SpinTunes 17 Round 3 Songs

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MicahSommer
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SpinTunes 17 Round 3 Songs

Post by MicahSommer »

Thanks to everyone who joined us at last night's Listening Party, and thanks to Tommy G as always for hosting!

The songs are live now at Bandcamp: hear them all at https://spintunes.bandcamp.com/album/sp ... 17-round-3 or embedded below!

Our delightfully serpentine album art is by Matt Schubbe!



Upcoming schedule:
Now: Judging commences
Saturday April 17:
- 12:01 am Eastern - Final Round challenge posted
- 4:00 pm Eastern - Round 3 Judges' Reviews and Rankings due.
- 8:00 pm Eastern - Round 3 Results posted here.

While we wait for the judges' reviews, feel free to post yours here!
"you did a skillful job pulling off the sexy" - RangerDenni
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Re: SpinTunes 17 Round 3 Songs

Post by JonPorobil »

Here are some severely belated reviews for Round 3. I figured I better start flexing my judgin' muscle!

These are in order from the bottom (my least favorite) to the top (my favorite). I did not review or rank myself. One thing I found really interesting was just how radically my opinions deviated from the judges—My rankings are almost upside-down compared to the final scores! I worried about this, but in the end, it takes all kinds, and I hope the different perspective is useful to anyone reading these.

On with the reviews...


13. David G Harrington
The vibe on this one is incredible. I especially like the slap bass! But, as with your last two songs, it runs quite long and wears out its welcome a bit by the end. I think the chorus alone is too long - I know you have some big ideas you want to work through, but I think you'd have made more of an impact if you'd figured out a way to cut the chorus in half and saved over a minute off your running time. One way to curb this might have been to onyl sing one of the chorus quatrains each time the "chorus" part of your song comes up, and alternate which one you're singing. The verse and chorus melodies are also not different enough from each other, so that melody line gets quite repetitive even within one listen, let alone repeat visits. On a more thematic note, I think I've missed something fundamental in your thought process here, because I don't see how the title palindrome connects to the concept of fame (if you were really married the idea of a rat as a symbol for fame, "Rats live on no evil star" was kinda right there for you). And then, digging a little deeper still, I kind of take issue with the assumption baked into the song that fame kills. There are quite a few celebrities who've lived long and healthy lives. Very much like Boy on the Wall's take on New Jack Swing from Round 1, this one worked a lot better for me when I tried to turn off my brain and only half pay attention to it. It sorely needed more dynamic range and more distinct parts.

12. Good Guy Sojabe
Musically, this is executed very well. But as a whole I think the song falls kind of flat because your amitious take on the challenge is at odds with the song having any kind of momentum or message. Maybe that's why I kept forgetting your song existed until my fifth or sixth listen through the list. In order to make your lyrics reversable, you had to make them ambiguous to the point where they don't actually mean much going in either direction. And this hurts the song doubly, because we have these vague lyrics in the first half of a verse, then the second half is just the first half again, but backwards. The backwardness doesn't modulate the meaning, it doesn't give us any new information, and it doesn't propel the emotional "action" of the song, so to me it just feels like half the song is wasted time. Performance-wise, you're on point. The singer is clearly putting a lot of heart and soul into the performance. I want to make clear, I don't hate this. It's a strong round, and literally every song in it is good, overall. I especially like the double-time section right before the last chorus and the high lead part over the last chorus. But like I said, I kept forgetting about this one right up until it came up on the playlist, and this review attempts to interrogate why.

11. Cavedwellers
Structurally, this didn't quite click for me. There's a strange cadence in the verse vocal melody; I don't agree with the choice to give "Whatsoever" its own line or "Especially yours truly." I was trying to determine whether these offputting (to me) choices were in service of some symmetrical turn of phrase, but if that was the case, I couldn't confirm it with my own brain. (EDIT: On a subsequent listen, I think I cracked this - you did for the ABCBA rhyme scheme, right? This would have worked better for me if your A rhymes, "party"/"truly" were more prrecise. They're such slant-rhymes that I didn't recognize they were supposed to rhyme at all at first!) Structurally and melodically, this song doesn't really click for me until the bridge/middle section ("Fun fun fun e nuf nuf nuf"), but then the palindrome percussion starts bothering me, because some of those cymbal hits landed in some harsh frequency ranges, and when I listened on headphones, they actually kind of hurt my ears. I wanted to have more nice things to say about this song, because I know you're accomplished musicians and all-around nice people, and you've done a bunch of songs I really liked (including my second-favorite last round, which I apologize for not writing a review for!), but this one overall really didn't work for me. Two ships passing in the night, I'm afraid. I'm sorry!

10. Ominous Ride
Here's another song that I kept forgetting about between listens. Maybe it's just because it's near the end of the playlist, and that's the bummer of submitting late. I'm sorry, but I guess you drew the reveiwer short-straw this week. Ten listens and I've got nothing on this one.

9. Vom Vorton
I like this song and concept, but there's something off about the mix that's keeping me from embracing it fully. Hard for me to diagnose, but maybe something's too heavy in the mids? Or lower-mids? Maybe you have too many instruments fighting for space in that range? Or maybe too much reverb? Or the reverb isn't EQ'd? Not enough high frequencies in the mix? I like your chorus, especially the "drinking" line. It's also impressive to me that you made the whole structure/lyrics palindromic, without the song feeling like it doesn't go anywhere. This is something you had in common with Also In Blue, Hot Pink Halo, and Sober this week. I considered trying that approach, but I just couldn't make it work, and gave up. I'm amazed that you all were able to do it, and that it didn't sound super obvious and stilted in the process. Bravo for that! Wish I could figure out what it was about that mix that wasn't working for me.

8. Jealous Brother
I really liked the acostic hidden in your lyrics, and the titular mud as a metaphor for being unable to leave your hometown. This is overall quite good, and I didn't have many specific complaints, but also not much positive feedback either, so around listen six I started to ask myself why this wasn't making a strong impression on me. I think maybe it comes down to mixing and mastering? The balance/levels throughout are quite good, but maybe could stand to be a little more dynamic - there is a strong hook in the chorus, but perhaps some EQ changes to the chorus only, or even just increasing the limiter or overall volume on the chorus might make it pop out a little more? Take this all with a grain of salt, as I'm struggling to articulate what I'm sure is just a subjective feeling on my part. In the end, I wanted to like this a lot, and I think on paper it's great, but when it came time to rank my list, you ended up in the bottom half because there were just other songs this round that genuinely excited me more, and it can be hard to diagnose why that spark of excitement isn't there.

7. Sober
Dang, dude. You're on a roll. Your vocal performance isn't as raw and menacing as in your songs from the first two rounds. I really admire how you (along with a few other entrants this week) managed to write a line by line palindrome song that didn't feel monotonous or awkward. (Though, someone in the Discord pointed out that you broke the form and lampshaded that in the lyrics, but I didn't notice, so whoops). Even more impressive are all the musical palindrome phrases you incorporated without those sounding forced or weird, either. The production is flawless, the performances all pristine as well, and you really know how to sing with precision, emotion, and power. This may not have hit me personally as hard as some of the other songs this round, but I have no criticisms for you.

6. The Dutch Widows
There was a fun exchange during the listening party, in which I said, "I really liked that Dutch Widows song, but I admit that I have no idea what it was about." Someone replied, "I'm sure The Dutch Widows don't know what it was about either!" In retrospect, I don't think this is true anymore. It took seven listens of the whole round before I grokked it, but it feels like this song is your way of pushing back against the challenge. Especially hearing it in context, alongside many other songs that stretched meaning for the sake of symmetry, you're here saying, this is all clever, but ultimately meaningless. "A life in palindromics / Is might but moronic" in this context is like, "Yeah, I'll do it, but it's not really going to add anything." And then you sprinkle some palindromes (some of which were used verbatim by other songs in this round!) for emphasis, but they're symantically meaningless in the song - they exist to fill a structural need, but not to contribute to the actual meaning or narrative of your lyrics. I'm conflicted, to be honest. This interpretation, once I'd hit upon it, made me like your song a lot more! But it also makes it very specific to this challenge in a way that, I don't think it could apply or make any kind of sense outside of SpinTunes. Outside the context of this SpinTunes round, I don't see people generally arguing in favor of writing with palindromes. Anyway, I love the clave groove, and I really dig the energy on your "Forward! Backwards!" chant. The guitars are well played and mixed throughout. And I appreciate that you went for the especially obscure and esoteric for most of your palindrome choices. I'd never even heard of a wapiti before this song, so I learned something!

5. rackwagon
It's unfortunate that your bouncy piano line follows See-Man-Ski's morose quarter notes, as the songs have somewhat blended together in my listens. I like your tremolo guitar in my left ear. On its own, this song is good, but your take on the challenge is pretty oblique - the one line in the chorus, and then the theme of Ginger Rogers as a "reflection" of Fred Astaire. Is there an existing connection between these two dancers and dust, or was that just a neat turn of phrase you came up with?

4. Also In Blue
This was the catchiest song of the round by far, bolstered by that really fun (and palindromic!) acoustic guitar riff and a flawless vocal performance and mix. It was a fast favorite in my first couple of listens, and I still think it stands as one of the best of the round. I also really like the organ part, and how the distortion and vibrato on it both fluctuate as needed throughout the song. On repeated listens, the one thing that made it dip (by which I mean all the way down to my #4) was that the palindrome doesn't actually add much to the song. It would be more satisfying if the backwards half of the song somehow said something different from the first half, but the lines in reverse pretty much mean the same thing. It is a really impressive feat, but it limits the power your song has when the second half pretty much restates the first half. Your arrangement and instrumentation, controlling the pacing of the song, do a good job of making it feel like the second half is different, but by the sixth or seventh listen, I was staring at the lyric sheet trying to find some kind of way to read the second half other than as a restatement of the first half, and I came up short. Congrats on the win for the round, though!

3. EmKayDeeBee
This felt a little gimmicky to me on a first listen as I tried to digest all the palindromes and figure out whether they were "true" (by-letter) or phonic or whatever. But in subsequent listens, I've allowed myself to simply enjoy the wonderfully-executed genre pastiche and all the instrumental performances it entails. I like it more every time through. The hook is strong, the harmonies work, and it's hard not to shout along with the end of the chorus when you sing "I say it again it say I - EYE!" It kind of bugged me at first that the lyrics are basically nonsense, but that's actually a genre convention, isn't it? Or at least a common trope in Irish folk music, having lyrics that don't mean anything? Anyway, this kept rising in my ranking, and eventually settled in at #3.


2. See-Man-Ski
You keep surprising us! I'm not sure I would have even recognized this as your work, based on what I've heard of your other songs. One little nitpick I have is that I'd like to hear this played with a real piano (or at least, a higher-quality MIDI instrument). Maybe the artificiality of the piano you used was part of the sound you were going for, but I think an acoustic-sounding piano with a little more reverb might have suited the intimacy of the lyrics better. This is especially noticeable in the sections where the arrangement drops down to solo piano, in the beginning and end. I've got a high-quality digital piano and several nice sounding VSTs; hit me up if you're interested in hearing what that might sound like. Anyway, I've got you near the top of the heap this week. I really like the arrangement, the hook, and ESPECIALLY the vocal performance. Really flexing your emotional muscles on this one! My one concern is that you had one of the least ambitious incorporations of the palindrome challenge (in good company with Rackwagon and myself), so I hope that's not a dealbreaker for the judges. I've been singing "It feeeeeeeeels like..." to myself ever since last week.

1. Hot Pink Halo
It's interesting to approach a "palindrome" challenge by writing a song about The Labyrinth. A palindrome is a straight path in one direction and back, whereas a labyrinth has twists, turns, branching paths, dead ends. And yet, it feels just right for this song, maybe because there is something labyrinthine about taking a journey only to end up right where you started. Structurally, this song is a journey unto itself - starting with this lo-fi mellow instrumental passage that gradually picks up steam, adding in first that barely-audible plucky synth, then the catchy flute synth, before settling into a more steady groove, then finally the lyrics. The musical journey that takes place before you even begin to tell the story with words is a great example of "show, don't tell." If I have criticism, the vocal melody seems a little unsteady, and could have used either some pitch correction or a few more rehearsal passes. It could also be more prominent in the mix (with the caveat that, if your voice were louder, it would probably need a fair amount more reverb to not "stick out" awkwardly from the cinematic musical bed here). But overall, these are minor nitpicks, because this is my favorite song of this round, and has been since the first listen. The creative approach, the pacing and journey of the song, the emotional climax when you get to the title "I hear the roar," and that mesmerizing long intro all work together and form some kind of magic for this song. Your ambition guided you, but your wax wings didn't melt this time. It was a strong round, and none of these songs were "bad" per se, but I still think it's a real injustice that you were at the bottom of the judges' rankings this week. I admit, though, it took some of sting out of not making the cut, myself - how could I take it personally when my favorite song of the round came in last? I hope to see you in Nur Ein!
"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: SpinTunes 17 Round 3 Songs

Post by DutchWidows »

JonPorobil wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 4:01 am
6. The Dutch Widows
I said, "I really liked that Dutch Widows song, but I admit that I have no idea what it was about." Someone replied, "I'm sure The Dutch Widows don't know what it was about either!"
Guilty as charged, almost...

Inspiration was sadly lacking on this challenge, mostly due to life getting in the way, so I threw a load of unconnected palindromes together in the choruses and middle 8 to meet the challenge, linking it all with an unintentionally snarky line (palindromic/moronic) because I really liked how it rolled off the tongue. It didn't occur to me till later that it might be a bit snarky.

Time ran out and the verses were largely lifted from/inspired by ‘Breathtaking’ by Rachel Clarke (a UK NHS doctor) writing about her experiences in the pandemic. I've dipped in and out of the book, and it's pretty brutal. I'll wait till the pandemic's over before I read it properly; while it's still possible to catch it, I'd rather not know too much about the treatment. Anyway, the verses were nothing to do with the challenge, nor did they link to the choruses, so I chose not to explain them. I probably should have done, although I doubt it would have improved anyone's listening experience! It felt a bit 'phoned in' to me - I really liked the feel, the middle 8 and most of the guitar parts (layered guitars is my go to setting and I think there were 14 guitar parts on that one so it got a bit dense), but it finished about where I thought it deserved to finish!

As a first-timer doing this competitively, it's been a really interesting process and I've enjoyed it enormously! I've found the reviews super helpful in understanding how the songs are received/heard and where things need to be tighter. Even the less than flattering reviews or comments generally say something that rings true on some level and it all serves to make me want to do better, even if just by tiny amounts.
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Re: SpinTunes 17 Round 3 Songs

Post by JonPorobil »

DutchWidows wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 2:08 pm
As a first-timer doing this competitively, it's been a really interesting process and I've enjoyed it enormously! I've found the reviews super helpful in understanding how the songs are received/heard and where things need to be tighter. Even the less than flattering reviews or comments generally say something that rings true on some level and it all serves to make me want to do better, even if just by tiny amounts.
That's been my experience with these things as well! I hope to see you continue hanging around the community. Song Fight has a new title up every week or two, and Nur Ein is starting soon!
"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: SpinTunes 17 Round 3 Songs

Post by crumpart »

JonPorobil wrote:
Sat May 01, 2021 6:56 am
DutchWidows wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 2:08 pm
As a first-timer doing this competitively, it's been a really interesting process and I've enjoyed it enormously! I've found the reviews super helpful in understanding how the songs are received/heard and where things need to be tighter. Even the less than flattering reviews or comments generally say something that rings true on some level and it all serves to make me want to do better, even if just by tiny amounts.
That's been my experience with these things as well! I hope to see you continue hanging around the community. Song Fight has a new title up every week or two, and Nur Ein is starting soon!
Seconding this. I’ve really enjoyed the Dutch Widows songs and would like to hear more please.
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Re: SpinTunes 17 Round 3 Songs

Post by gizo »

JonPorobil wrote:
Fri Apr 30, 2021 4:01 am
5. rackwagon
It's unfortunate that your bouncy piano line follows See-Man-Ski's morose quarter notes, as the songs have somewhat blended together in my listens. I like your tremolo guitar in my left ear. On its own, this song is good, but your take on the challenge is pretty oblique - the one line in the chorus, and then the theme of Ginger Rogers as a "reflection" of Fred Astaire. Is there an existing connection between these two dancers and dust, or was that just a neat turn of phrase you came up with?
Thanks John. All praise for this track goes to Toshiro, as he did the lion's share of everything. And all shortcomings are mine, as I was distracted by work things.

The 'dust to dance to dust' line was a palindrome that I was intending to use to explore the idea that life is a palindrome, but I didn't get far.

I really enjoyed SpinTunes. There's no rackwagon in Nur Ein, and I'm not sure if I'll have the capacity to get gizo in there either, but I'm looking forward to listening along!

Hugs to all.
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