Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

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GlennCase
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by GlennCase »

MicahSommer wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 11:46 am
GlennCase wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 10:57 pm
Micah Sommersmith ... Your vocals sound super crispy in the mix when you're hitting S sounds, and not in a good way.
Thanks for the review! I struggled a lot trying to tame the S sounds in my vocals on this entry - sometimes it's an issue when I'm recording, sometimes it's not, so I'm not sure how much of the problem is in my voice, my mic, the room, etc. What you're hearing is actually an improvement on how it originally sounded - my compression has a "de-esser" preset which when used sparingly does nothing, and when cranked up gives me a lisp. I ended up doubling the vocal track and applying the de-esser to one track and not the other. It kind of worked, but obviously it's still an issue. If you or anyone else has any suggestions for improving it, I'd gladly take them!
Hey there! You're welcome for the review.

Best advice I can offer is something I picked up in broadcast school that might sound confusing at first. Hopefully this will make sense:

Sing or talk with your mouth pointed slightly away from the microphone.

If you imagine your mouth and the microphone are pointed directly at one another - Move your mouth a bit to the left or right of that mic and turn your head so you're singing just to the right or left of the mic. The sound will still be picked up, but you will greatly diminish the amount of popping noises since the full force of your speech or singing isn't going directly into the mic. It will be moving past the mic.

In my most recent No Fake Friday you can KINDA see what I am talking about with the lead vocal/guitar part - The word "poison" at :24 would normally be a prime candidate for a popping P sound, but there is no audible pop. I am more or less singing OVER the mic. Probably a bit too far away, really, but it worked for this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN4qUV-VEmo

And part of it can honestly be just backing off of the mic a bit and projecting. Here's an example where I am singing a lead vocal without playing an instrument at the same time. A Fountains of Wayne cover in this instance. Plus, one of your other Nur Ein judges, Mo is a guest on the song and video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbrZWwnDSJU
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by glowworm »

Killer round everybody, and it was a blast following along on the YouTube listening party! Here are some notes Deirdre and I chicken-scratched out while we were listening, I just typed them out verbatim

8th Grade Team - lovely, catchy, sweet, bubbly, effervescent, cool vocal effects

Balance Lost - super badass, very Rage Against the Machine vibes

Berkeley Social Scene - headbobber for sure, very 1980s indie rock

Cavedwellers - really cool effects on the guitar solo! Great 90s rock vibe, sensing some gin blossoms

Frankie Big Face - killer opening, great production, cool synths. Maybe wanted vocals to pop a bit more or just be a touch louder, but I trend towards loud vocals

Glow Worm - last chorus def needs to go OFF more, cut the 64th-note high hat roll at the very end

Goodbye Bandita - cool organ, the call and response rocks, love the weird synth/guitar breakdown

Grumpy Mike - GREAT instrumental intro

Inflatable Vegetables - John Maus? (no) cool electric guitar in *unintelligible scribble*, cool bassline

Jon Eric - folk puuuuuunk hell yes, we said AJJ

Jules Iolyn - Jessica Lea Mayfield-ish, w/ chorus guitar, good vox control

The Lowest Bitter - "get fucked" we love the bubbly piano part combined with profane lyrics

Lucky Spoon - love these drums, Pearl jam vibes

Mandibles - great vox, Magnetic Fields-ish? real good

Max Bombast - great intro, hooked immediately. Half time section was dope, overall real catchy

Micah Sommersmith - inspires me to pick up the ole accordion again!

Moss Palace - wow wow wow, this put me in a MOOD. One of my favorites for sure. Peaceful, groovy, and delightful

Nick Soma - haunt me with those intro vocals, hot damn. This made Deirdre feel like she was riding through a desert on a horse with no name and it made me feel like I was on an old wooden boat

Nuke Skyblaster Reporting For DUTY!! - Quite honestly obsessed with this one. Butt joints. Butt joints. Butt joints. Excellent and creative and catchy

Pigfarmer Jr. - really like the guitar tone on this one - good and grungy

rain - Raaaaain hell yes, gave us a very good reason to start defending pop punk again. We actually jumped up and danced to this one, and I had it stuck in my head the whole night. Rain mentioned in the chat that this was inspired by The Anthem and Deirdre loves that because it was her jam as a kid. Another one of my favorites

Rob from Amersfoort - eerie and enchanting, haunted house vibes. Ever listen to Forgive Durden? Some of the time switches very much reminded me of them

see-man-ski - This belongs in the soundtrack for the hit 2003 film Holes starring a young shia labeouf. Really a bop

The Serviettes - intro reminds me of that song by Queen, I Want to Break Free. Remind Deirds of The Buggles. Makes me wanna sway side to side and smile

Third Cat - really cool effects throughout, digging the gang vocals and harmonies

Shadows:

Brown Word and the Big Whine - reminds deirds of devo's cover of satisfaction

Hot Pink Halo - reminds deirds of the go-gos, love the high synthy/string instrument

Lichen Throat - the instrumental has a really interesting and distinct sound, really dope hearing about how you compose

Vom Vorton - deirds wants to 'skank' to this
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by MicahSommer »

GlennCase wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 2:29 pm
Best advice I can offer is something I picked up in broadcast school that might sound confusing at first. Hopefully this will make sense:

Sing or talk with your mouth pointed slightly away from the microphone.
Thanks for taking the time to respond, and thanks for this advice. Makes a lot of sense to me, and I was definitely not paying much attention to mic placement when I recorded.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by owl »

guys, my computer crashed while I was about 2/3 of the way through writing reviews and this is what my review document looks like now:
Capture.PNG
Capture.PNG (16.97 KiB) Viewed 398 times
so, uh, you might not get anything from me this round. Or maybe a sentence each or something. FML
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by grumpymike »

MicahSommer wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 11:46 am
[ If you or anyone else has any suggestions for improving it, I'd gladly take them!
1. Use a dynamic microphone. Condensers can really accentuate those terrible frequencies.
2. Don't use processing that accentuates this part of your vocals. Don't futz with EQing high frequencies. Don't crank up mastering tools or compressors that could be adding that.
3. Avoid S words in your lyrics or be cognizant of them, and especially avoid a string of them in a row
4. Sing differently. You know S sounds bad. You know cutting the S out sounds lispy. You either have to make the S sound the minimum length possible, or come at it from a Z angle without overtly changing the consonant.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by Lunkhead »

Also some folks put de-esser after, or, before AND after even, any EQ/compressor, since as Mike noted EQ/compressor can wind up exaggerating sibilance.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by Adam! »

What an incredible batch of songs. Best round 1 ever?

My lyrics were their own liner notes, but here's what really happened:
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by Cybronica »

owl wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 9:51 pm
guys, my computer crashed while I was about 2/3 of the way through writing reviews and this is what my review document looks like now:
Capture.PNG

so, uh, you might not get anything from me this round. Or maybe a sentence each or something. FML
Nooooo!! That’s the worst. No worries from us if you can’t get more than a sentence, or even nothing at all. Hope the rest of your computer is ok!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by vowlvom »

Round Three title: "NULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNUL"
Challenge: NULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNUL
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by furrypedro »

vowlvom wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 6:17 am
Round Three title: "NULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNUL"
Challenge: NULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNULNUL
You tease. I'm still waiting for the yacht rock challenge.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by Cybronica »

grumpymike wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 10:19 pm
MicahSommer wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 11:46 am
[ If you or anyone else has any suggestions for improving it, I'd gladly take them!
4. Sing differently. You know S sounds bad. You know cutting the S out sounds lispy. You either have to make the S sound the minimum length possible, or come at it from a Z angle without overtly changing the consonant.
Regarding this note, try making the S sound a little differently. Most people make the sound with the tip of their tongue behind the top front teeth. Try putting the tip behind your bottom front teeth so that the S sound is made by the air passing between your too teeth and the flat of your tongue rather than the tip. This will take away some of the highest pitched whistly partials that the mic I picking up on.

Similarly, if your Ts pop (not saying they do, just giving this as the closest diction example I have), you can ‘dentalize’ them. It’s the same idea, where you hit the ‘T’ sound with the flat of your Tongue instead of the tip. It greatly reduces the amount of aspirants in the sound.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by grumpymike »

Cybronica wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 6:28 am
Most people make the sound with the tip of their tongue behind the top front teeth. Try putting the tip behind your bottom front teeth so that the S sound is made by the air passing between your too teeth and the flat of your tongue rather than the tip. This will take away some of the highest pitched whistly partials that the mic I picking up on.
Thank you for taking my layman, self-taught mush and turning it into detailed technical instructions. :) Now I'm just sitting here hissing while raising and lowering my tongue. Tongue up = high-pitched hiss. Tongue down = lower-pitched hiss. Tongue down & back = shhhh. Tongue down with vocal chords = zzzzz.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by crumpart »

Cybronica wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 6:28 am
Regarding this note, try making the S sound a little differently. Most people make the sound with the tip of their tongue behind the top front teeth. Try putting the tip behind your bottom front teeth so that the S sound is made by the air passing between your too teeth and the flat of your tongue rather than the tip. This will take away some of the highest pitched whistly partials that the mic I picking up on.

Similarly, if your Ts pop (not saying they do, just giving this as the closest diction example I have), you can ‘dentalize’ them. It’s the same idea, where you hit the ‘T’ sound with the flat of your Tongue instead of the tip. It greatly reduces the amount of aspirants in the sound.
This is very useful! Turns out I already put the tip of my tongue behind my bottom front teeth, so any further advice for those of us who are gap toothed in the top AND the bottom?
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by Cybronica »

grumpymike wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 7:41 am
Cybronica wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 6:28 am
Most people make the sound with the tip of their tongue behind the top front teeth. Try putting the tip behind your bottom front teeth so that the S sound is made by the air passing between your too teeth and the flat of your tongue rather than the tip. This will take away some of the highest pitched whistly partials that the mic I picking up on.
Thank you for taking my layman, self-taught mush and turning it into detailed technical instructions. :) Now I'm just sitting here hissing while raising and lowering my tongue. Tongue up = high-pitched hiss. Tongue down = lower-pitched hiss. Tongue down & back = shhhh. Tongue down with vocal chords = zzzzz.
Dude, aren’t phonemes just the MOST fun to play with? I remember figuring out all the pairs of voiced/unvoiced consonants in my high school choir while the Director worked with other sections. It blew my mind, and prepared me for years of diction classes and coaching... which also blew my mind!

crumpart wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 8:19 am
[quote=Cybronica post_id=217241 time=<a href="tel:1589981294">1589981294</a> user_id=18502]
Regarding this note, try making the S sound a little differently. Most people make the sound with the tip of their tongue behind the top front teeth. Try putting the tip behind your bottom front teeth so that the S sound is made by the air passing between your too teeth and the flat of your tongue rather than the tip. This will take away some of the highest pitched whistly partials that the mic I picking up on.

Similarly, if your Ts pop (not saying they do, just giving this as the closest diction example I have), you can ‘dentalize’ them. It’s the same idea, where you hit the ‘T’ sound with the flat of your Tongue instead of the tip. It greatly reduces the amount of aspirants in the sound.
This is very useful! Turns out I already put the tip of my tongue behind my bottom front teeth, so any further advice for those of us who are gap toothed in the top AND the bottom?
[/quote]

Hmm this goes into territory where I would want to see and hear how you speak, to get an idea of how your personal anatomy affects the sound. A speech language pathologist could give you exercises to work with, but if you’re not having issue in your day to day speaking, it’s not worth the referral and copay. For singing, I would recommend doing the mic techniques- use a pop filter, sing across the mic, etc. You might also try using less air on the consonants (specifically S) themselves.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by owl »

OK, sorry, but now everyone gets one brief, half-assed, extra-crabby paragraph because as I mentioned, my reviews file got corrupted and I lost hours of work on this round’s reviews :( At least it wasn’t last round, though, I would have cried. 25 songs seems so manageable now…

Common themes: be nice but not too nice, that’s boring. Show, don’t tell. What’s the part of your song people will remember? Is there a reason for every part of your song to be there? Would this same song work just as well if you cut it to half its length? I felt like almost every song was too long this time around, which I think was probably a consequence of people hearing “handbook” and thinking “yessss, I'll put in a long laundry list of details.”

Speaking of a laundry list of details, here are the reviews, and I managed a few notes about the shadows too (though they didn’t get as much attention as the songs in competition, sorry--I may have more time as the list of songs gets shorter each week):

8th Grade Team - I’m glad to see a total change in direction from last week’s song--shows some range--but this week’s entry wasn’t up my alley either. That hi-hat is way too loud, I really don’t really understand what you were going for musically and aesthetically, and the repeated use of “vomit” in the chorus is unpleasant. But nice vocal, aside from a pitchy moment or two, clearly defined melody, and it sounded original.

Balance Lost - This is fun! I didn’t entirely follow the story as I was listening, but I’m on board with alien adventures, and you sold it with the energy of the music and your delivery, the ridiculous neutron star break, and I really liked some of those rhythms (2nd half of the “Jupiter” verse). I would have liked more of a change-up as far as the constant RATM guitars, or maybe this song could have been a bit shorter, but the lyrics were interesting enough to keep me listening. This was not one of my very favorites of the round, but I enjoyed it.

Berkeley Social Scene - I like the chorus melody a lot, and the super-spy lyrics are fun. Didn’t really like that main riff that first pops up in the intro--it feels jittery and awkward to me. The half-time/major key bridge sounds nice but really loses the spy feel for me. Nice performances, nice mix--nothing to complain about from that front, just wasn’t top tier for me this round.

Cavedwellers - The first part of the chorus melody is a dead ringer for the “love dares you to care for…” part at the end of “Under Pressure,” but better that than the Meow Mix jingle. I liked this one a lot; excellent breezy but melancholy feel, pretty guitars and vocals, and striking, morbid lyrics. My favorite parts are the prechorus where the galloping acoustic guitar comes in; the energy picks up nicely there.

Frankie Big Face - This grabs your attention right away with that big harmonized guitar intro and those high-energy synths, and the chorus feels nostalgic and full of wild yearning, and I like the “blood manifesto and dogeared mind” line in particular. I really like the ascending guitar against the separately ascending synth arpeggios around 01:12.

Glow Worm - Gorgeous intro, I want to live inside that sound--it’s like a distant radio playing on a hot night. I have to admit that every single time I hear “feet cold,” though, I hear “fecal” and it really takes me out of it. I was personally a little cold on some more “modern pop” aspects of the production from an aesthetic point of view--mainly the drum sounds and vocal processing--but that’s a personal taste thing, this is undeniably lovely and catchy and clean, and I think you got exactly what you were going for. I loved the double meaning in the “I can never make it right” line.

Goodbye Bandita - I like all the weird lo-fi sounds in this production, although the mix is pretty muffled, and the vocals are so much better than last week’s. The call and response vocals are great, it’s a catchy chorus, and I like your lyrical concept. You know from last year’s Nur Ein that I’m a fan of murder in songs, but that whole weird Doing a Murder bridge in the middle was pretty unlistenable, and I think overall this song dragged on a lot longer than it needed to.

Grumpy Mike - Love the sound of this song, it’s very Fountains of Wayne, and hits that power pop genre sweet spot for me. Great chorus. It’s all extremely catchy and pleasant musically. There are still some weird emphasis issues in your phrasing, like on “problem solving powers,” and in general, I found the lyrics super unlikable--the narrator’s central conflict seems to be “on the one hand, I don’t want to waste my time HELPING anyone, but on the other hand, how else will I show off and let my unrecognized genius be known? Hmm, perhaps there is a hidden benefit for ME, the most important person! But there would be no other reason for me to help my coworkers.” Which just makes me want to turn it off once I start paying attention to the words. If you’d written this about something other than bitter, passive-aggressive office politics, it probably would have scored higher for me.

Inflatable Vegetables - For me, the songwriting here lacks the charm and catchiness of last week’s entry, and while I like the lo-fi bubbly synths, the mix feels so rough, it’s sort of hard to listen to, especially that bridge that sounds like a Skype call gone wrong. Too repetitive, although it has good advice and is unfortunately pretty relatable for me.

Jon Eric - This is an extremely Mountain Goats song in so many ways. It reminds me a lot of “Up the Wolves,” maybe a bit of “Magpie” in the phrasing. And, well, I like the Mountain Goats, but this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I like the angle you had on the challenge in your lyrics, and verse 2 was particularly vivid. I thought your vocals were better than last week’s, although the jumps into and out of verse 3 seemed jarring, as your timbre is super different there. The mix isn’t great, as the other judges so far have pointed out--it’s hard to figure out what’s going on in it aside from the very loud guitar, and it detracts from showcasing your songwriting.

Jules Iolyn - I have essentially the same notes as last time--fantastic vocals, but if someone else was covering this, I’d probably lose interest immediately. The melody meandered a bit, and the lyrics, while I can’t complain about the messages, came across sort of like empty platitudes, so I found it hard to engage with lyrically as well. I also didn’t like the sound of the guitar quite as much as last week’s song. Still a pleasure to listen to on the strength of your performance, though.

The Lowest Bitter - This was my favorite song this week; I love that the lyrics felt both very specific and personal, and universal and relatable, and they were both moving and kind of cheeky and funny. I particularly liked the verse about the need to come out again and again. The music was instantly appealing for me as well, with the lively piano lines and that “get fucked” chorus.

Lucky Spoon - I felt sort of guilty not really liking this, but this felt like the musical equivalent of a “Live, Laugh, Love” poster, to me. Aggressively saccharine and positive, and the cheesy, anthemic music works for it, I guess, but doesn’t quite get me on board either. I had this complaint about a lot of songs this week, I guess--I agree with the content, but the way it’s delivered just makes it hard for me to get into. It’s sweet, though, I’m sure your wife loves it.

Mandibles - I really like the uke/banjo stuff and wish it wasn’t so drowned out by the layers of vocals later--I think it would be cool if this sounded more live and stripped-back, like you were all performing this together on a porch. A bit folkier, less operatic. The steps go on too long for me--I think you could have gotten this done in about ⅔ of the actual length of the song--but I really liked some of your lyrics, in particular the “wander out into the sea” verses, which I think are wonderful at getting that overwhelming grief across, more so than steps 4-6. Beautiful melody on “I just try to survive.” The harmonies are sometimes just beautiful (“and grieve”) and sometimes something sounds distractingly flat (step six, some of those aaaahs, particularly towards the end).

Max Bombast - I know your artist name is “Max Bombast,” but self-aggrandizing lyrics like this are a real turnoff, even if they’re intended to be tongue-in-cheek or ironic. However, this is a really catchy song, so I couldn’t help but like it despite the narcissism. I like the little stabs of high funky guitar. This is maybe overcompressed or something, I kept jumping when it came on right after Mandibles’ song, and I feel like every time you sing a “p” it’s a brief assault on my ears, particularly when you sing “people.” Nice harmonies, nice melodies.

Micah Sommersmith - Your accordion playing is always impressive, and I liked the bounciness the bass added here, but this song felt super long and samey and just kind of preachy to me, and I couldn’t get into it. I think it is actually full of wisdom as far as content goes, but there’s a whole lot of telling and not a lot of showing, or wordplay, or humor--it makes it hard to go through seven steps’ worth of advice plus intro and outro.

Moss Palace - This is just so cool and lovely, fantastic vocals, and the slide guitar really makes it. The lyrics didn’t stand out to me one way or another, but I think they were well done and worked nicely for the mood of the song, and I did like the lines at the start of verse 2 in particular. I don’t really have that much to say about this, but it’s excellent.

Nick Soma - Ye olde Renaissance Faire melodie doesn’t sound like every other Song Fight/Nur Ein song, so I’ll give it that. Also, I was laughing my ass off over old Jethro Tull videos on Youtube the night before the songs were posted, so I was in a good mood for hearing this type of song. I feel like I’ve said this about half the songs already, but I guess “the handbook” makes people want to write a lot of long, detailed instructions… this could have been done in half the length and kept the same ideas, it’s not an actual instructional guide, so you don’t need to put in every single lyrical detail you’ve included here, and the music isn’t changing enough to justify it. I liked the sound of the guitar a lot, and sort of wish you hadn’t used that nice musical backing on making what is essentially a Halloween novelty song. Theremin-ish synth is nice, the creepy child vocals are very nicely done--thanks for explaining that, I was wondering how you had access to a bunch of ghost-children. Enjoyable but not something I would probably revisit.

Nuke Skyblaster Reporting For DUTY!! - I was conflicted about where to put this in my rankings. On the one hand, I enjoyed it a lot musically and thought you had a good groove (haha) and a nice ebb and flow to to the music, and a creative approach to the use of your sample, but in the end I had a hard time ranking it as high as songs where people had to write, perform, and mix in actual vocals. Fortunately for you, I don’t think the other judges felt the same way. Is that a bit of woodblock in the background?

Pigfarmer Jr. - Glenn mentioned the Meow Mix thing, but this is a generic enough melodic run that it didn’t bother me even after he pointed it out and I went “oh yeah I can see that.” I liked the chorus! I thought it was catchy. This is OK, but not a standout song for me in any way, and it ended up dropping down my rankings because I didn’t feel like you had fulfilled the challenge and everyone else managed to check that checkbox. There are things that happen in sequence, and the word “handbook,” but no actual instructional steps. Was this comfortable to sing? It struck me that your voice might sound better in a somewhat lower range than where you’ve put it here; this register sounded a bit pinched.

rain - This song is good enough--it’s competently performed and arranged, catchy and fun--but on the whole, it felt like just kind of generic pop-punk, and to me is not quite in that tier of standout songwriting, unlike most of the other songs I’ve heard from you in the past. Griping about emphasis issues again, I didn’t really like “understand, look” as a rhyme for “handbook”... it’s sort of clever but the phrasing doesn’t match, so for me, that “look” feels awkward. The slowed-down bridge/dropout/ramp-back-up is a nice choice to shift the dynamics.

Rob from Amersfoort - I still feel like I’m being transported to another dimension with this, but the dimension is a bit more boring than last week’s. The energy level never seems to change, it all just kind of chugs along, and this just feels a bit monotonous to me… and then it just abruptly stops. The mellotron or whatever that is reminds me of the circus. I like the typewriter sounds. The lyrics seem pretty tossed-off, and I’m just not entirely sure in general what you’re trying to get across with the message and mood of this song. I appreciate the uniqueness of your sound, but it didn’t work so well for me in this song.

see-man-ski - Nice work getting reinstated and surviving to fight on! I don’t find the music for this song terribly interesting for me personally, but it’s well performed and a good groove, and the lyrics are much more interesting than last week’s. The first few lines really grab you and I love that you’re leaning into that emotional space. The phrase “I’ll feed in time my ticker” struck me as really awkward, though, and the “take steps…” stuff fulfills the challenge but kind of feels shoehorned in there content-wise.

The Serviettes - I like this kind of cheesy, lo-fi synth, I like handclaps, and I like the quirky lyrics. So from a genre bias point of view, you landed on my good side despite the rather low production values of the mix. It just doesn’t feel very complete--as Glenn noted, it feels more like a demo than a completed song. I really like the lyric “step one--write a list that starts with step one,” but it feels like you’re trying to cram too many syllables into that line and they don’t quite fit. The vocals get really pitchy at points. Some nice melodic bits, but overall this just didn’t feel done yet.

Third Cat - I didn’t find this song terribly memorable, I couldn’t sing any melodic hook back to you or quote back any lyrics, but I enjoy hearing that intro kick in every time it comes up on the playlist. It just sounds really nice and there are all kinds of little production details to pay attention to as you listen--I love the warm washes of harmonies, the guitar jangles and chucka chuck strums, and the various reverse delay type sounds. The hippy dippy acid trip lyrics work for the general mood and style of the song. Still, I’d love to hear a song next time that’s a bit hookier and catchier.

Shadows:

Brown Word and the Big Whine - I like the lyrical concept. Parents, amirite? I didn’t find this very enjoyable to listen to, though--felt kind of droning; I think for this kind of bluesy vocal delivery I would have liked more of a sexy swing and swagger to the music, and probably would have liked the lyrics to be cut down a lot; it’s really wordy for the style--not necessarily overall length, but phrasing within each line.

Hot Pink Halo - Melodically and rhythmically, this reminds me a lot of your “Right Town, Wrong Address.” I mentioned at some point to the other judges that I kind of expected you to make a song about bookbinding based on this title, and I wasn’t disappointed. “The algorithm blues” is a great phrase. The chorus is catchy enough, but like I mentioned in Nick Soma’s review, I really don’t think it’s necessary to put quite so much detail into the lyrics. These are some of the best vocals I’ve heard from you, I think. Having the fake orchestral backing stuff drop out in more places would go a long ways towards making the arrangement feel more dynamic--there are a lot of held notes constantly and not a lot of rhythmic shifts.

Lichen Throat - These vocals are still really pitchy, but I think this is much better than last week’s entry as far as vocal rhythm. And it has a chorus hook! You know, though, despite the vivid imagery, I don’t like these old timey literature lyrics as much as your more personal, modern day storytelling ones, and this feels more like “19th-century poem set to music” than “lyrics meant to be sung.” I have heard better instrumentals from you in the past for sure--this is back in the zone of “a bunch of fast MIDI notes with no dynamics or syncopation.” The ultra-fake church bells were kind of funny to me, I liked their ultra-fakeness. I would still like to hear what you would do with a spoken word song or a dark post-punk kind of tune where you lean into robotic rhythms for the music.

Vom Vorton - This is really fun and high-energy--I like the chorus hook, and the gang backing vocals give it some excellent energy. Those high falsetto “terms” could definitely have used a few more takes or tuning, but the slightly dodgy vocals work with the style.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by grumpymike »

owl wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 11:58 am
.
If you’d written this about something other than bitter, passive-aggressive office politics, it probably would have scored higher for me.
Thanks for writing reviews twice! this round. I’m dismayed that’s the message you took away from my lyrics, because I intended it to be a fun song about finding the nuance in mentee/mentor relations. A good mentor knows when the mentee should struggle a little to learn. A good mentee puts in the effort before going to the mentor. A good mentor is patient and knows that help is essential for the relationship to grow. A good mentor isn’t a handbook, but a tour guide.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by mo »

Hi guys I know probably no one is ganting on my reviews, but we've had a family situation and I may not get around to writing/finishing these for a few days (or I might have a lot of downtime and write them to distract myself, I'm not sure). But rest assured, it's not because I don't care.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by owl »

grumpymike wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 1:58 pm
owl wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 11:58 am
.
If you’d written this about something other than bitter, passive-aggressive office politics, it probably would have scored higher for me.
Thanks for writing reviews twice! this round. I’m dismayed that’s the message you took away from my lyrics, because I intended it to be a fun song about finding the nuance in mentee/mentor relations. A good mentor knows when the mentee should struggle a little to learn. A good mentee puts in the effort before going to the mentor. A good mentor is patient and knows that help is essential for the relationship to grow. A good mentor isn’t a handbook, but a tour guide.
Hmm, that dynamic didn't come across to me, so you might want to revisit some of that phrasing. I guess "get out of my office" didn't sound like a terribly nurturing thing to say to your mentee. Or "you're of no concern to me." Also, you have "I'm not your tour guide" at least twice--was that a typo? I didn't cross-reference it against the song.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by grumpymike »

owl wrote:
Wed May 20, 2020 2:09 pm
Hmm, that dynamic didn't come across to me, so you might want to revisit some of that phrasing. I guess "get out of my office" didn't sound like a terribly nurturing thing to say to your mentee. Or "you're of no concern to me." Also, you have "I'm not your tour guide" at least twice--was that a typo? I didn't cross-reference it against the song.
It’s meant to be fun and sardonic. I think you filled in the context gap I left with some negative feelings, but that’s not on you. I’m just disappointed that that’s what came across.

First part of first verse is over-the-top, cranky mentor; second part of first verse is to mentee. Second verse is mentor getting what he wanted and regretting it, and reflecting back on how he’s wasted the opportunity(s). Bridge is the mentor coming to a compromise; it’s meant to be funny. “You need to learn to swim, but I don’t care unless there are sharks.” In other words, protecting his tough appearance but being a bit of a softy. “I’m still cranky... but I guess I’ll help.” Final chorus is purposefully ambiguous- does the mentor revert? It’s a constant battle.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by bennyharv3 »

I finally got some time to write reviews for everyone. Sorry for last week, but I just couldn't get the time/energy/focus to write them all out in time. Both this and last weeks' songs were all amazing, and I loved all of them in some way.

These reviews are all mostly vocal-focused because that's what I know, and I wrote these while I was supposed to be working and in an odd order, so I apologize that some songs got more than others. Hope this is helpful, looking forward to Monday!

EDIT: Accidentally removed a review, put back.
Spoiler
Show
8th Grade Team - I like the 50s/BioShock vibe of this song, but the chorus feels a bit long and drawn out. Specifically, I think the "this is the best part" over and over again get to be a bit much. I think the cleanliness of the production also played against you. Part of the charm of a 50s-esque song (to me, at least) is some of that grainy distortion that sits on top of it all. I liked it overall, and I hope you continue to submit entries for us to hear!

Balance Lost - I loved this take on the challenge that it's both an instruction book and a retelling of an epic sci-fi adventure that used the book. I loved that grunge guitar, although the cadence of the verses just started to get a little boring, so it was a good choice to end those when you did. That robotic voice at the very end is very clipped, and it was a little hard to understand what it was saying; if you use that again, finding a way to have the voice end its words, that would help.

Berkeley Social Scene - I like the Bond-ish-ness of this song. I especially like that vocal effect at the end of the bridge, I think it adds some nice color to your song and your voice. More of that, please! I have a bit in my judging notes about some flat notes on the higher notes, but I'm having a hard time hearing it as I'm writing these reviews, so either I was wrong (sorry), or it's something to be mindful of. And maybe think about some of the stuff I wrote for The Serviettes review.

Cavedwellers - I hear a bunch of flat notes in the vocal line in the first verse, and I finally figured it out. It sounds like you're trying to hit the note and fade out with your voice, which is fine, but I think you're thinking about it too much and anticipating the fade, so you're backing away from the note before you even hit it, which makes it flat. There are a few you don't do that on - typically the ones that you're doing a twirl on after hitting it - so you just need to not think about it so much and hit the notes. The chorus is great, so I don't think it's any technique issue, just a mental one.

Frankie Big Face - I like the instruments on this song, but the very fuzzy vocals are a bit off for me. In general, I think they're pretty good, but they highlight any issues a note might have because they get exaggerated. Without the fuzz/distortion, I doubt I could pick out any quality issues, but with it, I hear every bend in the notes, and it makes me think about them, which isn't what you want. I don't have any advice on how to make it better, I think it's just a thing to be aware of when using so much of this distortion.

Glow Worm - Ugh, I love this song. That intro is great, and pretty much everything is great. The only criticism I have is that the challenge feels like it was used as an inspiration to this song rather than a cornerstone of it; there are those few steps in the chorus, and the bridge has some, and I don't know how to feel about that because it's such a good song! I would count this as just a conflicted judge's opinion in the middle of a large round, so don't change anything, really. Looking forward to more, and congrats on the win!

Goodbye Bandita - I generally love these verses, but I have two issues with this chorus. One, it's the same lyric over and over again, which I think is a stylist choice, but for my tastes, it gets to be a little boring, which is rough in this big pack. I hear the changes in the melody, but the lack of word changes hurts. Second the male vocalist is a bit overpowering in the mix, so the first time he comes into the mix, I get slapped in the face/ears. The volume gets better for the rest of the song, but that first entry hurt. Also, I don't get the bridge? It's a lot of noises that I'm not sure if I'm supposed to feed into a binary-to-English translator or something else, but I don't understand how it's supposed to serve the rest of the song. I think most of my critique is just a clash or personal tastes, so I don't have any real advice or things to improve, so I definitely hope you'll continue entering songs so I can hear more and appreciate some new sounds in my ears.

Grumpy Mike - I definitely didn't feel called out at all by this (Mike and I used to work together for a few years). I like the little MIDI piano-thing that's going on at first, but since it's so consistent and runs throughout the entire song, I think it detracts a bit. Overall, the song felt a little flat/lacking energy, and I think that MIDI bit never changing is part of it, although it might also be just the song I expected to hear after that first verse.

Inflatable Vegetables - The rap verse has some Bloodhound Gang vibes, although much cleaner, which makes me giggle every time. In general, this is a fun, funky song, and I dance every time it plays. The vocals feel a little unconfident in the verses, so I'm not sure if they just need another pass or something else. The vocals in the chorus hit really well, and you're all in, so I think if you can keep that energy into the verses, this would be fire all around.

Jon Eric - I like this take on the challenge, but the song feels a little chaotic to me. I think it's a combination of all of the instruments and then everything sounding like it's at the exact same level. I have no idea if that's what's actually happening, but my ears just feel a little overwhelmed when I listen, and it's hard for me to grab onto the vocal line and hear the lyrics easily. It's a good song overall, and I don't have any notes other than that, and I'm not a technical person who knows production at all, so I am no real help :( Looking forward to more, though!

Jules Iolyn - Facking. Gorgeous. I love your voice and the quality. Some of the lyrics you sing are a little hard for me to understand, and I think it's just a note that you need to be a little more awware of your enunciation on some of the quicker notes, particularly if they don't have any hard consonants in them. Some of the little bits between the sustained notes were lost on me because it's a lot of soft sounds that blended together. I also think that the second half gets a little messier than the first half overall, which makes me want to ask if this was a single live take? If so, well done! Otherwise, I imagine you were just running into the deadline for the production, which is gonna happen. Overall, love it, looking forward to more!

The Lowest Bitter - Okay, I know this is purely a personal preference thing, but I love that violin/orchestral intro, but then hate it because everything that comes after it isn't the same. There's a Red Hot Chili Peppers song that does the same kind of thing, where it has a lovely guitar intro, and then they just wreck it. I don't think you need to change anything, really, but I want it noted that I hate that kind of thing. Although, that first vocal note coming out of the intro feels a little weak; there's a scoop and a tuning issue in my ear, and I think that makes it worse. If you're going to have a intro that doesn't match the rest of the song, you definitely need that departure to have a very strong start, or it'll cause folks like me to gripe on it for too long :)

My only other note is that your vocals sound pretty nasally to me, which I know can be a stylistic choice rather than an issue, but I would love to hear more of your full voice and not have everything come through your nose. If you can't hear what I'm talking about, put the back of your hands on your cheeks and sing, and then change where the air leaves your body for your voice. The hands-on-cheeks thing should help your ears hear your voice from the outside more (i.e., it'll be closer to what other folks hear when you sing than what you hear in your head).

Lucky Spoon - This sounds like something Dashboard Confessional would put on the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack, and I am here for it! Some of your vocal parts are a bit quiet and then masked by the instruments (the end of the first chorus is where I really notice this), but it's not really an issue. I love that your verse build up throughout them.

Mandibles - Oh, Mandibles, why do you do this to me? Every song I've ever heard of yours, I either gush over and love head-over-heels or fly into a blind rage because of one stylist choice that prevents me from gushing over it. In this case, that banjo intro kills me, because I expected a fun bluegrass song and instead got a good Mandibles tune. You break my heart with expectations! Give me a banjo song! Or heavy metal. Either would suffice.

Otherwise, I like it. I always love the operatic vocals, and the instrumentation is great. Just don't be Britney and quit playing with my heart.

Max Bombast - I like the line you're sitting on. This could easily make you seem like a massive prick, but it's pretty silly so I don't get a huge sense of that. I do hear a ton of saliva and messiness in that vocal line, which is unusual for you, so I assume it's more of a production issue than anything else. Just watch your S's and hard consonants, either when recording or producing, please! I need to go clean my ears out now of any leftover water :)

Micah Sommersmith - Sea shanty! I don't really know what else to think other than sea shanty when I hear that cadence and accordion. Some of your vibrato and vocal runs are obviously exaggerated to fit that theme, but I think they work against you because the song is a bit long and you don't have a group chorus behind you. Having multiple voices doing their own slight variations would make the sea shanty vibe really work for you, so I think you need a couple more lines and not be consistent with where your vocal ornamentation is.

Moss Palace - Ugh, this is another song I love! I was singing this chorus all day yesterday. I like the take on the challenge/title that there is no handbook, but I almost hate that the bridge then has the steps that the challenge asks for; I kinda want you to just throw out the entire challenge and be bold, but that might have dire consequences for the whole thing :) Only other note I have is that some of those S songs are a little too S-y, but it's a minor thing for me. Great work!

Nick Soma - This is so creepy! I love the aesthetic, and the only note I have is that I wish it was a little more darker. Maybe a slide guitar for that dark country rock sound, or use that voice that's in step 6 and put it throughout so it has a more sinister feel. Or add more creepy children voices, I suppose, but I think you used the correct amount of creepy children for this brew of a song.

Nuke Skyblaster Reporting For DUTY!! - I hate you for this because it tells me that I still laugh at butt jokes whenever I hear them. I'm actually super impressed with this song, because it would be so easy for it to be annoying or just dumb, but the sexual innuendo builds throughout, and the two voices help mix it up. It is very well put together, and I like it.

Pigfarmer Jr. - I like the take on this challenge, similar to Balance Lost, where the steps are both instructions and a story. I don't have a lot to say, but the song feels like it's lacking some energy, and I think it's because the vocal line in the chorus is a scale down that repeats three times in two phrases. I like the sound of each phrase individually, but when they are one right after the other, I think it lulls the listener a little bit. Mixing up that melody line I think would improve this song immensely and really give it a kick of energy to put it up at the top of the pack. I hope you keep entering shadow songs so we can hear more!

rain - I like that tempo changeup in the bridge; it's fun! To me, this is very much a rain song and feels like it's in your comfort zone, which is perfectly fine, but with such a strong field this year, I don't know how far it'll take you. I'd love to see a few more creative risks or some genre bending songs in the future. Otherwise, love the work!

Rob from Amersfoort - The first thing I hear is all of the saliva and Ss and consonants in my ears when you're singing. I'm not sure if you need a pop filter or something over the mic or just need to run the track through a filter in production, but a lot of those sounds are sharp in my headphones and make it hard to hear the rest of the song. It also interferes with your ennunciation, which makes the lyrics hard to pick out. I like the idea of running against the handbook idea and advocate for free thinking and experimentation, but it was hard for the idea to come across. More shadows, more counter challenges!

see-man-ski - Ugh, yes, please, more of this style. Your voice fits into this dark country / rock aesthetic, and I would listen to more. I do have a note that your first verse feels a little weak, but I don't have any issues with the second verse, so I'm guessing one of them got more takes and/or production love.

The Serviettes - I like your vocals on this song, but I can't help but get stuck on those high notes. They're actually pretty good, but they're weak, and I think the issue is that you're not putting enough air behind them. I do prefer these sustained high notes over last week's where you just hit them quick, because you have the time to be in tune and hit the note, so please keep doing this; if you want to hit a note hard, keep it in your comfortable range and add a little effect on it instead of trying to pop out a high note.
I'm not sure what specifically would help you hit them, but for me, I have to pretend that there's a string running from the top of my head through to the soles of my feet, and you want that string to be tight by standing up straight, shoulders back, cheest out, and diaphragm well supported. It might also help to tilt your head down just a little to fight the impulse to look up and strain your neck, which will just damage your vocal chords. And raise your eyebrows when you go for those high notes.

Third Cat - This is a nice song! I like the vocals and the vocal effects, but don't really have anything to add or detract. It's a solid Third Cat song.

Shadows:

Brown Word and the Big Whine - This is a fun little funk jam. It feels very muted, and I kinda want that bass guitar to blow my ears out, but that might just be me being dumb. The vocal line is a little nasaly, but I think it's the stylistic choice for this genre, so it's good. More, please!

Hot Pink Halo - Way to call me out in the first few lines. It is hard to describe how to bind a book in song form, but I kinda can imagine it, and it's a fun idea. Some of the vocal lines are out of tune, but I think it's more the melody and harmony are off instead of being a vocal line that's flat or sharp. I think the voices have a lot of potentially for very beautiful harmonies, so if you can put a little bit more care into those harmonies, I think it'll pay off much more than focusing anywhere else. Please give me more book songs! I used to work in a library, and always wanted to do more book things, so let me live through your experiences.

Lichen Throat - I thought last round's song was my favorite of yours that I've heard, but this takes that! Whenever I think of your songs, I remember that I always complained it was hard to understand what you were saying, but I don't have that problem at all this year. And that little bridge thingy gets me both times it comes up; it's the perfect bit of Lichen Throat special sauce in the right spot to be an interesting standout instead of feeling a little out of place. You get better with every song, and I'm super excited to hear more.

Vom Vorton - First things first, I can't believe you sang "By reading these words you agree to our terms" and not "By listening to these words you agree to our terms". The gold was right in front of you! Fun and kinda catchy, but some of those high notes felt a little strained. They sound like they're in your range, so I'm gonna say you just threw them out and didn't spend a ton of time on them, because I trust that you can normally hit them without that strain.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by lichenthroat »

Wow, I genuinely liked almost all of these songs. Great, great work everyone! Since there were so many songs, my comments are pretty short. There’s no way I can replicate owl’s herculean (but much appreciated) effort.

8th Grade Team—The vocal is expressive while remaining very controlled and subtle. I don’t think the rest of the music matches the vocal in sophistication, though. Still, a pleasant listen.

Balance Lost—Your vocal delivery is good, and your guitar tone is very nice. I think I’d like to have some parts of the song sung, rather than rapped; it feels like it’s missing a vocal hook. The part at the end is cool.

Berkeley Social Scene—I really like how all the instruments work together, but it doesn’t seem like the vocal melody has the same level of sophistication. There’s nothing wrong with the singing itself, but I think the song calls for a vocal melody with wilder variation.

Brown Word and the Big Whine—I had trouble getting into the flow of this. I think this song is conceptually very interesting, but to me it lacked cohesion.

Cavedwellers—I love the combination of the two guitar tones and the interplay between them. I don’t have a lot of comments, but this is really good.

Frankie Big Face—This isn’t super memorable, but it sounds good as I’m listening. I’d like to hear your voice sound fuller on this; it seems like there’s an effect on the vocal that isn’t enhancing your natural tone. I like this, though; very solid. The solo is very nice, without being ostentatious.

Glow Worm—I liked your round 1 entry a little better, but this is very good, too. Everything sounds very professionally produced, and the melodies are great. Your voice is so pure. This reminds me of The Submarines. Your wins are well-deserved.

Goodbye Bandita—I dig the guitar line and its pairing with the low synth. I like the main vocal, but the backing vocal seems like more of a distraction than an enhancement (because of the composition, not the performance).

Grumpy Mike—I like how the guitar kicks in the pre-chorus. The mix seems a tiny bit light on the low end. It’s impossible not to like this, though. Well done.

Hot Pink Halo—Excellent lyrical take. I like the guitar on the left side. I wish there was a little more going on in the song, like maybe one more instrument or more prominent drums. I like the vocal melody and performance.

Inflatable Vegetables—The squelchy effect on the rap vocal is very weird and distracting. I feel like I should like this better than I do; you lay down a nice groove. The fade out is nice and could even be a little longer.

Jon Eric—The guitar sounds a little blunted and like it’s not in the same space as the vocal. This is fun song, and your performance is consistent with the overall atmosphere.

Jules Iolyn—I like your vocal and I like the music, but I’m not sure they go together well. This feels like it needs an additional low-pitched instrument to fill out the song. I’m very impressed by the expressiveness of your vocal, however.

Lichen Throat (me)—I was quite happy with this; it’s probably my favorite song I’ve recorded anytime recently. The only thing I really don’t like is how my voice sounds dead and dull. The “Low bridge, everybody down” part is excerpted from Thomas S. Allen’s variously titled 1905 song about the Erie Canal.

The Lowest Bitter—I like the lyrics, and I also really appreciated the content of your liner notes. I wasn’t thrilled with the music at first, but I’ve liked it more and more on each listen. The piano seems a little too prominent in the mix. Nice work overall.

Lucky Spoon—The chord progression is great: subtle and unexpected. I like how the chorus really breaks out, too. It kind of fells like it’s missing something, though—maybe a more prominent bassline.

Mandibles—That banjo line sounds great. Nice lyrics. I like how every instrument sounds completely independent but they all fit together well, in a way that’s unfamiliar but sounds good.

Max Bombast—Your confidence comes through my computer and punches me in the face—which I like. I’m not sure the song itself is all that interesting, but this is really about your larger-than-life performance, which you completely pull off.

Micah Sommersmith—I’m not sure that completely unironic earnestness mixes with accordion. But I do love the accordion. And sometimes I do need reminding of your message.

The Serviettes—I like this quite a bit, and I’m surprised it wasn’t scored higher. It’s so smooth, and I like the soundscape.

Moss Palace—Listening to this is like combining the best parts of being fully conscious and in a hypnogogic state. Your voice sounds so, so good. The song is interesting too. Thumbs way up.

Nick Soma—I was confused by this on the first couple of listens, but it really grew on me. I like how the additional instrument kicks in at step 4. The combination of old-style composition with contemporary instrumentation works well. I really like this.

Nuke Skhyblaster Reporting for Duty!!!—The moment when I realized this was about sex was very funny, but then it didn’t seem to have a lot of replayability after that, which seems like a conceptual flaw for a song. Your mixing of all the samples is impeccable, though.

Pigfarmer Jr—Your vocal sounds a little piercing in a way that is uncharacteristic for you. I, for one, can’t hear the Meow Mix thing, even when actively listening for it. The beginning of each line in the chorus is a great moment every time.

rain—I love this. I may have genre bias in favor of it, but I think it’s objectively a good song, too. No complaints. Keep up the good work.

Rob from Amersfoort—I had a little trouble getting into this one. I like the verses, but then the chorus kind of takes me out of the song.

see-man-ski—The guitar sounds so easy and familiar, like you’ve been playing this over and over for years. You capture the energy of a live performance, even though this is a studio track.

Third Cat—If I listened to all these songs 100 times, I wouldn’t be surprised if this eventually became my favorite. This feels very sophisticated. I feel like it challenges me, in a good way.

Vom Vorton—You do understand that you can’t win as a judge, right? Since your two songs have been great. This one is super fun.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round One "The Handbook"

Post by Cybronica »

bennyharv3 wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 12:32 pm

Mandibles - Oh, Mandibles, why do you do this to me? ...You break my heart with expectations!
Good! I mean, look, the last two songs have been about heartbreak, so as far as I’m concerned, if it breaks your heart, the song succeeded! :lol:
But I am glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, the bones of the song are like a pastiche of early 2000s pop, but then we set it to blue grass instrumentation. What were we thinking! (Would it surprise you that M.C. Escher is my favorite painter?)
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