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.