Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

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Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Niveous »

Inching closer to the end!

Submit an original song by June 20th at 11:59 PM (EDT) that fits the following criteria

Title: "The Only Way Out"
Non-optional challenge: Downward Modulation

Send your MP3 to nurein.sidefight@gmail.com

Good luck!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by furrypedro »

Niveous wrote:
Sun Jun 13, 2021 9:23 pm
Non-optional challenge: Downward Modulation
What are the odds. I did this in my Waiting For the Sun to Fall entry. I presume I get extra points for clairvoyance (it's not 20/20).
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by arby »

Welp, I'm in with my very short and (hopefully) sweet shadow. I really struggled with this round! I had NOTHING, just bupkis for most of the week. Then I made a beat I liked, but had no other music, let alone lyrics. I made a horrible dirge that I didn't like at all, then decided to throw the whole thing out and start over. Finally I got something. But no bridge. Also I stole from Robert Frost to complete the lyric, that the only way out "is through". I like that concept a lot. That really helps me when I'm struggling and so tempted just to give up and walk away. Persevering is really the only cure. I feel much better about myself having gotten through that rough spot to make something I am happy with, instead of feeling like a failure because I gave up.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by noma »

A bit late to the party, I just sent in a shadow entry. Hoping it can be added to the playlist.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by thelowestbitter »

I've not found the time or energy for reviews so far but as we're now down to a more manageable amount of entries thought I'd jump in now with some. Good round on the whole, and with some excellent shadows.

Brown Word and the Big Whine: not really a fan of rock, but this wins me over at least a little bit - that synth hook is great and appeals to me in a way the chunky, chugging guitars don't. The guitar solo is good too, and I usually hate guitar solos so that's a big tick. Enjoyed your lyric and vocal performance too. Considering my genre biases I ended up liking this more than I expected to at the start

Crown Shy: I have exactly two topics I write songs about, "DEATH AND DYING" and "QUEER SHIT". I'm glad for this round I chose the latter - I briefly considered writing a song about the inevitably of death but I'm pretty sure I couldn't have bettered this. Vocally and melodically superb as always with your stuff, and there's some brilliant lyrics here "I never wanted to get a tattoo / Afraid of ruining some future perfect self / But time comes in and drags its needle on my skin / What am I preserving but the suit that I'll be buried in?" is particularly nice. Love the mellow guitar sound in this too. One of my favourites from this round.

Ever Kenievel: I've enjoyed a lot of your stuff this Nur Ein. I'm not quite as fond of this for reasons I'm struggling to fully articulate. It sounds a bit dreary, I think maybe there's a few too many synth layers and it's created a muddy mix. I suspect this is one where you've been hamstrung by having to fulfil the challenge a little bit - an upwards modulation generates energy, and a downwards one saps it. This one definitely feels like it needs that lift up

Grumpy Mike: I feel like I kept waiting for this to take off and it never did. It sounds like a stripped back intro to a fuller song to me. The piano playing is nice enough, I just wanted a bit of dynamic variation in the back half of the song.

Heid: I'm pleased that for the second week in a row our queer lil songs have been nestled together in the playlist, it gives me joy to have another queer voice in the competition. I really like this, I suspect the spoken word may be make or break for some judges but I love the righteous anger and frustration of it and the way it sits over the top of those soft dadadas. You've been so consistent throughout Nur Ein and I think once again you've submitted one of my favourites of the round.

TLB: I recorded these vocals nursing both hangover and hayfever so I know they could be better. I'm pleased with certain aspects of this - like the transition from "real" bass (actually midi) into the chunky synth bass - but feel the overall execution needs work. I fully expect to bow out at this stage, but I had a decent run, and I shoved some filthy CupcakKe lyrics into a song which is a win in my book.

Max Bombast: Again genre bias comes in here. I generally struggle with your stuff if I'm honest, I can tell objectively it's always well mixed and written, and from your videos I'm interested in seeing your process, but it's just never the sort of music I would choose to listen to. There's not really a great deal I can say about it, which I realise is super unhelpful feedback, but on the plus side I'm not a judge! This will almost certainly do well with the judges

Seemanski: I like the vocal processing on this, I was torn between absolutely hating that UH! and loving it, I think I've landed on the latter. You commit to it, and I think that makes it work. Again musically just not my wheelhouse, but I think it's well executed and maybe would make it into my top four to progress from this round.

SHADOWS

Balance Lost: I really liked all the shadows this week, but I think this is my favourite and I'd put it through if it were part of the main pack. Absolutely love that stuttery synth at the start and the bassline in this is great. No lyrics in the forum but I like what I can hear, and I really like your soft vocal delivery in this one.

Hot Pink Halo: I like how stripped back this is, just vocals and synth pad for the most part but it works. Really like the lyrics and subject matter too.

Mandibles: LOVE that synth arp that sounds like Sophtware Slump-era Grandaddy, can also appreciate the subject matter here having had to extract myself from a toxic friendship recently. Love that unexpected shift in the second half of the song too. I think this might be one of my favourites you've done this Nur Ein, which is a bit of a theme with this week's shadows - you all killed it.

The Serviettes: Love the clattering beats in this and there's some really cool synth/effects work. The chorus after that quite intense verse is really melodic and quite a shift, but I think it really works. Really like the synth noodling at the end too.

Virgo Power: Really love that synth sound, is it one of the microKORG presets by any chance? It feels familiar to me, half suspect it's something I've used myself in the past. Really like the simple drum machine beat too, again this is another good shadow entry
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by BoffoYux »

Tonight's LP might be delayed due to work again - I'm guessing it'll start about 10 pm EST. I'll update in the chat.

See you then!




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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by arby »

thelowestbitter wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 6:43 am
Virgo Power: Really love that synth sound, is it one of the microKORG presets by any chance? It feels familiar to me, half suspect it's something I've used myself in the past. Really like the simple drum machine beat too, again this is another good shadow entry
Nope, that sound is my Q-Chord! (The current evolution of the Omnichord - the only model still being made and sold by Suzuki.) It has a beefier sound with more mid- and low-end tones, so I decided to try it to see if those who don't care for the high-pitched Omni sounds would like Baby Quey better. I pretty much exclusively use the "vibes" mode on Q, the others range from bad to weird (the "voice" setting is like creepy little cartoon people singing, and the Sound FX setting is hilariously made up of things like dogs barking, waves crashing and gunshots).

Thanks so much for the review!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Cybronica »

Since i keep forgetting to write them later in the week, here are my (very quick) reviews written during my second listen through. Didn’t proof read, so sorry in advanced for typos.

How is a downward modulation different from a plain modulation? I could go from F to A and make the music sound like it’s going down, or go from B to G and make it sound like a rising progression. Truly, I think it is a distinction without a difference.

That said, another round of excellent songs. I’m impressed.



BWBW: excellent pump up music, on par with half way there and eye of the tiger. I’m putting this in my exercise playlist. Your voice gets a little buried in the texture, wish I could hear you better.

Crownshy: there’s something familiar about the intro that I can’t put finger on… I love the sentiment of this song. It’s a beautiful lyric. I will say, it’s like you’re saying the only way through the discomforts of aging is… death. Woah! That end is too abrupt. Let it ring

Ever kenieval: man, arent roommates the worst? I’ve heard smoother vocals from you- I’m not sure if you brought in Ken for the lower vocal and it didn’t blend as well as you (ever mind) singing with yourself.

Grumpy Mike: nice demo. Lemme know when the song is finished. But seriously, good bones here. With you were able to finish! ‘Past you pride’ is a great phrase!

Heid: this song is sublime. You have perfectly captured the experience of working retail. Also, man, screw that mom! Jackets are jackets, especially for toddlers. Your spoken word is awesome, perfectly delivered, and I love how you made it sound like a phone call.

Lowest Bitter: lo o o o ove this. This is a beautiful song. The lyric is really emotional, and I love that upward synth. Screw the haters!

Max Bombast: I really thought that was a woman singing at the start. You have exquisite control on your voice, especially in its high reaches. I think the intro would have been more interesting if the guitar and the voice were in harmony or counterpoint, instead of unison the whole time. The way you handle the modulation is almost invisible, really nicely done. The fade out makes me think of a shepherds tone.

Seemanski: this really reminds me of the opening theme for iZombie (it’s the uh OW’s). I think you’re the only one who emphasizes WAY in the eponymous hook, and it’s a cool shake up of declamation in the whole pool of songs. I like the call and response vocals. Distortion is good hear. I like the old country kinda sounding guitar lick.

Balance lost: the high jangly guitar and synth coupled with the drum machine snare occupy so many high partials space that it makes it hard to hear /discern your partial whisper vocal in this song. I caught that there is a meat ball sub. Yummm

Hot pink halo: your voice isn’t quiet as strong and confident as it has been the last couple songs. I think the whistle/flute would have been better singled- doubled puts a magnifying glass to tuning issues.

Mandibles: I like how I sound with my voices pitch shifted down. Estaphonia has great haunting vocals here. I’m really happy with how this came out

Nick soma: your voice is really well supported on this song. The higher notes don’t waiver, they sing confidently! And your falsetto- nicely done- though the Oohs are stripped of the resonance of the earlier falsettos notes. When you sing “what are you doing” it gives me life. Harmony moment! Tasteful curves to! I’m in love with your vocals on this. Probably the best ive ever heard them.

Serviettes: love the build in the intro. Love how you fit Judas iscariot into the rhyme scheme. The synth break down is great. Fun, yet also discombobulating.

Virgo power: the balance of tones is either better in this song, or my ear is getting used to your orchestration. You have an amazing alto - I love the timbre of your voice. Like a saxophone. When you wail up on the chorus it is *chefs kiss*. The modulation is a bit awkward, and it trips you up vocally, though.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by crumpart »

Cybronica wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 9:37 pm
Hot pink halo: your voice isn’t quiet as strong and confident as it has been the last couple songs. I think the whistle/flute would have been better singled- doubled puts a magnifying glass to tuning issues.
That’s one single alto recorder, in tune (checked with a tuner while I was playing and double checked in flex afterwards). What you’re hearing is probably the chorus/ensemble effect I put on it.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Cybronica »

crumpart wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 10:45 pm
Cybronica wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 9:37 pm
Hot pink halo: your voice isn’t quiet as strong and confident as it has been the last couple songs. I think the whistle/flute would have been better singled- doubled puts a magnifying glass to tuning issues.
That’s one single alto recorder, in tune (checked with a tuner while I was playing and double checked in flex afterwards). What you’re hearing is probably the chorus/ensemble effect I put on it.
This makes sense, and reinforces why I prefer to listen more than twice before writing reviews… I guess I’m not a fan of Chorused Recorder, which is more of a personal preference than a technical complaint.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Evermind »

Cybronica wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 9:37 pm
Ever kenieval: man, arent roommates the worst? I’ve heard smoother vocals from you- I’m not sure if you brought in Ken for the lower vocal and it didn’t blend as well as you (ever mind) singing with yourself.
Both voices are actually me!

And also, I have personal experience being both the irritated roommate and the oblivious asshole roommate. Strangest irritated roommate story I have is a roommate who complained to me that I said hello to her too often.
I am definitely too square for how experimental this is, but I can imagine that if I was in the right state of mind, the section starting at 2:20 might transport me to another dimension - jeffhenderson
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by arby »

Cybronica wrote:
Mon Jun 21, 2021 9:37 pm
Virgo power: the balance of tones is either better in this song, or my ear is getting used to your orchestration. You have an amazing alto - I love the timbre of your voice. Like a saxophone. When you wail up on the chorus it is *chefs kiss*. The modulation is a bit awkward, and it trips you up vocally, though.
No yeah my mix was definitely better this time than it has been. I think it's a combination of the Q-Chord having more low tones and me getting better at mixing. I was doing it backwards for the vocals, per a Garageband mixing guide I found online. For a low voice (they said men's, but my range is more like a man's baritone than a woman's anyway!) it said to decrease the low frequencies and up the high ones! The opposite of what I was doing!

Ps thank you for the review! Agreed about the modulation. In this case it was more me trying to accommodate for the stupid drum pedal's automatic fills and then I'm confused and frightened about when to come in. Hahaa
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

Reviews of the main entries now. I thought this was another strong group of songs. I'll post something for the shadows later in the week.
I didn't mean to be an asshole about the challenge but I probably came off that way.


Brown Word and the Big Whine - Cool guitars. I like the energy. I feel the vocal doesn't sit in the mix quite "right." It sounds either thin or a bit masked to me. But I liked the song.
Challengewise: I'm guessing your modulation was intended to be in the solo at 2:38 and in the vocal at 3:19. Both times the chords and riff go down but I'm not sure it establishes a new key. Maybe it does. Regardless, I had a hard time hearing it and felt the song didn't really embrace the challenge as fully as some of the other songs.

Crown Shy - Good vocal and melody. I like this mix a lot. Your lyric was excellent. That line "suit that I'll be buried in" is a great example of too many syllables in a line working so marvelously. I love it. (Used for effect instead of laziness like me.) This was my favorite song after a couple of listens.
Challengewise: Modulated down the second time through the V/Ch. Well done. It maybe loses a bit of energy but more than makes up for it with the gorgeous vocals at the end.

Ever Kenievel - Cool song. I didn't dig it as much on first listen as I did after a few passes. But maybe it started to stale slightly after a ton of listens. (That part of judging sucks, btw.) That's probably my fault more than yours.
Challengewise: I don't hear a downward modulation. In fact it sounds like your bridge is almost a modulation up. Then I read your liner notes. So I went to a music dictionary and looked up the definition. "1.The process of changing from one key to another." or "2. In electronic music, the term is applied to a change of frequency, amplitude, or other changes of similar nature possible through electronics." That second definition never occurred to me. You mentioned four points for your modulation. Low Pass Filter which satisfies definition 2. Tempo which doesn't automatically satisfy definition 2 but *could* and I think it's a cool interpretation so good for me. Vocal melody using a downward arc (not sure your phrasing) which does not satisfy either definition and a downward chord progression which also does not satisfy either definition.
All that being said. I do like your song. I ranked it a bit lower because I didn't feel it embraced the challenge as well as some others, but I still think it's cool.

Grumpy Mike - I like the melody. I felt the keys sounded good but were a bit static and needed more dynamics. While I like this song, it didn't hold up to repeated listens as well as some of the others.
Challengewise: You said, "The transition back to C involves Adim -> D7 -> C. Which is downward. I hope you didn’t mean to specify something else that isn’t a technical definition of modulation!" Congratz. Your transition is downward. I just quoted the definition from the music dictionary but I'm gonna do it again. "1.The process of changing from one key to another." or "2. In electronic music, the term is applied to a change of frequency, amplitude, or other changes of similar nature possible through electronics." And you used a key change in your song so I'm inclined to think you knew a key change was a likely goal of the challenge. However, you establish the key of C and then go up to Gm in both chords and melody. That's an upward modulation in my book.


Heid - I'm not a fan of the shorter chorus, but it works. Gang vocals at the end are done well and I like them a lot. Someone mentioned the spoken word bit could be polarizing and I could see it. For me this is a textbook way of handling it in a song. I loved how you used the music in the background. It's mixed pretty well.
Challengewise: Verse/Chorus key change. Pretty popular tactic and you've done it well. That transition chord into the chorus is tasty and works as a nice cadence into the new key. The vocal melody goes higher which gives energy while your music shifts down. That's a neat little trick and I'm making a mental note to try it out sometime. The almost meandering chord progression back to the verse is lovely, too.


The Lowest Bitter - I love this chorus melody. The 8th note intro (and theme throughout) is catchy. Maybe too catchy for repeated listens (but only if it's 8 songs on constant repeat in order to judge them.) . That chorus was stuck in my head quite a bit. I like the feel of the bass synth. Did I mention this has been stuck in my head quite a bit?
Challengewise: Verse/Chorus. Like Heid it sounds like the chorus melody goes up while the music shifts down. That's cool. The key changes seem maybe just a hair abrupt but they work well for me.


Max Bombast - I'm not a huge fan of the vocal on the intro but I like that bit throughout the rest of the song but most especially when they are doubled. Chorus melody is very good. I can't tell how much I like the well executed ah, ah's. The drums are cool, too. The lyric of the bridge maybe took me out of the song a hair on the first couple of listens, too. But, I'm really digging this song.
Challengewise: Verse/Chorus and like the last two songs the melody seems to go up while the music goes down. That's cool.


see-man-ski - I dig the rootsy guitars and the vocal is super well done. That stepwise chord progression back into the main riff is cool. I like this song a lot.
Challengewise: Did you modulate? I played a long on the guitar a couple of times and I can tell you move downward in subsequent sections but it doesn't feel like a modulation to me. At any rate, it definitely doesn't feel like it embraces the challenge as well as some of the other entries.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by WreckdoMelle »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:35 pm
Brown Word and the Big Whine - Cool guitars. I like the energy. I feel the vocal doesn't sit in the mix quite "right." It sounds either thin or a bit masked to me. But I liked the song.
Challengewise: I'm guessing your modulation was intended to be in the solo at 2:38 and in the vocal at 3:19. Both times the chords and riff go down but I'm not sure it establishes a new key. Maybe it does. Regardless, I had a hard time hearing it and felt the song didn't really embrace the challenge as fully as some of the other songs.
You are correct about where the modulation occurs. It goes down a whole step. Maybe that wasn't enough but it was a pretty typical modulation you'd hear in a metal (or metal-adjacent) song, where the riff is the same but drops down. I'm not good at music theory but apparently that's known as a sequential modulation or a rosalia. Apparently there are several definitions of modulation in music, according to Wikipedia -TIL. Anyway, that's what I did in terms of the challenge. Thanks for the review!
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by grumpymike »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:35 pm
However, you establish the key of C and then go up to Gm in both chords and melody. That's an upward modulation in my book.
When you bike up and down a hill, and someone asks “did you bike down that hill?” do you say “no! I only biked up!”?

I don’t really anticipate making it through this round for all sorts of reasons. But a key change is a key change, and a song that alternates key changes goes up and down, and therefore contains downward modulation. If ya’ll wanted something more specific, I would have expected the pedantic self-indulgent discussions of the previous rounds.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by JonPorobil »

grumpymike wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:17 pm
If ya’ll wanted something more specific, I would have expected the pedantic self-indulgent discussions of the previous rounds.
I was genuinely shocked that there weren't any such discussions until after the songs were turned in. I thought, "You know, the musical scale is a cycle, so if you go five steps UP, that's technically the same as going four steps DOWN. Surely someone will post a pedantic question about it and we're not going to have a good answer for that person."

And then it never happened.

For the record, Mike, your take on the challenge passed muster with me. I'll go into more detail on the challenges when I post my reviews.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by JonPorobil »

What's this? Jon did two sets of reviews in one night? I'm finally caught up! Yay! Overall, this was another frustrating round to judge because you guys are all really good and the field is getting uncomfortably tight! NUR EIN!!!!!

Brown Word and the Big Whine - I wonder if Max Bombast can give you some tips on how to make the guitar sound a little less muddy? I like the chunkiness and the performance, but I do feel like you have a lot of clutter in the lower midrange frequencies, and addressing this would probably involve a mix of guitar tone balancing and EQ during the mix. What's interesting is that the guitars and synths are overwhelming your voice, so it's actually pretty hard to hear the lyrics in the verses, and even so, the guitars still don't sound particularly loud. Or maybe it's that they're loud in the wrong places, which again would be more of an EQ issue. Anyway, sorry, I'm not trying to play mix doctor here. I like the guitar solo in the middle and the way the key modulation follows the narrative. Hard to believe I'm suggesting this, but I think maybe another solo section after the last verse might have been appropriate here, to better illustrate the course of the battle as the tide turns. Right now it feels to me like there's not enough denouement between Njal realizing that he's going to win the battle after all, and the battle being won. "And like the gods had suddenly smiled" is the fourth to last line of the song, and there's no real outro. Still, hearing how the modulation works with your narrative made it "click" with me and you rose a couple spots in my scorecard after listening more. I've been really into your songs this year, and I'm happy to see you doing this well! As of the time I'm writing this, the votes aren't in yet, so anything could happen, but if you do get the (Viking) axe this week, I just wanted to say that I apprecaite you doing the same as Njal and taking "the only way out" by going down in a blaze of glory... or maybe not going down at all!


Crown Shy - I could listen to you sing sweetly about decomposing for hours... and in fact I might! These lyrics are striking, this comparison of a long-term partner to a tattoo, some indelible mark on your skin and your life, aging along with you. And if there's one constant of Miscellaneous Owl/Crown Shy, it's the beautifully precise vocals. I love the roving bassline. The line "I play guitar with boxing gloves" gets me every time. The handclaps in the interlude between the verses were an unexpected but welcome changeup. I think the weak link of this song might be the structure. The two-part chorus doesn't leave much room for additional musical variation. I suppose that part of the theme of this song is the eventual anticlimactic decay of our bodies and lives, so maybe it makes sense for the chorus to repeat only once and have the song taper off instead of going for the big finish.

Ever Kenievel - For the second week in a row, your take on the challenge has puzzled me. You've "modulated" downward in several different ways, none of which lines up with what the judges had in mind when we deliberated the challenge. And I'm sympathetic to the fact that you guys can't read our minds, but the most obvious change-up that I thought was added in to address the challenge - the tempo change in the bridge - is not a modulation. Later, I looked at your liner notes to confirm. I guess maybe the filter thing technically meets the challenge? I don't know; you obviously put the effort in, even if I don't agree with your working definition of "modulation." But then it comes down to... What's the point of the modulation in this song? Does the gradual downward filter symbolize some aspect of the relationship between your song's narrator and his roommate/partner? You could argue that the relationship is getting darker and darker as it goes (and, jeeze, I've lived that, and I have the filthy sink photos to prove it!), but I don't think that interpretation stands up to scrutiny, because the narrator is already fed up and wants out by the end of the eighth line. I do like the chorus hook, and the "na na na"s are nice. I like the lines "If you really want to hate someone / You have to love them first." But I wasn't fond of the blunt "I think that you're the worst" that sets up the rhyme. Later on in the song, the lyrics become a banal list of complaints about household tasks, and that was where you lost me. It's not inherently invalid to sing about frustrations with household stuff, and I've been encouraging comeptitors to be specific with their lyrics, but I think at that point to me it just felt like the song was piling on, to the point of meanness, and it stopped working for me altogether at that point. I was really glad to hear more from Evermind this year, and I hope to keep hearing more from you (both!) in the regular fights!


Grumpy Mike - It sounds to me like you had some time constraints or other obligations. That keeps happening to me, so I'm sympathetic. But this was still an easy choice for last place, because it's obviously unfinished. The arrangement of piano, bass guitar, and voice is certainly valid. But your fake piano is lacking in expression and you either played it live on a keyboard without much touch sensitivity, or you did a MIDI thing without touching the velocities, because the piano sounds conspicuously artificial in a way that doesn't serve the song. Your vocal need some work as well, as we can hear you searching for the right note in a few places. The lyrics really are amazing, though. I mean, I could do without the "You're drama addicted" line which is clunky even without stressing the wrong syllable in "addicted"... but there are some amazing truth-bombs scattered throughout this song. Here's one: "You’ve crafted a story to reassure yourself / Everything’s out of your hands / It’s all someone else’s plan." Dang! Here's another: "The only way out is the one you’ll never try / And that’s the reason why / You’re never happy." Holy smokes, dude! If you can take these lyrical ideas and develop them into a more naturalistic performance with fewer mistakes—and probably a more thoughtful arrangement as well—then this could be one of your best. Not even kidding. As it is, this might be your swan song for this year's competition, but hey, we'll always have "NEIN! WE ROW!"


Heid - On a first listen, I had this song at #1 again, the first time in this competition I'd have ranked the same person at the top twice in a row. Eventually, two other entries' sincerity stood up to repeat listens a little better than your cheeky retail gender rant, but you still stood tall in third place of my ranks. There's been some hay made about the spoken-word rant and how it was a risk, which I guess is true, but only on paper. Like, if you were to tell me that a competitor was going to include a spoken-word rant in their song that runs from the middle through to the end, but you didn't tell me who it was or anything about the context, yeah, I'd agree that sounds like a big risk and would warn against trying at this late stage. But your musical instincts have guided you well, and you clearly understood the way that rant plays in this song. I really like the move of letting the rant take the backset under the last reptitions of the chorus; I was still able to make it out, but the chorus in the foreground keeps it interesting to the ear even on subsequent listens after I've already absorbed the rant about genered clothing. "It would be really bad if I got my son a girl's jacket." That phrase is going to live in my head rent-free for years, I bet. "Really bad" how? For whom? What potential negative outcome so terrifies this poor mother that a blue jacket becomes cause for gender panic? Wow.


The Lowest Bitter - Twice this year now, a competitor has leapt from the bottom of my score sheet, straight to the top of my score sheet in the very next week. Very strong recovery! Interestingly, this song does a lot of the same things I criticized your "Waiting for the Sun to Fall" for. I think context is everything. A romantic song with lyrics structed after a classical poetic form using the line "I wanna get it on with you" as a refrain didn't work for me, but this club-inspired song about grappling with your gay identity and including a scene where you're shouting at a club "hump me, fuck me, daddy better make me choke" - that plays beautifully. You placed that moment in your personal history and used a definition of the word "Out" that I totally didn't have in mind when I thought of this title in a way that was clever, personal, emotional, and creative. Your vocal mixing also continues to improve (or at least bother me less, for whatever reason). More often than not, I've been the judge least on board with your songs, but you made it this far even with my sandbagging - let's see how you fare with a good score from me!


Max Bombast - I had a whole thing about how joke songs tend to short-circuit my critical process and make it difficult for me to rank them in a group of sincere songs, but... On closer inspection, I'm not sure this was intended to be funny. It's definitely satirical, singing from the point of view of an Amway recruiter, but pyramid schemes are a real issue that's dragging down a lot of people, and I do think the song addresses that somewhat seriously, even though the choice of narrator makes it seem a little tongue-in-cheek. Of course, we always think of the pyramid scheme as pointing "up," due the heirachical nature of the business model, but you're right to point out that the only way out is "down," like sliding down a pyramid, which conveniently provides narrative justification for your downward modulation. (Bonus, "Geometric growth" in this context becomes a bit of wordplay!) I'll echo Pigfarmer's criticism that I don't really like the "ba ba ba"s over the intro guitar - just let the instrument speak for itself. I think maybe you were doing that to underscore the downward modulation later on in the song, but I'm not sure it's necessary; I would have gotten it without that. Your voice continues to sound effortlessly in the pocket, and I'm envious of that. The guitar tones, arrangement, and mix are all perfect for the genre you're working in and the story you're trying to tell. I struggled with the ranks, because the more I heard this, the more I liked it... But even so I couldn't justify putting it above any of the songs I had in my top three. What can I say, the competition is super tight now.


See-Man-Ski - I really appreciate you changing up the genre again. I never pictured you doing a Black-Keys style stomper, but you pull it off well. The problem I have with this song is your implementation of the challenge. It's the middle four lines of each verse, right? You're playing that lick in C, then you play the same lick in G (four steps down), then back up to C, then onto the next section. But I don't think what you've done here is modulation; it's just a progression. I suppose repeating a phrase within the same tonal center but shifted down could be modulation in some contexts, but here these licks are functionally standing in for chords, and so this modulation is just building a bog-standard I-V-I chord progression. Later on in the song you have this downward pointing chromatic riff, which fulfills the "downward" part but again I don't think counts as "modulation" meaningfully. It's frustrating because I do want to be lienient to you for shaking up your style during a moment when you really needed to. But your genre shift doesn't appear to me to have been related to the challenge, and the "modulation" appears to have been implemented in a way that just happens to align with a typical pop music harmonic convention, which gives the impression that the challenge didn't constrain the song or push it in any direction it wouldn't have gone anyway. Okay, I'm gonna go tip a table over and hide behind it.
"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
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Cybronica »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 7:35 pm
.

Grumpy Mike -….
Challengewise: You said, "The transition back to C involves Adim -> D7 -> C. Which is downward. I hope you didn’t mean to specify something else that isn’t a technical definition of modulation!" Congratz. Your transition is downward. I just quoted the definition from the music dictionary but I'm gonna do it again. "1.The process of changing from one key to another." or "2. In electronic music, the term is applied to a change of frequency, amplitude, or other changes of similar nature possible through electronics." And you used a key change in your song so I'm inclined to think you knew a key change was a likely goal of the challenge. However, you establish the key of C and then go up to Gm in both chords and melody. That's an upward modulation in my book.
I wrote out a whole response to this, but my phone are it instead of posting, so here we try again:

This comment is why I said earlier that the “downward” specification of the challenge is a do nothing modifier. C to Gm is up? On what basis? G is either a fifth above or a fourth below C, so going for the closer destination, you’d be going down. Also, going from a major key to a minor key would be agreed upon by many as having a ‘downward’ emotional trajectory. That aside, when looked at from a music theory standpoint the idea that one would modulate ‘up’ or ‘down’ is ridiculous because keys (unlike individual notes) have an absolute value in relationship to each other. Would going from C to Bb be considered a downward modulation? Ah, but what if the modulation went C C7 F F7 Bb? Same start and destination keys, but it would certainly feel like an upward direction. Keys are a circle, not a line as a piano might imply.

The only way I could take seriously a comment on the fulfillment of the challenge is if you said, “well, it changes keys, and it made me feel down,” because that’s all you can say about this challenge: it is 100% subjective, but pretends to be quantifiable. At least with subjective challenges (like, bridge your first two songs together) you know the judging is going to be subjective and you can plan for it. When a challenge is presented as objective (like, rondel), you know that there is a quantifiable list of qualities to include (like, number of stanzas, lines, repetitions, and the structure of a rhyme scheme).
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Cybronica »

JonPorobil wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:00 pm
See-Man-Ski - I really appreciate you changing up the genre again. I never pictured you doing a Black-Keys style stomper, but you pull it off well. The problem I have with this song is your implementation of the challenge. It's the middle four lines of each verse, right? You're playing that lick in C, then you play the same lick in G (four steps down), then back up to C, then onto the next section. But I don't think what you've done here is modulation; it's just a progression. I suppose repeating a phrase within the same tonal center but shifted down could be modulation in some contexts, but here these licks are functionally standing in for chords, and so this modulation is just building a bog-standard I-V-I chord progression. Later on in the song you have this downward pointing chromatic riff, which fulfills the "downward" part but again I don't think counts as "modulation" meaningfully. It's frustrating because I do want to be lienient to you for shaking up your style during a moment when you really needed to. But your genre shift doesn't appear to me to have been related to the challenge, and the "modulation" appears to have been implemented in a way that just happens to align with a typical pop music harmonic convention, which gives the impression that the challenge didn't constrain the song or push it in any direction it wouldn't have gone anyway. Okay, I'm gonna go tip a table over and hide behind it.
My theory nerd brain really wants to explore this more instead of sleeping, but unlike my self righteous rant above, I’m going to stick this behind a spoiler bar so that judges have to actively choose to be influenced by my thoughts :twisted:
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I had been talking with some Nur Einers last week about the challenge and how it could be fulfilled, and what came back over and over again was the difference between tonicization and modulation. Tonicization is when you’re in key A, start playing some of the chords of key B, but quickly return to key A and your ear feels like it never really left key A, was just zooming with key B. Modulation, on the other hand, makes the ear think it has travelled far and now resides in the new key. It hangs around longer, sometimes permanently. If asked to sing Do, you would sing the Do of key B. To get back to key A, you would need to travel again. IMO, what is being described in the above would be a tonicization, not a modulation.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

Cybronica wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:13 pm
... when looked at from a music theory standpoint the idea that one would modulate ‘up’ or ‘down’ is ridiculous because keys (unlike individual notes) have an absolute value in relationship to each other. Would going from C to Bb be considered a downward modulation? Ah, but what if the modulation went C C7 F F7 Bb? Same start and destination keys, but it would certainly feel like an upward direction. Keys are a circle, not a line as a piano might imply.

You can say it's ridiculous but I hear the standard "modulate up" trick in pop and country music on a regular basis. I interpreted this challenge as the opposite of that. If you chose a key a fourth or fifth away and used a voicing that "subjectively" felt like it was going up then you risk incurring the critical remarks of a pig. Ultimately judging is subjective. It's why there are five judges and not one.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

grumpymike wrote:
Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:17 pm
But a key change is a key change, and a song that alternates key changes goes up and down, and therefore contains downward modulation.
Most songs establish a key. Some songs modulate. When they modulate they *can* *subjectively* feel like they move up or down. In my opinion, you established a key and then modulated. When you modulated it felt like the voicing and melody both went upward. You then returned to the previous key.
When you bike up and down a hill, and someone asks “did you bike down that hill?” do you say “no! I only biked up!”?
If someone tells you to bike up a hill and you turn around and bike down a hill and then come back. You technically biked up a hill to get back to where you were. But you sure as hell didn't increase your altitude.
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Re: Nur Ein XVI: Round Five "The Only Way Out"

Post by vowlvom »

I'm glad I was eliminated before this round. I don't even own a bike.
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