Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Niveous »

Yes. PM me.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

seemanski wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 1:06 pm
I did think I met the main challenge though. The chorus is all about seeing someone else's face on a stranger, that was my take on it anyway.

when they turn around
what I tell myself
is that ill see your face
instead of someone else
I'm sure I'm just being very particular but I think there is a difference between seeing a face in a picture of a rock on Mars and seeing someone else's face on a stranger. But the most important thing is that you wrote and recorded a good song. I liked it, anyway.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by seemanski »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 3:24 pm
seemanski wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 1:06 pm
I did think I met the main challenge though. The chorus is all about seeing someone else's face on a stranger, that was my take on it anyway.

when they turn around
what I tell myself
is that ill see your face
instead of someone else
I'm sure I'm just being very particular but I think there is a difference between seeing a face in a picture of a rock on Mars and seeing someone else's face on a stranger. But the most important thing is that you wrote and recorded a good song. I liked it, anyway.
That's alright, I struggled with coming up with a concept with this and I thought I'd got it. I get where you are coming from. That said if you thought that was cutting it fine, wait until you see my bridge.

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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Evermind »

Spooky coincidence, someone pointed out to me that the day I submitted my Pareidolia entry about a hacker/spy who burned to death on May 23 was...

...May 23. I did not plan that. :shock:
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by lichenthroat »

My last-minute guest judge ratings are below. This is the first time I’ve judged anything. Since time was a factor, I just used the notes I wrote on my ranking spreadsheet rather than writing conventional reviews, with complete sentences and all that.

Balance Lost-- Guitar tone sounds good at first but wears out its welcome eventually, good increase in energy for the chorus, well-articulated vocal, solid but not outstanding

Berkeley Social Scene-- More about paranoia than pareidolia, good chorus that makes the song, rhythm kind of gets lost in the verses, bridge seems to be added for thematic, rather than musical content

Boffo Yux Dudes-- Performed pretty well, something about the rhythm feels shuffling and light without being lighthearted, needs more differentiation in the instrumentation between the verse and chorus

Brown Word and the Big While--Like the heavy tone but didn't find the melodies very compelling, good incorporation of the samples into the song

Budget Bears--Sounds good all the way through, great chorus, could use more instrumental interplay in the verses, not sure the bridge adds much, very enjoyable overall

Cavedwellers-- Good interplay among the instruments, feels a little disjointed compositionally, lots of interesting stuff going on, hard for the listener to settle in, like the bridge, improves with multiple listens

Crown Shy-- Vocal performance is great (especially those high notes), feels like it would benefit from having a section with faster rhythm, not sure all the subtleties I know are embedded come across to the listener

Dented Bento-- Feels like it needs more going on, effectively evokes laid-back atmosphere, vocal delivery is pretty good, feels like a component is missing from the song

Ever Kenievel-- Very subdued but still interesting, good atmosphere, builds effectively, wish it was longer and slightly more differentiated within itself

Frankie and the Mountweasels-- Very fun, sounds good, could do without the toilet, good rhymes and vocal melodies

Governing Dynamics-- Like the background chord progression, percussion could set up a better rhythm, mix feels unbalanced (like more on the left), feels a little too long, conceptually appealing, vocal commits to concept

Grumpy Mike-- Great rhythm, vocal seems shouty (I know you can sing better), good transitions out of the chorus back to the verse, maybe a little too simple, but the good rhythm glues it into a cohesive whole

Heid-- Verses seem unpleasantly waltzy, but the rhythm works in the chorus, good vocal performance, only entrant to pronounce the title correctly(?), piano sounds good, good increase in intensity at the end

Hot Pink Halo-- Super creative and still catchy, cool feeling of coalescing disparate parts into a whole, best HPH song ever, start/stops work well

Lichen Throat-- Channeling my frustration with being eliminated into a song, wish I could have delivered the chorus more forcefully

The Lowest Bitter— grew in appeal with each listen, good inclusion of more instruments as the song goes, could use a stronger hook

Lucky Spoon-- Very good vocal delivery in the spoken word part, wasn't really hooked by anything in the main part of the song, good night sounds on the field recording

Mandibles-- Good integration of the field recording, static/distortion is distracting, good vocal performances, instruments and vocals work together to create atmosphere, perhaps too gentle to seize my interest

Max Bombast-- Excellent vocal, genuinely not sure whether I like the field recording in the rhythm, just when I worry it's getting boring the fast section starts, very good

Moss Palace-- Nice "on-the-road" sound, verses are good, but I wish for a more exuberant chorus, good lead vocals, backing vocal is done well, bridge and solo are both performed well, but guitar sounds a little shrill in the solo

Nick Soma-- Maybe a little too whimsical, like the vocal timbre, keeps moving well, nice and boppy, great transition into the bridge

see-man-ski-- Never quite feels like it gets going fully, performed well, doesn't hook me

The Serviettes-- Feels disjointed, never gets into a groove, good vocal expression

Third Cat-- Voice sounds good, instruments work together well, good soundscape, not quite spectacular, but very good

Virgo Power-- Composition lacks musicality, drums sound good, maybe too weird for pleasant listening, does give a good sense of pareidolia

wombat!-- Reminds me of TMBG kids' songs (which is not a bad thing), vocal feels like a different space from the rest of the music, seems like it should either build up or drift out as it goes along, does neither until the very end

WreckdoM-- Really good rhythm in the verses, field recordings incorporated well, not especially listenable, needs a vocal hook in the verses
Last edited by lichenthroat on Thu May 27, 2021 11:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by arby »

Ah, sadness. I was resigned to losing this round ever since I heard everyone else's entries, yet it still stings. Oh well. Next year I'm gonna enter as "AAA is for aardwolf" and be FIRST (alphabetically). Am convinced that being low in the alphabet means that by the time the judges get to my entry they've already heard my idea done better. (Nobody correct me please)

At least now I don't have to do that horrid Round 2 challenge!

PS CONGRATS Crown Shy on a well-deserved win!! I absolutely LOVED your song.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Niveous »

Thanks again LT for coming through in a pinch.

This was a wild week for judging. Not just because of the missing judge, we were definitely all over the place when it came to our scores. Lots of very differing opinions.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Cybronica »

Thanks for the reviews, LT! They’re all so thoughtful; I am amazed by your turn around time. Thank you for your kind words, too. I wish I knew what was causing the distortion on our song- there’s no peaking that I can see in the wave forms, so I worry it’s something to do with my mic or interface. I did that vocal in the last fifteen minutes before the deadline, so hopefully this time I’ll mix early enough to investigate those kinds of issues!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by BoffoYux »

Thanks LT for stepping in and the judges for judging. It’s a lot of work. Good luck to the survivors, and we’re looking forward to more new music!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

Cybronica wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 8:48 pm
I wish I knew what was causing the distortion on our song- there’s no peaking that I can see in the wave forms, so I worry it’s something to do with my mic or interface.
Sounded like on both the keys and vocal. I know on my keyboard if the volume is up too loud, even if the level going in is down quite a bit, I will hear distortion, especially on the louder notes. You might try turning down the input at the earliest point of your gain staging and then tweak from there. (This is just a guess based on my own issues with it in the past.)
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Rabid Garfunkel »

another Nur, another Nein... thanks, y'all for the fun!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by thirdcatmusic »

Thanks for stepping in LT!

---

I'll add some reviews of my own (i sorted them by reverse score on nure.in to listen/review)

---

wombat - I really like the tinkling notes and the sparse arrangement. there is a warmth and vulnerability to the sound that is engaging. really cool rhythm. I like the lyrics.

virgo power - this is cool, I really dig the trippy vibe. the field recordings are really interesting I think you used them to fit in with your song in a really creative way.

boffo yux dudes - pretty sweet ramshackle groove. this has a kind of '60s psychedelic garage rock vibe that I dig. pretty good vocal performance, and kind of catchy.

the serviettes - I like this one quite a bit. really theatrical production, I'm impressed by the arrangement. strong vocals.

frankie and the mountweasels - some pretty funny lyrics - nice toilet flush indeed! you used the field recordings in a clever way that really fit into the story of your lyrics. cool sing along outro.

wreckdom - love the synth sound. definitely grabs your attention right off the bat. the vocoder is a nice touch.

see-man-ski - good vocals, they reminds me a little bit of the guy from dirty projectors. the piano and synth bits are pretty good but the vocals are definitely the standout of this track for me.

governing dynamics - cool guitar riff on the intro. interesting atmosphere in the song, it kind of feels like things are slipping in time (in a cool trippy way.) riff sounds really cool around 1:20 ... could be a bit louder maybe? I think what's making the song sound unusual in a way that's both kind of cool/interesting and maybe kind of makes it not hit as hard as you are intending is the guitars are really low in the mix. the vocals have a lot of personality.

berkeley social scene - strong straight ahead indie rock vibes. i like the main guitar riff, it has an intriguing dissonance.

lucky spoon - an interesting choice to start off with ~45 seconds of spoken word, it does set a mood. the chorus is pretty great, i love the layers of vocals and synths.

nick soma - i was actually really digging that little acoustic guitar intro, but big credit for such a surprising left turn. fun catchy upbeat song.

mandibles - i like the children playing field recording, evocative. piano sounds really lovely. the distortion/crackling on the vocal recording is distracting which is unfortunate because the vocals are beautiful otherwise. this is a really pretty song.

the lowest bitter - cool field recording choice. I really like the drop around 1:15 - there's a real cool feeling of release there. the building layers are pretty great.

brown word and the big whine - loads of attitude. the guitar riffin' gets me bobbing my head. good stuff.

ever kenieval - really nice use of the field recording, lots of atmosphere and the sparse instrumentation is really well mixed. good vocals, they remind me of john vanderslice. I like this one a lot.

balance lost - clever guitar parts/arrangement and brilliant way you had it come in out of the field recording. cool grooves and contrasts between sections. nice mix.

moss palace - vocals sound great. this is really good. great guitar solo. love the tone. the song has this kind of '70s rock vibe (fleetwood mac-ish?) that I guess i can imagine turning someone off, but i think it's pretty sweet. definitely an enjoyable listen.

hot pink halo - inventive arrangement. pretty catchy chorus, i quite like the groove there.

max bombast - clever use of the field recording as a part of your rhythm. excellent playing/singing.

grumpy mike - this has a real nice groove to it. i want the vocals louder on the verse although it is a nice contrast when the louder "do do do" part comes in. catchy tune.

cavedwellers - I like how the drums fit in with your field recording. strong vocals. synths sounds great.

budget bears - catchy groove with interesting lyrics and lots of personality in the vocals.

heid - high quality vocals, piano sounds really good. the only thing that makes me think it's not real is that it sounds too good and it would be hard to get this good of a recording of a real piano. but is it real? if not, what do you use? excellent song.

crown shy - lovely acoustic guitars, they sound so warm and inviting. really sweet sounding riffs that tie the whole thing together so nicely. wonderful vocals. on a second listen i noticed how creepy the lyrics are, that only makes it better.

dented bento - i'm a big fan of the drum machine + acoustic guitar aesthetic. cool lyrics.

lichen throat - recently I was listening to some stuff by amon tobin (the world as we know it) and it reminded me of you because he programs everything, i don't know if you're familiar with him but the the world as we know it album might be worth checking out since he's kinda doing what you're doing and shows how far you can go with midi programming if you go crazy with the details. great lyrics (nice Reaper shoutout) and I think your vocals sound much better on this track in general, especially on the verse. and right on for not letting any negative reviews stop you from making music, i think we all have fought through that negativity to some extent especially if we're doing stuff that isn't going for a mainstream sound ... the truth is no matter how well you do what you do some people (most people even) aren't going to get it. think of the most successful bands/artists of all time ... and you'll find that even they are disliked by more people than like them. and thanks again for stepping in to judge!
Last edited by thirdcatmusic on Fri May 28, 2021 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by JonPorobil »

Cybronica wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 8:48 pm
Thanks for the reviews, LT! They’re all so thoughtful; I am amazed by your turn around time. Thank you for your kind words, too. I wish I knew what was causing the distortion on our song- there’s no peaking that I can see in the wave forms, so I worry it’s something to do with my mic or interface. I did that vocal in the last fifteen minutes before the deadline, so hopefully this time I’ll mix early enough to investigate those kinds of issues!
A couple of things to check for - I noticed that the distortion seemed to get worse as your arrangement grew, so I figured even if no individual instrument was clipping, maybe they were combining into the master output clipping. Also, it's possible, depending on the DAW you're using, that the master channel may have accidentally gotten "boosted" somehow, either by its fader being turned up or by an overly aggressive compressor being applied to it.

Do you have a "mastering" phase of your workflow, or do you submit the file right after you export the mixdown?
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by crumpart »

I haven't written reviews this time around (made a songfight entry instead!). I thought this was a super strong round, and everyone made excellent songs. I don't envy the judges ranking that lot, and huge thanks to Lichen Throat for stepping in.

Big congrats to Owl; such a brilliant song and my favourite of the round for sure. The melody evolving from the bird noises... goddamn so good.

***

Couple of notes on my Hot Pink Halo track, because hey, why not.
I originally started with my little six seconds of audio stripped from a video I shot just before I left Australia. We were moving the entire contents of the art supply shop I worked at to a new location. The sound is a set of empty shelves collapsing as we slid them down a staircase. I originally started cutting up the field recording to use it as percussion, but eventually decided it would be best just featured at the end. I tried to take the chaotic energy of that sound and replicate it in the arrangement. I guess now that it's ended up near the top end of the rankings I should probably send it to the person that it's about. Magai Tinana (mana chinana) is Fijian for "motherfucker". Pretty proud of making a track with bilingual swears.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by lichenthroat »

thirdcatmusic wrote:
Fri May 28, 2021 5:40 am
lichen throat - recently I was listening to some stuff by amon tobin (the world as we know it) and it reminded me of you because he programs everything, i don't know if you're familiar with him but the the world as we know it album might be worth checking out since he's kinda doing what you're doing and shows how far you can go with midi programming if you go crazy with the details.
This guy is really interesting! Quite an inspiration for me. Thanks for turning me on to his music.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Cybronica »

JonPorobil wrote:
Fri May 28, 2021 7:36 am
Cybronica wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 8:48 pm
Thanks for the reviews, LT! They’re all so thoughtful; I am amazed by your turn around time. Thank you for your kind words, too. I wish I knew what was causing the distortion on our song- there’s no peaking that I can see in the wave forms, so I worry it’s something to do with my mic or interface. I did that vocal in the last fifteen minutes before the deadline, so hopefully this time I’ll mix early enough to investigate those kinds of issues!
A couple of things to check for - I noticed that the distortion seemed to get worse as your arrangement grew, so I figured even if no individual instrument was clipping, maybe they were combining into the master output clipping. Also, it's possible, depending on the DAW you're using, that the master channel may have accidentally gotten "boosted" somehow, either by its fader being turned up or by an overly aggressive compressor being applied to it.

Do you have a "mastering" phase of your workflow, or do you submit the file right after you export the mixdown?
So you’re telling me mastering is separate from the mix I do in logic? I still have much to learn!
And yeah, everything on this mix seemed to be really hot. I turned down my headphones’ plume, but I realize now that might not have been the best way to go.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by crumpart »

Cybronica wrote:
Fri May 28, 2021 2:50 pm
JonPorobil wrote:
Fri May 28, 2021 7:36 am
Cybronica wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 8:48 pm
Thanks for the reviews, LT! They’re all so thoughtful; I am amazed by your turn around time. Thank you for your kind words, too. I wish I knew what was causing the distortion on our song- there’s no peaking that I can see in the wave forms, so I worry it’s something to do with my mic or interface. I did that vocal in the last fifteen minutes before the deadline, so hopefully this time I’ll mix early enough to investigate those kinds of issues!
A couple of things to check for - I noticed that the distortion seemed to get worse as your arrangement grew, so I figured even if no individual instrument was clipping, maybe they were combining into the master output clipping. Also, it's possible, depending on the DAW you're using, that the master channel may have accidentally gotten "boosted" somehow, either by its fader being turned up or by an overly aggressive compressor being applied to it.

Do you have a "mastering" phase of your workflow, or do you submit the file right after you export the mixdown?
So you’re telling me mastering is separate from the mix I do in logic? I still have much to learn!
And yeah, everything on this mix seemed to be really hot. I turned down my headphones’ plume, but I realize now that might not have been the best way to go.
I don’t export or master separately in logic for Songfight stuff.

My process is to record and set everything up so I have a few Dbs of headroom, then on the master bus I chuck a linear phase EQ, multipressor compression and an ad limiter to bring the whole lot up to volume.

The most important thing is to make sure you’re not overloading the signal when you’re recording. That’s where most of your problems will happen (and being trained for opera, you have the kind of voice that cuts through everything, so you probably need to be extra careful). Worry less about the output levels of sound from your headphones, and more about the input levels. With some instruments you can get away with a moment of clipping, but not vocals.

Give yourself A LOT of space, and spend time at the start of the mix watching the levels and gain staging each track to make sure they’re all playing nice together. If you need to add a gain stage plugin at the start of each track chain instead of relying on the faders, do it. You’ll find it I think under “utility” in the plugin menus.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by JonPorobil »

Belated judge Reviews! A couple of overall comments: I wish more entrants had understood that the title doesn't need to appear in the lyrics! "Pareidolia" is a hard word to sing, and I think a number of these songs might have been better if the title had been implied, rather than wedged (often inelegantly) into your melodies. Also, I'm surprised that so may of the field recordings were of birdsong. I think maybe some of you took "field recording" a bit TOO literally! Anyway, it's not any one of your faults that your implementations of the challenge were so similar, so I tried not to hold it against anyone in particular, but I admit that I had to forcibly shake off a little bit of an initial reaction of "Aw, come on, birds again?" I don't think anyone outright failed the challenge, but there were a couple of entries whose take on it was so low-effort that it cost them in the rankings. I'll note in the individual reviews.

Anyway. This time I'm going the reviews in random order.

Moss Palace - This verse melody is very satisfying. Part of that is how well the lyrics fit it; for the most part every word seems to flow naturally. I really like the delay on the guitar solo. The solo is also really well-played, and reminds me of Death Cab for Cutie. However, I feel like it runs a bit too long. After the solo is over, the guitarist continues playing lead lines and they're fighting with Erin's voice for the spotlight. The field recording is there, but it wasn't apparent to me even after multiple listens how it was supposed to connect to the rest of the song, other than as a "bed" filling out some frequencies in the mix. Overall this was quite solid and I enjoyed it, but it lost some ranks due to its take on the challenge.


Grumpy Mike - Heck of an opening line. As far as the mix goes, I think the lead vocal is a little low and the "doo doo doo"s are a little too high. That arpeggio synth really scratches some kind of itch, though; I like it a lot. I think there's an element of the mix missing, like a synth pad or organ bed or something. Halfway through the song I noticed there were no guitars, so maybe that's what I'm missing. Let's not fixate on what isn't working for me, though, because in spite of all this, I had you near the top. You've got hooks for days, and I really like how you married the title and challenge. I appreciated that you didn't say the title out loud, letting us figure it out, and how the lyrics are about taking a walk to take your mind off things, and the field recording reflects that. Your "Semiprecious" felt incomplete to me. This time I feel like I got the full-fat Manhattan experience, and I'm glad for it. Looking forward to hearing more from you.


Budget Bears - When I was putting together my rankings, this one ended up serving unintentionally as a sort of a benchmark: For many of the entries, I found myself thinking "This one is good, but is it better than the Budget Bears entry?" For some, the answer was "yes"; you weren't my #1, but I was left with the impression that your song marked the beginning of the top tier. I apologize for that comment being a bit backhanded. Your take on the challenge was one of the more interesting ones, but also one of the ones where I felt like it wasn't contributing in a significant way to the song. I know, I can be hard to please when it comes to challenges, but it didn't cost you too badly. I really liked your lyrics and how well they flowed. I especially appreciated your mix, and how you lo-fi'ed up the drums - I know that I use the same drum VST as you, so that familiarity makes it more impressive to me.


Ever Kenievel - I liked the moodiness of this piece. The vocals seem a little low-energy, which... I can tell that's what the song's style and mood call for, but I guess I would recommend mixing it differently to accommodate that. I could see this working better with a little conspicuous EQ filter on the vocal, or a sweep that comes in and out, maybe some distortion, that kind of thing. The lyrics work really well, and I especially appreciated the nod to the number 23. I think this might have been higher in my list if there'd been a little variation in the drums or maybe another section to add some variety.


Third Cat - Challenge met right off the bat! In the middle of the first verse, some drum machine hi-hats come in the feel incomplete or off the beat. Seems like it might have been on purpose, but I'm not really sure what the point of that might have been; it dragged me out of the mood. I really liked how the voices in your field recording suggest possible meaning, or invite us to find some kind of rhythm or syntactical meaning, almost invoking pareidolia in the listener. (My favorite entry of the round also did this.) But my favorite part of this song is probably that iv-I resolution at the end of the verse. It's a very satisfying verse ending.


Virgo Power - I got the impression that this title left you a bit lyrically uninspired, so you ended up basically singing the title a lot and summarizing what you know of it. The warbling synths are kind of interesting but also felt a little noodly. By about 1:30, I felt like you'd said everything the song was going to say, but it kept going for more than another minute after that.


The Serviettes - I'm sorry to say, this is one of those situations where something is grating on me, but I have a hard time articulating why. In this case, it's the lead vocal. You're not off-key, at least not conspicuously so. You're not phoning it in - I can hear that you're really getting into it. But something about your vocal tone is interfering with my enjoyment of the song. I'm not sure it's fixable, to be honest, so I feel bad harping on it. Maybe it could be fixed with a judicious EQ cut and some massaging with the fader, but I wouldn't be able to tell you where. Anyway, what's good: That reverse drumroll sound in the intro is a small thing, but it gives a professional sheen. The opening line "We're just ghosts but don't know it yet" is possibly the best of the round so far. The orchestral stuff is ambitious and mostly works. Is it the Spitfire BBC Orchestra? That plugin is amazingly versatile. I think your brass is a little loud, and it gets cut really abruptly around 1:35, but other than that, the orchestration works well. The field recording being incorporated into the lyrics is a bit perfunctory, but gets the job done, and serves as a bridge between the two sections. And I really like your extended coda with the repeated "Burn the witch" line.


Nick M. Soma - Like Grumpy Mike's song, I feel like something is missing from the arrangement. This time you do have guitars and an organ pad, so I'm not sure what might be missing. Maybe it's something in the high EQ end? I like your lyrics, but it felt like your vocal performance didn't have much enthusiasm behind it. Maybe you were tired, or maybe just needed more time to rehearse it and get more comfortable with it? I felt the same about the guitar solo - it's a little basic, but with more time to iterate on it, I can see how it might have become better. Also, there's a section (bridge, I guess?) where you repeat "Pareidolia" over and over, which isn't bad, but I think one of your harmony lines hits the wrong note, and it happens multiple times. On the positive side - I'm pretty sure you set yourself up really well for the round 2 challenge! It makes a lot of sense that this song's narrator could be the same as the narrator of your "Semiprecious."


Max Bombast - Once again I ranked the songs before I saw your video diary of it, and I'm pretty convinced that I need to keep doing that, because otherwise I'd be unfairly favored to your entry. I liked your song quite a bit more after seeing your video of the creative journey. I think it's fine that you didn't make your own field recording, by the way. I don't mind sharing that this challenge was my idea, and my wording it as "a field recording" was intentional. I had a few comments on a first listen - I felt like the footsteps and birdsong were a little too rote an approach to the challenge, but on the other hand you built your whole song around it, so it fits better than most other entries. I thought for the majority of my first listen, "This guitar tone sounds a little dull; I wonder why he didn't tweak that a little more?" And then the punk version kicked in and I realized that you picked the more laid-back guitar tone for contrast. Ultimately, I still would have appreciated a tiny bit more bite on the guitars in the main section. Or possibly just miking the strings so we get that little click of the pick under the amp part. It comes down to taste; someone else might think your guitar tone was perfect and they wouldn't be wrong. I apprecaited having the second genre for stylistic variety, but I did wonder whether it was worth the noisy second section clashing so badly with the lyrical subject matter and losing the field recording samples. You're writing a song about being inspired by nature, so the laid-back vibe of the first part was much better suited to that theme. It's a creative choice, for sure, and I appreciate what you were going for; it's perfectly-executed and fun, but loses the thread a bit.


wonbat! - I'm sorry to see you go. This entry is rough around the edges, but I loved your lyrical approach. There's some background noise in your vocal; sounds like maybe you were recording with a microphone built into your laptop or monitor? If you can't get rid of the background noise in the vocal, then I'd recommend inserting some of it between the vocal lines, so that we're not distracted by its coming and going. I also think the field recording, while nice, didn't add to the song, and that may have held you back a lot. I like the percussion in general on this track, and how it interplays with the glockenspiel (or whatever the chimey instrument is). I liked this, but had it barely above the cut in my own rankings, unfortunately.


Governing Dynamics - My favorite part of this song is the drums. It's an intense performance (or, assuming they're a VST or drum machine, it's an intense "performance" in quotes). My least favorite thing about this song is the vocals - you're off-key for a considerable portion of the song, and definitely needed some more rehearsal time, extra takes, and/or pitch correction. You have a strong understanding of how to write for electric guitar, arrange it, and mix it with your voice, and that shows clearly. With a better vocal take, this would have been a strong contender, but in its current state I had it near the bottom of my list. I'm sorry about that, but it's impossible to get into a song when the singer is that pitchy. I hope you can correct it in a future version.


Boffo Yux Dudes - The lyrics about a huckster psychic putting on a show, I guess they're okay, but it feels only sort of related to the concept of pareidolia. Are you connecting the idea of "people seeing patterns where there aren't any" to the idea of "people hearing what they want to hear from a fortune teller"? It's not quite the same thing, in my opinion. Plus that rhyme of "Pareidolia" with "melancholia" was a real reach. I'm not sure why the narrator also needs to be a barista; that feels like a hat on a hat to me. Did you start from the field recording and work backward from there? "Psychic barista" couldn't have been easy to sing in your chorus, either. You also have a few spots where the lyrics scan poorly, which is a pet peeve of mine you often trip over. I liked your "Semiprecious" a lot better than this.


Cavedwellers - I really liked your field recording and those buzzy synth lines. I'm also listening to Glen's understated high-register guitarring with admiration. I've been puzzling over the line "Call me Clyde" that starts the chorus. It sticks out, and my first thought was that its weirdness didn't work, like it's kind of "cringe" (as the kids say). But the more I listen, the more I think it's probably worth it to have a lyric that memorable. I also suspected that I was missing something, so I Googled the phrase to see if it was related to a book or maybe some historical figure like a serial killer or something. I came up more or less dry - a song by Jim Stafford and a novel that appears to be self-published. I'd really appreicate reading if there's a backstory behind that line, or whether it's your own invention.


Lichen Throat - Thank you for stepping in as a guest judge this week! I think one aspect of your songwriting that you really need to work on is the meter of your lyrics. This song is a great case study in this aspect, because your verses actually handle it really well. The lines are short and there's a good amount of space between each of them, which helps to give your melody a "shape," so to speak, and makes it easier for you to sing. Then the chorus kicks in, talking about your "quivering voice," which is an accurate self-assessment... But doesn't have to be! Imagine how much stronger this vocal performance could be if you'd found a way to compress the ideas from your chorus into shorter lines like the verse. Maybe not as short as the lines of the verse, but shorter than the chorus presently is, with more of a defined rhythm and space between the lines. You could catch your breath after each line and be more confident in the vocal delivery! I'd suggest trying to write lyrics without music first, and stick to some kind of formal poetry - like forcing yourself to write in strict iambic pentameter or ballad verse. Just as an exercise, make sure the words PERFECTLY fit the meter. When you're editing you can start to "fudge" it a little more, but the idea is to get your words to better suit your melody and arrangement so that you can get a better handle on how to sing them. That may just give you the space you need to perform them properly, and possibly the confidence to turn in a vocal performance that you don't need to self-efface in your own lyrics.


Hot Pink Halo - There's something a little funky about the lead vocal here. I'm assuming that you double-tracked it, but I think the two parts aren't quite alike enough, so there are some points where it sounds like they diverge a bit unpleasantly. The doubleing is a pretty good idea in theory. My suggestions, other than tightening it up so that the two takes are closer to each other, is maybe consider dropping down to one voice for emphasis on more than just the final line. Maybe every instance of "I fucking miss you." That's a super vulnerable line, and I think the arrangement would bear out being stripped down, even if only for that line, to emphasize that vulnerability. I like the handclaps, and I really apprecaited that you kept the song short and left us wanting more.


See-Man-Ski - There was some consternation among the judges about whether you'd actually met the challenge at all. I was out of town and didn't have access to my PC for the whole judging period, so I submitted rankings via my phone and wasn't really able to type up any detailed arguments, but I do believe that it's up to each judge to decide for themself whether a challenge failure has occurred and judge it accordingly. I'm sure you gathered as much from your rankings, anyway, as the song is actually quite good overall! My personal opinion is that you did meet the challenge, but did so in such a low-effort way that I still docked you significantly on it. I get that the sample of ambient outside noise and birdsong serves a narrative purpose in the song, standing in for the lack of resolution, the expectation of turning around to find someone only to see an empty field instead. But it only comes up in the literal last couple of seconds of the song and it's over when we've barely had a chance to register it. One possible remedy for this would have been to extend the outside noise a little more and add some kind of commentary from yourself over it; something as simple as an "...Oh." might have done the trick. But hey, if you feel like editing this, you won't be bound by the Nur Ein challenge anymore, so maybe just scrap the field recording entirely. In lieu of that, I'd suggest ending the song very abruptly on that last line. You could maybe add some kind of swelling pad getting gradually louder throughout the last section to help emphasize the sudden cut-to-nothing.


WreckdoM - Oh, my wonderful Wreckpeople. There's so much to love here. That grungy synth line, the silly lyrics, the powerful drums, the vocoder in the chorus, that unexpected horn in the last verse. It mostly works for me! I think what's holding it back the most is the weirdo sing-songy spoken-but-not-quite cadence of the lead vocal. It's a little pitchy when it switches to full-on singing in the chorus, but I felt like that was probably intentional? It's the verse vocal that blocks me. I'm not sure what needs to change, either go more spoken-word, or put in some more melody, but this half-way approach stands in the way for me.


Crown Shy - Your songs are a master class in how to do intros. You consistently submit songs with incredibly compelling openings that hook me in and make me want to listen to more, just to hear where it's going. I also think you set yourself up well for the Round 2 challenge, briding this to your "Semiprecious." I can't wait to hear how that turns out. This song is free of the mixing problems that plagued your "Semiprecious." Your voice suits the delicate melody you wrote in the chorus. The field recording fits the mood of the song pretty well, but like many entries this week, I'm not sure it added anything.


Heid - You really go for it with your singing! It's a very raw performance; maybe not perfect from a technical standpoint, but the emotionality is front-and-center and I'm totally here for it. I really appreciate the understated glockenspiel (or whatever the chime instrument in the treble is) adding texture without being distracting. I keep going back and forth with myself over whether this arrangement needed anything else. Ever since last year's Nur Ein, my instinct has been to add elements as the song goes on for variety, and that might be a good idea here... But maybe not. Maybe what it needs more than that is some better dynamic range in the piano part. I'd like to hear the difference between piano and forte a bit more strongly in this piece. I'm not sure if you're playing a live piano or using a VST, so I can't really advise on how best to accomplish that, but I think either that or balancing your dynamics with the addition of other instruments to your arrangement would do wonders for this song.


Lucky Spoon - Way to course correct from last week's overly twee rabbit song! The spoken-word intro is a bold gambit, but it worked for me! I also feel as though the ambient noise field recording, which was a bit of an overused genre this round, felt more natural in light of that spoken word intro - both in its execution and in the subject matter of lying awake at night. Once the song kicks in, I admit it took a couple of listens before the synth line and vocal melody got their hooks in me, so if I'd had more time to judge, you'd have scored higher. To be honest, I don't have much in the way of negative notes/feedback on this. I think it was mainly that I had a hard time remembering anything of it other than "that one that started with the spoken monologue" for the first couple of listens. I can certainly relate to the lyrics about self-loathing.


Brown Word and the Big Whine - And here we come to my favorite entry of the round! I loved how the field recording became this weird echoing sound in the intro. The manifestiations of the narrator's pareidolia like the neighbor's dog barking in code really struck me, but it's that shimmery sample that really stopped me in my tracks for this song. It not only describes pareidolia, but actually induces it in the listener. I keep trying to determine what the voices in that sample are saying, even though I know they're not really even voices. I complimented Third Cat on this effect, but you pulled it off the best. There are a few clunky lines (personally, I'm not sure anyone who actually tried to sing the word "pareidolia" in their lyrics really pulled it off), but the concept and execution more than make up for it in my mind. Very well done, and keep it up!


Balance Lost - As the first alphabetically, you've been setting the bar high. It was an interesting choice to use a sample that has a piece of music in it, which you could then morph to suit your needs and play along with. It created an interesting vibe that didn't quite sound like a typical Balance Lost riff, but nonetheless felt comfortably within your genre. The call-and-response guitars, with the one in my right ear echoing the one in my left ear, is a clever bit of arranging. I really liked your chorus, and I apprecited that you didn't try to sing the title. One thing that stood out to me was the fact that the chorus has these imbalanced rhymes and gaps. It's an ABB rhyme structure, but there's no pause between the two B lines, so the chorus feels unresolved, which matches the narrator's paranoia.


Berkeley Social Scene - As per usual, the instrument performances and mix on this song are top-notch. I also really appreciated how you incorporated the train-honk field recording. Where it missteps is that spoken bridge. The performance is really stilted and pulls me right out of the song.


Mandibles - You have some really compelling chord changes in this song, and the arrangement builds very satisfyingly. I love the line "I start to lose the faces for the trees." One possible revision suggestion is that it might create more dynamics in the arrangement if the music somehow reflected the change of setting to the fluroescent-lit office, like the piano changing a register or possibly a new instrument entering to signify that we've left the forest. Also, other reviews have already commented on the unpleasant distortion or saturation that plagues this song, so I won't belabor the point, but it did factor into my ranking. I'm happy to help diagnose if you want to provide any more information about your recording and mixing process.


Frankie and the Mountweasels - John, you can be downright infuriating sometimes. You had what might have been the strongest concept this round, with a really clearly articulated emotional core, dressed with some imagery that was both relevant to that emotional core but also very clever! Seeing faces everywhere, but still being relieved that you're not seeing "her" face anymore, that's an amazing take on the challenge. Line by line, these are great - "I swear that my new toilet brush is Yasser Arafat." The structure works too, all the visual imagery in the first verse, and all the audio imagery in the second verse. And the last line of each of the first two verses is the funniest. The Ed Sheeran line actually made me laugh out loud. By about the halfway point of this song I was ready to give you the #1 spot... And then you flushed it away. The fecal joke already wasn't working for me, then you drew that line out extra long, apparently to build anticipation for the punch line that your poop looks like a certain disgraced politician whose name I don't like to write out for algorithmic reasons. And then that line served as the basis the field recording of... a toilet flushing. Sigh. From there you change the groove, which is a good musical instinct, but the lyrical structure turns into a bunch of labored rhymes with "pareidolia," most of which don't work. I did really like the counterpoint vocal as the song fades out, though. It was an amazingly strong beginning that unfortunately wasn't quite enough to outweigh the sophomoric humor that makes up the last third of the song. As far as I'm concerned, that averaged you out to about the middle of the pack, and I was sorry to see you get cut, but man, this was a frustrating listen.


The Lowest Bitter - I struggled to articulate why this didn't connect with me. Best guess I can come up with is that it's unclear to me what the narrator feels about the faces. In the first lines it's "are you lookin' at me?" and then later in the song it's "I keep seeing evil everywhere." Is the narrator afraid of these faces? Nervous? Angry? Upset? Is this debilitating to the narrator, or just a minor annoyance that he must keep shaking off? I do like the line about "there's a word for this, but I can't remember / what it is." Acknowleding that we picked a pretty obscure word for the title, but yeah, it's one of those things that people seem to know as a concept, but often don't know that there's a name for it, or can't remember what the name is. Of course, it's not much later in the song when you seem to have recalled it because you're chanting it. Overall, I think that you're trying to be a little cryptic and play some of this for ambiguity, which is a valid stylisic choice, but I prefer knowing upfront where the singer stands, in most cases.


Dented Bento - I admit that I've listened to yours a little less than the rest, since it's a shadow and I didn't have to rank it. I like the guitars and the drum programming, but your vocal performance lacks confidence, so your voice is shaky. I'd like to hear you sing this to yourself more and more so you can become comfortable with it, and then try again after some time like this. I admit to not understanding your lyrics at all. It's possible that you're being deliberately cryptic, or maybe I'm just dense, but either way that presents a barrier to more in-depth criticism from me.
"Warren Zevon would be proud." -Reve Mosquito

Stages, an album of about dealing with loss, anxiety, and grieving a difficult year, now available on Bandcamp and all streaming platforms! https://jonporobil.bandcamp.com/album/stages
sailingmagpie
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by sailingmagpie »

JonPorobil wrote:
Sun May 30, 2021 11:21 pm

The Serviettes - I'm sorry to say, this is one of those situations where something is grating on me, but I have a hard time articulating why. In this case, it's the lead vocal. You're not off-key, at least not conspicuously so. You're not phoning it in - I can hear that you're really getting into it. But something about your vocal tone is interfering with my enjoyment of the song. I'm not sure it's fixable, to be honest, so I feel bad harping on it. Maybe it could be fixed with a judicious EQ cut and some massaging with the fader, but I wouldn't be able to tell you where. Anyway, what's good: That reverse drumroll sound in the intro is a small thing, but it gives a professional sheen. The opening line "We're just ghosts but don't know it yet" is possibly the best of the round so far. The orchestral stuff is ambitious and mostly works. Is it the Spitfire BBC Orchestra? That plugin is amazingly versatile. I think your brass is a little loud, and it gets cut really abruptly around 1:35, but other than that, the orchestration works well. The field recording being incorporated into the lyrics is a bit perfunctory, but gets the job done, and serves as a bridge between the two sections. And I really like your extended coda with the repeated "Burn the witch" line.
Yep, Spitfire all the way. Such a great plugin.

The abrupt cut on the brass was caused by a weird issue when rendering my mix on my crap laptop ("craptop"). I think it runs out of RAM, so starts missing bits out. This was the only time it didn't miss out entire instruments!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by Caravan Ray »

lichenthroat wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 8:13 pm

Frankie and the Mountweasels-- Very fun, sounds good, could do without the toilet, good rhymes and vocal melodies
Thank you LC. But it couldn’t do without the toilet. The toilet was the key. It had to be there. It just had to …
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by arby »

JonPorobil wrote:
Sun May 30, 2021 11:21 pm

Virgo Power - I got the impression that this title left you a bit lyrically uninspired, so you ended up basically singing the title a lot and summarizing what you know of it. The warbling synths are kind of interesting but also felt a little noodly. By about 1:30, I felt like you'd said everything the song was going to say, but it kept going for more than another minute after that.
Oh, I just saw this! You are completely correct on all fronts. I did not really know what to do with the lyrical part of the title, so I tried to just wing it. As soon as I heard everyone else's entries I was like, "oh, shit, I forgot to write a song" :lol: :lol: :lol: I was noodling on Omni with pedals (what sounds like synth). Also, I totally thought to myself "I should be done" by 1:30 BUT I really wanted to get the cat fight field recording in. That's why I did a (probably totally unnecessary) reprise. Haha!! Anyway, thanks so much for the review.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round One "Pareidolia"

Post by j$ »

So my "real" review for Lichen throat's shadow, purely because I feel bad about my random "Eurovision" horribleness towards him: Ah you've managed to hit my two of my "absolute Nos" - I hate songs about singing about the process of singing, and I despise songs about feeling sorry for yourself . I do like your MIDI-esque arrangements, though I feel though it does you no favours when you decide to sing about how no-one appreciates you. I'm not going to hate on it completely, because I don't think that's helpful after the event, though I will say you have written better songs than this( hell, I've covered one of them); but I would kindly suggest, please don't stop doing what you do but I fear it will be a hard path forward for you. Hell, this is exactly what I went through 18 years ago (and continue to do so, I guess). Develop a thicker skin is what I am trying to suggest, If that is at all possible; and if not, always remember, if nothing else, I.A.A.C!

j$
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