Archive for October, 2010

Chartbreaker 10-26-10

Posted in Chartbreaker, Music with tags , , on October 27, 2010 by Niveous

I took a week off from the Chartbreaker last week as things were a little slow on the Billboard Charts and I was swamped with moving preparations. This week, the charts are full of all sorts of oddities, wild returns and a #1 song that has made me very happy. Let’s take a look at the chart:

95. “Angel” by Akon

Akon returns to the chart this week with the song “Angel” (after a one week drop off. Last week was wacky). The funny thing for me is I didn’t think I was going to hear anything from Akon again for a long time. No, it has nothing to do with his grinding on a teen onstage controversy or his tossing someone Naruki Doi style off the stage controversy. Akon has stated quite clearly that he’s making money hand over fist right now and doesn’t have to perform. Where’s all the money coming from? Lady Gaga. He’s been a part of that hit machine since day one. First words that most of us ever heard from a Gaga song were “Red One. Konvict. Gaga” (the first line of “Just Dance”). Red One is the producer. Konvict refers to her label, owned by Akon. So now, making
hits is like a hobby for Akon. That’s mindblowing to me.

84. “Loca” by Shakira f/ El Cata or Dizzie Rascal

There’s a question one needs to raise here. The song “Loca” has two versions, one in English which features Dizzie Rascal and one in Spanish featuring El Cata. Billboard lumps them both together here as one song but are they really? There is a big difference between the collaborations of El Cata. El Cata’s song is the basis for “Loca” and he contributes to the song like it’s a duet (but allows Shakira to shine). Dizzee Rascal does only a little of the back and forth. In fact, he has a whole verse to himself. Should both songs be allowed to chart the same? It’s the same base but there are two very distinct differences between the two.

74. “Stereo Love” by Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina

I’ve seen this long linger around the UK charts for quite some time now, where it made it all the way to #4, and honestly I didn’t see this song hitting the US charts. I figured it was like the Li’l Wayne/ Tinie Tempah dynamic. The US charts are full of Li’l Wayne, the UK charts- not so much. The UK Charts are full of Tinie Tempah. The US has no clue who he is. I figured this Edward Maya song was going to be a part of that strange dynamic. But it hit here in the states. Maybe there’s some hope for Eliza Doolittle, Katy B and Swedish House Mafia. (???)

64. “Black & Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa

Are you ready for some football? Wiz Khalifa is back on the charts with his song featuring the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers, though the song has nothing to do with the team. In fact, it’s a pretty generic rap song (look at my car, my jewelry, the women, etc.). But it’s got two things going for it. One, the chorus is catchy and the other is that Wiz Khalifa got a lot of buzz from being listed in XXL’s Freshmen class of 2009 (which included B.o.B. & Wale). Sure, he was just an honorable mention but so was Drake.

59. “No Love” by Eminem & Li’l Wayne

Inspiration comes from interesting places. For instance, I wonder how Kanye West got the idea to rap over King Crimson on the song “Power”. Then there’s this song. Of all songs to use for a sample, what inspired Eminem & producer Just Blaze to choose “What is Love?” by Haddaway? Was someone watching “A Night At The Roxbury” and got that headbob going and thought, here’s the beat I need. It sure is an interesting choice and it works but where did that inspiration come from?

50. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Glee Cast

The Glee Cast’s spree of “chart once and dispose of” hits continues with an odd set of songs. I watched a couple of episodes last season but I haven’t touched this season, so I have no clue where this came from but it was a set of odd duets. The oddest for me was seeing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” back on the charts. But enough about that, let’s fast forward to tomorrow. Tomorrow is new chart day and it’ll be the first chart since Newscorp started its row with
Cablevision. Basically Newscorp wants more money for Fox and pulled it from all Cablevision stations. While that’s not devastating, Cablevision is the 8th largest cable company in the US and services a large chunk of New York (as well as NJ, CT & PA). I wonder if sales will take a little dip due to Glee not getting shown in those areas. Probably not, it’s a juggernaut.

38. “Runaway” by Kanye West f/ Pusha-T

I’m a little surprised to see this song tumbling down the charts. This is easily the Kanye song I’ve enjoyed the most since “Champion”. Maybe people miss Kanye’s odd rap non-sequiturs when he needs to make a rhyme. I still wanna know why he would do anything for a blond dyke. I’m curious to see what happens next week for this song as it’ll be the chart after the release of Kanye’s mini movie music video. Will ballerinas, big explosions, giant Michael Jackson heads, red Klan hoods, a half naked Phoenix and other bits of Kanye’s dark twisted fantasy be enough to turn this song into a hit?

The Band Perry

Now in the top 20, the Band Perry. "If I Die Young" is at #19.

17. “Fuck You” by Cee-Lo Green

As much as I love the current #1 song, I wonder why this song isn’t #1. Then again, this is the US charts. This is a place where Usher doesn’t sing “Oh My God”, he sings “Oh My Gosh”. Our conservatism/ prudence is mighty strong. I should be glad that a song that tests that a little has even made it to the top 20. Thursday will be fun as it looks like the charts will have “Fuck You” and a song called “Porn Star Dancing” (The My Darkest Days song f/ Zakk Wylde) is at #101 currently. I bet a couple of people are going to be unhappy about that.

15. “Animal” by Neon Trees

This may be the Neon Trees’ 3rd consecutive week at #15 but I couldn’t be happier about its chart performance. I’ve been vocal in previous editions of Chartbreaker about the plight of rock Songs on the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, the current #1 Billboard Rock song (“Say You’ll Haunt Me” by Stone Sour) is nowhere to be found on the Hot 100. But this song is #2 on the rock charts and there it is at #15 on the Hot 100. Yes, the song has crossover pop appeal due to its sound which  harkens back to 80’s New Wave, but it’s clearly a rock song. Rock songs don’t often get  the notice they deserve because of how the system is skewed. It may be stuck at 15 but it’s a huge victory in my book.  

11. “Raise Your Glass” by P!nk

The woman with the exclamation point in the middle of her name is back. Hmm, there’s P!nk & there’s Ke$ha. Maybe I should change my stage name to Nive()us or N!ve()u$. Super bandwagon jump! 🙂 Speaking of superjumps, this song flew up the charts. Last week, it had a modest debut at #51. Now it’s at #11 which is a little bit of a surprise after how “Glitter in the Air” lingered so low on the charts and the fact that this is the classic new single to get you to buy the greatest hits album. But it’s a P!nk/ Max Martin/ Shellback collaboration, I should not have been that surprised. That’s a proven hitmaking trio.

1. “Like a G6” by Far East Movement f/ The Cataracts & Dev

There’s something about this song that I love. I can’t explain it. It’s a bit of an anomaly on my jukebox. Over the past year, songs like Skillet’s “Hero”, Flyleaf’s “Missing” and Them Crooked Vultures’ “New Fang” have dominated my listening. Somehow this song has found a place among them. The beat is simple but infectious. The energy of the song is tremendous. It’s a marvel of production and when I saw that it had reached #1, I was very pleased. In a year dominated by songs like “Tik Tok” (which I grew to tolerate) and “California Gurls” (which I still hate like it’s audiocancer), it’s nice to have a #1 that I like hearing. Congratulations Far East Movement, Cataracts & Dev. I salute you (with the okay hand sign thing).

C30 C60 C90 GO!

Posted in Gatecrasher on October 26, 2010 by Niveous

Today marks the end of Limewire. A court injunction has forced the company to cease operating its peer to peer downloading service. Is this a victory for the music industry. Yes, in a way. Limewire cost the industry millions if not billions. But does the loss of Limewire really matter. Growing up, I used to turn on my radio and if there was a song I liked, I hit the play/record and put it onto a cassette single. Friends gave each other mixtapes. Move forward a few years and it’s CDs. The fact is that there will always be those who buy music and those who take it. The loss of limewire will not send those people who illegally download over to iTunes. They’ll find new ways, learn new tricks & make new websites. I think the music industry needs to accept that fact and adopt new practices. The only way to win is not to try and cut down sites like limewire but to figure out a way to make the legal download the better option. How? I’m not sure. I’m not exactly the right guy to ask. I still own all my old cassettes.

New Content On The Way

Posted in Gatecrasher on October 25, 2010 by Niveous

Hey there Audioshards readers,

Thanks for checking out my blog. The last few days have been thin on new content. There’s a great reason for that. I’ve been deep in preparation for moving back to my beloved New York after 6 tough years in Jersey. But do not fear, there is new content on the way including a look at the Gift of Music, a new Chartbreaker including the happiest I’ve been about a #1 single in a long time, and a lot more. Plus, another round of Spintunes reviews. So keep an eye out.

In the meantime, it’s not too late to signup for the 2010/2011 Gift of Music. You can read more about it here on Audioshards or on the Songfight message boards.

~Niveous

She’s Only Seventeen

Posted in Music with tags on October 21, 2010 by Niveous

Today, I saw the new cover of Revolver Magazine. The cover model was Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless. Momsen is best known for being on Gossip Girl. Now I don’t watch Gossip Girl but I’m pretty sure the image she portrays in the show is probably quite different from her Pretty Reckless style. She’s highly sexualized in her purposefully trashy lingerie. Here’s the thing that raises red flags is that she’s barely 17. What is with rock and roll’s jailbait obsession?

In the 70’s, it was the Runaways. On one hand, the Runaways were attempting to take the power back by using sex as a weapon. But that doesn’t change the fact that there was a 16 year old Cherie Currie dressed in stockings, corsets and not much else. So the question has to be asked, was their feminism lost upon a large chunk of the audience who were just caught up in the shock of it all.

A decade later, there was Bow Wow Wow. The band started off as a way for infamous Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren to advertise a clothing line, but it became something more. Bow Wow Wow’s career was littered with controversy surrounding the sexualization of 14 year old lead singer Annabella Lwin including the band’s version of the Manet’s painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe with Lwin as the naked woman. Lwin’s mother was outraged at how her daughter was being portrayed. Still, McLaren swore he wasn’t pushing Lwin as a “sex kitten”. Take a look at the video for “I Want Candy” from a year later and it’s clear that he was still pushing her sexuality.

In the 90’s, there was Samantha Fox. She was appearing topless in UK newspapers at age 16. Fast forward two years, she’s got a singing career built around innuendo filled songs like “I Wanna Have Some Fun” and not so subtle songs like “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)”. Meanwhile, those underage pictures were shopped around as posters and other bits of memorabilia. I can remember seeing ads to buy them in the back of the heavy metal magazines I bought as a kid.

What is the obsession with half naked youths in rock music? And why is Momsen marching down that road? With the Runaways, there was Kim Fowley helping to craft that image; McLaren was the puppetmaster behind BowWowWow; and Samantha Fox’s parents helped mold their daughter into being a sex symbol. What (or who) is fueling the 17 year old Momsen to do music videos like the Pretty Reckless’ “Miss Nothing” where she writhed on a table dressed in barely anything before a group of male onlookers? Now, I know that it’s supposed to be some sort of art statement with the men representing the Last Supper and her as Mary Magdalene, and the moral is “I don’t need to be saved”. But when does acting like a stripper at a bachelor party cry out liberation?

And why does the music world promote it?

It’s time for the GoM!

Posted in Music, Songfight on October 20, 2010 by Niveous

This is the beginning of the holiday season for me. The season doesn’t start with Halloween or Thnaksgiving or even my birthday (which is coming very very soon). The holiday season starts when the GoM starts.

What is the GoM? The GoM is the Gift of Music. It’s a music challenge started 8 years ago on the forums of Songfight and run by myself & Eddiebangs.

Here’s the concept:
Anyone who wants to be a part of this cover challenge simply needs to post here, telling me that they’re in and listing 4 songs (links to the songs are appreciated). These 4 songs are 4 songs that you really like and would like to hear covered. Once the list of participants is compiled, the names will be tossed into a hat and paired off.

From there, each participant will get a private message telling them who they’ll be giving the gift of music to as well as the 4 songs that person chose. The participant picks 1 song from the 4 and covers the song. Then on the due date, we post the results and everybody wins.

The previous GoMs have been exceptional. Check them out on Eddiebangs’ website Soul Tree Records:

2003 http://www.songfight.org/giftofmusic.php?key=gom_one
2004 http://www.songfight.org/giftofmusic.php?key=gom_two
2005 http://www.songfight.org/giftofmusic.php?key=gom_three
2006 http://www.soultreerecords.com/GOM/2006.html
2007 http://www.soultreerecords.com/GOM/2007.html
2008 http://www.soultreerecords.com/GOM/2008.html
2009 http://www.soultreerecords.com/GOM/2009.html

SONGS ARE DUE 1/11/11.

Finished songs should be named in the same manner as songfight entries.

1st Place: $150.00 donation in artists name to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation & a GOM t-shirt & a Soul Tree Records Prize Pack
2nd Place: $100.00 donation in artists name to the JDRF & a GOM t-shirt & a Soul Tree Records Prize Pack
3rd Place: $50.00 donation in artists name to the JDRF & a GOM t-shirt & a Soul Tree Records Prize Pack

To submit your finished song, send it as an attachment in an email to:

GOM (at) SOULTREERECORDS.COM

ALSO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING INFO
(copy & paste, then add your answers please)

1. Original atrist:

2. Song Title:

3. Your Name/Group Name (as you want it displayed):

4. Link to your website(s):

5. Quote:

6. Requested by:

The deadline to be eligible for prizes is Jan 11, 2011
Late entries will be included in the GOM, but will be flagged as ineligible for prizes.

ALSO PLEASE NOTE:
The email address you use to send your submission will be used to verify your identity during prize voting. Please only use an email address you check/use regularly to facilitate prompt and accurate voting results. Your email address will not be sold or shared, and will be discarded by soultreerecords.com upon completion of voting.

Re: Covenant

Posted in SpinTunes on October 15, 2010 by Niveous

I don’t have a lot of time today but I figured I would take just a few minutes to address a comment made on Audioshards today. It was made by Joe “Covenant” Lamb, who is a part of the group Duality as well as a former SpinTunes judge like myself. He took some offense to my reviews yesterday and proceeded to skewer me for them. Sigh. So, is the life of the blogger. But since he took such offense that it warranted such a long reply, I figured it deserved a minute or two of my time to reply it. Let’s begin.

Here’s part 1 of Joe’s comment, which he basically titled “Here’s the problem…”

Tips for trying to *place* your song in an advantages place?
Pointless;
1-because you have NO idea how many songs will be sent in.
2-there is an album with all the songs on it anyway.
3-ANY judge worth his place AS a judge will not have placement as a concern. I doubt *very* much that the judges judge after one listen and all in one sitting and without knowing that extended listening sessions mean fatigue is likely to set in.
4-It’s a song contest. The best *song* should win. Concentrate on writing the best song you can, not worry about when you’re sending it in. (Rushing to be first)

Let’s look at the big #4 first. It’s a song contest, granted. But it’s a game as well. I don’t understand why people don’t see that part of it as well. The best song should win but what’s wrong with looking at the situation from different angles. There is a game to be played here and it doesn’t hurt to use a little strategy.

Then there’s #1, you don’t know how many songs are going to be in. True. So you enter early, hoping to be in the beginning of the pack or enter your song at the deadline to be at the end of the pack. All I did was comment about how memory works. We remember beginnings and endings better than middles unless they stand out.

#2. There’s an album. Yes. It’s on Bandcamp. Bandcamp to the best of my knowledge doesn’t shuffle. Spintown puts the songs on the album in the order in which they are received. And we are back to the memory thing.

Then there’s #3. The any judge worth their salt comment. I’m gonna give Joe a little leeway because he’s a little pissed at me because I gave a negative review to a song of his that he considers one of his best, a belief I think he needs to reassess. Back to the comment, repeated listenings will make middle songs stand out more. But it doesn’t change how memory works. Those first and last songs will always stick more because of premier and regency effects. That’s science.

Back to Joe:

Ultimately, all these things ever show is how different any two people’s opinions are – so placement does not matter a jot. I’d like to think the judges are above such things to allow placement to affect their standings.
We ALL march to different beats…
As an example, some of the reviews above I totally agree with.
Some have left me scratching my head in confusion wondering if we’re listening to the same song.
But also I wonder about consistency in these things.
As an example… lets use MY song cos it wont offend anyone ….

It doesn’t have a chorus? And that is used as a *negative*comment?
Why?
I use the phrase “the end of the world” three times.
Edric uses the phrase “In Lansing Michigan” three times is it a chorus?
I don’t think so, but there is no negativity put to that… Inconsistent.

Now here’s some interesting stuff. First up, he hopes that judges are above letting placement factor in. My comments were about memory which is something beyond their control. I play you 10 songs. You’ll be more likely to remember songs 1 and 10. Simple as that. Not your fault, it’s just how it works. If a great songs stands out in the middle of the pack, it’ll be remembered to. But 1 and 10 get the memory regardless.

Okay now let’s talk about the Duality tune and the Edric tune. Both songs don’t have a chorus but why didn’t I say anything to Edric about his lack. I’m not saying every song needs a chorus. Some songs do. I think the Duality song did and Edric’s didn’t. The Duality song is a very slow song and comes off feeling longer than it is. It’s a very dense song with long sustains. It becomes very sleepy. A chorus could hook a listener here. Edric’s song was short and full of energy and lyrics that stood out. He didn’t need a chorus. Duality did. It’s not inconsistency in review, it’s just two different songs warranting two different things.

Moving to my favorite part of Joe’s comment.

But it is also suggested that neither Den nor I don’t KNOW that a chorus can be a hook?
Trust me, the writers of Tom Furby, Ghoul Tide, Doing what makes you feel happy, Invisible girl, Why? and Stranded (Even “Just cant find a virgin” in this SAME round) are WELL aware of the hookiness of choruses… But some songs don’t need one.
We weren’t writing a catchy pop song. We were writing a love song.
It didn’t have a chorus cos it didn’t need one.
Some people may get that, some people may not.
But *I* feel the criteria for a song contest is… Is the song *good*.
Not does it tick boxes.
And *I* think it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever written.
But, yes, I’m glad to say those who have listened to it tend to agree.

Holy cow. Part of this is all a misunderstanding. I didn’t mean to imply that Joe or Den couldn’t write a hook or understood them. Wait, did I? Let’s review:

My big question is why make this song without a chorus? Don’t be afraid of the chorus, it’s what hooks us to songs.

Nope. I didn’t imply that. But the web is weird and without vocal inflection, things can be misconstrued. So I’ll apologize if that was taken the wrong way. But I’m not gonna walk away without taking a look at the rest of Joe’s statement there. First up, he listed a bunch of his & Den’s songs to prove that he knows all about the hook. Wow. Really? Gotta tell you that came off as a delusion of grandeur of epic proportions. But he was upset at me clearly, so I’m going to laugh at “list of  musical conquests” and continue.

Then he says we were writing a love song not a pop song, so he didn’t need a chorus. There are a ton of love songs with choruses. And those choruses will stick in your head, more than the Duality song. You know “Hello” by Lionel Richie? “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx? I picked those two songs at random. If you know them, then just reading the titles probably brought the songs back to you. It’s easier to do that because they have choruses. I don’t need to explain that, you understand them. “End of the World” doesn’t stand out. Nice tune, but it’s forgettable. That’s why I made the need for a chorus remark.

Lastly, he said this is the most beautiful song that he’s ever written and those who heard it agree. I heard it and I’ve heard a bunch of your other songs and I don’t agree. You’ve done better. But hey what do I know…

…Last comment of his:

And that’s why I revert back to what I said during MY time as a judge for ST…
MY advice?
FORGET what anyone else thinks.
Write the best song YOU can.
Because you will NEVER please everyone. (Never)

He’s right. You can’t please everyone. But forget what anyone else thinks? No way. Some people give advice and that helps. Just be smart about the advice you take.

As the Spin Tunes #5

Posted in SpinTunes on October 14, 2010 by Niveous

SpinTunes 2 is underway and  the first round’s challenge was to write a song about your hometown. But the thing is there is always more to the challenges than just what meets the eye. Writing a song about your hometown, that’s not hard, and when it comes to judging it- it’s not like the judges are going to be doing wikipedia research on your hometown. You can say “I’m from Talladega where Jack Dempsey once fought a wolf in a wrestling match, 2 out of 3 falls” and they’ll probably let it slide without checking the validity. Writing a song about your hometown is the easy part.

The real challenge lies in the fact that it’s round #1 and there are 28 songs in the round. That’s alot of music to deal with. 31 songs if you include the shadows. You have to find a way to stand out from the crowd if you want to win the round. But even worse is that with 8 eliminations in the round, mediocrity may not land you in the middle in the pack, it may earn you your walking papers. This is not just a music competition, it’s a game too and I wonder if the bands are thinking strategy.

For instance, what about serial position effect- you remember things better based on their position on a list. SpinTunes posts all their songs in order of when SpinTown receives them. Serial position effect says things at the beginning of a list are remembered because the short term memory isn’t crowded (Primary Effect). So, if you get your songs in first, they are bound to stand out more than a later song simply because of that fact. I can see that to be true here. I can easily hum Ben Walker’s “Oxford” right now but I can’t for the life of me recall Charlie Wolf’s “I Love LA” or Swatshots’ “Level”.

The same goes for the last items on a list  (Regency effect). The funny thing is that with SpinTunes, the last spots always go to the shadows. They end up the last songs you hear and they can stand out the most. In this round, that was true for me. Hearing via Satellite’s “From Here” at the end really blew away a lot of the songs that were in the actual competition. It was able to standout alot and stays fresh in my memory. Shadow songs get that extra bit of notice. But if you have a great song at the end of the list and the shadows are strong too, regency effect says that you’ll all stand out together. Steve Durand decided to do something different and did a Hawaiian flavored song and it stands out in my memory. I actually had to think a little hard about which songs were before him in the list, despite their being some standouts like Zarni de Wet & Gweebol.

Okay, so part of the challenge is figuring out where your song will end up on the album. Now another aspect is getting your song to stand out from the crowd. How do you get your song to be remembered in a pack of 31 songs? Well, one thing you can do is look at the field and do something different. That’s the Von Restorff Effect, the isolation effect. If you stick out like a sore thumb, you get noticed. So, the field is full of a bunch of piano players and acoustic guitarists. While I’m not the biggest fan of Common Lisp’s “Leaving Ann Arbor”, it stands out because of its angry spoken word bit. Edric Haleen gets the isolation effect aspect of the game. He could’ve done a piano tune and landed in the middle of a pack of other piano based tunes. He went for Barbershop and stands out easily from the crowd.

So who won this round in my opinion? Here’s a brief rundown on the songs in this round, from worst song to the best (including the shadows)

While standing out is a big positive in my book, you have to make a really good song. Inverse T. Clown stood out for sure but I couldn’t stand his song. I like the idea of writing a fake history of Salem but the music was cheesy and the vocals were bland. It just wasn’t fun to listen to at all.

What happened to Charlie McCarron‘s vocals this round? Last SpinTunes he didn’t sound like this. He sounds almost muppet-esque and that’s awfully jarring.  And what’s with the little pips of a recorder or something?

The song had to be about the hometown but David Ritter wrote a song that told a story and then there’s a verse that says- it happened here. This song is about the office dynamics and the town is just the setting, not the subject.

Why is Swatshots‘ “Level” low? When I’ve got my earbud headphones on, I’m able to listen. Put this on with speakers and I am grabbing for the volume. Way too low. I dig the attempts at something a little goth or darkwave but it’s got weak vocals and I can’t really rate the music because the mix is poor.

Two a capella songs in one round is quite a shocker. Jo Ann Abbott wrote a good set of lyrics and handled the vocals well but this needed something more to get to the next level. The song begins to wear thin by the end without something else to change the dynamics.

Dead center of the list and a g^2 (that’s guy & guitar) tunes without anything to make it standout leaves “I Love L.A.” by Charlie Wolff way down in the pack. Plus, it was so very short that it left me with nothing to hook to. Very forgettable.

When I heard this song come on, I said to my girlfriend, “Emperor Gum is either going to hit or miss by a longshot”.  After listening to it, I had to take back that statement. He didn’t do either. It’s just mediocre, neither hate nor praise worthy.

Ominous Ride‘s “San Francisco” suffered much the same fate as Charlie Wolff’s song. It sat in the middle of the pack and didn’t do much to stand out. It’s got these heavily effected guitars and double tracked vocals but it still didn’t do much to differentiate itself from the pack.

I kinda like Russ Rogers‘ vocal stylings but it’s a boring song. Sure, it’s got a chorus and the chorus could maybe catch but there needs to be something a little dynamic to the song. It just putters along.

It was an interesting bit of strategy by Duality. They’ve got Covenant & Den. They opt to use Covenant’s vocals and Den’s piano work on “To The End of the World”. I’m not sure if it was a play to their strengths or not. My big question is why make this song without a chorus? Don’t be afraid of the chorus, it’s what hooks us to songs.

 Danny Blackwell started off the round with a very lumbering ballad about Woodsetts. Lyrically it’s a fine tune but it’s lacking in dynamics. It ends up very very sleepy.

One of two songs about Fairfield. Heather Miller‘s is the lesser of the two. Vocals are a little lazy, especially when the chorus is “It’s Fairfield all the way”. The chorus screams out cheerleader spirit. Instead of adding that pep, she chose to sing higher. The song needs to be full of energy and punch. It’s crying out for it! 

The unofficial home of this round

Familiarity breeds contempt. That’s what happens here with me and Ross Durand‘s song. I have heard over a hundred of his songs and I feel like I’ve heard this before. In fact, the beginning of this sounds a lot like a song we did together called “Near Death Experience”. But if I get past my own personal biases, it doesn’t stand out. It’s another guy and his guitar in a round full of them. The chorus isn’t very catchy and it’s just very middle of the road. I like the harmonica tough though.

Austin Criswell‘s song about Mount Holly got lost in the pack of middle of the road guitar tunes. The chorus was strong and well played but after 31 songs including a few other guitar tunes like this, it got lost in the pack.

Belgian waffle fight is a wonderful visual but it’s not enough to make the Boffo Yux Dudes song stand out. It suffers from a lot of things: placement in the pack, the existence of “LBC”, and it never really gets out of cruise control. It’s an okay song, nothing great.

“Leaving Ann Arbor” by Common Lisp almost got lost in the sea of guys playing the acoustic guitar but it turns into any angry rant and saves itself from becoming lost in the shuffle. It didn’t make the song great but at least it made it rememberable.

“Stars Over Avalon” by Governing Dynamics was the rock power ballad of the round, but it needed a real punchy chorus. Instead it just droned on and even when it picked up at the end, it failed to make much of an impact, except with a nice little guitar solo.

Duality‘s shadow song is kind of about Dundee. Sure, it’s a devil hunting down a virgin in the town but is it really about the town. I guess. It’s kind of just the setting but it’s integral to the story so I’ll give it a pass. The fake accents are weak as baby punches. It’s a cute tune especially with the kazoo but it’s a joke that wears thin.

Chris Cogott  brings the rock but it doesn’t catch fire. I’m very split on this song.  It’s got an okay chorus  which has some spunk and energy but doesn’t exactly catch. The lyrics tell stories but at times, it gets a little like a bad travelogue. I’m 50/50 on this one. Musicianship on the song is very strong though.

Steve Durand usually brings the horns but decided to go Hawaiian and created the perfect musical atmosphere for it. There’s no mistaking that this song is about the islands. The mix could use a little work though and maybe some background vocals that aren’t just a double track. This is a fine tune that could use a little fine tuning.

Brian Gray tried to make a “Voices That Care” / “We are the World” type tune but he really needed more voices to get that idea across. More tracks and a choral effect would’ve put this over the top. The sound of little kid voices singing “At least we’re not St. Louis” would’ve put this song into the stratosphere. There’s potential. It almost got there at the end.

Rebecca Brickley continues her mission to steal the soul of Sara Bareilles. Her performance is top notch. She’s got a great sustain on her vocals and plays the piano very well. It’s all put together very well but in the end, it left me feeling kind of empty. Lyrically “Here” was just there. The way Beka sang and played far outshined her songwriting.

Last SpinTunes I hated Bram Tant‘s song like it was made out of cancer and someone told me (I think it was Sammy Kablam) that it was the kind of song you expect from Bram. Now this song comes and he produces a nice little tune here (with some sharp commentary hidden under the charm). Stay like this, Bram. Don’t look back.

If  I take the Beka review and place it here,  it would almost suit Zarni de Wet‘s song as well. Her performance was very strong and her piano playing was tremendous. Lyrically, the song is weak. But the big difference is the catchiness of Zarni’s song. Don’t underestimate the power of a good Oh-whoah. 

The surprise of the round for me was Gweebol. I didn’t know what to expect and got a good singer, some nice piano work and a song about Princeton which I live/used to live a few train stops from. It’s a charming little song- well put together and doesn’t drag. Not a lot of cons, which is a little odd from me (I can be a wee bit negative). 

“Oxford” from Ben Walker used strong production, quirky lyrics, a catchy chorus and a dash of familiarity to make one of the best songs of the round.

Damn you via Sattelite, you had to miss the deadline. I enjoy this song. It’s got these subtle speed ups and slow downs throughout that are definitely purposeful and are unlike anything I’ve heard recently. At the same time, it’s got this darkwave vibe in the music underneath great female vocals. A well done tune and it’s a shame it’s only a shadow.

Edric Haleen had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek in his barbershop tune and scored big by bringing the humor while doing a great job with the a capella.

wait What?‘s song stood out by having a catchy chorus, a bit of a different style, some funny lyrics that made me laugh and it’s got something a lot of the other songs lack which is replay value. I can see myself listening to this after the round is over. Haleen’s song is a joke that’s going to die down. Now, some of wait What? jokes are crude but overall, it’s got charm. Plus, the “it’s hard being wait  W-H-A-T? wait What” line is already stuck in my head.

I am stunned by the vocals coming out of someone named Ruff. Ryan Smith brought some slick jazziness to his song. This is all so smooth and relaxing, it creates a lot of atmosphere. The we-ooh-we-ooh is a nice touch. This is quite the love letter to a hometown.

I found myself saying “He got a ringer!” when I heard Mitchell Adam Johnson‘s “London”. The vocals are incredibly strong and the production is very well done. It’s not an overly complex tune. It’s a straightforward ditty with just some accents to punch it up into a Ronson-like production. It’s well done and a winner in my book.

So, MAJ takes the win in my book but there are so many factors to judging such as all the stuff I talked about in the beginning that it’s still a wide open race. And for those wondering whatever happened to me doing a shadow song. I find myself a little busy these days as I’m about to change hometowns and returning to my beloved New York.