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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MiLo's SongFu 6 Round 2 Review

Great title, right?

Mike Lombardo - "I Found You"

I guess I have to start with myself because I'm working down the page. This is one of the few situations where I really wish I hadn't promised myself not to use pitch correction because I think this demo would have really benefitted. I learned pretty early on that when you are dealing with four or five vocal tracks and no instruments, being even a few cents off in pitch spoils the harmony. i think the song itself came out pretty decently though, and I'm pleased with it. I was going to do another 4 bars on the bridge but went with the cough instead. Maybe I should add them back in.

Edric Haleen - "This Song Doesn't Rhyme"

Edric knowingly raises a few points about the minutia of the challenge with this song. He elected to go for no perfect rhymes, and instead build his lyrics with a combination of family rhymes and near-rhymes. (There is a difference: one term has a hyphen and the other doesn't.) While some raised objections, it was also pointed out that in Edric's signature genre, Musical Theatre, these types of rhymes are not generally considered rhymes. This just boils down to being familiar with a specific genre of music. I think it was a well-executed, funny, clever song. He recorded it live (not multi-tracked) which allows for a greater flexibility with tempo and expression when you don't use a click. As always, a stunningly solid vocal performance, lyrical interpretation, and piano playing from our favorite math teacher.

Gods Poodlz - "Blue Sky Thinking"

The phrasing of the chorus of this Poodlz chorus brings to mind the songwriting style of Carly Simon for me. The Poodlz also seem to have taken a page from the Paul And Storm songwriting technique book - accomplishing humor by establishing a vocal rhythm then cramming in extremely long and technical-sounding phrases. Listen in to the second verse. Being familiar with Russ' solo work, it is interesting to hear Rhod's influence and the decidedly more electronic, synth-based sound the duo has been producing. Something about the mix is a little too "in-your-face" for this genre - either the drums are a little too harshly mixed, or the mix on a whole is too heavily compressed for my taste. However, this minor gripe does little to detract fro this solid tune. It's pleasant, dense, and doesn't overstay its welcome.

Spencer Sokol - "Minus"

Some very interesting gutiar work from young Mr. Sokol here. I really like the relatively lo-fi guitar tone here. A little Paul Simon flavor on the acoustic riffs. I would have liked to have seen this track done with a click to really help the guitar lines lock in with each other. However, overall the track has no major time issues. One of the problems with only having a week to produce music is that sometimes things haven't 'settled' into their polished states yet. (Listen to the original phrasing of Rock Song compared to how we do it now, for example.) Things really evolve after being performed a few dozen (or hundred) times. There are one or two melody motifs here that aren't quite sitting where they need to be, which leads me to say that I look forward to hearing this tune performed again by Spencer after he's been playing it for a few months. Notheless, this is a charming tune which I find bittersweet in lyrical content but satisfying and pleasing to the listener.

Kylie Petto - "All These Knives"

Some good prosody here between the title and the (hopefully) intentionally eerie and abrasive opening segment. The tone of sound-replaced drums and the overdriven vocal line remind me of early Evanescence, as does the first line's striking lyrical and melodic similarity to that same group's hit single "Bring Me To Life." The creepy laughter reminds me of this computer game I used to play called "Condemned" which used to scare the pants off of me, so maybe this song is more unsettling for me than most people because of that. But I challenge you to listen to the creepy synth/ chimes work under the laughing and not feel a little on edge. It reminds me of the opening music for the Stephen King miniseries "Rose Red" composed by Gary Chang. There are a few artists in particular in this competition where we've seen tremendous growth in songwriting ability, and Kylie is one of them. Great work, Ms Petto.

Caleb Hines - "Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliaphobia"

Another huge improvement here from Caleb. This song was very funny and clever. It was recorded well and is fun to listen to. The chorus that comes in a beat early at the end has a mocking element to it - because we're scared of long words, remember? He was also one of a large amount of contestants this round that used the 'bait-and-switch' rhyme fakeout technique to the effect of humor. If I were revealing who I voted for this round, I would tell you that I voted for Caleb, but I am not.

Boffo Yux Dudes - "Al's Blues"

One of the concepts I was brainstorming about before writing my song was a way to use the non-rhyming as a function of story telling in the song's narrative. It seems the Dudes have successfully accomplished this with a blues that immediately creates images of an old, haggard blues cat whose memory is failing but he keeps at it anyway. (The kind of people you seen in nursing homes and think they're really badass.) This blues starts off hulking and lurching, and there's a slight 'broken' tonality to the entire performance, making it sound slightly off kilter, but still oddly listenable. More fakeout rhymes here. I would have loved to hear our narrator fall asleep or something at the end of this one. Another solid entry.

Denise Hudson - "Something Very Horrible (Bluebeard's Lament)"

This song starts off with a Chopin/Debussy-tainted piano riff, which maybe should have been rolled back a little volume-wise as it can tend to crowd the vocals a bit. Guest vocalist Joe Covenant Lamb's vocal lines intertwine and weave with Hudson's, rolling over the top of tortured cello lines and some 'out' harmonies, creating a very Phantom Of The Opera-like mood. I found myself enjoying the overal sonic texture so much that I had to consciously force myself to pay attention to the lyrics. This track is a huge step up for Denise, both writing-wise and in production value. This is a very unique and artful entry and I look forward to hearing more from Denise in this style.

"Buckethat" Bobby Matheson - "I'm Fine (Could Be Worse)"

Another great entry using the fake-out rhyme. I thought it was that Proclaimers song for just a second at the start of this one. Instead, a jaunty little blue number. Another appropriate title would have been "The Lament of A College Graduate." Being familiar with Bobby's writing style, I kept waiting for the comedic 'payoff' at the end of this one, but it never came. I would love to hear the third verse replaced with one that either forwards the narritive (right now, the first verse basically tells you all you need to know and the second and third don't bring much additional narrative to the table) or one that is really funny (my house burned down and my car is on fire, but I'm fine, etc). At any rate this is a solid musical performance from Bobby. It is by no means a poor entry, and I enjoyed listening to it.

Ian "2 Shades" Johnson - "Two Words"

When this track came up on the listening party playlist, I received a private message from Jeff MacDougall saying "Is it just me or has Ian really improved?". Ian has consistently brought a higher level of songwriting to the table with each of his entries. I really like the reflective acoustic guitar solo in the middle part of this song. I think a really funny animated music video could be made with this song. As soon as our narrator reveals his name is "Purple" I knew exactly where Ian was going with this song, and I was right. I'm really glad Orange is a 'male' character (as our narrator also seems to be) because it makes the relationship in the song much more special to me. I think a boy-girl relationship would have made it feel a little cheesy and tired. Also notable: Purple and orange are 'complimentary colors' on the color wheel. I would have really loved some Beatles-style harmonies on the chorus here - listen to "Your Love Is" by Paul and Storm for an idea of what I mean.

Gorbzilla - "A Song About This Song"

I really liked this one. The first line is honest and funny, and it's brought back to mind with the last line of the chorus, which is clever, simple, and catchy. I had a teacher who said the test of a a great pop song is if, after listening to it once, you can sing the chorus back, and I could definitely do that with this song. Also the entire second verse is all about poop.

Governing Dynamics - "Restrictions"

I missed this one at the listening party due to my wireless router taking a dump (see above). It's very spaced-out vocally, and I like the non-dominating drum tones. It's very ambient in the Radiohead/Incubus way and it had a very neat prechorus. This song has the potential to be a hit were it being played in a bar-type environment. It made me feel the same way I do after a late-night gig - tired but satisfied. While it goes on longer than it needs to to get its point across, it's an easy listen with some very solid guitar playing.

Zer0guy - "Guitar Tonite"

I really enjoyed this entry. It has a nice pacing to it, solid playing, and the background harmony really adds a lot of fullness to the melody. The "Let's Go, power chords!" section made me laugh. If my high school punk band had played this song, we would have been way more popular than we were.

Jutze Schult - "Communication Removal"

Nice driving rock tune here. Some solid guitar tracks, in tune and in time. Had trouble making out some of the lyrics. But apparently I'm a fan of Nickelback? Another creepy prosodic outro that scares me. I'm not sure I 'get' what Jutze is going for but there's some interesting imagery here. It reminds me both sonically and content-wise of the type of underground metal that was big in Germany in the 90's. So I guess that makes sense. This song doesn't really develop as I'd like it to. Every time it ends, I'm like, oh it's over? Nonetheless I think it's a cool idea and has a nice driving groove to it.

Leigh And Hoover - "We Do What We Do"

This is another one that I only caught portions of the the first time around due to internet issues...Not sure if it's intentional but Leigh brings in some strong shades of Elton John in his vocals here. The percussion for this song is stuck somewhere in between 80's power ballad and tango. It seems like a tango is what was desired, especially with the organ solo being as it is. I would have loved to hear some more authentic latin rhythms and instrumentation to really drive that groove home. It is a solidly structured tune, however, and the background vocals put a nice finished touch on it.

Common Lisp - "War Criminal"

If you haven't listened to this song, go do so. This one slides in with the underground punk mentality that the POINT and subject matter (usually sociopolitical) of the song preclude any musical stylings. There is nothing I can say about the musical analysis of this song that will do justice to the song's very very clear message. If I made one musical comment it would be that sometimes the 'rest of the track' slides around a little bit on top of the drum loop. Not a lot, but enough to be distracting to me. The guitar tones are very authentically punk, as well. This song is a world of difference from his round 1 entry, which was also very enjoyable.

Glen Raphael - "Song That Doesn't Rhyme"

Another faux-rhyme song. The mouth-trombones are very funny and made me laugh. Repeatedly. I'm not sure I could sing this one back to you after I heard it once but it's fun. I would have loved to hear one more harmony part but so much mouth percussion made up for it so I didn't miss it too much.

Inverse T Clown - "An Angry Rant"

ITC is back. In a piece that appears to be very tightly based on the Shatner/Rollins rant produced by Ben Folds, ITC hits on a few of my personal pet peeves, so maybe this song has endeared itself to me even more because of that. The background music sounds like something from a Wii game and that makes it much funnier for some reason. I liked the inside Family Guy references. It's hard-hitting, funny, and- oh wait, what was that? I think I was just insulted. Oh. This song sucks.

Jeff MacDougall - "Ken Plume Is To Blame"

This entry, I think, is the mother of all the faux-rhyme entries. I was wondering what Jeff was going to come up for this round, now that his writing process is hidden behind a shroud of secrecy and deception. Although it's sonically typical MacDougall, it's a little more straightfoward comedy approach than most of his previous work, and it was funny and worked well.

So there you have it. Now I'm tired. Agree with me, or not. I mean, it's all very much just my opinion. You know what they say. Even clocks are wrong twice a day, no wait, that's not right...

-ML

Editor's Note:
This review doesn't reflect my opinions, but I'm thankful to have this guest review from Mike. Hopefully we'll also get a round 2 review from Travis Norris as well. If anyone else wants to write a guest review for Song Fu or Song Fight all they have to do is let me know. I don't want to post one every single day, but having a guest reviewer each round would be great.

If you enjoyed this review or found it helpful let Mike know by commenting below, contacting him on Twitter (@mikelombardo).

3 comments:

  1. As I said to Travis Norris yesterday -- thanks for taking the time to give comments and feedback to all the songwriters in Round 2. That takes a lot of time and attention -- I appreciate it!


    :-)

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  2. Why does no-one review the shadow songs??
    {pout}

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  3. Mike, thanks for your comments. You're very right about my drums. I knew that some of my parts were not quite aligned, but it's one of the things that I just had to grit my teeth and accept as the deadline rapidly approached. If I can, I will do what I did with the round 1 song, which is to make some slight cleanups for the "album" version on Bandcamp.

    I'm looking forward to doing something equally unexpected for round 3!

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