Friday, March 14, 2014

SpinTunes 8 Round 3 Rankings and Reviews

So, onward. The number of tracks is going down and so the pressure on the judges is going up! I've been listening to the album this week and procrastinating about actually ranking the songs because it is tooth-grindingly stressful to me -- the quality of these songs is really quite high all around, and I hate to have to think that I will be helping make someone go home sad. But I signed up, so there's nothing to do for it except call 'em like I hear 'em to the best of my ability. So... in order from best-rated on down:

1. Ryan Brewer, Jesus Christ's Biographer Gives a Guest Lecture

Ryan gets my vote for best song of the round. It stands out from the pack here for several reasons: the lyric is sophisticated, funny, subtle, and occasionally dark and chill-inducing; the vocal and musical performances are terrific; the mix and mastering job is beautiful. It has just a bit of the tone and mood of the song "One of Us" recorded by Joan Osborne. It's also almost five minutes long, but impressively, it doesn't drag at all, no portion of it feels too repetitive, and it ends at just the right moment.

2. Dr. Lindyke, A Historical Account of the Life and Accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln of Which Every Word is True I Swear

A rambling blues ballad by Dr. Lindyke? Yes, please! I think this is my favorite Dr. Lindyke song of all time. I love what Dave and Denise did with the vocal performance. The lyric is funny and a little dark, and can be taken as a serious comment on the tendency towards historical revisionism about the Civil War, with some great near-rhymes and striking turns of phrase. I wish I had been able to try recording a guitar track or two for this song! The main rhythm guitar part is a little repetitive and doesn't _quite_ have a convincing blues guitar tone. The mix feels just a bit rough, and it's just a touch long. Maybe taking out the "tar baby" lines and condensing the last three long verses into two might help.

3. Felix Frost, Cloudy

This is my favorite F. F. song to date. The band-in-a-box accompaniment sound goes really well with a more upbeat and bouncy vocal performance here, and the lyric is head-scratching and funny.

4. Edric Haleen, A Brave New World

Edric's piano-playing and singing really come together nicely on this one, and it's clearly a subject he's pretty impassioned about.

5. Jenny Katz, Liars Cheats and Weasels

This is really nicely done, and funny -- Jenny is being an equal-opportunity misinformer here, and the lyric brought a big smile to my face. I think there is a bit of a problem with a song like this that has such a _specific_ context: while it has hilarious relevance this week in this context, it's not actually going to be very meaningful to anyone after the fact. So I find myself dithering a little bit on whether I think it is really a good song because of that. But I'm reminded by what Peter Schickele says: if it sounds good, it is good.

6. Jailhouse Payback, Maritime Archaeology

The music is quite well-done, a gruesome story that sounds like it could have come out of a William Hope Hodsgon short story from a century ago. But the lyric never seems to really pop, with some weak rhymes and odd word choices, and it feels like the happy music isn't quite in alignment with the story.

7. Jutze, Banjo (Rejected Wikipedia Edit)

This track also brought a big smile to my face. I may have LOL'ed. I really appreciate the way that Jutze changes things up -- just last round, he had a death-metal growl on top of crunching electric guitars. The silly music actually gets really pretty in the last bit when he is singing over it. But overall the song just doesn't have much meat to it, so the replay value is a little thin.

8. Zoe Gray, The Truth About Homeschooling

I wish I had been homeschooled! Fortunately my kids are, at least partly. This is funny and mostly terrific. There are some lines that don't really jump, and the piano part is a bit rough here and there, and just doesn't feel like it has enough variation to it.

9. Governing Dynamics, Because

It sounds like a certain Travis has been watching the History Channel. This song is a little frustrating because the music is really nicely put-together, with quite a complex mix with a lot of stuff in it, but it seems to suffer a bit from an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink effect, and doesn't seem to really come together for me this round.

10. Adam Sakellarides, Why the Sky is Blue

Good things about this song: I like the fast guitar rhythm part and the percussion; I like the blend of backing vocals. It's funny. But Adam's voice is a little pitchy and the song as a whole doesn't seem to land on a good hook.

11. Ross Durand, How to Write a Hit Song

I love hearing Ross rap. This is quite funny and very misinformative. His specimen chord progression and melody is definitely a counterexample of some sort. A bold effort but musically, the whole thing just doesn't work that well for me, and I can't really just take the whole thing ironically and still enjoy it that much. I can't believe I'm ranking Ross so low. Sorry, Ross.


Trader Jack, Free Your (M. A. C. D.)

This is definitely a piece of misinformation! I found it quite hilarious. The music and mix is a little rough, but the idea really has potential... or something...

Menage a Tune, A Simple Set of Rules

This is a "filk" song, something that would be sung at a con. I like the concept of writing a song based on a very funny scene in an old Star Trek episode. This needs some real editing to make it flow better, with more clearly delineated verses and choruses.

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