Reviews! [Disclaimer: my opinion doesn't count.]
Berkeley Social Scene - There's a lot about this track that rubs me the wrong way, to be honest. It starts with the vocals. Is that Sam singing, or Glennny? Sounds like he's near the top of his range, and the voice sounds very thin and lonely in the mix. It also sounds like there's some missed notes, which is surprising for a BSS track, so maybe there was a time crunch or something? The modulation from minor to major for the chorus doesn't strike me right, either. And, on a more subjective note, this whole thing feels a little too overproduced for its subject matter. If a guy's singing about how hard life has screwed him over, and how tough it is to be reduced to begging on the sidewalk, then I would expect it to be more intimate, and not accompanied by a full rock band. Maybe that's just me. It's also a little jarring how the chorus switches from the dialogue mode ("Sorry to stop you, I won't take that much time") into the narrative ("Then without pausing...") - that kind of thing works great on paper, but comes off less fluent in performance. So yeah, there's some issues here. On the plus side, Glennny still rocks the heck out of that eBow.
Billy's Little Trip - This segues neatly from the BSS track. The vocals are loose, which normally works for you, but the saxomaphone is also playing a little loose (it sounds fake, but it also sounds off-key... is that possible?), so the combination of the two doesn't work very well. The verses have some interesting stuff going on, and though the melody is somewhat tenuous, the performance has plenty enough oomph to sell it. The chorus, on the other hand, seems like haphazardly cliches strung together. Like, we were given a cliche for a title, and you decided to combine that with "What you see is what you get," and then played with how those two fit together, when the combination of the two is actually kind of unintuitive. I don't know why, but it feels to me like those two sayings just don't go together very well. Totally subjective. I wish you'd let your lead guitar abilities speak for themselves. Between Steve's trumpet last week and the sax this week, I'm starting to wonder whether you still have faith in your own ability to carry a song with your axe. Shred a little, dude! It's what you're good at! One bit of positive reinforcement I feel compelled to give, because no one ever notices stuff like this - your bass playing is solid. Always is, but this track especially.
Boop Boop - When I saw the lyrics, I expected a rap. What I got was this kind of dance-revival genre piece mixed with grunge guitars, and I'm not sure what to make of it. You probably have the catchiest chorus in the whole fight, but on the third line of the chorus (every time!), it sounds like you didn't quite hit that highest falsetto note. The pauses in between the first two lines of each verse seem to invite some kind of instrumental fill, but instead we get more nebulous vamping. I don't mind the vamping when it serves as the music bed, but when you give it room to breathe, it seems murky. I'm really just nitpicking here; this is my favorite entry of this fight. As I remarked in the lyrics thread, I really like your lyrics. You're really good at nailing different genres with all these bells and whistles. You've gone from a vocoded electronica piece with vintage synths, to a flamenco song IN SPANISH, to an ambient electronic piece with right-wing radio samples, to a freaking Sesame Street-style counting song, to THIS. Even if I haven't like most of these, it's an incredible musical journey, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised, at this point, to see you take the title home.
Chris Cogott - Someone's trying to take a step or two into BLT's territory, eh? This rocks harder than most of your previous entries. Man, I wish I could figure out how you get your acoustic guitars to sound like that. So lush, so full. The vocals, on the other hand, are a little weak in the mix. I feel like the vox in the verse could benefit from some judicious doubling. The lyrics here are a little one-note and sappy, but you keep the mix moving, the instruments well-tracked, the arrangement well-paced and always moving. I also really like your use of the sample. Rather than building the whole song around it, you just used it as a fill between verses. Nice touch. Also, that guitar solo is totally 80s. The only things holding me back from this topping my list are the lyrics and genre bias.
Jon Eric - Round 4 was where I got eliminated last year. I took 10th out of 10. I very nearly fell victim to a similar mistake - writing a boring song. This is a crucial stage in the game, and About halfway through recording, I looked up and said "Wait a second... this SUCKS." Scrapped my idea and came up with this instead. Last year I knew I was dead in the water. This year I'll be even more disappointed if I don't make it through this round.
Milo Dunderville - The idea I scrapped used that same chord progression, by the way. I barely touching on V before finishing on vi. Your song would have kicked mine's butt. Glad I switched ideas. This is beautifully executed. The drums are great punctuation here without overwhelming the mix of what should (and, I think, is) an organically mournful piece. The mandolin accents are neat, though they create this moment of cognitive dissonance - "He just said he'd never play the mandolin, but there it is, in chorus no less!" These lyrics scan wonderfully, though I wonder if they might even be too
melodramatic. The first verse has me hooked, and then the chorus makes me start wondering "Come on, now, NEVER? Really?" But, of course, there's many old-style troubador ballads that do exactly this, and I'm sure that's what you were going for. I dunno, I don't doubt the judges will respond to it pretty well, so I'm just a cynical twenty-something griping. Good job. Also, probably the best use of the sample this whole round.
Minty Handy - This is a neat little middle ground between the tongue-in-cheek quality of your early stuff and the (probably overly-)sentimental tone of last week's entry. You also used the sample well, though I would have preferred it to lead into the chorus, but not the verses. Over the second verse, is that a continuation of the sample I hear? Or did you record your own vibrophone part to make it sound more seamless? Awesome. The song is short, but comes near to wearing out its welcome because it doesn't have much motion. I know it's a lot to ask for a week long competition (and I know I'm guilty of it myself this week), but if your standards aren't high, then what do you have to shoot for, y'know? I feel like you not only have to start from a good idea, but that good idea has to palpably evolve over the course of the song, and it has to evolve into another idea which is as good as or better than the original idea, and that's a ton of thinking we all need to do to make it work, but the best songs are worth the effort. I feel like your entry last week had motion like this (it was narrative-driven, which makes it a little easier), but you could avoid the song stagnating if it felt like each line of the lyrics built on the previous one towards some kind of point. It's a hard concept to explain because it's so abstract, so let me know if you'd like me to attempt to explain better.
Sid Dennison - Of course, there are exceptions to the rule I just laid out for Minty Handy.
There's nothing like a good screw-you punk song. This chorus is really catchy, too. There are two problems with this song, though: 1.) Most screw-you punk songs sound the same, and this doesn't do a whole to differentiate itself. And of course 2.) You barely used the challenge. And in fact, you fobbed it off in such a way as to toss aside the whole notion of the non-optional challenge. You wrote a decent song with that attitude, but I'm concerned whether the jury will see it your way.
Therman - You and Who Fly both had such incredibly out-there uses of the challenge that I'm a little envious of the creativity involved. It never even occurred to me to slow it down that far, or to reverse it. Never even entered my realm of ideas. This is a nice little b-side, or maybe the ballad that the major label made you put on there, and even though you never really liked it, it turns into your biggest hit and a bunch of teenage girls uy your album and then throw it away when they find out it's mostly distorted grunge songs. Wow, I took that metaphor too far. Anyway. You handle this subgenre quite well, and you've got a pretty much perfect rock-star voice, but I can't help but feel like you're a little out of your element, without having a full-band arrangement. This has a ton of pathos, but isn't very catchy, so I'd probably need to listen to it a bunch more times before I was able to remember it. That's not necessarily
a bad thing, though I probably won't keep coming back to it. I can see how someone might, though. Enjoy your immunity.
Who Fly - So, your mix has already been discussed a little... For what it's worth, this track would have been AWESOME in my book if that same fade-in-fade-out effect had been applied to everything except
the lead vocal. As it is, you're lucky that it managed to leave most of the lyrics discernible. Unfortunately, the constant fading out makes this nearly unlistenable. I'll be sorry to see you go, but it seems you're probably first in line for the chopping block this week.
The only entry that REALLY stands out for me this week is Boop Boop. Milo and Chris aren't too shabby either.
Edit: possible cuts this week... Who Fly is the (sorry!) obvious cut, but I'm worried for BSS and Sid Dennison, too. Which of the two it winds up being will depend on how much weight the judges give the challenge.