Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Discuss upcoming, current, and previous song fights.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by AJOwens »

crumpart wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:25 am
It’s super interesting to me to hear how other people go about writing their lyrics. My approach is to think about the prompt for a while until I settle on an idea (in this case bending light > gravity > general relativity), then I choose a structure and write to it in no particular order.
I'll generally think about it from various angles, informed by a quick Internet search, and see what emerges after a few days. If the title suggests current events, I might go with that. (As far as I know, nobody went with "flattening the curve" for Bent Straight.) Sometimes I'll think in terms of a musical phrase incorporating the title; other times, I'll take an oblique tack, where the title is mentioned in passing, or even strongly implied rather than referenced outright.

But writing the lyrics is often the stumbling block that causes me to miss the fight. So far I don't have anything for "Mythical Creature," although I did bump into the exact phrase while following up a story about how, in the wake of Trump's CEO-style brainstorming about potential virus treatments, Facebook removed "pseudoscience" from the interest categories it offers to ad buyers.

P.S. My reviews are coming; I'm about two-thirds of the way through.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by AJOwens »

As I wrote the reviews for Lichen Throat and Hot Pink Halo, I began wondering why I was more forgiving of Lichen Throat's pitchiness. Lichen Throat's work has always reminded me of an old friend, a genuinely engaged, highly creative person with a strange, somewhat alienating approach or style, and for this reason I've always been open and encouraging toward his experimentation. I try to be just as open and welcoming to Hot Pink Halo, whose musical sense I appreciate and admire, but for some reason I feel her work is less able to sustain pitchiness. Is this some sexist expectation on my part? I hope not. I really think it's about different musical goals; while both artists strike me as principally lyricists who want to extend their work into music, Hot Pink Halo's direction seems to be more about the emotionally engaging aspects of melody and harmony, while Lichen Throat's has more to do with sound as an abstract form.
-----

Amby Moho -- Lost of groovy, Beatle-ish things going on here. I like the component sounds, and if some of them are obviously derivative, who am I to complain? But the overall track has a washed-out feel, as if somebody stole all the mid-range. The vocals are over-processed in places and hard to understand, and the bass, in its rare appearances, is trapped in a mud puddle with the kick drum. Compositionally varied and interesting; great vibe; production-wise, needs a lighter touch. The vocal line sometimes struggles with the song's semitone tricks.

Berkeley Social Scene -- This is a good song, melodically and harmonically interesting, great chorus. Sweet harmonies. The band is tight and all the musical choices are good, but the production feels a bit compressed or muddy. The vocals are not so much low in the mix, as slightly thick in the lower part of the spectrum. In fact, there seems to be a buildup there from all the tracks, causing the clarity of the track to suffer. Just curious, are you applying high pass filters to remove any subsonic mud on tracks with no significant bass component? (I'm reading Mixing Secrets by Mike Senior, and such questions are on my mind).

Brown Word and the Big Whine -- The lead vocal has a lot of character, which is one way of saying it's pitchy, but in a good way. I'm picking up scraps of lyrics and they sound good, lots of down-to-earth images and arresting juxtapositions and callbacks. The rhythm is solid, the instruments taking a laid-back approach for the most part, occasionally sparking things up for interest. This entry holds my attention; it conveys a real sense of making a point.

Caravan Ray -- I considered offering you a summary review like "This song sucks," but we'll just let that go. Besides, it doesn't suck. The vocals are buried, the distortion buildup sometimes borders on unpleasant for my old ears, the drums are extremely busy -- and sometimes the bass gets busy at the same time -- which blurs the rhythmic drive. But the song has energy and urgency, the vocal performance is a pleasure to listen to, the mid-song coupling of vocal and bass makes for an interesting contrast, the lead guitar has bite, and the sound is generally cool.

Cavedwellers -- Real variety in the textures and treatments for each instrument, established at the outset. Good mix balance; am I hearing some subtle side-chain gating driven from the vocal track? The song is bright and tuneful, the arrangement rich in sounds and events. Good vocal and harmony performances. The solo section kind of treads water for a while; it could be shorter. Here, the portamento synth seems slightly piercing, and the guitar has an aggressive choppiness that doesn't blend with the liquid flow of the song. Near the end, it becomes more appropriately smooth and soaring.

Fussy Britches -- A good riff song, where the bass couples the lead over power drums, but with a well-placed semitone dissonance to add suspense. The distortion on the vocal helps it cut through the music without sacrificing intensity, although at some cost to intelligibility. The chorus opens up to a more spacious sound, allowing a clearer treatment on the vocal. Fine vocals, by the way. A series of mesmerizing arrangement changes in the middle acts as a reset, and then the song plunges into the riff again and goes crazy in a massive pileup of echo and reverb. Very effective onslaught-rock; solid arrangement, performance, and production. Will I remember the song? Probably not, but I'll remember the onslaught.

The Gross Tones -- This has a fun, catchy atmosphere, partly because of the live feel with its slightly rough, uncorrected performances; partly because of the clean, unpretentious sound, free of obvious processing; partly because of the playful lyrics; partly because of the vocals, with their friendly, engaging quality. The horn sound is also part of the fun, but the a-rhythmic, a-melodic noodling is far less coherent than the rest of the song. Does it work? Well, lazy and insouciant can be cute, up to a point. The composition is light, brisk, entertaining.

Grumpy Mike -- The imaginative, even daring vocal harmony line and the strangely prominent drum mix in the chorus are the elements that stand out for me; also the Beefheart-like scratching of certain detuned guitar parts, which add sonic variety to the synth-defined landscape. The main vocals sit well in the mix initially, but seem to get pulled back at around 1:30; after that they're still perfectly clear, but they don't feel as present. The song has a nice momentum, building up power with the addition of a searing air-raid-siren synth line toward the end. The mix-forward drums certainly give the chorus a distinctive character, but the chorus is strong enough that I think they actually bury it a little.

Hot Pink Halo -- The musical composition is lovely and dreamy, an effect augmented by the arrangement, with its long, elusive tones, lilting rhythms, and gently strummed guitar. The spaced, irregular, abstract heartbeat of percussion does not interfere, perhaps even adds something. But the concept suffers in execution. There are timing issues, even within the deliberately undisciplined flow of time in the piece; working to a click track might be a worthwhile exercise, even if you don't commit to it for performance. And the singing is highly idiosyncratic: the voice has a pure, sweet tone, but the pitches are unstable to say the least, and the transitions between pitches are swoopy. In this case the echo acts to smooth things out a little. I like your musical vision, and the melody here is genuinely pretty and wistful, but you may need some help with your singing technique. (See also my note at the top of the post.)

James Owens -- Yes, the ride cymbal is too loud, even though I was playing it gently. My electronic drum kit has controls for pad volumes, but it's all menu-driven so I said the hell with it. I've since figured out how to use the MIDI OUT to drive a synth-based kit (weirdly, there is no MIDI IN on the drum kit), so we'll see what happens.

Lichen Throat -- This is mostly in A minor, with strong use of the fifth and minor sixth intervals in the melody and chords to create a tense mood. The main drum pattern is less relentless than in some of your other entries, and uses some variations; the song has some variety in its landscapes. The vocals use a very limited range, and they're nasal and not on-pitch, which is not everyone's cup of tea; but together with the eccentric, rather percussive accompaniment, they set up a very characteristic sound. The scan applied to the lyrics is more than occasionally forced, jamming in more syllables than the music allows. (See also my note at the top of the post.)

Paco del Stinko -- Some great one-liners in the words, and lots of inventiveness in the music. Apart from appreciation, there's not much I can offer by way of a review. I don't know how you manage to turn out such energetic, complex, varied, coherent, well-produced craziness so consistently, but it's always fun to listen to.

Phlebia -- Almost literal head-banging here. Good energy. The lyrics are brilliant. The music supports them well, especially the Devil's interval around 1:08, and the capper is tight; when I read the lyrics in the forum I thought the last line spelled things out unnecessarily, but in the context of the music it works completely. I love the guitar solo, and the choice of effects on it. The vocals are nicely delivered, and they sit in the mix just right. This is a great song.

Pigfarmer Jr -- The music is lively and upbeat, the melody tuneful, the chorus sets up the concluding title nicely, the arrangement change in the middle eight is refreshing, the solo fits the groove. Good singing. The mix could use more brightness in the guitars. (In my own setup, I stumbled on an impedance match problem; using a DI box between the guitar and the soundboard brightened the guitar sound considerably.) At "You say I'm bent out of shape" the singing is a bit wobbly, because the tune fights against the underlying chords. A strong singer could force those quick B-A-G# notes ("bent out of") through the B minor chord, but it would be less hard on the singer, and maybe even more tuneful, to jump down to F#-F#-G# (or F#-A-F#) and get to the A note that way. But maybe you were playing musically on "bent."

Seaweed Delete -- This sounds like a great way to keep busy and have fun while staying home, and a pretty cool way to learn about music and recording too.

Sweeney Toad -- The music imparts an uneasy feeling, and the slow rhythm has a limping quality, providing a dysfunctional backdrop for a dysfunctional science-fiction story told with wry humour. I liked the movie-script segment and the concept, but overall the piece doesn't come together for me, probably because the music feels directionless and doesn't help move the narrative forward.

Tales About Digits -- I can't help but smile while listening to this, but I don't need to listen to it twice. The comically pitch-shifted voices and high-spirited nonsense are well matched to the honky-tonk piano with its vaguely silent-movie riff, and the random mutilations of classic parlour songs prove that somebody in this entry actually can play music if they want. The significance of the band name is lost on me.

tomdb and wub -- This is a pretty song. The effect on the guitar dulls the sweetness; the phase or flange could work, as long as it doesn't choke the natural clarity of the steel strings. The singing is tender, and the music suits the lyrics beautifully. The guitar playing struggles at times, which suggests that you're stretching your boundaries, learning and practicing, and that's a good thing. If you have a multitrack DAW, you can always run a few takes and assemble the best parts. The guitar arpeggios in my own entry required a lot of little fixes, as I mangled this or that technical aspect of the playing. But your song and your singing are quite affecting; nice work.

Vom Vorton -- The simple, clean lead and Farfisa organ set a retro mood. The harmony comes in abruptly, a pleasant surprise, and the hook is backed up rhythmically and harmonically by the band in a very effective way. Bright, clear mix, well-balanced across the spectrum. Solid, brisk tempo. Engaging vocal delivery. The reverse-Uri Geller theme is a novelty, and the song supports it with light, uncomplicated charm. Infectious, a good entry.

WreckdoM -- A novel and amusing take on the title. The song has a wonderfully demented character; the role of the music is mostly to carry the witty lyrics unobtrusively, and to provide the perfect rhythmic emphasis at crucial moments. The main appeal of this entry is its sheer perversion, played against the absurd innocence of some of the fetishes. The sense of drooling is especially well-portrayed.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by ken »

AJOwens wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:08 am
Just curious, are you applying high pass filters to remove any subsonic mud on tracks with no significant bass component? (I'm reading Mixing Secrets by Mike Senior, and such questions are on my mind).
Just wanted to pull this out in case folks skip your BSS review. This is the number 1 first lesson I try to give people when they ask about mixing. Eliminate frequencies where you don't need them. Just removing the low end on tracks that aren't kick or bass will improve your mixes immediately. Keep dropping the gold my friend!
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

AJOwens wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:08 am
But maybe you were playing musically on "bent."
Yeah, sure. We'll go with that.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by crumpart »

AJOwens wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:08 am
As I wrote the reviews for Lichen Throat and Hot Pink Halo, I began wondering why I was more forgiving of Lichen Throat's pitchiness. Lichen Throat's work has always reminded me of an old friend, a genuinely engaged, highly creative person with a strange, somewhat alienating approach or style, and for this reason I've always been open and encouraging toward his experimentation. I try to be just as open and welcoming to Hot Pink Halo, whose musical sense I appreciate and admire, but for some reason I feel her work is less able to sustain pitchiness. Is this some sexist expectation on my part? I hope not. I really think it's about different musical goals; while both artists strike me as principally lyricists who want to extend their work into music, Hot Pink Halo's direction seems to be more about the emotionally engaging aspects of melody and harmony, while Lichen Throat's has more to do with sound as an abstract form.
Just quickly, because I'm in the middle of cooking dinner. I think women are, in general, held to a higher standard than men vocally. I don't think people do it on purpose, and the fact that women's voices are higher and generally cut through more probably contributes to it. That being said, I'm also not that fond of my vocals in this one. I really like the backing vocals, but I did them last, and it was too late to change the direction of the main melody by that point. I'd set myself a challenge of starting the melody on the seventh note of the chord, which took me just out of where I'm super comfortable singing, and I think (for now at least) if I do write melodies that go higher, I should build up to those notes rather than starting on them.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by sleepysilverdoor »

I wonder if the more organic backdrop for Hot Pink Halo's music has anything to do with it? When I hear her music, the instrumentation is almost always live, minus the drums. We have violins, guitars, a generally loose feel. Whereas with Lichen Throat, the music is usually kind of cold and alien sounding - super quantized, digital midi instruments that remind me of being on a geocities page in 98. The pitchy vocals there don't seem as odd, because the whole timbre is odd. Whereas with Hot Pink Halo the timbre is pretty standard, and the rhythms are usually looser than you'd get with most people. I think that probably sets up a psychological expectation for a more polished vocal that Lichen's compositions don't impart.

That being said - I usually enjoy both of them as lyricists and really it just depends on the song whether I'm into their style or not.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Lunkhead »

ken wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 10:48 am
AJOwens wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:08 am
Just curious, are you applying high pass filters to remove any subsonic mud on tracks with no significant bass component? (I'm reading Mixing Secrets by Mike Senior, and such questions are on my mind).
Just wanted to pull this out in case folks skip your BSS review. This is the number 1 first lesson I try to give people when they ask about mixing. Eliminate frequencies where you don't need them. Just removing the low end on tracks that aren't kick or bass will improve your mixes immediately. Keep dropping the gold my friend!
+1 and I did that but I probably should do that even more in the lower pitched harmony vocal tracks.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by crumpart »

AJOwens wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:50 am
crumpart wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:25 am
It’s super interesting to me to hear how other people go about writing their lyrics. My approach is to think about the prompt for a while until I settle on an idea (in this case bending light > gravity > general relativity), then I choose a structure and write to it in no particular order.
I'll generally think about it from various angles, informed by a quick Internet search, and see what emerges after a few days. If the title suggests current events, I might go with that. (As far as I know, nobody went with "flattening the curve" for Bent Straight.) Sometimes I'll think in terms of a musical phrase incorporating the title; other times, I'll take an oblique tack, where the title is mentioned in passing, or even strongly implied rather than referenced outright.

But writing the lyrics is often the stumbling block that causes me to miss the fight. So far I don't have anything for "Mythical Creature," although I did bump into the exact phrase while following up a story about how, in the wake of Trump's CEO-style brainstorming about potential virus treatments, Facebook removed "pseudoscience" from the interest categories it offers to ad buyers.

P.S. My reviews are coming; I'm about two-thirds of the way through.
If anyone is struggling, I'd suggest that 'The Book of Imaginary Beings' by Jorge Luis Borges might be an excellent starting point...

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/165 ... 0Xl&rank=7
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by AJOwens »

Thanks, I think I've got something oblique.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

grumpymike wrote:
Wed Apr 22, 2020 11:47 pm
This is my first legit Song Fight entry in approximately 8 years.
I added a lyric review up there in my review post with all the others. I am just now getting around to listening to the songs so I was able to review it like I did the others. Thanks for adding the lyric to the thread.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

Music reviews after one listen (with a couple of exceptions.) For lyric reviews see above.

Amby Moho: I love how inventive this is. Nothing expected. Maybe one bit of the vocal didn't really grab me but the rest of the songs worked wonderfully for me. The overall sound might be a hair muddy (more not clean than anything) for me, but I loved this.

Berkeley Social Scene: On the first chorus I wanted a rhyme with grip as opposed to the title line, but it worked very well for me after that. The bridge vocal and guitar solo was a bit buried (sounds on purpose) and I'd like to hear them both just a bit better. Now that's all out of the way: This is a good song with a good melody and a good vocal performance and I like it very much.

Brown Word and the Big Whine: I love that rhythm on the "shit hit the fan" line and the attitude in the vocal. The rant wasn't decipherable but I like it's effect. Turns out I was afraid of the length, but you kept it short and I liked how you use it in the arrangement.

Caravan Ray: Damn catchy chorus. Turns out that last line of the chorus critique I gave you was unfounded, it works great in the song. I love the "you know I would" repetition a lot.

Cavedwellers: I love it when that clean 80's ish guitar comes in on the intro. Like, I LOVE it. That bass line works wonders in this song. Cool middle 8 (that's a lot longer than 8, eh?) I like your melody, too.

Fussy Britches: Okay, I wasn't expecting that from the lyric, but man I'm digging the tone and riffing of the guitars. Hard to sit still with that run going on. I like how the vocal seems back a bit but is still very clear in the mix. I mentioned in the lyric review I was interested in hearing how you handled the verses. You nailed them, that's how.

Grumpy Mike: The doubled vocal is not precise but seems to work great. That off kilter lead into the first chorus is awesome. I like the verse melody a lot. More than the chorus, really. (although I like the chorus and the repetition I mentioned.) This song is growing on me a lot.

Hot Pink Halo: I think the 6/8 time signature was a great choice for this lyric. It has a flow to it that suits the lyrical style. Someone mentioned an ethereal quality to the vocal and I concur. Which also suits the lyric very well. Someone else also mentioned some timing issues and I have to agree that there are a few spots where things just seem a little jagged. But I wonder how noticeable it'd be if I weren't concentrating on the lyric and reviewing the song. At any rate, I enjoyed listening and I very much liked how the song has a prosody to it, a wholeness in the music, melody and lyric all working together as one.

James Owens: Oooh, a pleasant surprise in the music. That's a cool take. The hi-hat seems a bit prominent to me, though. And the vocal effect works very well, too. The bass carries the song along.

Lichen Throat: Your vocal style is less polished than most and it fits the lyric, makes a good narrator. That being said, the vocal in your last song worked much better for me (or maybe the song before.) The vocal/drum bit seemed a little forced. I'm happy to admit that I was wrong about the parole date not leading into the last verse. Maybe that's because I knew what to expect, but your lyric worked for me with the music. I do like your sense of arrangement. You usually have a cool tone/sound/instrument going and a good sense of movement from section to section or sometimes even within a section by changing up the instruments or sounds.

Paco del Stinko: I love the dirty vocal and guitars and how they fit that first stanza so well. You repeated that chorus so the structure is working better for me. I love the blood in the sand bit. The sparseness works beautifully. That's a fucking awesome solo into last chorus and end. Digging this a lot.

Phlebia: I like that wall of sound combined with the driving rhythm. I love the doubled syllable of meal/heal and in/sin. The inflection/attitude in the vocal performance carries this well. The vocals do seem a bit prominent in the mix, but since they carry the damn thing for me I can't complain, eh? I figured your song would suffer following Paco because I liked it so much but you kept that rhythmic awesomeness going and it's a great track list having them back to back. Glad that worked out. Also, your song seems a bit loud in overall volume (or mine is quiet because it followed yours and sounds quiet.)

Seaweed Delete: As close to punk rock as you can get with arcade sounds and a smooth vocal. Good vocals, btw.

Sweeney Toad: The detuned or bent synth sound is cool. The rhythm in the vocal works great in the erm.. verses. And I like the conversation in the middle. The chorus bit is a bit too out there to "enjoy" but I appreciate it's warp factor and how it fits the title so damn well. There were a couple of internal rhymes that didn't hit me in the lyric review that I noticed/liked while listening.

tomdb and wub: The guitar is just a tad too effected for my taste (I like a more natural sound) but I like the shimmer it has. I think your melody is excellent and carries the song well. Whatever chord change that is under the title line "bent straight" it's tasty. It almost sounds major to minor but.. maybe major 7th or?... okay put me out of my misery, what is it? Anyway, the chorus is excellent. That little flub or whatever at 2:23ish... I'd just copy the guitar part played better in another part of the song and splice it in, even though it's relatively minor.

Vom Vorton: I love the bass and rhythm and simple but very effective guitar on the intro. The agains work wonderfully right off. The doubled vox on "take a look" is tasty. The synth and bass seem to be a throw back to classic early 60's songs but with a modern and little bent feel to it. Which I find great. This is very good, Mr. Vorton.

WreckdoM: The organ, bass and guitar all work together very well, I like that sound. You pull of the phrasing of the lyric pretty damn well, although the vocal inflection is a bit... not my favorite, I guess. Part of that is the tempo, I think. I think the vocal flavor would work at a slightly quicker pace, but I like the music at this pace, so... whatdoyoudo?
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

Votes are most likely going to the follow artists in no particular order... unless I change my mind before I hit submit.

Vom
Paco
BSS
Phlebia
Caravan
Amby

And a maybe cavedwellers.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Caravan Ray »

Votes to Distinctions and High Distinctions

HIGH DISTINCTION
The Gross Tones

DISTINCTION
Phlebia
Sweeney Toad
Berkeley Social Scene
Paco del Stinko

CREDIT
Cavedwellers
Amby Moho
Fussy Britches
Vom Vorton

PASS
Brown Word and the Big Whine
Lichen Throat
Pigfarmer Jr
Hot Pink Halo
James Owens
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tomdb and wub
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by tomdg »

crumpart wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 3:23 pm
AJOwens wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:50 am
crumpart wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:25 am
It’s super interesting to me to hear how other people go about writing their lyrics. My approach is to think about the prompt for a while until I settle on an idea (in this case bending light > gravity > general relativity), then I choose a structure and write to it in no particular order.
I'll generally think about it from various angles, informed by a quick Internet search, and see what emerges after a few days. If the title suggests current events, I might go with that. (As far as I know, nobody went with "flattening the curve" for Bent Straight.) Sometimes I'll think in terms of a musical phrase incorporating the title; other times, I'll take an oblique tack, where the title is mentioned in passing, or even strongly implied rather than referenced outright.

But writing the lyrics is often the stumbling block that causes me to miss the fight. So far I don't have anything for "Mythical Creature," although I did bump into the exact phrase while following up a story about how, in the wake of Trump's CEO-style brainstorming about potential virus treatments, Facebook removed "pseudoscience" from the interest categories it offers to ad buyers.

P.S. My reviews are coming; I'm about two-thirds of the way through.
If anyone is struggling, I'd suggest that 'The Book of Imaginary Beings' by Jorge Luis Borges might be an excellent starting point...

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/165 ... 0Xl&rank=7
If you can, find the first English edition translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni, because a) I think it includes a handful of pieces written by the author directly in English, and b) he was my dad!
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by tomdg »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:59 pm
Whatever chord change that is under the title line "bent straight" it's tasty. It almost sounds major to minor but.. maybe major 7th or?... okay put me out of my misery, what is it?
So the song's in E, and the chords go from an F#m to Am, so it's a 2 to a minor 4. The voicings on the chords aren't what I normally play; wub came up with most of them, and to fit the feel of the others they're both played with the strings that would normally be barred all open, so the first one has a major 7th and a 4th in it. Much more interesting than if it had been just me!

I had just discovered Brandi Carlile's "The Joke" just before writing this, and it shows in the final chord.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by vowlvom »

Amby Moho: another good one from you, love the psychedelic production and rattly drums. There are a few songs that kinda sidestep the title in this fight and they all work pretty well for me. I don't really know what the lyrics are about here but they fit the vibe of the music well.

Berkeley Social Scene: I got Strokes vibes from this one, dunno if that was something you intentionally went for after the new album stirred up some ideas, but the retro drum machine sounds and chiming guitars definitely put me in that mindset. Really like the general sound of this one, the subtle synths really add a lot and the vocals sound good. Lyrics didn't hugely stick with me, but given that they started out as AI they're pretty coherent! The lo-fi vocals on the bridge work really well and the cool snappy drum fill at the end of the solo is brilliant! Definitely up there with the best BSS songs I've heard.

Brown Word and the Big Whine: this one grew on me over the course of several listens, there's a ton of interesting components to it that didn't fully hold together for me at first but I kept noticing new things each time. My favourite bit is the catchy guitar riff in the chorus but really like the drony synth bass too, and the song has an interesting structure.

Caravan Ray: struggled with this one at first but it sounds better on headphones. The vocals still get a bit lost in the mix at times, and there's an effect (or possibly just some double-tracking) that gives them a kinda phasey effect that I didn't love. Some good guitar work and tone, ending was a bit abrupt, solid on the whole but not one of my favourites.

Cavedwellers: there's a few things in this song I found myself pushing back against a little, the guitar FX are a bit much for me when you're playing chords (but it sounds really cool on the picked sections) and the vocal melody on the verse is a little odd and didn't wholly grab me. But the chorus is really anthemic and totally won me over, along with those big synths.

Fussy Britches: that's a hell of a riff, but this song has a strange dynamic where it feels like it starts at the intensity that maybe it should build up to, so it kinda has nowhere to go. The dynamic shift for the chorus is interesting but then it's back to the beginning - the lyrics have a similar thing going on where it feels like they're reiterating the same single theme over and over.

The Gross Tones: I like everything about this apart from the synth trumpet parts, which I hate so much that it completely ruins the song for me. Not the sound itself (I love synth trumpet) but the directionless melody - it feels like a first take keyboard part from somebody who knows what key the song is in but hasn't actually heard it. Take it out and this would be one of my favourite songs from the fight, but it's a total dealbreaker for me.

Grumpy Mike: I like the way this starts with some good dark synthpop energy, and the scratchy, detuned guitar parts work really well. Some of the harmony lines feel like they could use tightening up (timing-wise rather than tuning) and there's a drum fill that crops up a couple of times that feels really out of place to me, but on the whole I liked this one quite a bit. The bridge section is a nice shift, and I like the way the lyrics convey the theme without actually using the phrase 'Bent Straight'.

Hot Pink Halo: atmospheric composition and vocal, and good lyrics as usual (space again! I see you!), but without a strong rhythm this feels like it gets a bit loose at times and lost me a little when things felt slightly... unmoored from each other.

James Owens: damn this is a classy song! Such a nice bit of retro pop; love the mellotron and electric piano parts. Lyrics are clever and I love the way the melody resolves at the end of the chorus.

Lichen Throat: musically solid but the vocals are all over the place again. It's frustrating that sometimes you seem to have nailed your timing issues (the song from two fights ago (I think) was a great example) but then lose it again. Interesting lyrics as usual but definitely not one of your best songs.

Paco del Stinko: sounds like you took the challenge to heart! Some really interesting dynamics here as a result. It starts out as an uptempo rocker but then you get to show off your theatrical side in the quieter sections. Fun.

Phlebia: another interesting arrangement although the simple pounding beat wore on me a bit, plus I miss the Phlebia full-kit sound! Vocal melody is a bit one note, which kinda works for the style of the song but lost my interest a bit. I did like the mix of fuzz bass and acoustic guitar, and the way the chorus ends - especially first time around when it drops into that neat instrumental break.

Pigfarmer Jr: catchy, uptempo song with some really nice touches; I particularly liked the way those quick chord changes on the chorus complement the melody. Vocal timing could be a bit tighter in places but mostly pretty good, so my only real complaint is that the lead guitar is tinny and feels a little stilted. But I liked this one, among my favourite PiFaJr songs I think.

Seaweed Delete: wild and abrasive! The mix of noise and youthful vocals is fun but I couldn't enjoy this one as much as your last entry.

Sweeney Toad: love the lo-fi, warped, queasy backing tracks you put together! The story is really odd and amusing too, especially that spoken interlude which really made me laugh. The chorus doesn't work for me as well as the verse, I like that there's something in there to change the song up a bit but I wish it had a bit more of a dynamic shift to it or something.

Tales About Digits: I like the spooky piano sound (and you play it well!) and some of the lyrics (and substitutions of the title into other songs) made me smile. But this outstays its welcome considerably, I could cope with six minutes one time but I didn't enjoy hearing this song more than once.

tomdb and wub: solid song with some interesting, heartfelt lyrics. But the extremely lo-fi arrangement and quiet / muffled vocals make it hard for this to compete with the pack of songs. Lots of stumbles in the guitar playing too - if you're going to go for essentially G&G arrangement then a few more takes and a more confident performance would help a lot.

Vom Vorton: I had fun with this one, I couldn't think of a sensible take on the title so I went for a really goofy one. The simple guitar melody is probably slightly influenced by ShoehornTC's recent submissions, and I'm glad the tape-warped organ received some praise, I love that effect! Annoyed that I forgot the optional challenge, it would have worked perfectly on the last verse.

WreckdoM: loved your last song but this one feels like a step back into murky production, all of the instrumentation feels weirdly Far Away. Although given the lyrical content of this song maybe I'm OK with keeping my distance. It's a textbook WreckdoM lyric, funny but disturbing. And like some of the other songs you avoid the phrase Bent Straight but clearly use it as a theme, which is neat. Not one of my favourites from the fight though, but I like that the last thing I heard on each listen was your rectum / WreckdoM sample mangling!

Favourites: Amby Moho, BSS, James Owens, Pigfarmer Jr
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by lichenthroat »

Amby Moho—This must be a lost outtake from Sgt. Pepper. Seriously, though, it really does sound like an experimental Beatles track, with all of the good and bad that that implies. I’m not sure I want to listen to this song all that much, but I’m impressed with your ability to make it.

Berkeley Social Scene—You guys have been on a roll lately. Has anything changed in your composition or recording process? This is a very solid, enjoyable song. Not a lot of handles to grab for reviewing, but I like it.

Brown Word and the Big Whine—I know I’ve made a Mary’s Danish comparison before, but you really do sound like Julie Ritter. I like the vocal, but the rest of the song seems a little incohesive, like it never settles into a groove. I think maybe this could use a heavy, continuous rhythm, and then you could play around with the higher-pitched instruments.

Caravan Ray—The straight-aheaded-ness works. I can imagine hearing this at a concert by an unfamiliar band and thinking, “Hey, these guys are pretty good.” Crank up the bass drum a little. Thumbs up.

Cavedwellers—Oh yeah, this is sweet! It’s like David Bowie singing on a 1980s Yes song. And I mean all of that in the best way possible. This is my favorite song from the last few fights.

Fussy Britches—Your execution on this is pretty good, but I don’t think this style of music usually works very well. The instrument tones fit an energetic sound, but the arrangement is more on the languid side, so it feels incongruous. (I don’t know if I’m explaining this very well. By the way, my lack of vocabulary for this concept that I seemed to understand intuitively was the impetus for me to start a conversation in 2015 with a musician friend that eventually led to me beginning to compose music. Even though I’m now a SongFight regular, I still don’t feel like I have the right vocabulary to express this idea.)

The Gross Tones—Nice groove. This song seems simple and familiar at first, and then it gets more intriguing as it goes on, even though I’m not sure it changes all that much. Very solid. I wish everything sounded a little fuller, but otherwise I have no complaints. Nice work.

Grumpy Mike—The one thing that really strikes me is that it seems like too many of the drum notes in the chorus are snares, which may be further amplified by your use of a fairly rattley-sounding snare. Otherwise, this is really good. I like the low guitar or bass notes that precede the chorus, and the song escalates nicely from verse to chorus.

Hot Pink Halo—I thought for a while that this was going to be too slow and repetitive, but the subtle changes you make in the instrumentation really pay off. I still think this may be a bit long, but the concept is solid and effective. I like the vocal on this.

James Owens—I picture people slow-dancing in a small-town bar when I hear this. If that’s what you’re going for, it totally works. Your execution of everything, especially your guitar tone, is good, but I’m not sure the song itself is all that interesting.

Lichen Throat (me)—Okay, the vocal timing is miserable and nearly obliterates everything I like about the song. I don’t know how I failed to notice this as I was singing, since it bothers me so much now. I have implemented a slight change to my recording process that lets me visually see the timing more clearly, so maybe that will help in the future.

Paco del Stinko—Until the chorus, this doesn’t sound like a Paco song! I mostly like this one. Your lyrics are good. Some of the slow parts feel a little too long, but that solo makes up for it.

Phlebia—I thought about using the same lyrical take on the title as you, but I didn’t think I could pull it off right. You did it well, though. The relentlessness of the tone seems a little overbearing at first, but as the song goes on, it works better and better. It also integrates well with the lyrics and general concept of the song.

Pigfarmer Jr—I like the overall tone and sound. The repeated descending vocal melodies in the chorus seem a little repetitive and then resolve too patly. This has a nice bar-band sound.

Seaweed Delete—The rhythm seems too discontinuous. I do, however, like your vocal tone and the way your voice sits in the mix. Maybe dial down the electronic percussion a little.

Sweeney Toad—Your vocal delivery is good, but it never feels like the music gets into a proper groove. I think maybe you need more percussive notes in each measure. I found the narrative a little hard to follow.

Tales About Digits—I’m not sure how to review songs like this that, at least to some extent, troll the listener. It does sound like you had fun making this, and it’s pretty funny. I think I can give this a cautious thumbs-up as a novelty song.

tomdb and wub—I liked this. The vocal needs to be more prominent, though, and I think it could use more variation. But overall I liked the sound.

Vom Vorton—A fine addition to your oeuvre. Very smooth. Absolutely zero complaints. The lyrical take is clever, too.

WreckdoM—I liked the line about the cheese. I can’t quite get into this, though. Other than your vocal, all the music sounds somehow distant.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Lunkhead »

lichenthroat wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 9:53 am
Berkeley Social Scene—You guys have been on a roll lately. Has anything changed in your composition or recording process? This is a very solid, enjoyable song. Not a lot of handles to grab for reviewing, but I like it.
Thanks, glad you liked it. Yeah, at this point it's just me and Ken and Glen doing the songs. Martin doesn't have recording equipment at home. Geech isn't available so far. We can't get in to our rehearsal space so we can't write the music and track the basic instruments live together like normal. We're collaborating via email. No live acoustic drums anymore, so, more drum machine and fake acoustic drums. Also I don't have an amp at home so I'm direct recording all my guitar tracks.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by Pigfarmer Jr »

lichenthroat wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 9:53 am
I like the overall tone and sound.... This has a nice bar-band sound.
I'm glad you liked the tone/sound as I've been spending a little more time on the mix the past few fights.
Two questions: What makes it a bar-band sound? Is the bar-band comment an insult?
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by lichenthroat »

Pigfarmer Jr wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 11:41 am
I'm glad you liked the tone/sound as I've been spending a little more time on the mix the past few fights.
Two questions: What makes it a bar-band sound? Is the bar-band comment an insult?
No, the bar-band comment was not an insult! Answering your first question is more complex and is something for which I may not have adequate vocabulary. When I got old enough to go to shows in bars, I noticed that the bands often had a different sound in bars than on their studio releases, but that the live sound has some similarities from band to band. I’m not sure exactly what it is, though. Maybe a combination of lack of fancy studio effects and the consequence of the song being more familiar to the band members when they’re playing it live every night, as compared to when they may have just learned it in the studio. In your case, what I refer to as the bar-band sound may refer to a stripped-down authenticity that is very compatible with your musical style.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by lichenthroat »

AJOwens wrote:
Mon Apr 27, 2020 9:08 am
As I wrote the reviews for Lichen Throat and Hot Pink Halo, I began wondering why I was more forgiving of Lichen Throat's pitchiness. Lichen Throat's work has always reminded me of an old friend, a genuinely engaged, highly creative person with a strange, somewhat alienating approach or style, and for this reason I've always been open and encouraging toward his experimentation. I try to be just as open and welcoming to Hot Pink Halo, whose musical sense I appreciate and admire, but for some reason I feel her work is less able to sustain pitchiness. Is this some sexist expectation on my part? I hope not. I really think it's about different musical goals; while both artists strike me as principally lyricists who want to extend their work into music, Hot Pink Halo's direction seems to be more about the emotionally engaging aspects of melody and harmony, while Lichen Throat's has more to do with sound as an abstract form.
I wish I could claim that I was interested in sound as an abstract form. I'm really just trying to write conventional indie rock songs almost every time, but I don't know how. Also, I think Hot Pink Halo is a much, much better singer than I am. I do appreciate your indulgence with the unorthodox aspects of my music, as well as your thoughtful comments, though.
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Re: Near enough to perfect... (Bent Straight reviews)

Post by thehipcola »

lichenthroat wrote:
Fri May 01, 2020 9:53 am
Fussy Britches—Your execution on this is pretty good, but I don’t think this style of music usually works very well. The instrument tones fit an energetic sound, but the arrangement is more on the languid side, so it feels incongruous.
Thanks for the review! I don't normally reply to reviews, cuz taste/opinion/meh. But - I'm interested by your articulate, yet rather vague review... so ...

By way of response, overall - I submit - because I like contrasts and stark transitions. Incongruous is a great compliment, so thanks. Not sure what you mean by "don't think this style of music works very well", because - what style of music is this? To me it's a mishmash of hardcore, alt/rock, with a bit of psych rock/prog thrown in for good measure. Is that a style you've heard elsewhere? (genuine question, because I'm not very "out there" looking for the new hotness in music these days), and maybe this is a tried and true but overused formula. That would be ironic to me, but certainly not impossible - we are often so derivative in our music. I mean we - as in all of us musicians. But if that's your way of saying, "genre bias" - cool as well.

Languid is interesting as well - can you explain what you mean by that? Don't feel you need to, (because you certainly don't have to explain or justify taste to me), and also don't be afraid to say you think it sucks, if that's how you feel. Languid suggests something phoned in, to me anways - is that how this sounds? I'm genuinely curious. As a footnote, heavy rock often struggles on SF! - and that's fine with me, doesn't bother me to know if folks don't like the heavy, the crunch, the dirge, the scream, whatever... or the reminiscent nod to something they didn't like previously... I'm almost 50 and have a 15yr old daughter - so daily reminders that "my music" sounds old to some are plenitful. haha. That said - If that's not it at all, please elaborate. I'd love to understand what makes this seem languid to you. By the way - you get the word of the day for using it. :)

Now, I was only one part of the FB songwriting effort, so I'm only speaking about my goals - but to me - writing-in juxtaposition is attractive - I seek out the left turns, the weird structure, and try to also keep it reminiscent/familar enough to not just be flat out noise. Obviously that's wholly subjective - but to me, the joy in composition is more often felt in weird turns and surprises, and atypical pairings of stylistic sections, than standard narrow-lensed efforts that stay well within established boundaries of a genre/style/era... Who knows, maybe you heard none of those and decided that because it's got some riff rock hallmarks, it wasn't for you? That's fine too. On the other hand, sometimes I love to play to the trope just 'cuz it feels good at times to give a nod to where you came from, what you aspired to at one time. Depends on the mood and especially the band name. Ha. Anyhow, thanks again for the review. :)
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