Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by mo »

One of the interesting things this time around is the shadow reinstatement. As long as you keep it up, you never know when someone might need to drop out....
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by GlennCase »

furrypedro wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:40 pm
Edit: also, yes please. I would like my concept to be bumped up! And lyrics if that's okay, but just concept would be great. Thank you!
Done!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by GlennCase »

furrypedro wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:40 pm
Cheers for the response, Glenn. If you're ranking the songs based on how much you enjoyed them there's absolutely nothing I can do to argue against that, and there's certainly nothing wrong with it. I dont think that need be a secret though, and I dont see the need to hide your reasons behind a scoring system which at least in part appears to be retroactively fitted to justify your rankings. This hasn't been the first time I've looked at the scores compared with the comments (for my entries and others) and thought there was a certain amount of nonsense in them. Anyway, I am just appreciative that I didn't get placed in the drop zone this time :)
Regarding the retroactive justification of rankings: I start by ranking the songs, but I will go through the songs several times to see if my ranking is appropriate. I use the scores and categories as a way of keeping myself in check. Asking myself "Did I rank this fairly?" Using this method I have made adjustments in every round that have lead to songs being ranked lower or higher as a result of the additional analysis.

In short: Being a judge is an incredibly thankless task, and something I subject myself to every few years before remembering and realizing why I don't do it very often. You try to do a good job and you set yourself up for a lot of complaints, second-guessing, and dissatisfaction in general.

I'll finish judging this competition, but I absolutely will not be judging again any time soon.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by furrypedro »

GlennCase wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 6:03 pm
furrypedro wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 3:40 pm
Edit: also, yes please. I would like my concept to be bumped up! And lyrics if that's okay, but just concept would be great. Thank you!
Done!
Yay!
GlennCase wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 6:15 pm
In short: Being a judge is an incredibly thankless task, and something I subject myself to every few years before remembering and realizing why I don't do it very often. You try to do a good job and you set yourself up for a lot of complaints, second-guessing, and dissatisfaction in general.

I'll finish judging this competition, but I absolutely will not be judging again any time soon.
I understand, I've been there once myself, and from the other side of the fence I've found this year's experience to be pretty stressful, something I'd also forgotten since whenever it was I last entered. I think probably Ben made the safe call as a judge by staying out of the firing line completely. I certainly hope my comments haven't contributed too much to this being a negative experience for you, and I want to reiterate my appreciation of the job you and the other judges have done. I know that although it may be setting you up to receive grumbles, I and the majority of other Einers, if not all of them, are grateful for the feedback.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by Generic »

To this day, I cannot believe I agreed to do it two years in a row.

Also, how on earth did I make it to round 5? I'm tied for my best showing in a Nur Ein ever... and with much stiffer competition! Best of luck to all remaining. NUR EIN!!!!!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by mo »

What a fascinating round. We’re at the point in the competition where you guys are making it really difficult for us to figure out rankings, so again, kudos to all of the competitors. For me this week, I really appreciated the songs that made a lot of effort towards playing with the concept of Bond Theme. We got songs that are very different from several contestants, so I hope in the end, no matter how much frustration you may have had, that you all had fun with this one. If not, maybe the next one will float your boat. Or the one after that. I am writing these reviews now that the results are out, so these are in final result order rather than my personal ranking.

And now, the eye graphic, the James Bond of your choice steps into the white circle, whips around and shoots. Red drips down the screen and the song begins….


Moss Palace -
This is such a gorgeous take. The guitar parts are really spot on. Erin’s voice is fantabulous as always. I found that in the choruses when you’re pushing up the melody, it wasn’t quite as smooth and in command as I am used to hearing from you. But you have a great sense of how to phrase. I wanted a bigger buildup and climactic moment at the end, but that’s a minor quibble for such a great imagining of one of the moody slower tunes. I could totally see the credit roll with shadowy figures and all.

Frankie Big Face -
Speaking of buildups and climatic moments, holy crap! I spent a lot of time trying to think of which Broadway musical this most reminded of, but since I don’t really listen that much to Broadway musicals, that didn’t get very far. I also thought that the lyric was trying to get too cute, like you hit the mood, but then you kept going with words. For the mood, I felt like it could’ve stood to breathe a bit more. Does that count as a Picardy third at the end, hahahaha.

Cavedwellers -
You guys had so much fun with this, it is incredibly infectious and groovy. A great take on using the Bond musical tropes with a characteristic Cavedwellers feel, and one of the songs that rocks hard while still being Bond. The vocal is the weak point of the song, as it’s just not that interesting, but the performance does have a certain charm to it. But the music side of it is so good that it really carries the whole thing—this is a song that I legitimately want to listen to a bunch of times in a row just for all that brassy and fuzzy goodness.

Jon Eric -
You might be tired by now of hearing that your songwriting is better than your singing, but this song really is just a prime example of this. The pacing of the song is perfect, instrumentation is pretty good, the concept of the melody is good, but if only you were Shirley Bassey! Last week you had such a nice vocal tone but this week it is all over the place. Mic technique, compression, limiting, EQ, you need more use of the tools of the trade. Holding the note at the end is impressive, and I did consider just expressing you an oxygen machine, but the journey to get there vocally is rocky. I had a running debate with some of the other judges about how much of this is your vocal mixing (including the effects treatments, etc) and how much is the use of your voice. Your phrasing is mostly good but still occasionally awkward. You over-emote for dramatic effect a few times which didn’t sound great, honestly, but in the end I think the other judge was right to say, a lot of those things you could make easier to listen to with better vocal processing. And on that note, the Butch Vig Waves plugin for vocals might still be on sale if you want it, and then you can sound like Shirley Manson maybe.

Mandibles -
From the perspective of the Bond girl, or is this just gay Bond? I liked this song until the chorus. I did not enjoy these harmonies in this particular context, and then the lounge lizard take isn’t my jam, guys. I was expecting to get full on melodramatic belting from you guys, I mean, not through the whole thing of course, but at the end of the chorus before the break, or by the end of the song? Ultimately this song just stays at a level and doesn’t really take off. And you made opportunities for yourself to do it, you just didn’t go there.

see-man-ski -
My favorite NIN T-shirt that I ever had was from the Further Down the Spiral tour, which I really loved mostly because that year, for whatever reason, they had a better supplier, so the quality of the shirts was quite good. Stayed black through many washes. The Fragility tour shirt I had was better looking when it was new, but after a while, it faded quite a lot and got frayed. I don’t even want to talk about the PHM tour shirts they sold at the first Lolla. Oh yes, the song. I thought this was too short actually, it also sets a great mood but doesn’t really go anywhere. I could easily imagine all the synthy industrial dance pop ways to play further with the Bond musical tropes, even if you weren’t going to sing them. I forget if anyone has mentioned it to you yet already, but you do need to up your vocal processing game as well—they are a bit too muddy and unclear in the mix, which doesn’t need to be a levels thing, but a compression/limiter and EQ thing. There’s lots of options out there. This was promising though.

Max Bombast -
Max, I really thought before this round that you would go all Jack White/Cornell style on this challenge and blow us all away, especially with your obvious vocal talents. This song just did not get to that kind of groove and power. The song just kind of doesn’t go anywhere, it starts at the tilt it’s going to be at, and the halftime doesn’t really save it, even with the fun harmony, and then it just ends before coming back. It feels unfinished.

Balance Lost -
I basically feel like everyone else did in that this song started out promisingly, but then doesn’t seem to go anywhere and then ends, also feeling unfinished. The vocals have performance issues as well, and I just didn’t think this was a particularly strong entry. You can’t let Frankie jedi mind trick you like this dude. But seriously, the shift in tone after the intro section is not necessarily a bad idea but you have to sell it a little more, let it breathe a bit more. The car crash of styles didn’t work for me I guess is what I’m trying to say.

Micah Sommersmith -
The James Bond spaghetti western? Or Django Unchained? And then the meta aspects of the lyric don’t really work for me. I hear this and I think maybe it would’ve worked better with different artistic choices, such as ok, lean into the Westerns aspect of it, and go full-on a Bond song but a Western. The “wolf—lunch” stuff just doesn’t work for me, it feels, not necessarily out of place with the rest of the song, given that you’re not doing a straight Bond song, but it’s not a subtle enough jab given that you haven’t gone full Lowest Bitter.

Nick Soma -
This sounds more like an Austin Powers song than a James Bond song to me. There’s a bunch of awkward phrases. “Twice before”, “precipice”, you just don’t sound really confident, maybe because it’s pushing the top of your range? The whole chorus sounds just awkward to me. Unlike Cavedwellers, I didn’t find that the pretty fun musical side of it carried me away so much that I could overlook these flaws.

The Lowest Bitter -
Ok so I was actually ready to like this take on “Bond theme” as I’m sure we’ve all figured out by now, I am probably the loosest of the judges with regard to challenge interpretation. But a couple of things: it reminded me way too much of your “The Handbook” and I did really want something like this to be a more complete take—like if you’re going to takedown the whole of everything Bond stands for, I need more of a musical justification for it as well. I understand that you probably didn’t enjoy this challenge, but the thing is your vocal almost feels embarrassed to me, like you’re trying to hide it. Own that shit. For me, I would’ve enjoyed this if I felt you were enjoying it. Like if it was a song about you torturing him for all the bullshit he stands for, I feel like you might’ve gotten into that more, and I would’ve found it funny. But the feel doesn’t carry this song.

Glenn’s Judging -
The crowd stares, I got myself in my crosshairs
What have we got here, don't care if it's not fair
Glenn Case? What we have here is a case of narcissism
Plenty of age but no wisdom
You're lucky YouTube wasn't around where you were young-
Otherwise everyone would know that you are kinda dumb
(anyone want to finish out these lyrics?)
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by grumpymike »

Micah, Micah, Micah
I have like 20 hours yet to edit out Ben's "auxiliary words and body sounds", so I'm just going to say- I am totally impressed with how much you've ramped up your game, and I was betting on you making it to the final round. For the 10th week in a row, I am dumbfounded by the rankings. Yes, I am so dumbfounded that it knocked me back in time. I found a note in my phone's notes app that said, "Holy guacamole, watch out for those rankings!" That is all to say - you did awesome; don't let the man get you down.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by GlennCase »

grumpymike wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 7:16 pm
Micah, Micah, Micah
I have like 20 hours yet to edit out Ben's "auxiliary words and body sounds", so I'm just going to say- I am totally impressed with how much you've ramped up your game, and I was betting on you making it to the final round. For the 10th week in a row, I am dumbfounded by the rankings. Yes, I am so dumbfounded that it knocked me back in time. I found a note in my phone's notes app that said, "Holy guacamole, watch out for those rankings!" That is all to say - you did awesome; don't let the man get you down.
Next year you can be all 5 judges and you won't have to be so dumbfounded.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by mo »

Well I'm pretty sure I saw a Delorean in the BofA parking lot near me the other night, so maybe for the time travel he won't have to go through quite so much...agony
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by Generic »

mo wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 6:53 pm
I had a running debate with some of the other judges about how much of this is your vocal mixing (including the effects treatments, etc) and how much is the use of your voice.
If I'm brutally honest with myself, it's probably about 60% poor vocal mixing, 40% voice.

I recorded all the vocals on Friday night after I'd spent some time at a friend's house, eating junk food and drinking. I spent about two and a half hours on it, and thought it sounded pretty good in the moment. Then I let the song sit for a day while I attended to some personal matters.

When I checked on it again Sunday, I realized that the vocal takes I'd been happy with Friday sounded like garbage (and not Shirley Manson!). For one, I had kept the recording volume constant even though the verses and chorus were at very different dynamic levels, and I had stepped back from the microphone for the loud parts. Big mistake! Plus, it was much much pitchier than I remembered it being.

I didn't have time to re-record all of it, so I only redid the final section - the Tom Jones long notes. It says a lot that that part sounds better than the rest. Manual pitch correction salvaged the rest (but it also caused that audio glitch one of the other judges noticed and thankfully didn't dock me for). I think it would have come out a lot better if I'd had more time to sit with the melody and learn from the mistakes of my first pass. And I do intend to redo it when the competition is over.

That said, I did actually use compression, EQ, and limiting... Just clumsily. I've never felt confident with these tools, and taking several years off didn't help. And I'll be the first to admit, this "Bond Theme" was way overly ambitious on my part, too.

Mo, and all the judges, thank you so much for your feedback. I hope this response doesn't sound overly defensive. I agree with your review 100%. I appreciate the compliments on things that worked, and hope I can learn from the feedback on things that didn't.

Also, I didn't give proper credit in this thread to Jim Tyrell, who provided VST orchestral strings and brass (which I then supplemented with a VST French horn section after hearing his contributions). I doubt my entry would have had as much impact without him.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by grumpymike »

GlennCase wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 8:35 pm
Next year you can be all 5 judges and you won't have to be so dumbfounded.
I was complimenting Micah. I'm sorry you took my comically hyperbolic expression of surprise as insulting criticism.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by GlennCase »

And how is being "dumbfounded" not an insult to the judges? It implies that the results are so unexpected that no one could have possibly seen it coming, which implies that the judges are either not doing their jobs correctly, or we are just throwing random numbers out there.

Every single judge is attempting to do the best job that they can, and flippant remarks like this are downright insulting. I am more than a little sick of all the complaining.

There are plenty of ways that you can be complimentary without being so inconsiderate.

"You did a good job, and I am sorry to see you go." Is one such example.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by grumpymike »

GlennCase wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 9:37 pm
And how is being "dumbfounded" not an insult to the judges?
When you put 5 people with different music tastes together, in an esoteric songwriting community where nobody agrees, in a songwriting contest where nobody agrees on judging methodology, with contestants who have very little aesthetic in common, you get unexpected results, even if you expect the unexpected! I can understand why you may be sensitive to criticism, as you are doing a fantastic job keeping the contestants informed and responding, but I truly have no desire to criticize or even insult any of the judges. Except Ben. Well, and maybe Vom. But definitely not the remaining 3 of you.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by Lunkhead »

I'm grateful for the judges doing their super thankless job. I tried it once, and learned it's not for me. Sometimes I get tempted to try again but so far fortunately I've talked myself out of it. :lol: Glenn, don't take it personally, some of us have been doing this thing over and over for so long. You're dealing with folks with years and years of built up trauma around the inherent counterintuitive aspects of how this tournament works.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by crumpart »

I was once the sole judge of an art competition for a bunch of people from an amateur painting class. It was awarded in person at their end of year Christmas party. Imagine having the partners of all the artists come up to your face demanding an on-the-spot explanation of why you chose that particular painting.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by crumpart »

Anyway, I’ve only listened a couple of times through this round so far, but highlights for me are Frankie Big Face, Micah Sommersmith, Owl and Third Cat.

Frankie, this is my second favourite song of yours from the competition so far. For a brief detour, my favourite of yours is a The Handbook, which I just absolutely adore. Everything about that song is perfect, including the high energy synth, the earnestness of the lyrics, the vocal delivery (it reminds me a little of The War on Drugs) and the decision not to repeat the chorus. I just want to listen to this song on repeat forever. Anyway, Carte Blanche: the vocal delivery is so spot on, and I love all the little change ups; it keeps me engaged for the entire time. “Criss and cross across an ocean” is such a great lyric.

Micah, I loved your lyrics, which make me smile every time and I love how you went all in on the performance. Your voice sounds really great on this track. I find this song just delightful.

Owl, have you ever listened to The Clouds? Your voice on that opening line reminds me a lot of Jodi Phillis. If you’re not already a fan, I think you’d really enjoy their stuff. The vibraslap is an excellent choice.

Third Cat, this felt like the perfect penultimate song (thanks, alphabetical order). It’s a great change of pace from all the other songs, and I particularly like the rhythm and articulation of your vocals.

Special mention for Lichen Throat: I really enjoyed the spoken verses. Like Vom, you lost me a little with the choruses, as you lose the rhythm a bit, but I think the verses are excellent.

***
Thanks Vom for the comments, very much appreciated. I don’t have any horns in there, but listening back, I can see how the lower violin notes sound a bit horn like, particularly with the way I chose to articulate them. I did originally have a little overdrive processing on the violin track because I thought it needed it to sit with the rest of the distorted stuff, but got rid of it when I listened back I realised my master compression and limiting was already dirtying it up enough, and I think that layer of muck on the low violin notes also adds to the brass-like sound.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by vowlvom »

Ah! I did wonder. I tried to spend more time with the shadows this time but it looks like I'm going to continue my ongoing theme of getting something fundamentally wrong about your song each round, sorry!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by crumpart »

vowlvom wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 1:20 am
Ah! I did wonder. I tried to spend more time with the shadows this time but it looks like I'm going to continue my ongoing theme of getting something fundamentally wrong about your song each round, sorry!
Lol. I’m pretty sure the problem is not with you, but mostly that it’s a difficult instrument and I’m not a great at it! I’ve owned the thing since 2015, but have never had an actual lesson and have only been actively, regularly practicing for a year now. I have come a long way in the past year, but there’s still an exceptionally long way to go.

I do find it interesting to hear how non-string players orchestrate string parts in their songs. Playing the physical thing does open up more doors in how I think about phrasing and articulation. I think a lot of songwriters don’t fully take advantage of the wide variety of actual sounds that can be made with a violin.

Oh, and my bass line was based on the “gooooold finger” part of Goldfinger, with some other stretches of notes thrown in around it. It’s not hugely obvious, but I do like that bass line approach in general. I’ve done it in a few Songfights so far for sure. My Peak Misery bass line riffs on Ode To Joy, and my Tricked For The Last Time (which was about Buffy and Angel, in response to @gizo’s Looks Good In Black, which was about Angel) is based on the “you’re gonna give your love to me” line from Not Fade Away, which was the title of the very last episode of Angel. Why yes, I am a giant nerd.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by thelowestbitter »

Well after last week I was pretty certain the writing was on the wall for me even before I saw this week's challenge was to soundtrack my anathema. A part of me hoped I might stand out among the earnest attempts at bond themes if I refused to play ball on the soundalike aspect of the challenge, and I guess that turned out to be true, just not in a positive way :lol: Who'd have thought writing the most begrudging attempt at the challenge ever would count against me?

Thanks to all the judges for their work on this, particularly dealing with that 40+ first round. Don't think I'll be entering a shadow this week as that title is not inspiring me at all right now, but who knows, maybe I'll come up with something.
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by frankie big face »

mo wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 6:53 pm
Frankie Big Face -
Speaking of buildups and climatic moments, holy crap! I spent a lot of time trying to think of which Broadway musical this most reminded of, but since I don’t really listen that much to Broadway musicals, that didn’t get very far. I also thought that the lyric was trying to get too cute, like you hit the mood, but then you kept going with words. For the mood, I felt like it could’ve stood to breathe a bit more. Does that count as a Picardy third at the end, hahahaha.
I'm a Sondheim guy so probably Sweeney Todd. Or Assassins.

One thing I think people are missing with James Bond (and it could be an age thing - if the oldest Bond movie you saw starred Timothy Dalton, then you may not get this) is how kitschy and campy it can be. So when I wrote these lyrics, I let them get a bit bloated and overblown. Because that's what Roger Moore would do, dammit! So yeah, the lyrics are bordering on silly but that was the intent and I'm pleased with them. It's Bond. Having an existential crisis. While nuzzling his thesaurus.

And yes, I believe that does count as a Picardy third! Well done!!
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Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by frankie big face »

crumpart wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 1:07 am
Frankie, this is my second favourite song of yours from the competition so far. For a brief detour, my favourite of yours is a The Handbook, which I just absolutely adore. Everything about that song is perfect, including the high energy synth, the earnestness of the lyrics, the vocal delivery (it reminds me a little of The War on Drugs) and the decision not to repeat the chorus. I just want to listen to this song on repeat forever. Anyway, Carte Blanche: the vocal delivery is so spot on, and I love all the little change ups; it keeps me engaged for the entire time. “Criss and cross across an ocean” is such a great lyric.
This is a very nice compliment - thanks so much!

And in reference to another of your comments, I am an orchestral conductor and composer, so I completely understand your point about orchestration and understanding the instruments you're writing for. It is a serious art form and people don't realize how much so. (Like Danny Elfman? Well, someone orchestrated that shit and it wasn't Danny Elfman!) I think that may have helped me in this case because I could get that end section sounding pretty "right" pretty quickly just by knowing which "instruments" could do certain things and which ranges made the most sense. I had 47 tracks for this tune and my knowledge of when and how to use them IRL was key.

Thanks again for your kind review! (Of both songs.)
Cybronica
Joan
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon May 14, 2018 2:38 pm
Submitting as: Mandibles

Re: Nur Ein XV Round Four "Carte Blanche"

Post by Cybronica »

Thanks for the reviews, all! I really enjoy reading them. :)
GlennCase wrote:
Mon Jun 08, 2020 8:48 pm
Mandibles - This started out as a very promising song! Those verses are excellent, but I do not like the chorus at all. You have written half of a song that is a very good Bond theme. The horns, and overall instrumentation are quite good. Tasty guitar. The chorus single-handedly sinks this.
Ooh promising is a step in the right direction! And i'm glad you liked the horns- I put a lot of effort into finding people to play, notating the lick, sending, converting sound files, etc., so I'm really happy it paid off! As for the chorus, we spent a lot of time coming up with something that would balance Truth's verse lick and my horn lick, and I'm still not completely satisfied with it. But it's very Mandibles, if not Bond.
vowlvom wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 2:52 am
Mandibles - I found the retro fuzzy vocal sound really offputting on first listen, although it grew on me with repeat visits - it contributes to the jazzy feel but makes some of the harder consonant sounds a little jarring. The shift from verse to chorus is really interesting and effective, and the brass on the way back out of the chorus is great and works realy well with the jazz guitar. I thought the lyrics were mostly solid apart from the "Mr. Man" line which I found really offputting. Mostly though I thought this was another excellent take on the challenge.
Thanks for your feedback! Regarding "Mister Man," well, its supposed to be an emasculating line, so if you find it off-putting, I suppose it worked...? I'm rally glad you liked it over all!
mo wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 6:53 pm
Mandibles -
From the perspective of the Bond girl, or is this just gay Bond? I liked this song until the chorus. I did not enjoy these harmonies in this particular context, and then the lounge lizard take isn’t my jam, guys. I was expecting to get full on melodramatic belting from you guys, I mean, not through the whole thing of course, but at the end of the chorus before the break, or by the end of the song? Ultimately this song just stays at a level and doesn’t really take off. And you made opportunities for yourself to do it, you just didn’t go there.
Bond girl, who was the villain the whole time! Though I'm not against a gay Bond. Sounds like a great new multi movie plot arc.

For those who are interested, my new mic finally came in! Yay! I ended up rerecording the verses and the last line of the song to test it out, and HOO BABY thanks to everyone who helped my pick it out, I love this thing already. Here's the new take on the song. I also took to vocal filter off the second and third verses:

https://soundcloud.com/cybronica/carte-blanche
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