Reviews: SpinTunes:Champions vs. Shadows

STCvsS

 

Since there were 3 members of BYD involved with this puppy (and Toni, who weighs in on Al’s vote), it was a complicated process to figure out the actual vote. Travis has our results, but the reviews are up for all to peruse, cajole and otherwise commiserate about. I was surprised at Scott’s thoughts, but hey, he has a point.

***

First up – Al Morgan takes the stage and mixes a few drinks.

Shadows:

Bubba and the Amiable Kraken – Bluebird:
Very catchy and sweet; I like the wistful vibe. Simple, but that works in its favor. Kinda XTC-lite. The whistling part could be the background of a car commercial.

Zoe Gray – Satisfaction Guaranteed:
Very smart; my own feminist teenage daughter would approve, and in fact this sounds a lot like some of the music she listens to. I like the spacey feel, which conjures a retro-futuristic (or is just futuristic?) vibe for me, especially contrasted with the wry content and delivery of the lyrics. Great tune (hummable!), only the bridge took me by surprise a little. A strong contender, of course.

Hotel Rex – Bridge:
I’m a sucker for power pop, what with the “1,2,3,4” countoff and all, though I’d likea little more power here. A bit generic, but ultimately a perfectly pleasant tune, well-executed.

Jutze – Ballad of the Emperor:
Props to any fellow traveller who takes the offbeat route, and bonus points for using “septillion” in a song. You do realize Star TREK is the superior franchise, don’t you?

James Young – Sandcastles:
Really well done. Not much to say, except that I like it a lot and that the Posies called and want their song back.

Rob from Amersfoort – Dream House:
OK, now THIS is what I’m talking about. When it first started I was dubious, and within 15 seconds I was loving it. Just brimming with the post-psychedelic quirkiness that I yearn for; it’s like some garage-band cross between The Soundtrack of Our Lives and The Tages. You’re not gonna get everyone on your side, but the ones you do are gonna LOVE you.

Brian Gray – I’ll Do It Myself:
Wow, I’m glad this isn’t about me. The music is exquisitelysequenced/played and fits the mood of what you’re going for perfectly. The lyrics are razor-sharp though they wander into unfathomable acronym territory at times, which I suppose is part of the joke. I think I know what you were going for with the “Septembers” bit, and it’s a nice change-up, but ultimately I think it disrupts the flow of the song. The best caustic put-down songs (and this is a good one) are usually pretty relentless. I would have liked to have heard more vitriol in the vocal delivery, but you probably see the character differently than I do.

Boffo Yux Dudes – Tiny House:
I just thank God that my wife indulges us in our silliness and I finally found a Linux-based vocal compressor plugin that works for me.

Dr. Lindyke – Day after Day:
Ah, my old archnemesis, earnest self-reflection. Well-written, sung, and played, this has everything a good 70’s-type piano song needs, including true emotion and a big ‘ol hook. The bird sound effects are appropriate and NOT played for laughs; consequently, this seems like a waste to me, but whatever floats your boat.

Pigfarmer Jr. – River of Tears:
Straightforward and roots-y. I think it works in that I want to take the narrator out for a few beers and get plastered so we all forget our troubles.

Trader Jack – Building:
The instructions are going a bit fast, so I appreciate the repeated phrases. I, too, could not find a compass, so I had to hand-draw the circles best I could. You seem to be concerned with wanting more, but if we’re going to get this done you’ll have to stay focused on the task at hand. And we won’t be able to build the tesseract you mentioned until we’ve completed the two-dimensional stuff.

Ben Taggart – Building Me:
This kinda thing ain’t my cup of gin, so I’ll note that the simplicity of the arrangement works in your favor, but you have to guard against monotony (yeah, yeah, I know, pot, meet kettle). Nice melody, but there might have been a pitch crack here or there (dammit, there’s that pot/kettle combo again!)

Champions:

Jenny Katz – Thoughts on Leaving You:
This is a whole new level of good. I have a low tolerance for confessionals-with-an-acoustic-guitar, but damned if you didn’t keep me listening and thinking. Emotional without being overly sentimental, direct without being aggressively blunt, I’ve been there and maybe you all have, too. So you made me want to ask the question, Jenny: what DOES “free” mean to you?

Governing Dynamics – Room Stop Spinning:
Sounds like a lost You Am I track, which is a definite plus in my book. Growing old’s a bitch, which is why I’ve given it up mentally even if my body trudges onward, so I’m right with ya, buddy. And any DJ who doesn’t know Nirvana isn’t worth my junked collection of Ric Astley twelve-inchers.

Matt & Donna – Reasons My Kid is Crying:
You think things are bad now…wait until the little bastards become teenagers.

MC Ohm-I – Favorite Things:
The main drawback for me is that the vocals seem really low, so I have to consult the lyrics, which I mostly understood but my son thought were the best things he’s heard this week. I like the idea of hijacking something from “The Sound of Music” for a hip-hop song, if not least because it amuses me to think of Edric Haleen guesting with you on this. That’d be kinda awesome, actually.

***
Next up – Scott Mercer serves up his results with a dish served cold for the Champions…

***
All of the Champions should be disqualified.

None of them met the requirements of the challenge.  The challenge was: “write a list song about any topic you like.  The song should be in the form of a list, not about a list.”  To me, that means that the song should consist of a list and nothing more.

None of them were in the form of a list.  All the lyrics contained extraneous phrases, descriptions, questions, sentences and lyrics that were not part of the list.    (If the second sentence was not in the challenge, all of them would pass.  That second sentence prohibits any meta-commentary).

Having said that, the song that most resembled a list was the song by Jenny Katz.  Still, one of the lyrics is “I guess I should put the rest of the good down here in the column,” which is her commenting on the list, and not part of the list.  Clearly, there she is talking ABOUT a list, which is not to be done, according to the challenge.

Musically, the best song was the song by MC Ohm-I.  The My Favorite Things loop was fantastic and appropriate.

Moving on to the Shadows.
The challenge was a lot more vague and open to interpretation.  Probably appropriate that the Champions should get a more strict challenge and the Shadows get a much looser challenge.  So no disqualifications for the Shadows.

Overall a strong group of entries.  Nothing outright terrible.

1. Bubba and The Amiable Kraken – Love it…don’t mind the whistling at all, it’s a song about a bird.  Really pleasant and catchy.  Great hook in the chorus.

2. Zoe Grey. – Fantastic girl pop.  Lots of heart and brains.  Good social commentary here.  This manages, somehow, to feel both contemporary and timeless simultaneously.  Just a winner all the way around.

3. Hotel Rex – The first of several bridges that get built.  Really like the music, it’s got that classic Beatles/Badfinger feel.  Really strong entry.  The clumsy ending means I can’t rank it number one.

4. Jutze – This is a novelty, and I think I know where I speak regarding novelty songs.  So it has to be judged on different criteria from the other entries.  Is it a good novelty song?  I think it’s just okay.  No new twists on the Star Wars mythos really.  Hasn’t this vein been mined out by this time?  Overall, it’s a bit perfunctory.

5. James Young – It’s got an 80’s rock feel, like, I dunno, Big Country?  Midnight Oil?  It’s not bad but it doesn’t get me riled up.

6.  Rob From Amersfoort – Okay, more building castles.  This is also has an 80’s feel in my opinion, but more like Talking Heads or The Cars?  A bit “New Wave”.  It’s a bit more catchy than the James Young, but not much.  Really not a fan of that coda.

7. Brian Gray – This type of musical arrangement would have been good for a list song, but…that’s irrelevant.  Anyway, love the wordplay, and the “End of The World As We Know It” lyric torrent.  The completely non-matching bridge makes a nice intermezzo, a refreshing palate cleanser before we go back into the final verse.  Delightful!

8. BYD – Not rating our own song.

9. Dr. Lindyke – Well, hey.  More building castles in the sand!  This is a nice ballad, kind of a power pop ballad.  Reminds me of The Vandalias.  Nobody knows who that is, I’m sure.  We stay with the sand/beach metaphor throughout the song and really explore it, though.  And I appreciate that.  It’s not just a passing, obvious gambit.  Definitely a 70’s feel.  And a cameo from Jonathan Livingston Seagull!  Points for that.

10. Pigfarmer Jr. – Okay, now back to building a bridge across the river.  The songwriting is perfectly good, but I’m not blown away by the arrangement or the recording.  It’s pretty spare and I think the song could have justified a denser arrangement.  I know, it’s kind of country or folk or whatever, but that’s just how I feel.

11. Trader Jack – I appreciate the attempt at doing something different, but I did not want to listen to this a second time.

12. Ben Taggart – (late entry) – It’s a nice heartfelt song, I like the tack on the lyrics, something nobody else tried.  I don’t think it would have won, but I liked it.

***
and lastly, up with desert is Tommy G, who hits the nail on the head with his insightful commentary (or is that the mixed drinks talking?)

***
The Champions…

Jenny Katz – Thoughts On Leaving You
I like the simple guitar melody line that pushed the thoughts forward. It’s as though the pro and con list is a frantic thought process. What’s good? What’s bad? and what’s not in my control? She’s made her mind up. What about him?
Nice, plaintive ballad that hits many good notes and answers one question but leaves us wondering on the final one.

Governing Dynamics – Room Stop Spinning
Fun, Fuzzy Guitars accent the fuzziness inside the singer’s head. Is he growing up and out of partying? or just annoyed at the fact he can’t relate to the next generation coming up in the wash of bourbon and regret? If you’re too cool for the room, should you stay in it?
I like the driving bass as a counterpoint to the languishing guitars. The song can’t keep going in one direction, which accents the spinning room. Interesting use of tempo there.

Matt & Donna – Reasons My Kid Is Crying
I liked the melancholy kid cries turned into the chorus refrain. Nice touch on using a stylophone. It fits like an electronic xylophone glove. The forlorn feeling by the doting Dad come through as exasperation from the parents, where they can’t do the right thing for their kid (Although they look like they’re doing the right stuff, the kid obviously doesn’t agree)
It looks like they both need a kid breather after this, but the song tells the story well.

MC Ohm-I – Favorite Games
Good use of tying the music riff into the list theme for ‘My Favorite Things’. It fit well. The lyrics had wit without being snarky. I’d love to hear the vocals more present in the mix – they should be front and center on the next version.

The Challengers

Bubba & The Amiable Kraken – Bluebird
Fun, easygoing song about making a birdhouse. I liked the harmonies on the final chorus line, and the accent from the electric guitar complements the acoustic strumming.
The lyrics brought me to a meadow in my mind. Good job.

Zoe Gray – Satisfaction Guaranteed
Building your personal robot? That will take care of your every wish? What could go wrong with that? Well, what happens if that robot finds out there is more than serving people out there? Interesting tale, and good use of minor chord progressions to heighten the off note that all is not as it appears in the song.

Hotel Rex – Bridge
Good bar band rocking song, but the lyrics cryptically show the building involved is one of self deception. Nice twist there – the main character is actually pretty clueless about his situation. So it’s treating the subject as a positive, while the listener can pick out all the negatives involved in this relationship. Good touch.

Jutze – Ballad Of The Emperor
Who doesn’t love a good Star Wars romp? I like this upbeat ditty about building the most powerful station in the universe. Nice foreshadowing with ‘This weapon is too big to fail’.  The whole song made me smile.

James Young – Sandcastles
Funky analogy of Building Sand Castles and the impermanence of reality. Good guitar solo.  Do the castles hold your dreams, which wash away with the waves? Is it all futile in the end? a bit depressing, actually, but the forlorn voice does bring it together in the chorus.

Rob From Amersfoort – Dream House
Very dreamy stuttersteping song. Odd choice of chord progression, which builds on itself, brick by brick. Feels like you took inverse chords to make it have an unsettling emotional response. Then you toss in the refrain at the end that mixes things up more. The dream is askew, and the notes reinforce that thought.

Brian Gray – I’ll Do It Myself
Driving upbeat, manic tempo keeps the pace with a caffeine fueled tantrum.
The break was a good counterpoint for where the singer wants to be – but never quite gets back there. Also liked the organ solo – kept things moving fast like the mental state of the programmer.

The Boffo Yux Dudes – My Tiny House Is Too Tiny
I’m biased on this one. Al and Toni took a fun take on Scott’s lyrics. I’m still laughing every time Peter Dinklage is mentioned. So I’m a little prejudiced.

Dr. Lindyke – Day After Day
I like the laid back vibe this puts out. It’s not rushed. It has its own pace, and keeps to it. The ebb and flow of the tide fit the couple and their on again, off again relationship. But like the tide, they keep at it and build it back up again. SImple melody, but it all fits together like  glove. Well done.

Pigfarmer Jr – River Of Tears
Aching lyrics of lost love and lost time hits the heart. Nice guitar solo. Building Bridges over the river of tears is a good analogy for the heartache of the singer.

Trader Jack – Building
You build confusion very well with this tune. Watching the video helps at least make some sense of the lyrics, but it’s a long way to go for a cube.

Ben Taggart – Building Me (Shadow)
I’m seriously bummed this one came in too late to be a true shadow, and is more a stalker song. NIce analogy for building character instead of things. It also has a nice theme of passing on knowledge through the generations.

I’ll add the actual ranking of all the songs after Travis has posted his versions, since we had one clear victor, but the others were all within one point. Nice job everyone, and on to the final round!

 

Tommy G., Al and Scott.

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