throughout the song. The chorus melody is sung out of key, I guess. But who am I to point that out?

Menage’ a Tune: A jolly tune with some nice rhymes and a sincere vocal performance. I would have liked the title line to be bigger, more like a recurring refrain, maybe sung by a bunch of players. (Is it baseball? Or basketball? Or American Football?) I’m sure I’d dig the song if I had a connection to the team/type of sport.

Noah McLaughlin: The off-beat hi-hat in the verses is an interesting choice. The twangy guitars are cool. The distorted vocals work well. The songwriting feels a bit rushed. The middle-part is rather confusing, yet another indicator that more time would have led to a better song (or no song at all, who knows). The lyrics deal with a complex matter (or well, a matter I’m not too familiar with), so while I’m catching glimpses of the news in the song, I struggle to connect all the lyrical dots.

SpinTunes #3 Round 1 Review

Prologue: Here are some comments on the first round of SpinTunes #3. The challenge (“write a happy song about death”) made it rather hard to write lyrics with some sort of progression / developing narrative. I guess that’s what led to so many songs being rather short. Anyhow, I wrote the comments over a long stretch of time; the oldest ones come first.

Godz Poodlz: Jingles, self-promotion – and now an ad song. Gödz Pöödlz deliver it. The vocals remind me a bit of George Harrison. I wish had a line like “we take Major Credit Cards and cash” in my own tune. I have a couple of complaints, but they focus mainly on the production: the chorus could have done with a bit more distinction from the verses; also, the drum pattern becomes a bit dull – a more Traveling Wilburys-like Jim-Keltner-Groove would have been more to my taste.

Tally Deushane: I’m glad Tally’s vocals aren’t as permantently high register-based as in most of her other songs. The approach is certainly entertaining, but I’m afraid that both the music and the lyrics could have done with some editing. (I know it had to be 2+ minute long)

Ethan Ivey: Where’s the happiness?

Matt And Donna: The most serious song so far. Still it’s happy enough to make me smile.

Ross Durand: Johnny Cash plays U2 after taking some antidepressiva? The lyrics are happy-go-lucky, perfectly fitting the challenge. Sadly, this diminishes the replay-value.

Gold Lion: The vocals sound like they come directly from the latest hip indie dreamy shiny newcomer release. Frankly, I prefer songs like Dream Theater’s “Afterlife” (read: heavy metal) to ‘modern’, ‘groovy’, ‘soulful’ music like this. The main song idea sounds like something that could appeal to a larger audience, though.

Dr. Lindyke: Delivering the straight and plain “Don’t cry when I’m dead and gone”, Dr. Lindyke barely makes his entry happy enough to meet the demands of the challenge. This is another song that has a somewhat serious atmosphere, which gives it more depth than most other entries have.

Alex Carpenter: Cool intro, finally some rock music! But wait, is this a Minor chord? Mmh, the chorus soares just above the depressive lyrics. It takes a bit too long for it to appear in the song. Nice choice with the gun sounds in the middle. This is one of the better songs, but walking a thin line challenge-wise.

Jason Morris: A subtle plot in the lyrics that takes a little while to manifest itself and its fatal consequence. The Oohlalala-backing vocals are a nice contrast. The song doesn’t go to deep, but the music and lyrics go hand in hand. I was hoping for Jason to write some more, well, passionate, or rather higher vocal lines for the chorus. Still, good tune. ETA: The intro/guitar/beat reminds me of It’s Alright by Dar Williams.

Caleb Hines: I’m surprised that this tune is in a similar style as Jason Morris’s song. Only the interspersed minor chords remind me of Caleb. The songs tries to balance geek rock (think TMBG) and a more mature orchestral pop ballad song atmosphere. I don’t think it’s an attractive combination. May I suggest Caleb stays with the geek rock next round?

Inverse T. Clown: Whoa, where does this 80s pop come from? Now this a happy song! The lyrical approach is not surprising, but the execution makes me giggle. I’m afraid I’m slightly happy about Caroline’s demise, too. There’s potential to shorten the song (or to include a synth solo).

Governing Dynamics: As I had feared, Travis became a victim of the challenge – I just prefer him singing sad songs. The music is surprisingly happy. The serial-killer story doesn’t appeal to me. With Dexter there was at least some sort of moral justification on the side of the protagonist. Here I have no sympathy with the narrator at all. This sort of destroys the song for me. Sorry.

Luke Brekke: I wasn’t too fond of the beginning, but the Cannibal-Annabelle-rhyme is really funny. Once again, the pun of the song comes early and is then repeated until the end. The music isn’t too memorably, but the lyrics have good rhymes. The happiness is there, but could have been more pronounced.

“Buckethat” Bobby Matheson: The songs starts out really tame. Sure, someone’s dying. But hey, don’t worry, be happy! Finally, the chorus comes around. The emotion in the song feels rather content than happy. Maybe it’s just me, though. In order to appeal to my taste better next time, please add ice-cream and balloons.

Charlie McCarron: Another of these neo-folk, artsy, no-I-still-cannot-describe-the-style-properly songs. The happiness in this one is subtle. The death reference is also rather subtle, which is a nice change after so many rather blatant songs. This might be the first song that provides continuing lyrical inspiration even in the last verse. Still, the music is not really matching my taste.

Spencer Sokol: Mh, another song about not coming home. The ending reminds me of, tata, Governing Dynamics. I like that. The happiness is very subtle. I’m not sure if the percussive beats should resemble the beating heart, but it works. The song starts out a bit too soft. Maybe it could have been, well, happier – a bit more of a triumph.

Matt Walton: The first minute is entertaining, but again the lyrics become repetitive. The music is jolly enough to meet the challenge. I just don’t feel the spark that makes me want to smile. So I guess I just nod.

Brian Daniell: The lyrics try to postpone the death realization as long as possible. The chorus and the subsequent post-chorus part are a nice invention. The vocals are bit tame, but the happiness is tangible. I assume the title is a baseball reference. If I knew more about that I might get more out of this song, but it’s still a pleasant entry; I just wish Thursday to Sunday would have appeared, as well.

At this point it’s Sunday and the ratings and rankings have been published; so the remaining comments might be somewhat biased.

Edric Haleen: As expected, Edric manages to turn this somewhat plain lyrical idea into a massive assembly of rhymes and twists and turns. Since he can’t really take the story to a next level half-way through the song he resorts to making this long middle-eight rambling. Very effective. Not as catchy as I had hoped, but still a song for the higher ranks.

Chris Cogott: Certainly one of the best production so far, but frankly I miss a deadly hookline. The lyrical idea is, well, sweet? Still, I can’t hum along after two listens, which makes me a bit sad.

Glen Raphael: Someone once said something like: Using reverb is sort of cheating but sometimes necessary. So here the production makes it hard for the melodies to shine. Turning the volume of the percussions down could have helped. The chorus melody has potential. Unfortunately, the lyrics keep repeating the same notions after the first verse.

Wait What: Some of my favourite lyrics in this round. Sadly, the music flirts with cheap pop and remains otherwise unremarkable. I would love to hear Caleb Hines put some catchy music to this one. Given the present music, speeding up the whole thing is the only idea I have right now to improve the song as it is right now. The middle part is a nice change – only I don’t like rap.

Young Stroke aka Young Muscle: Did I just write I don’t like rap? Funny coincidence. For what this songs aims to be, it’s okay, I guess. Plenty of creative lyrical ideas, a solid beat. Maybe the chorus could have done with one or two more instrumental tracks, perhaps even just a low bass line.

Doom SKITTLE: Another Afterlife-song – the music is somewhat minimalistic. The voice strays from ordinary melodies, but there’s plenty of, mh, self-confidence. This tune sounds as if it is supposed to sound like this. So this entry is not mainstream at all, but it has more identity than most. Unfortunately, the lyrics fail to achieve the same rate of uniqueness. The story should have been way creepier, I think.

Steve Durand: I loved Steve’s Gamma Man with all its drama. This song remains on the beaten path, the drums sound good, the harmonies create a dense, pleasant atmosphere. After a while, the whole thing becomes a bit monotone. The middle part is more memorable than the actual ending line. The music isn’t overly happy, rather very content – but the lyrics convey a clear message of happiness. All in all I like this one quite a bit.

Menage’ A Tune: The death part in this one is subtle. The happiness is clearly there. AND IT’S ABOUT CHOCOLATE. So it’s virtually impossible to not like this one. The lyrics are possibly my favorite ones this round, especially with the happy undertones in the vocals. The music becomes a bit monotone, but yes, it’s a great, happy story about death.

The Boffo Yux Dudes: Did Monty Python just hit a bus carrying the New Model Army? It would have helped to have a clearly marked chorus. Or some whistling. The song would be much less interesting without the passionate performance.

Byron Blocker & The Offbeats: Starts off a bit like Tom Waits. Once the whole band sets in it sounds a bit to clean. Also, it’s a bit too repetitive when it comes to the lyrics. She’s dead. I get it. There could have been a more detailed story here. The music alone doesn’t appeal to me that much; also it’s rather gloomy. It’s not a bad song or anything; I just could envision this being more intense, more twisted.

Happi: The rapping sounds more angry than happy. The lyrics acknowledge this shortcoming by insisting that it’s a happy song. The chorus could have done with a slightly different instrumentation for the sake of contrast. Only in the middle-part do I sense some real passion – oh well, I’m just not the right person to say complimentary things about rap music, I guess. Sorry.

Emperor Gum: This song has a bit of a cinematic feel to it. I can imagine the figures, the deed – but, mh, it’s more a drama than a comedy. So it is a gripping song. But it sorts a clear hookline. All I’m left with is the story. And a dead body.

Jon Eric: A rather visual account of death – not that original per se, but compared with similar entries, Jon comes up with a coherent narrative that’s topped with a joyful chorus. The performance sounds a bit flat to my ears. Maybe Travis is right, demanding more banjo. Personally, I’d wish for (more) memorable melodies in the vocals. (Which is the most difficult thing to achieve, apart from getting the guitar player to lower the volume of his instrument.)

Alexa Polasky: It just occurs to me that no one used spectacular dying sounds. No Wilhelm scream (so far). This song here comes close to it at first, but then uses repetitiveness as a style element. This gives the song an 80s vibe, which is anything but a bad thing. The killer hook is absent, but the production makes the most of the song idea. The lyrics leave a lot of ways to imagine their context. Sadly, I’ve already heard too many songs about death by now. This is a solid entry. Still, I get the feeling that you could have made more of the “only gets better”-part, making it broader, more intense, better.

Pat And Gweebol: I get weak whenever I hear Uhlalala backing vocals. I’m glad someone used the Romeo & Juliet theme. The music struggles with the happiness, but it’s bright enough to satisfy the stickler in me. The female vocals are very strong. I wish there could be more fantasy, epicness, vastness in the production. But this is still a good, little tune.

The Offhand Band: This one just sounds too much like the Rutles.

Ethan Ivey: The atmosphere is nice, but then the lyrics destroy everything. I think this is a vampire story. Or it’s similar to the Governing Dynamics lyrics. Anyway, the harmonies are slightly too soothing, yet too basic to make the brutal plot a contrast big enough to justify thrashing my emotions.

Bryce Jensen: Music, lyrics, performance – they’re all not spectacular enough. Made more simple this tune could have been cheerful and pop ice-cream. Or with a few minor chords, there could have been deeper emotions to contrast with the relief of the singer in the chorus. The ending is somewhat too sudden.

Mick Bordet: Excellent lyrics! The chorus is enjoyable, too, but the performance is a bit too shaky. Some big guitars on the 1 and 2 of each bar could turn this into a stadium anthem. The “lick you” part and the flute are nice touches. Oh, and I’m a vegetarian, yet I enjoy this song.

SpinTunes Feedback, Metal Influences, and Statistics

The first round of the SpinTunes #3 song writing competition is over. Lo and behold, I made it to the next round! So needless to say I’m happy with the results. But equally important, the reviewers provided a lot of feedback. One is often inclined to retort when faced with criticism. Musicians even tend to reject praise if they feel misunderstood. I’m no exception. But this time around I actually agree with everything the judges wrote about my entry. (I Love the Dead – remember?) There wasn’t even the initial urge to provide my point of view, shed light on my original intentions. I will now go into the details, before I turn to a quick statistical analysis of the ratings in the last section of this post.

The incubation period for this song was rather long. At first, I was considering writing about the death metal band Death. It would have meant stretching the challenge and alienating anyone unfamiliar with the history of death metal (read: pretty much everyone). The only reminiscence of heavy metal in my actual entry is the adaptation of Megadeth’s “Killing Is My Business and Business Is Good”. I toyed with the idea of celebrating the death of a person who has lived fully and left nothing but happy marks on the lives others. Translating this idea into an actual song was a complete failure, though. I also considered writing about mortality statistics. There’s people who estimate the space needed for future graveyards and health insurances and so on. I’m somewhat familiar with the statistics behind that. But it would have taken weeks to turn this into a cohesive songs. So I returned to the notion of the happy grave digger. (Yes, Grave Digger is the name of a German metal band.) The working title was “Grave Digger’s Delight”. The music started with the chorus while I was playing an older idea I hadn’t used so far. Basically, I threw away the old idea except for the initial G-chord and the final change to D. I did add the intro melody, more on that soon. The verses are the good, old vi-IV-I-V, but with a ii thrown in for good measure. That’s not too original, but I was already running out of time. The lyrics started out with a word cloud of related terms. Plots With a View was a big inspiration when it came to the sincerity behind the mortician’s word. Here’s a person who’s dedicated to his job! I had wanted to include a couple of fancy funeral descriptions. But the music called for more concise lyrics. All that’s left from that idea is the line “I can give you silence – I can give you thunder”, which I kept to rhyme with “six feet under”. That one is indeed very plain, but I felt that the huge number of competitors called for a straight song that brings its message across during the first listen, preferably during the first 20 seconds. I think I succeeded in this respect. (This also a major reason why I changed the title to “I Love the Dead” – keeping it straight and plain.) The 2 minute minimum length gave me headaches. This made me keep, even repeat, the intro melody. I was tempted to use a fade out. But I always see this as a lack of ideas. So I used the working title for the ending. Given a few more days I might have come up with a more adequate closure. Even as I was filming the video, I felt the need to shorten the ending. I tried to spice up the arrangement with a bridge (post-chorus?) of varying length. I wasn’t completely sure about it during the recording process, but now I’m glad that the deadline forced me to keep it as it is. At one point I had a (programmed) drum track and some piano throughout the songs. To me it sounded as if they were littering the song rather than filling in lower frequencies. So I dropped them and just used a couple of nylon-stringed guitars (one hard right, one hard left), a steel-stringed guitar (center), a couple of shakers, lead vocals plus double-tracked vocals and harmony vocals in the chorus (slightly panned) and, of course, the last tambourine.

TL;DR – I appreciate the feedback and I resolve to start working on my next entry sooner.

Russ requests statistics. I happily obliged and performed a quick factor analysis using the ratings. What this method basically does is to create a multi-dimensional space in which the ratings are represented. There is one dimension for each judge, yielding a 9-dimensional space in the present case. If everybody judged the songs in a similar way, you would expect “good” songs to have rather high ratings on all dimensions the “bad” songs to receive low ratings. A line is fitted into this space to model this relationship. If all data point (i.e., songs) are close to that line in that space, the ratings are supposed to be uni-dimensionally.  In other words, there appears to be one underlying scale of song quality that is reflected in the ratings. This would be at odds with the common assertion that judgments are purely subjective and differ from rater to rater. (It would also suggest that computing the sum score is somewhat justified and not just creating numeric artifacts void of meaning.)

Using Stata 10 to perform a factor analysis with a principal-component solution, I get the following factors:

. factor blue-popvote, pcf

Factor analysis/correlation                    Number of obs    =       37
Method: principal-component factors            Retained factors =        2
Rotation: (unrotated)                          Number of params =       17

Factor   |   Eigenvalue   Difference        Proportion   Cumulative
Factor1  |      4.44494      3.29466            0.4939       0.4939
Factor2  |      1.15028      0.33597            0.1278       0.6217
Factor3  |      0.81431      0.08112            0.0905       0.7122
Factor4  |      0.73319      0.19850            0.0815       0.7936
Factor5  |      0.53468      0.05959            0.0594       0.8530
Factor6  |      0.47510      0.11760            0.0528       0.9058
Factor7  |      0.35750      0.05932            0.0397       0.9456
Factor8  |      0.29818      0.10635            0.0331       0.9787
Factor9  |      0.19183            .            0.0213       1.0000
LR test: independent vs. saturated:  chi2(36) =  137.45 Prob>chi2 = 0.0000

Wait, what? Let’s just focus on one criteria for exploring the factor solution: Eigenvalues larger than 1. Here are two such factors, which suggests that the rating data represents two (independent) dimensions. (For those familiar with the method: I tried a few rotated solutions, but they yield similar results.) Now the first factor explains almost half of the variance at hand whereas the second factor has a much smaller Eigenvalue and subsequently explains only 1/8 of the variance in the data.

Let’s take a look at the so called factor loading to see how the two factor relate to the raters. Stata says:

Factor loadings (pattern matrix) and unique variances

Variable |  Factor1   Factor2 |   Uniqueness
blue     |   0.6128   -0.0039 |      0.6244
mike     |   0.7690   -0.1880 |      0.3733
mitchell |   0.7188    0.1032 |      0.4727
glenn    |   0.7428   -0.0309 |      0.4474
randy    |   0.8830    0.0089 |      0.2202
kevin    |   0.7768    0.1219 |      0.3817
david    |   0.6764    0.3650 |      0.4092
ben      |  -0.0672    0.9439 |      0.1045
popvote  |   0.7512   -0.2534 |      0.3714

Without going into statistical details, let’s say that the loading indicate who strongly each rater is related with each factor. For example, Blue’s ratings have less to do with the overall factor than Mike’s ratings. Both rater’s show rather high loadings, though. Given the high loading of all raters (except one) indicate a high level of general agreement. The only exception is Ben, whose ratings have little to do with the first factor. (You could argue that he even gave reverse ratings, but the loading is quite small.) Instead, his ratings play a big role in the second factor (which is by definition statistically independent from the first one). There is some agreement with the remaining variance of David’s ratings and a negative relationship with the popular vote (if you use the somewhat common notion to interpret loadings that are larger than 0.2). So there appears to be some dissent regarding the ranking. But on the other hand, the “dominant” first factor suggests that the ratings reflect the same construct to a large degree. Whether that’s song writing skills, mastering of the challenge, or simply sympathy, is different question.

PS: I must admit that I haven’t listened to all entries, yet. It’s a lot of music and I’m struggling with a few technical connection glitches. Anyway, I liked what Jason Morris and Alex Carpenter did, although their music wasn’t that happy. Another entry that necessarily caught my attention was Wake at the Sunnyside by the one and only Gödz Pöödlz. Not only did they choose the same topic I used, they also came up with a beautiful pop song and plenty of original lyrical ideas. Good work!

I Love the Dead

This is my entry for the SpinTunes song writing contest (#3, Round 1). The challenge was to write a happy song about death. Happy songs are hard to write. Happy songs about death inevitably turn out ridiculous or super-scary – at least when I write them. I wrote “I Love the Dead” with Christopher Walken’s character from Plots with a View in mind. I also made a little video.

Jutze – I Love the Dead

I love the dead – strictly vocationally
I love the dead – I bury them professionally
So far none of them came back to complain

I’m just a happy undertaker – I aim to please
I’m making sure you’ll get the perfect grave to rest in peace
Sometimes I feel a little bit misunderstood
Because death is my business – and business is good
I love the dead – strictly vocationally
I love the dead – I bury them professionally

This funeral home is the place I call home
And with the graveyard next door I never feel alone
I love the dead – strictly vocationally
I love the dead – I bury them professionally
So far none of them came back to complain

I don’t mean to offend – I just really like my job
I take care of the bodies before they start to rot
I can give you silence – I can give you thunder
Either way you’ll end up six feet under
I love the dead – strictly vocationally
I love the dead – I bury them professionally
I love the dead – strictly vocationally
I love the dead – I bury them professionally
This is the grave digger’s delight

(words and music by Johannes Schult / 2011 Creative Commons by-nc)