This week, I listened to songs on the car stereo, cheap in-ear headphones on a portable player, and on cheap Dell non-subwoofer computer speakers. Then just to make sure I'm not making crazy accusations I re-listened to some of them on Grado SR-80 headphones.
Despite my complaints below, let me stress that I really enjoyed the fight. I haven't listened to some of you folks at all before, and was quite excited.
Phunt Your Friends
- Please explain why I liked this, because I can't. Something between the decent sample quality, the mix between them, and not having listened to much Phunt before. Not something I'd listen to in heavy doses, especially because it lacks harmonies and melody, but still enjoyable.
- Huh. It feels like a marching band broke into a barber shop, and the barber shop quartet just went with it. A funny image on its own, but not something I'd usually listen to. Nice chord and rhythm changes. Very skilled brass coordination.
- This turned out pretty well, glad you used your signature high-pitched voice as an effect rather than a centerpiece of the verses. Risky intro, but short enough to work. Almost thought you forgot to kill the click track. Lots of cool stuff going on in the mix spatially and EQ-wise, but I EXPECT this from you. I especially like the twinkling notes in the first chorus, as well as the barely-audible low-pitched "la la la"s. Lyrically not catching me. Very exciting and unexpected sound-effect break. Probably the weakest point in the song is that the chorus goes out of synch between guitars and drums. Is this something you could have maybe fixed in Melodyne, or recorded slower and sped up later? Near-miss of Votination Airlines flight #20050706.
- Weird lyrics. Weird sounds. The vocals try to sound sincere, which is in direct contradiction with the background instrument choices. I'm not feeling it; would recommend to either make the vocals more crazy (see R Mosquito's back-catalog for examples), or the instrumentation less so. Good twinkling around 3:00, reminds me of some effect of Super Mario Bros but I can't place it. A long song that never really reaches a peak or evokes emotion. Try speeding it up or cutting stuff out.
- The panning is cool, but seems to go too extreme for my tastes (maybe keep it within 30 degress of center, and split up the tracks you're panning so not everything holds the same pattern). If it didn't pull the center of the mix with it as strongly, I'd be less whiny about it; even some (not all) of the backing vocals seem to follow the same hard panning paths. EQ-wise, sounds pretty good, and vocally strong. I usually associate your brand with goofy lyrics, but this is strangely serious (at least, at the surface - I have no clue), for which you get major props. Still using GarageBand? Pretty piano.
- Relaxing. Tasteful vocoding for this style -- the vocals are spaced out enough to make it work. I like the percussion and spatial/environmental choices in the mix (incl panning, reverb, water sounds, shouting contrast). Filtered harmonies toward the end (3:20+) are a nice touch. Kind of long for an active listen, but I don't think the song was meant for that anyway. Great chill-out track.
- Woah, color me "blown away" (I'm sure you'll find it in a Crayola 300-pack). Where to start? Very clear, strong-as-hell vocals, the timbre and harmonies reminding me strongly of "The Pierces" (a good thing). Guitar on the right has a great distorted tone to it -- how did you record/filter that? Seriously, it's great, fits perfectly with the bass/percussion. Percussion has a lot of neat stuff going on, especially with your panning the cymbals forward and backward in the mix (major bonus points). Everything feels smooth and ethereally effortless, in a very powerful way. The biggest detractor is that it feels you actually panned the bass to the right, which is probably not noticeable on anything with a subwoofer, but I felt it on several headphones. This could just be my perception, but if it's a hallucination, at least it's a consistent one; it might have to do with the kick on the right too. If that felt more balanced, I'd say it was an absolutely perfect chill-out song on all accounts. But I can still say it gave me the chills (this is coming from someone who typically listens to faster-bpm tunes); great emotional work. Major Votination.
- It's a pretty song, but the mix hurts. Guitars sound very bassy/reverby (from what I can tell); try playing with the EQ and reverb if you can help it. Anything to get rid of that strange bassy reverb. Nice Mexican (?) approach. What's with the lack of a fade-out or muting at the end? The "pbbbbttt" at the end really killed my mood
. Remember not everyone's music player fades the song at the end.
Shovel Sitting Down
- Cool groove but minimal instrumentation. I would have enjoyed hearing more harmonies thrown in, or even instrumental nuances that don't last the whole song. Spice it up for me. Drums sound a bit too loud compared to the rest of the mix, and feel a bit abrasive compared to the rest of your instrumentation. Silky vocals -- I like your voice, especially in this style but would kill to hear them recorded with a better mic. The vocal filters get annoying after a while; cool at first but get annoying by the end of the song. Let's hear your voice on a condenser mic.
- I don't understand the words, so I can only really judge the music, which doesn't feel too cohesive. Would be neat to hear real seashore sounds instead of the samples. Points for language change.
Max the Cat
- Similar wishes as Shovel's; you have such a sincere, happy, expressive voice I would love to hear it on a more expressive microphone. Unlike Shovel's, you've got a bit more variation and harmonies. Plus funky piano. I like this. Any chance you can vary the percussion even more (e.g. a multi-layer sample, varying velocities, etc) where the same sample is played in close succession, or use real instruments where it can be done cheaply (e.g. shakers)?
- A friend inspired me to try writing a song with serious-y lyrics (versus your standard Cow Exchange fare), this is my attempt. Also my first with studio drums, that arrived out of the Blue; now that I've had a taste of the acoustic kit, I may never go back (when given the option). I even got to use a cheapo Casio PT-10
on the right channel ("flute"). Amped piano. Amped vocals. A real bass instead of standard MIDI fare. I love the chorus' melody/harmonies, and general "raw" feel of the track. Biggest regrets are that I didn't have more time (or less earache) to play with the EQ, make the intro hookier, and fix some minor timing issues. But hey, that's what remixes are for, right? Maybe?
- The intro was sonically painful, but the lo-fi approach sounds great for the rest of the song. Sounds like Green River but more listenable. Great voice for it, everything "fits". I wish the solo had more expression to it, more bends or something -- it feels half-assed compared to the extreme feeling in the song. At first I didn't like the "night night night" self-echo, but it grew on me. Would have liked to hear that doubled by your backing vox. Fun lyrics, quote-worthy.
- I really want to appreciate it, but I can't this week, sorry. I think it's something between the realism of very angsty vocals, and the not-so-real drums and what sound like virtual-amped guitars. The best way I can explain it is like, if you watch (on TV) someone who's falling down a 20-story building, except you can still see the cords holding them up, or the green screen behind them. Even the best actor/actress won't evoke as much emotion from it as they could with the special effects in alignment. That said, the song itself feels like it has potential, and I always like how you stray from the mainstream. A very welcome break around 1:42, and neat how it evolves back into something more intense; that extra guitar line added a lot.