Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

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mo
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by mo »

You know I wondered about the slide. But it sounds like it's trying to be a pedal steel, stylistically so I thought maybe you had one buried in that room somewhere, I mean you guys have all the nice toys hahahaha
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by Lunkhead »

I do have one and I did want to use it. But it weighs like 100lbs and I'm recovering from some dental surgery so I decided against hauling it out and setting it up, just to be cautious (doctor said no physical exertion for a couple weeks). Also I can't play it for shit! :lol:
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by BoffoYux »

Generic wrote:
Tue May 12, 2020 8:17 pm
Boffo Yux Dudes - I may have said this before, but I think the biggest thing holding you back is your band name. I don't think I've found any of your songs funny - maybe a joke lands here and there, but never more than once a song... And some of the songs of yours I've liked the most were the least overtly funny, like this one. There's a cleverness and truth to all the contradictions that make up your lyrics, but they're not funny, they're actually representative of an overarching anxiety in the zeitgeist.
Wow.

So, according to that logic, if we posted this same song under the name 'Pop Machine' (400+ song catalog)
instead of BYD (100+ songs), you would have liked the song better?

Huh. I know we're not your cup of tea. I'll leave it at that, and thank you for listening.
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ariskofrain
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by ariskofrain »

here's some assorted thoughts - I don't have something to say about every track, and just cause I didn't say anything, doesn't mean I didn't like it, it just meant I had nothing of value to add. ANYWAY,

8th grade team - bopping instrumental, and I really like the vocal treatment. I agree with vowl, and want that vocal to settle into the instrumental a little bit more, but I think this is really really solid.

balance lost - really pretty! i really genuinely love this style of track, and this is executed really well. i just wish the lyrics were stronger, but i think that is more a statement about having to Do A Challenge.

brown word and the big whine - i want the production to be a little more decisive on this, kick those vocals to the front. the chorus is so good, i love the little clav synth over in the left channel, mwah.

cavedwellers - good! tasteful lil guitar solo, and that bass is really good throughout.

evan alexander moore - even though this feels more demo-y than I'd like, this is pretty damn good. I like your sing-talk cadence, I could imagine a fully produced version of this song immediately going into my spotify library.

glow worm - I mean, this is 10/10 territory here. I want that vocal lead into the last chorus to be louder! it's so good. real rob cantor vibes, and I love the natural way the words fall into the rhythm. mwah

the lowest bitter - that little falsetto hook is really catchy, and sort of gives me electric six vibes? which I hope you take as a compliment, I definitely mean it as one. really solid production too.

lucky spoon - this is really sweet, and I really enjoyed it.

max bombast - so happy you're back!! rad video. I think this is catchy as all hell, but I am missing a different second verse here.

moss palace - I'm excited to hear more moss palace. one of the more natural sounding applications of "this is fine", too!

temnere - i've been learning how to skateboard this past fortnight, and listening to these while out on my board felt right, y'know?

great round y'all, truly, the fact that there was so many entries and so many of them were quality, dang.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by owl »

Nice work on your songs, everyone, and congratulations to those of you who made it to Round 1. I definitely did not expect to have to rank 41 songs this round when I signed up to judge this year! It’s a lot and I've been writing these reviews all week... fortunately, I can already see that people will take criticism really well and it will all have been worth the hours and hours of effort. ;)

I ended up being generally really lax about the challenge this time around as far as rankings go, but I was annoyed because I couldn't figure out the contradiction in a bunch of these, or because people gave contradictions that weren't really contradictions, or contradictions where you needed outside information to understand them... we thought this challenge was going to be the super simple, ease-them-into-it round zero gimme but it turned out to be apparently not that straightforward. I would appreciate an honest effort at fulfilling the challenge in future rounds, but I've given everyone the benefit of the doubt this time around. I mentioned it in a few places in the reviews below, but mostly didn't comment about it.

Also, I'd like to clarify that while I said I would appreciate liner notes, it's definitely not a requirement, mainly an attempt at making my life easier as far as figuring out what some of you were getting at in the very limited timeframe we had for ranking these songs. (2 weekdays, 41 songs.) I can tell some of you wanted to say all kinds of things about your tracks and some of you hated the entire idea but felt obligated to write something. For future rounds, as far as I'm concerned, if you don't want to write anything extra about your song: don't.

P.S. I’m proud to have recruited two new contestants (Glow Worm and Jules Iolyn) to this year’s Nur Ein through my Powerful Social Media Presence in the Madison music scene (although Glow Worm is now in Missouri)--thanks for submitting good songs, guys, I would have hated to trash you! Although to be honest, I had no idea I knew half of Glow Worm till the listening party when Niv mentioned it.

OK! Here we go. 7600+ words about all you lovely and talented musicians! (This is more than some of my NaNoWriMo efforts. Holy fuck I wrote a lot. I also didn't go back and proofread, so I'm sorry in advance if I typed anything that didn't make sense)
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Glow Worm - Way to breeze in and just casually drop an amazing track as your first ever Nur Ein submission! This is really lovely--impeccably produced and performed, the chorus is hooky and memorable, and the lyrics are full of beautiful, mysterious, dream-images that convey an overwhelming sense of melancholy and yearning. Good dynamics, I love that little pause under the "I" at the start of the chorus. I enjoyed the specific, physical details in the lyrics--the wine-stained lips, coughing from the smoke, hands brushing. My only criticism, which I guess isn't actually a real criticism, is that I kept thinking the intro (arrangement and progression) sounded exactly like some other song and I couldn't figure out which one, which was driving me nuts. This is a glossier, more modern-sounding production than I usually gravitate towards, but the songwriting stands out, with strong melodies and a real emotional core, so it doesn't feel like all polish and no substance.

Inflatable Vegetables - This song delighted me more than I think it probably should have, but it was just pure, lo-fi fun, catchy and appealing, and I kept coming back to it. The performances and mix are kind of a mess, it needed a better ending, it definitely doesn't sound as clean as the other songs in my top tier and the backing vocals/harmonies are mostly pretty off, but the lyrics are funny and weird in a way that's right up my alley, and the melody is hooky, joyful pop goodness. Best opening lyrics of this round (maybe not best but they made me happy), and in general, lyrically, you managed to make what is an omnipresent theme in everyone's lyrics feel pretty fresh and interesting. I think it is probably my favorite iVeg song I've heard to date and I think vindicates my judging rule of "pleasure over admiration"--if I were checking off boxes for performance, mix, etc. I think I'd be forced to put you lower in the ranking. But I'm not, so here you are in my #2 spot. Oh and I like that little guitar line coming out of the chorus, that's cool.

Rain - So happy to see you back in the mix for this year's Nur Ein, and you don't disappoint with this track. I really enjoyed everything about this production and arrangement--the way the instruments interlock with each other and the vocal is masterful; the empty spaces are all filled, but there's still plenty of room in the arrangement until that big fuzzy chorus rushes in and washes everything away. I appreciate when songs feel like they actually mean something outside of just being "a song I had to write for this prompt" and yours has this emotional authenticity in spades. Lyrically, it addresses a tension that I think a lot of people have within them but hasn't really been explored much in song, which is much more interesting to me as a listener than yet another song about coronavirus (though I don't have anything in particular against those! There are just a lot of them.) The lyric is a bit vague and high-level, but it works to get the feeling across. Your vocal carries the song perfectly--love the parts where it soars up to the higher notes on "this is fine", and the harmonies/doubles are so clean.

Max Bombast - This is one of the songs where I was messaging the other judges going "do you see a contradiction? I don't see a contradiction!" but in the end, I decided I could kinda sorta see it, and enjoyed it enough to rank it highly despite having some issues with whether you actually met the challenge or not. (Honestly, I kind of hate watching Youtube videos, but I still watched your "liner notes" video and it was fun!) The lyrics have a very relatable sentiment, even if they are a little thin in terms of actual content if you look closely, and I personally like that you decided to move away from the high-concept political songs this time around. Great, hooky melodies, and I love the energy and dynamic movement in this track. The vocals are really strong, but I will admit something about your delivery in the verses bugged me slightly, they felt a bit like you were singing through your nose or something. The mix sounds really nice and balanced overall; the harmonies are especially good in headphones where a bit more detail of what you're doing in each harmony part comes through.

Nick Soma - I loved your approach to this challenge, the contradiction spread across the parallel verses, and the change in outlook brought about by the narrator's relationship. More than that, I just enjoyed listening to this--I like the low register of your voice, the gleaming clean guitar accents and driving bass, the breaks and shifts in the drums and most especially the wistful melody in the chorus. My main complaint is that the transition into the bridge around 2 minutes in struck me as pretty awkward, but the rest of it flowed nicely. I wasn't crazy about the constant buzzy sound of your distortion and there were some vocal things that took me out of it a little whenever they happened (mainly the way the "ayhayhay" is enunciated in words like "m-i-i-nd") but in general I enjoyed listening to this over and over, it kind of had the feel of a lost melancholy 80's classic, and I'm not entirely sure why I say 80's because it's not covered in synths or anything, but that is the vibe I got.

Grumpy Mike - This was super fun--mix sounds big and great with those huge crashing guitars and awesome bouncy bassline, the lyrics are jam-packed with interesting, surreal phrases, I enjoyed the subtle auto-wah? vocoder? talkbox? bit, the song had great dynamic shifts and pauses. The main thing that bugged me about it was a few strangely emphasized syllables--un-DER seemed a little weird, rag-TIME seemed very weird, and it's right at that dramatic stop so it really stands out. Everything else in the song and arrangement seemed really well crafted and thought out though, very solid.

The Lowest Bitter - So, going through these songs, I filled up my bingo card of dog meme and coronavirus quarantine variations several times over, but your take on both was my favorite. "The meme is tired, and so am I" made me smile, and I love that you aren't afraid to get ultra-personal and ultra-specific in your lyrics. Jon Eric was musing on whether he'd revisit any of these quarantine songs, and that perhaps they're not very timeless, but these are artifacts of our time that I think are maybe more important and more moving the more detailed they are, as long as all that detail is on a personal level. I guess time will tell, but I suspect the more high-level, political/societal observation songs won't age so well and songs like this one will, because the emotions of fear and boredom and anxiety you're exploring here make it feel universal. I mean, I get that people need both kinds of songs, but I think yours will be relevant longer. I've heard immediately catchier/hookier TLB songs, and your liner notes about the writing process maybe kind of reveal why, but I think you made up for it with the chill, pretty arrangement--I really love the string section parts with all those layers of vocals piled on top.

Evan Alexander Moore - I really wish you'd posted your lyrics. They make the song. To be honest, despite the additional little layers, I got really tired of hearing that ultra-repetitive guitar the more I listened to this song, but this stood out for me because of the lyrics, the alternating flurry of vivid imagery and the wistful "sequoia trees" refrain--for that to lead into "in my dream, the trees, they kissed my neck / they took all I had..." was surprising and loaded the tree imagery with some additional emotion and meaning. I kept coming back to this because I seldom hear such interesting but loose, stream-of-consciousness lyrics in this community--the majority tend to either be pretty simple/standard, or intricate but extremely composed and mannered. Nitpicks: I will say the "sauna"/"piranha" line bugged me since it felt like something nonsensical thrown in just for the rhyme, when the rest of the song seemed to have more thought and care in it. I also didn't really see where "this is fine" or the contradiction came into this, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt because I could see it working as a contrast between the title and the narrator's emotional state. I understand that you wanted some gaps in there to create a (welcome) break from the constant strums of the guitar, but every time I hear that first break at 36 seconds in I think there was some kind of recording issue or my headphones got unplugged, something about the pause there sounds very unnatural to me.

Moss Palace - This is really lovely. All the performances are top-notch, and the guitar and subtle keys make the perfect setting for the beautiful vocals; the switching from fingerpicking to strummed guitar between verse and chorus give it some good dynamics despite the simple arrangement, and I really like where the electric piano gets a little more fancy at the end. (Is this project just you, Erin, or you + Sam and/or someone else?) There are some interesting lyrics, like the image of the cherry-colored hair, although there weren't any really astonishing turns of phrase for me. The phrasing and flow are natural, so it's nicely put together from a technical standpoint. The mix feels clear and clean. My main complaint is that I initially felt like the contradiction was a bit of a stretch in this tune, but after thinking about it, it falls pretty much into the big field of songs that went with the dog meme interpretation of "lay out a bad situation"/"say this is fine even though it's not."

Lucky Spoon - I was out walking when listening to these songs for the first time, and for a moment when I was listening to yours, I forgot I was listening to Nur Ein at all, I thought it had come up on my indie folk Spotify station. This was really beautifully performed--your vocal sounds perfectly gentle and sad, with an intimate rasp on the lower notes and a slightly wistful thinness in the upper registers, and the guitars sound clean and warm. The nature sounds were a nice touch. I liked the verse about dreams/clouds, and the other lyrics all served their purpose but weren't showy. (Although... are you a designer? "Designer" as profession in a lullaby seemed a bit odd.) I understand what you were getting at with the intended contradiction, but this dropped a couple of notches in my ranking mainly because that isn't present in the lyrics at all; you need to know the backstory to see the contradiction. Anyway, I do want to say I'm really sorry about your nephew--this is a beautiful tribute to him, it's gorgeous and minimalistic.

Cavedwellers - This is just nice to listen to. I like the urgency of the intro/transition bits, and the verses open up into this kind of jangly, feel-good, 80's college rock thing that is super up my alley. The arrangement sounds full and I love the bassline, it's very happy and appealing in the verses especially. I could maybe use a touch less chorus on the arpeggiated guitars, and the harmony vocals were maybe a tad bit off key in places (ok, this is an issue with a lot of these songs, but I mention it here because the baseline level for your performance was high!), but I loved the overall sound and feel of this song. To me, the choruses feel weaker than the promise of the verses; I appreciate that there's an actual difference in dynamics and feel between verse/prechorus/chorus without it feeling like different songs mashed together, but the "this is fine" hook feels unresolved and pretty unsatisfying to me personally. To me, the melody/chord/rhythm combo on that hook also has a mellow soft-rock vibe that takes it into a territory that makes me feel kind of itchy and restless. Loved the solo. I thought the opening couple of lines were wonderful and arresting, great in sound, imagery, and meaning, and I liked the "bitterness sits at the base of the glass / I'll have whatever you're pouring" lines as well; the rest of the lyrics do a great job of setting the uncomfortable emotional scene of the narrator's relationship, but the others didn't really stand out to me (aside from "insider," where the emphasis on the second syllable was slightly jarring). Aside from the first couple of lines, this was a song where I wound up paying attention to the music much more than the lyrics.

Helen Robertson - The verses and bridge of this song don't do much for me, to be honest, but this is a killer chorus, and this landed where it did in my rankings pretty much purely on the strength of that chorus--it's so catchy, what a great melody. The current arrangement suggests a different song than the melody does--I wanted to hear it done up as a cold hard super-80's synthpop number instead of the more organic feel it has currently. The ending is pretty disappointing, so abrupt (so is the intro, I guess, but it felt worse at the end)--it's like you just ran out of steam and randomly stopped. I could comment more on the production and mix... but I won't, because I think you should just tear it all down and re-record it so it sounds like a Eurythmics song or something :)

Third Cat - When I was listening to these for the first time, I commented to the other judges that this didn't feel like a very Third Cat-y Third Cat song to me (I believe Tom disagreed with me though). But it's really nice. Your voice is much less processed and more bare than I'm used to hearing it, and I really like it that way! The arrangement is simple but still has some really pretty, subtle touches, those shimmery little ascending synths that come in under the acoustic guitar at about 1:20 in and slowly swell, the ramp-up right after that, the harmonies and the interplay of instruments around 2 minutes in. The acoustic guitar sounds really good. I really liked the poignant line "I never felt more lonely than in this crowded club with you," but otherwise, to me, the lyrics kind of just felt like they were there to give you something to sing--to me, my enjoyment of this song is very much about the overall sound and less about the lyrical content.

Jules Iolyn - This is gorgeous, love that lo-fi reverb on the guitar and your vocals are so beautiful. The recording has great ambience and mood; it's one of my favorites of this round as far as overall sound and feel. The songwriting wasn't as interesting to me as many of the other entries--the phrasing and meter work well, and I loved the line "nothing to lose, just my mind," but generally they feel vague and generic, and the song isn't very musically innovative or anything either; if someone else without a particularly good voice was covering this, I think it would lose a lot of its appeal. I would love to see a track with more memorable lyrics and dynamic shifts and movement, but this was still just lovely to listen to, so I ended up ranking it pretty high.

Mandibles - I'm really sorry to hear about your divorce, Cybronica--I hope getting some of these feelings out in art was cathartic, and I hope Nur Ein is a welcome distraction. There are some really heartbreaking lines in here--"we need to talk, but I know it's inconvenient / I can wait, cause I'd throw you off your game..." felt devastating. I liked the way you used the contradictions to point out the issues in the relationship; it felt like a nice change from all the "here's a bad situation but this is fine" songs. "You call me controlling but make me take charge" was my favorite example of that, and it felt very real and observant as relationship dynamics go. I didn't really like the cheated rhyme of "final" and non-word "design'll," but otherwise I loved the rhythm and rhyme and flow of the chorus lyrics. Musically, this bombastic, dramatic kind of song is not really my thing, but I did really enjoy what the kind of cheesy lead guitar was doing in the chorus, it felt like it worked really nicely, even if I wasn't crazy about the actual guitar solo stuff, which didn't feel super thought-out. The soaring vocals are pretty, and I really liked the movement in the harmonies, but there were a couple of spots where the multiple vocals didn't line up exactly, which was distracting.

Balance Lost - Your productions always sound great, and this is no exception. I'm glad you left in the sounds of your wife cooking; they add to the warm, cozy, intimate feel of the clean guitars and soft, sheer vocals. The whole tune has a really pretty, soothing sound to it (but having read your liner notes, this is actually at odds with the "unhappy marriage" vibes you intended, I guess). Unfortunately, the songwriting itself feels extremely half-assed (you really shot yourself in the foot with that meta second verse, sorry), and I know you can make great-sounding songs in your sleep so I couldn't quite give you bonus points for the nice production, so this fell considerably in my rankings. It left me feeling like you were mainly just thinking about wrapping up your song as fast as possible so you could go eat a sandwich. But it was still a song I enjoyed listening to on the whole, because it sounded really pretty.

Jon Eric - You certainly put a lot of thought into the prosodic aspects of your song, most of which was kind of wasted on me, haha. But even if I didn't fully process everything you told us about your musical and lyrical choices, I appreciate knowing you had reasons for everything you were doing, and that you pushed yourself as far as the instrumentation (I definitely sympathize). I really liked your chorus melody, and I thought your lyrics were really good. I liked the images of the rattling china and the staring bottle, the first and third verses felt raw and familiar, and the song didn't overstay its welcome for me. While I liked your songwriting, I wasn't crazy about the performance and production--the vocals were too loud for me and felt unnatural in the mix, and they felt sort of over-enunciated and over-dramatic, neurotic even, in a musical theater kind of way that was exacerbated by them sitting on top of the mix (Glenn mentioned issues with the "clocking" line and while I don't know if that's what he meant by "awkward," that was one example I'd point to.) I don't especially dislike any particular part of your instrumental arrangement, but the overall effect of everything all together was kind of synthetic and cheesy, and I'm not entirely sure why, but it gave it a slight "canned soft rock backing track" vibe. I actually had you ranked lower previously, but realized I was biased because of the production and actually quite liked the song underneath, so I ended up moving you up a few notches.

Micah Sommersmith - This sits firmly in the Micah comfort zone--nice uptempo feel, a flurry of dense, nerdy lyrics delivered with great confidence, and great accordion playing as usual. I like the switch between the kind of sparse, marching rhythm in the verse and the fun, energetic choruses. The lyrics all scan and rhyme well. Now... setting aside the question of whether linguistics is lucrative, I didn't find the lyrics as interesting as I'd hoped when I first scanned through them and was excited to see a bunch of stuff I recognized--there's no actual conceptual content, just a lot of surface-level name-dropping. The chorus has a bunch of big words in it but the actual statements are akin to saying "The time signature is determined rhythmically, the scale is determined melodically"--kind of meaningless, not something anyone would really say. I guess maybe as part of defining terminology in a Linguistics 101 class...? And also I'm not sure "determined" is really the right word here. I figure you knew when you wrote this that I'd pick it apart, so I felt like I had to oblige a bit :) It's OK, but it just didn't quite deliver for me despite my being basically exactly in the target demographic, i.e. "people who have heard of wugs."

Goodbye Bandita - I enjoyed the songwriting--the call-and-response vocals were awesome, the tune was catchy, I like a little Nick Lowe nod as much as the next girl, but I found the production and performance hard going from several fronts. The guitar sounded out of tune, the vocals were too loud in the mix and sounded super abrasive and whiny (I mean, I grew up in the 90's, I think a bit of that Courtney Love thing is fine and good but maybe dial it back juuuust a notch or two?), there were various points where the rhythm got off, the transition into the bridge felt really abrupt. In general I enjoy rough-around-the-edges, lo-fi, shambolic songs way more than clean-but-soulless ones, but I think this could have been cleaner and still kept that DIY basement band spirit... this was edging into "hard to listen to"/"was this the first take" territory, which made it hard to appreciate the song itself.

Temnere - After Glenn made the Offspring comparison, I had a hard time unhearing that! But it goes elsewhere soon enough, for me, at least. Love the energy of this, it's nice to have some harder-hitting tracks mixed into the G&G and more mellow stuff. The long held backing vocals are cool, although yeah maybe slightly loud and something about the EQ makes them feel kind of tinny and weird. I really liked the line "the vicious cycle starts again"--not sure why I like that in particular since it's one of the less original lines, but I think it just fits perfectly with the melody/rhythm right there, and it's not so fast you can't understand it. I had to read along with most of the others, but there are some really awesome, interesting lyrics in here--I particularly loved "success conflated with morality" and, while I'm not convinced about using words like "stochasticity" in songs in general, that verse is sharp as hell, so I really can't complain.

Rob from Amersfoort - I always like the feel of your songs, somehow it's like traveling to another world. I said this to the other judges and mo said that world was called "the Netherlands." In this case I imagined an eldritch dance party populated by mysterious figures in robes, possibly the Skeksis from the Dark Crystal. I love those synth riffs between vocals, and the sounds of the patches you chose work nicely around your almost whispered vocal to build up the whole feel of it all. The chorus melody feels a little pedestrian to me, but I think the general mood and fun synth parts make up for it for me.

Frankie Big Face - There are some fantastic moments in your lyrics and I was pretty excited to hear this after seeing you post them on the forum, because I really liked them when reading through--"hope is a stalled parade of ghostly subway cars" was my favorite, what a great image, and "the day is blanketed by stars" is lovely as well, I wish you'd gotten the "east" into the previous line to match it. The song itself didn't really click with me once I heard it, though--it felt fine, but not a standout; it was like it never quite got where it was headed, even though intellectually I recognize that you built up the arrangement and it had dramatic vocals and everything. The arpeggio part stands out a bit because of the tone but doesn't have enough substance to hold that much attention in the mix, so it feels sort of like a placeholder. I like the other elements of the arrangement well enough, though. Great lungs with that long held note at the end, but I really wanted you to switch into your falsetto well before you did--all the other high notes in the song felt strained and it made me kind of uncomfortable.

Lichen Throat - The intro for this sounds really great in this creepy, moody synthpop way--I was walking around listening to these songs and stopped in my tracks to look at who this was because I loved the way that intro sounded. Unfortunately, the vocals aren't tight enough to carry it from there; it's a bit of a mess rhythmically and melodically. I can't remember if you've done just pure spoken word over music, but I think for lyrics like this that don't rhyme and don't entirely seem to metrically match the music either, I think that approach would have been better, and probably easier to execute as well. (I'm thinking something like "Losing Haringey" by the Clientele.) I love your twist on the lyrics--the fact that it's not just a play on words that nobody else went with, but also very specific and personal, and a full narrative. On the other hand, before I decided to basically throw strict enforcement of the whole challenge in the toilet I was disputing that it's a contradiction, because "fine" (not coarse) is really just a homophone for "fine" (good) so it's not a conceptual contradiction at all. The "kids" verse didn't seem to fit with the other ones, in length obviously but also because it gets really vague there, and because you switch from first person to second person. I also think it probably would have worked better without the exact numeric definitions of boulders and cobbles and gravel, but I guess at least this way it's educational?

The Serviettes - This is pretty, and I liked listening to it, but it feels more like a demo than a fully developed idea to me. I like the repeated backing vocals at the end, but I think they'd work better on a fuller production--the rest of the sparse instrumentation suggests sitting in a basement watching an intimate, quiet little show put on by a friend's band, which even the earlier single backing vocals could work with, but the style of the backing vocals at the tail end of the song feel kind of incongruous with that mental image. I think also with an arrangement as stripped-down as this, ideally there would be something that really grabs you about it--a really striking melody, surprising sharp words, a standout performance or a mix full of ambience. I don't feel like this quite hits any of those points. Kudos for "You were right but I left," that's a great line. Wasn't so much a fan of "hirsute but shaved" though... kind of funny but it doesn't really fit with the rest as far as tone.

Nuke Skyblaster Reporting For DUTY!! - This is good fun, I really enjoyed listening to it. Nice and catchy, those "fi i i i i ne"s with the overlapping "we can work it out"s are great, I love songs with layers of vocals interplaying like that. I liked the way you play with the phrasing in the second verse and drag out those words. The first verse lyrics feel pretty cliched, but honestly I could imagine them being in an early Beatles song or something, and if that was the case people would probably be writing dissertations about them now. I guess on the whole didn't really stick with me, but listening back to it and writing about it now, I'm not sure why--it probably would have made a stronger impression with a meatier mix; as it is now, it feels somewhat limp and empty, and I mean that purely as far as production... the performances are energetic and any slop basically suits the style.

Ken Mahru - Awwww, this is sweet. It reminded me very much of Toad the Wet Sprocket, not any particular song, just the general mood. It is lovely, but it overstayed its welcome for me--that acoustic guitar felt relentless, and I was kind of tired of hearing it at a certain point. The lyrics didn't feel strong enough to keep my interest in the absence of any clever arrangement tricks. I liked the chorus lyrics, but the verse lyrics didn't have a lot of substance. In general they worked well enough, for what they were, but the emphasis on "shall" in "this too shall pass" felt weird to me. Something sounded slightly unnatural about the vocals to me, do you have an effect on there? Pitch correction?

Hot Pink Halo - I like that effect on your vocals; works well for me in this context, and the intro over those long held notes was very compelling. I admit I didn't watch the video you linked, so I'm missing part of the context here. I kind of thought this was a song about a compass ("you are the point / you spin me round"), but at least I read the part of your notes where you explained what it was supposed to be and I like that very much conceptually! I think my main issue with this is that it didn't feel like it went anywhere--there wasn't a big shift in any way between verse and chorus, and it didn't leave a lot of space in lyrics or arrangement, so it kind of felt like a big long musical run-on sentence. I would have liked to see some stronger dynamics and better defined sections. Also, it's not incredibly long, but I do feel like your lyrical ideas could have been gotten across in half the length of what the song ended up being. I don't doubt there are really clever, different metaphorical things you are doing in each of these verses, but sometimes you have to kill your darlings. Or split them up into two different songs.

8th Grade Team - This is fine. It's totally fine. Unfortunately, this is one of those songs where I can't really find a lot of specifics to fault about it, but it just did basically nothing for me. The mix is OK, the performance is OK, the melodies are OK, I hear contradictions in the lyrics... it just doesn't click with me or feel meaningful or memorable to me, sorry. I know some of the other folks really loved your song, so this is entirely me and my biases and gut feelings (see note in my judging credo about Krispy Kremes). On a production note, I will mention the vocals generally sounded decent but are a little distorted at times when going to higher notes like "no means yes," but at a level where I'm not entirely sure if it that was an intentional effect, so that might be something to either make obvious or try and correct so it sounds cleaner.

Pigfarmer Jr. - I really like where this gets going in the chorus--the rhythm and melody there work really well for me. Although I thought the verses were memorable, they didn't really work well for me. The first parts felt way too simplistic and boring, both in melody and the rhymed couplets, and then in the second parts, I found the kind of lurching rhythm unappealing. You're also the second person this round to rhyme "down" and "clown" but I find I almost never use the word "clown" in natural speech unless I'm literally talking about the circus or a class clown, so it always sounds very forced to me when people put that rhyme in songs, and it bugs me. Rhyme grudges aside, though, I like the other lyrics; I think you do a good job of using the contradictions to express the ambiguity and issues in the relationship, while keeping the phrasing natural. I like those lead guitar lines, too, and the high keyboard in the chorus is a nice touch.

Cloverdance - The guitar sounds really nice. A couple of rough moments in the vocals but the general vibe is good, relaxing and warm. I like the lead lines the second guitar is playing, giving it the effect of being a bit more intricate. I also love the resignation in your lyrics; I think you get at the tension we're all feeling between thankfulness and small momentary pleasures and the larger anxiety of the situation. "I'm not happy but I'm ok" really struck me, and as someone else mentioned, "nothing's left when nothing's right" is a killer line. I enjoyed this, but it was hard to find it memorable in the huge pack here--it never hit any really transcendental moments for me in the melody or performance, and there were so many other contenders.

see-man-ski - Excellent groove and performance--it's really tight and energetic, and I really dug the chucka chuck guitars and sinuous bass. Very solid musically. The vocal delivery bugged me a bit--some parts were nice, the smooth slide down and up on "reverse" for instance, but especially in the higher parts those vocals often come out kind of whiny, and I never have an easy time getting into songs where there are those extra kind of grunty affectations like "mind-ah". I probably should have put this in my biases list, I get uncomfortable hearing people grunt. I also couldn't get into the lyrics--couldn't find a contradiction to speak of, and it seemed like the narrator was describing the situation but without any emotional involvement. I'm not sure if that was perhaps the point, but it was hard to engage with on a lyrical level.

TerriEllen - The guitar sounds really pretty, I like your fingerpicking and the shifts into strumming for the chorus. Your vocals have power behind them, but are quite pitchy, which is hard to overlook in a simple G&G song. The lyrics felt pretty high-level and vague to me, no amazing turns of phrase, and without any standout melodic hooks either, it ended up feeling forgettable in a crowded field.

DJ RangerDen - I like the timbre of your voice, and the piano sounds lovely. The line "Mix negativity with your sugar" really stood out to me; that's a great lyric. I confess I only skimmed your blog entry, but here's what struck me about it: I would have no idea that your song was about white guilt from the actual lyrics, which were super vague. Sometimes songs don't have to reveal to the world what they actually mean to the songwriter, but if you have hundreds of words to say about it in another venue, perhaps you wanted at least some of that message to come across in the actual song? I would have liked it better if you got a bit more upfront with the ideas you were trying to convey. I like the major/minor shifts in the music--it's a nice chord progression, and there are good shifts in intensity and dynamics. I'm glad, in any case, that you submitted. Growth is good, writing is good, and sending things out into the world despite imperfections is good too. Keep doing the thing.

Berkeley Social Scene - I really loved the intro and there are a lot of things I really liked about this musically--the beautiful mellow Rhodes, that pretty little picked guitar pattern that circles around, the (apparently misplaced) ethereal slide guitar--but oof, I couldn't stand the lyrics, and the vocal performance was rough too, which didn't help. I already intensely disliked the cliched pickup line "angel falling from heaven" stuff, and then that "she's so fine/but she's not fine/this is fine" chorus put the final nail in the coffin. There are a few other songs where I was complaining about monorhymes, but this goes one step further and rhymes the same word with itself 3 times in a row, in a pretty meaningless way as well. The production is nice, the music is nice, but the lyrics torpedoed this track in my rankings, sorry.

Brown Word and the Big Whine - I think this is pretty well performed and I liked a lot of the elements of the arrangement, like the little Morse code stabs of keyboard and the moving layers of lead and backing vocals and bass around the "King Baby" lines. You have an organ or something happening, mixed fairly low, that's playing held notes that feels discordant in a way that doesn't quite seem to gel with the rest of the song, musically... I don't know, maybe this was intentional to ramp up a sense of discomfort. I wish the vocals weren't so buried--they just seem to kind of melt into the rest of the mix, which makes it hard to appreciate the lyrics or get a sense of the song moving and changing over the course of it. The switch in the feel of the song there at the dropout was interesting, but sort of confusing, I sort of felt like I had stumbled from a blues bar into a post-punk show for about 3 seconds, and then the way you sang "twice the carbohydrates" had a sort of Dead Milkmen comedy punk feel... I think that's my main issue with this song--it didn't quite feel like there was a consistent, cohesive overall vision for the music and lyrics and feel of the song, but each component also didn't really feel distinct and assured enough to carry it as an intentional amalgam of different parts and styles. I didn't hate it or anything; I just ended up listening to it a bunch of times and still not having a real memorable impression to take away from it aside from noting some of those little details.

Geech Sorenson - I enjoyed the instrumental, which reminded me of "Take a Walk on the Wild Side"--mellow, nice groove, the mix sounded pretty clear and the playing was tasteful and well performed. The high harmonics into solo part was lovely. I also really liked the "slowly and suddenly" lyric, and appreciated you pointing out the Hemingway reference. The sweat/fever verse was nicely done, too, I thought, with the heat metaphor running through the whole thing. The other lyrics feel serviceable but a bit vague--not sure I would have figured out what that you were getting at something specific without your liner notes. Unfortunately, those high harmonies made this song almost unlistenable for me. It felt like you'd slapped pitch correction on them but accidentally set it to the wrong key or something--they were off to the point that I couldn't pay attention to anything else whenever they were happening, and it was like nails on a chalkboard.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Promising start, the electric piano and repeating bass figure sound appealing and give it a good drive. Unfortunately, it feels way too repetitive almost immediately once the vocals come in--the melody and meter are very simplistic, I don't like the rhyme scheme, and the way each part is repeated constantly with basically no change to arrangement or vocal phrasing made this song feel incredibly long, particularly the verses. The lyrics read OK on the page, but don't always translate well to being sung--there are some awkwardly accented syllables in your delivery, like "RO-tund" and "Listen TO what I say". (And I wouldn't say "an" before "easy prey.") I like your use of contradictions, although the actual societal/political insights unfortunately seem a bit tired at this point.

Fisher & Diaz - I didn’t like your song.

Starfinger - I really liked some of these lines, like the werewolf-ish imagery in the "open the salon" parts. I liked the wideness of the mix in headphones, and a bunch of the production details were fun, the samples and squelchy synths, the rest + re-entry, etc. Great energy in the vocals, but the messiness of the doubled vocals and the kind of abrasive, always-on delivery made it kind of hard to listen to, and the "fireman/orange clown" lines felt very clunky to me. It was a bit higher in the rankings earlier, it but felt incredibly long to me even the first time I listened through, which is never really a good sign, and I found myself wanting to skip past it on subsequent listens, which dropped it down the rankings a bit.

Jon Berger - Bonus points to you for the idea of "Fine" being someone's name, and for this whole elaborate story you've told of the accidental suicide of a corrupt wine merchant. I do like the concept, and your pacing and storytelling. Unfortunately, this didn't work for me on a number of other levels--the simplistic rhyme scheme and phrasing grated on me really badly; it's like Dr. Seuss got hired to narrate a true crime show. Some of these phrases seem incredibly weird and awkward, like "He's no ma'am" and "line-signers." The hokey meta-joke about your website at the end wasn't funny to me. And I'm trying not to hold poor production/performance against people, but those aspects really detracted from my enjoyment of your song as well--vocals were mixed way too hot, so the whole thing had this weird karaoke track feel to it, and the vocal delivery was pretty stiff and stilted. I think the concept for a good song is there, but overall, this would need a lot of additional editing to work for me.

The Kraken Lives - I disclosed a list of things I'm unreasonably biased against and you managed to hit two of the entries (which until this point I would have thought were mutually exclusive), death metal screaming and autotune, in a single song, so I'm sure this ranking comes as no surprise. I also intensely disliked the distorted guitar tone. The second solo sounds like "Surf Wax America" by Weezer; that's just an observation, not a criticism. I liked the goofy lyrics contrasting with the musical style, and I think the father-son collab aspect is awesome, and Django is a talented 12-year-old and surely has a long, scream-filled musical career ahead of him, but this was basically tailor-made to be a song I wouldn't like. Tell the kid it's nothing personal.

SHADOWS
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by Caravan Ray »

Lunkhead wrote:
Thu May 14, 2020 8:41 am
@mo: my guitar solo in the BSS song got put in the wrong place. It starts a measure earlier than it's supposed to. I swear if you hear it slotted in correctly it sounds totally mind blowing!!! :P Also that's just slide guitar, not pedal steel.
Can the mods somehow blockout whining from losers!?!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by vowlvom »

Sorry Caravan Ray, I can't see your post. Think the Mods may have blocked it for some reason?
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by Caravan Ray »

vowlvom wrote:
Sat May 16, 2020 4:09 am
Sorry Caravan Ray, I can't see your post. Think the Mods may have blocked it for some reason?
Yeah Your face!!!!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by Cybronica »

Wow, owl! Thank you for taking the time to write these reviews. I appreciate your thoughts, and it’s always good to hear feedback. YeH, some of the timing was not perfect in this song. If I had given myself another four hours, I think I could have flex timed it all out, but Alas, there are no what if’s, only what was! I think this will go on a list of songs to remaster in the future. :)
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by mo »

I thought Vom had no face, that’s why he stalks around the judges chat saying things like “A man has no guitar solo”
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by thirdcatmusic »

epic reviews owl! and yeah, you're pretty much on target about my lyrics being there so I have something to sing.

all of the reviewing/judging from all of the judges is greatly appreciated. with 40+ songs that's a lot of effort.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by grumpymike »

A couple people in their (very thoughtful and appreciated) reviews have pointed out my emphasis of "rag-time". I thought it made the line more double-entendre-ish (rag time not ragtime, because the line is already surreal). That said, it's not the first time my emphAsis has been an unexpected critique. I'm curious if others might have suggestions for catching this type of thing, other than being a normal human with English as a first language.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by owl »

grumpymike wrote:
Sun May 17, 2020 9:50 am
A couple people in their (very thoughtful and appreciated) reviews have pointed out my emphasis of "rag-time". I thought it made the line more double-entendre-ish (rag time not ragtime, because the line is already surreal). That said, it's not the first time my emphAsis has been an unexpected critique. I'm curious if others might have suggestions for catching this type of thing, other than being a normal human with English as a first language.
Can you explain the double entendre? I don’t get the second meaning you’re getting at.

Not sure about any tips for catching weird emphasis issues other than paying close attention to your lyrics. Maybe if you try speaking your lyrics and tapping your hand along with the stresses in the words, you can get a better sense of whether you’re emphasizing something in a weird way when you sing it instead?
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by grumpymike »

owl wrote:
Sun May 17, 2020 12:43 pm
Can you explain the double entendre? I don’t get the second meaning you’re getting at.
Being that the lyrics are surreal, perhaps double-entendre is the wrong term. But I think "counting in rag time" indicates that I'm not necessarily speaking of the genre of music called "ragtime" which I assume is why the emphasis is unexpected. I kind of tried to do something similar with most of my lines where I confused multiple different things on purpose leveraging homophones. "dogs barking at the spoon they forklifted last afternoon" - spoon/fork, spoon/moon, forklift/shoplift. Not that my lyrics warrant much consideration, but for those that missed, they might enjoy some of the wordplay.

Perhaps I speak oddly too. Or maybe there's a band I picked it up from.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by sleepysilverdoor »

I've hardly got time to review people's tracks right now, but I have a new favorite Lichen Throat song. Edit: and damn that chorus for Rain is GOOD.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by glowworm »

owl wrote:
Sat May 16, 2020 12:15 am

P.S. I’m proud to have recruited two new contestants (Glow Worm and Jules Iolyn) to this year’s Nur Ein through my Powerful Social Media Presence in the Madison music scene (although Glow Worm is now in Missouri)--thanks for submitting good songs, guys, I would have hated to trash you! Although to be honest, I had no idea I knew half of Glow Worm till the listening party when Niv mentioned it.
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Glow Worm - Way to breeze in and just casually drop an amazing track as your first ever Nur Ein submission! This is really lovely--impeccably produced and performed, the chorus is hooky and memorable, and the lyrics are full of beautiful, mysterious, dream-images that convey an overwhelming sense of melancholy and yearning. Good dynamics, I love that little pause under the "I" at the start of the chorus. I enjoyed the specific, physical details in the lyrics--the wine-stained lips, coughing from the smoke, hands brushing. My only criticism, which I guess isn't actually a real criticism, is that I kept thinking the intro (arrangement and progression) sounded exactly like some other song and I couldn't figure out which one, which was driving me nuts. This is a glossier, more modern-sounding production than I usually gravitate towards, but the songwriting stands out, with strong melodies and a real emotional core, so it doesn't feel like all polish and no substance.
Owl, can't thank you enough for introducing us to Nur Ein and taking the time to write such beautiful reviews! It is so valuable and appreciated.

Been working really hard on vivid imagery in my lyrics lately, so thanks so much for that kind feedback

Do you listen to Bleachers? The progression ended up being more than a little similar to their song Goodmorning, whoops :)
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by frankie big face »

I'm not keen on posting "liner notes" while the songs are being judged, but I do like the overall idea of reading more about the songs after they've been ranked. I know there's a timeliness to this and it's unlikely people will return to read these, but here are some notes on my "This is Fine."

On Saturday morning (the day before songs were due), we were sitting in the kitchen listening to random stuff on Spotify and the Platters song "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" came on. I decided there and then that I wanted to write a song that has the same type of slowly rising vocal line. So I sat down at the piano and played through the tune (written by Jerome Kern!) and noted some of the harmonic details (passing augmented chord, for example). Took a shower (where the best ideas materialize) and when I got out, I had the entire melody mapped out and recorded it a cappella on my iphone.

It took about 30-40 minutes or so to really work out the chord progression and key I wanted and lyrics were tweaked right up until the song was finished. Sunday was recording day and I did not have many good takes of this tough vocal part. I know it sounds like I'm straining at times, but I felt that was part of the contradiction inherent in the challenge. By the end of the second verse, I wanted my vocal performance to belie my lyric so I kept and embraced the strained vocal. I know the vocal melody resembles "Amazing Grace" (no one mentioned it) but I like that. It's like a spiritual for the end of time.


Liner notes!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Zero "This is Fine"

Post by furrypedro »

I'm sure this is of little interest to anybody but I rewrote the infamous second verse of my entry, so here's the new one. There's also a tiny bit of percussion added at the end.

https://www.gocarpetburn.com/mp3/thisisfine2.mp3
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