Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy Birthday, Denise.

A lot of birthday songs are designed to be sung to anybody. This one's not.


You've made another trip around the Sun
Though I've sometimes heard you quip
That it's not been the only one
And though that makes me wonder
How they celebrate on Xondor
On Earth we simply sing a happy song
(and eat cake. and maybe ice cream. or tacos)
(ice cream tacos!)

And while forty seems a long, long time to grow
Remember you've at least that far to go...

So Happy Birthday
You've made it another year
Happy Birthday!
Let's have a cup of cheer
And we'll make a joyous sound
'Cause you're great to have around!
Happy Birthday!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stayin' Alive (Bee Gees Cover)

OK, this sounded like a good idea at the time, and I think it turned out pretty well with just the acoustic guitar:


The idea here was to focus on the meaning of the lyrics (which are pretty dreary, and completely bulldozed by the disco arrangement of the original).

I have a bit of a different sound in mind for a full band... sort of "Tom Jones backed by Lynard Skynard". Don't laugh... it would be amazing.

Also... I have to credit Jonathan Coulton with the inspiration for covering a song and taking it as far from its roots as possible. His version of "Baby Got Back" is brilliant. I'll be doing re-interpretive covers.

Lyrical Notes:

I made a couple of changes, as usually happens in a live performance, when you're having to remember things on the spur of the moment. For instance I substituted the second pre-chorus for the first. Oops. But I also deliberately left out the first chorus, putting the verses back-to-back with only the pre-chorus between. It sounded better for the genre to me.

But I did also give some thought to removing gender-specificity here, as there are a couple of female performers I'd love to hear do this sort of arrangement.

"I'm a woman's man, no time to talk"
becomes 
"I'm a woman, man; no time to talk"

"Music loud and women warm"
becomes
"Music loud and lovin' warm"

"I'm a dancing man, I just can't lose"
becomes
"I'm a dancing fool, I just can't lose"


Unless, of course, you're a gal who likes her women warm.



Others

I did do some looking around to see if anyone else had genre-shifted this song. Not really... Ozzy Osbourne did a fairly straight (for him) rendition, and some other band did a half-hearted metal attempt that was still beat-for-beat with the original.

And then I found THIS. I like the way these folks think. We could party.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It Amazes Me

I pulled some lyrics out of the vault... and by vault, I mean crypt.

These were written sometime around 1982, to the best of my ability to guess. This isn't a deep well of philosophy... just a little number to honor the passing of the seasons, and how fleeting Life is.  


Here's a rough draft demo:



It Amazes Me
wmh

[verse]
It amazes me
How they have the time to bloom
But it puzzles me
Why the beauty fades so soon
On the mountains, in the valleys
The changes will abound
Where seasons end they all begin
And the world keeps spinning 'round
In all the things they do
It amazes me
That we live to see them through...

[chorus]
It keeps amazing me
How some sit and never know
It keeps amazing me
How some live and let them go
It just amazes me
How some notice only bad breaks
It just amazes me
How some notice only heartaches

[verse]
It amazes me
How they seem to slip us by
But it frightens me
Why we never wonder why
All too busy with our little lives
Another year has passed
Just watch the falling autumn leaves,
My friend, they never last
With all the things they do
It amazes me
That we live to see them through...

[instrumental break - trumpet]

[chorus]
It amazes me
How they have the time to bloom
It amazes me
Why the beauty fades so soon
It amazes me
How they seem to slip us by
It amazes me
Why we never wonder why

[chorus]
It keeps amazing me
How some sit and never know
It keeps amazing me
How some live and let them go
It just amazes me
How some notice only bad breaks
It just amazes me
How some notice only heartaches

[instrumental break - trumpet]



Musical Notes
It's a bit of a Latin rhythm

Sunday, August 18, 2013

HDR

This is a shadow for the 4th round of SpinTunes #7.  It was a “Photo Finish” prompt. Although this time the judges are allowed to shadow, up to now I didn’t feel comfortable doing that while I was ranking other people’s work. As that onus is removed from me this round, I feel comfortable about shadowing, and have done so. Sadly, I probably won’t have time to properly produce it.

My fellow judge Brian Gray made the thought-provoking implication that “inspired by” pretty much gives the contestant carte blanche to submit just about anything so long as it results from a train of thought originating with the image. 

So let's look at the image. You can click on it to get to the photographer's Flickr page and select other resolutions.


I took Brian’s comment as inspiration to write, not about the subject of the image, but about the image itself. This choice was informed by the recent tendencies of many of my friends to take up digital photography, and in particular, HDR (high dynamic range) photography. Now, when done properly, digital manipulation results in some really epic work. When done poorly, this can look like really, really bad plastic surgery on a formerly beautiful woman. Keep in mind that I’m not saying this was done poorly. After all, I'm one of the folks who selected this image! What I’m saying is that the presence of manipulation here got me thinking about a general tendency of beginners to over-manipulate. They’ll force too much contrast, super-saturate the colors, and over-compensate the exposure of the various parts of an HDR image so that it’s very obviously a photo-manipulation.

Lyrical and musical notes after the lyrics:


HDR

I've got a digital eye
I bought it from a guy
Selling excitement in a blue shirt at Best Buy

I'm gonna capture me
Bits of eternity
I'll freeze some life so I can have a life for all to see

The world is so drab and boring
Hey, but not for me,
'Cause I've got god-like powers,
A telephoto lens - a Photoshop license key

And I know how to HDR
Don't have to deal with things as they are
Supersaturated hues
I've got the bluest blues
In a sky that looks like the sea - yeah
It looks just like the sea - yeah

[instrumental bridge]

I'll make a day-glo sunburst morning
It's my ticket to a new world dawning
I'll recreate the world I see
Electronically, electronically, yeah!

And I know how to HDR
Don't have to deal with things as they are
Supersaturated hues
I've got the bluest blues
The bluest blues!
Yeah! 
The world is mine, I'll seize it!
You'll see it as I please it!
With every masterpiece
My Flickr fans will worship me.
Yeah!
The world is mine, I'll seize it!
You'll see it as I please it!
With every masterpiece
My fans will worship me!

Yeah...

They'll worship me!

Yeah...

I've got a digital eye
They’ll worship me!
I've got a digital eye
They’ll worship me!
I've got a digital eye
They’ll worship me!



LYRICAL NOTES:


I used the phrase “digital eye” because I wanted that organic connection. The photographer doesn’t think of the camera as equipment separate from himself. Rather, it’s an extension of himself.

Whenever I think of a salesman in song I always imagine Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Can I Put You On”. So I used "in a blue shirt" to identify my modern interchangeable Best Buy salesman in the same way that Taupin uses the Trilby hat to identify his peddler.

I didn't consciously think through the "selling excitement" line... I've just taken it for granted for many years that this is what salesmen do. My brother often says, "A man doesn't buy a drill because he wants a drill; he buys a drill because he wants a hole." In the same way, I say a person doesn't buy a camera because he just desires to possess a camera: A camera is a “time net”, and you use it to trap moments. He buys a camera so he can trap the really great ones. Without a camera you get to experience that moment once. With a camera you get to relive it over and over. I think that's what I was trying to say there. I know... it's a lot to try to fit into two words, and it goes by pretty quickly. It’s not the sort of thing you want someone to think about. Instead, you hope the audience gets it subconsciously.

I am having a fun little dig at the fictional photographer here...  he's so absorbed in his hobby that his life is reduced to those moments that he has captured.  Those images he takes are things that are happening to other people. But he captures them, and they're now his. Between the frames he has no life to speak of. This is pretty much to set up the concept that this guy lives inside his camera; that's his "real world", of which he is the master.


From this point on it’s a pretty mundane exercise of the metaphor I’ve chosen... that of a man who is dissatisfied with the world as it is and who wishes to create a “better” world to replace it in his memory. “Better” here is really subjective, and as the photographer in this story is an amateur enthusiast, it consists of gilding every lily he sees. All the clich├ęs... too much contrast, color saturation, and HDR, typified by an image that resembles any frame of the movie 300 and exemplified by that intricately detailed sky in the challenge prompt, reminding me of the sea.

As he gilds his lilies, our amateur photographer experiences the rush of power conferred upon him by his expensive equipment and Adobe Photoshop... and he also is confused as to which is the “real” world. An HDR artist will either tell you that the images produced expose the “real” world that you cannot see (that is, a reality that’s deeper than your vision can perceive) or that he’s capturing in the camera the world as you actually see it, and which “normal” photography can’t. The latter might be true if great restraint is used, but usually in HDR we see hard contrast and color definition that counter-intuitively combines in a way that yields a glowy soft-focus impression that is immediately recognizable as being unnatural, and which therefore cannot possibly be the world as perceived by the human eye. I therefore choose to cast my fictional photographer as a mini-god who re-creates the world in his own image.


The line “It’s my ticket to a new day dawning” recalls the fact that the image is of a ticket booth and sunburst, and is a reminder that this is in fact the image that inspired the song. But it’s also a reminder that this “new day” occurs in the world of his creation. As in Genesis, “the evening and the morning were the first day”.


MUSICAL NOTES:


There’s not much to say here. I gave next to zero thought to musical theory when composing the music. Instead I thought about the broad strokes and the story I wanted to tell, like so:


Even though Photoshop and HDR are recent inventions, I wanted this song to sound very grounded in the early 1980s. That was the moment of the “me-generation”. It was an era of excess, and excess is what these lyrics are about. So I wanted to push the excitement mentioned in the first verse with short, choppy chords. These would open out in the “drab and boring” verse to form a hook on which to hang the concept of the photographer’s “god-like powers”. This ends in the word “sea” in a really drawn-out over-emoted crescendo, which would come into it’s own when re-used on the “worship me!” line at the end.


If this were produced the way my brain hears it, the end result should be to the ears what a supersaturated image is to the eyes... just subtly “too much” in every respect. It should evoke images of "80’s hair", glitter in the makeup, colored lights and a disco ball. I’m pretty sure that someone judging the song would despise it for the very same reasons that would in my view make it an artistic success. Of course, I’m hopeless at such production, so you may have to settle for just a piano and my voice.

Artwork Note: I needed a replacement photo for my Bandcamp track art, so I asked my brother Everett for a really bad one. None of his were actually bad enough to really illustrate the issue, so the one I did use has been further saturated and cropped by me. His photos can be seen on his Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It Came To Pass

Notes after the lyrics:



It Came To Pass

In a little town in the country
Far away from the crimes of man
Was born one day a baby
Soon to be talk of the land.

His promise outshone his poverty
By the distance of nations each mile
Though the prophets may forecast the future
no one forgets this child.

He walks through life so serenely
Though misunderstood and unknown
Though his friends say the all will stand with him
At the end he is standing alone.

And it came to pass
They began to ask
Who is this only son?
What is his name?
Where is he from?
What has he ever done?

He said we're a nation of brothers
Look well on the things that you do
Take care you do only to others 
The things that you'd have done to you

He spoke out of love and of kindness
Of the meek who'll inherit the Earth
It angered the elders to find this
So they fought back for all they were worth

He was taken before courtrooms of many
From township to jail he was tossed
Then they found him so frighteningly guilty
They nailed both his hands to a cross.

And it came to pass
They began to ask
Who is this only son?
What is his name?
Where is he from?
What has he ever done?

[Update! There's a third section now. Keep reading]

And it came to pass
They began to ask
Who is this only son?
What is his name?
Where is he from?
What has he ever done?

What has he ever done?


Notes:

Writing a hymn is tricky business. It's tough to get it so it doesn't sound cheesy or trite, or warmed over from two thousand years of previous attempts. When I got the lyrics from William I wanted to make sure that this one was done sincerely, and also that it would be something that could be enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

Musically, I hear this in my head as being very "Irish". In fact, I'm consciously trying to keep the "Irish" out of my voice when I'm singing it, and I'm not entirely successful. Other folks have told me that it doesn't sound like a particularly Irish tune to them, but I'm telling you... I personally cannot hear this in my head without a fiddle and a bohdran. When I sing it in private it's in a horribly pronounced and probably very bad brogue. Which is just as well... I bet God just loves Gaelic music. I do, too, and if I had my way, that's how it would be produced.

A few things didn't make it into the lyrics here... no healing of the blind and crippled, and I left out the police arrest and most of the politics. Those things that I did change are all universal (I think) though based in scripture. The fourth verse (first after the first chorus) is a straight rephrasing of Matthew 7:12. Of all the potential teachings I could have chosen for the next verse, I chose "blessed are the meek" for its potential  to trigger the ire of the establishment.

This isn't the first time I've taken a stab at this song... the original lyrics (which these are very close to) were written around 1980. About 15 years ago I did an extensive re-write which attempted to answer the question posed rather than leave it unresolved. Big mistake. It was heavy-handed and preachy and way.... too much.  It sounded militant and in-your-face, and 100% not what Jesus would do. I'm glad I didn't finish that one.

I think of this as the "short version" of the song... I think of the "long form" as being three sections, each ending with the "And it came to pass..." chorus. One for the birth, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus. But I don't have lyrics for the third movement, so the short form is all we have at the moment.  

In the stead of the third movement I simply repeat chorus and the line, "What has he ever done?"

Update: The third section is now written, and the lyrics are as follows, with a great many thanks to JoAnn Abbott of Menage A Tune for helping me finish it up. These should be inserted where indicated above:




In a tomb cut from rock he was buried
But for him even Death had no power
Resurrected, He greeted dear Mary
On the third day at morning's first hour

Do you love me? he asked those who followed
Go forth, let the world know I care
You've a place in the house of my Father
And a life everlasting to share

[break]

So won't you let Him be your portal?
Open up, and embrace a new start!
Believe and He'll make you immortal!
His Spirit will live in your heart.

And it came to pass
They began to ask
Who is this only son?
What is his name?
Where is he from?
What has he ever done?




Notes for the 3rd section:

I found that I couldn't let go of the idea here that, not only should this section be about the Resurrection, but the three verses should be about the Resurrection, the Great Commission, and an Invitation, so that's what you see here. As with the rest of the song, there are a great many details not said, but this is a song, not a biography.

There are a number of scriptural references here. Notably, "Do you love me?" is found at the tail-end of John, where Jesus asks it of Simon Peter three times (and you'll note the prevalence of threes in this song: three sections (birth, ministry, resurrection) of three verses each. The song itself is in 3/4 time... 3 beats per measure)

The first line of the Invitation is my way of expressing the idea of Jesus as a portal... based on His statement that no man gets to the Father except "through" Him. I carried that expression forward as a metaphor. However, Jesus is never actually named in the song, to keep the questions chorus relevant. This is an invitation to read and think about it.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Those Crazy Alien Friends of Mine

Song bio after the lyrics


.
THOSE CRAZY ALIEN FRIENDS OF MINE
=================================
They arrived one night quite secretly
Out of the mist of another time
Walked for miles through the desert sand
And quietly crossed over the borderline
They settled in next door to me and then I heard no word
'Til accidentally on purpose one day I overheard
They spoke in a language foreign to me and seemed bothered by the sun
It's pretty clear they're not from here- they're illegal aliens

Then curiosity
Got the best of me
So one night I went to spy.
One of them cornered me
In the peonies
So I looked him in his eye
(Busted!), I introduced myself
From what I understand
They're from Ceti-Alphaville - a far and distant land
That ain't nowhere 'round here - it's as far as they come!
I knew it! They're illegal aliens!

And every evening by and by
I catch them staring at the sky
And if I ask them why - they just shed a little tear
From that single eye just underneath the ear

I got to know them fairly quickly - they're really very kind
But they'll take in the trash and put out the cat, those alien friends of mine
And nuclear reactors ain't a dime a dozen but they've got a dozen in the garage
Hmmmm....

Then curiosity
Got the best of me
So I asked them to explain
About Astronomy
And Relativity
And why they carry a second brain
We fixed their rocket up
I helped them stock it up
With chocolate, beer and krill
'Cause you can't get food like that in Ceti-Alphaville

And every evening by and by
I catch them staring at the sky
And if I ask them why - they just shed a little tear
From that single eye just underneath the ear

I got to know them fairly quickly - they're really very kind
They opened up and told me they just came here to unwind
And that I'm welcome to come visit if I really wanted to
For a friend of the family it's the least that they could do

Then one day a nosy neighbor with too much time on his hands
Dropped a dime to the I.N.S. and he sped up our summer plans
We had to take off rather quickly amid fear and consternation
Now it's off to outer space for a heavenly vacation
I've never been so far from home, but I'm sure that I'll be fine
With those crazy alien friends of mine

And every evening by and by
They catch me staring at the sky
And if they ask me why - I just shed a little tear
I didn't know the world would look so small from way up here.

Yeah...
I didn't know the world would look so small from way up here.




Notes:

William wrote the core of these lyrics on December 12th, 2001.  For the past twelve years I've been brushing past them without a second glance... or if I did glance, it was accompanied by a snort.

Two days ago that changed, and I don't know why.  I just looked at them and said, "Yes, they're silly, but I'm going to do them anyway.

A few people have told me now that the song sounds like it ends, and then keeps going, and then it ends again, and then keeps going... That's because it does... about five times. I'll explain:


The original lyrics were a lot more ambiguous than these... except for the name "Ceti-Alphaville" and the fact that they had two nuclear reactors, there wasn't much to identify these folks as being space-aliens. They could have been from Mexico.  And even "Ceti-Alphaville" doesn't say much, as I once lived not too far from Jupiter, Florida. The Ceti Alpha part of it was a nod to "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan", but only William knows what possessed him to put a "-ville" on the end of it. The end result sounded a bit "Ray Stevens" to me. The thing is, a Ray Stevens song would resolve the ambiguity into something really ridiculous, and it would be interminably long.


I added the goofiness about the single eye and ear, and the bridge, and turned the INS call into a conflict. Originally they just took off happily on vacation. I was also wrestling a bit about the best way to describe whatever it was they took off in... which conveniently just wasn't mentioned in the original. So I considered all manner of "space-ship"and "flying saucer" until I just said screw it and went with "rocket", both because it's ridiculously unbelievable already, and because I have always loved the fact that Ray Bradbury always used the word "rocket" no matter how far away another planet was. I mean... who cares that it's not really a rocket? You don't actually "dial" a phone, either.  The chocolate, beer, and krill were simply answers my children provided to the question "what foods don't go together?"


NOTE: If I were to record this again I might change "chocolate" to "toothpaste". Aliens.

So I'd add a verse, then realize there was a little more story, then I'd re-arrange a verse, or resurrect some of the original lyrics, then I'd do it again. When all was said and done, I realized that there was a perfect opportunity to re-visit the bridge with the roles reversed. So I did that, and the song ends with the bridge... so it keeps going every time you think it should stop, and the stops on the one occasion where your head says it should keep going.


Yeah... there's probably a rule against that, but I really don't care.


I'm still thinking about doing another version of this, only the aliens are from Canada. Now those are some strange folks. ;)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Open Honesty

When I was overseas in the Air Force, William would send me lyrics. There was never a letter, never a card, only the occasional big fat envelope filled with page after page of poetry for me to put to music.  That's not a bad thing... we just didn't need that much communication. Obviously, getting a big fat envelope of lyrics means, "add some music".

Sometimes I could do it, and I'd sometimes send back a tape.  Sometimes... for whatever reason... my muse let me down. Sometimes I simply wasn't ready for the song. Every so often I go back through what I call "the blue notebook" and see if I'm ready for any of them. BTW... "the blue notebook" lost its cover many, many years ago. William and I are the only two people in existence who even know what color it was.  And now, so do you.

Open Honesty originally had a different rhyme scheme until I decided to shuffle the lines and deal them out in a different order. Sometimes that happens. As for the subject, I asked William who he was mad at when he wrote it. The answer... "some girl". This is the indelible mark on history by which she will be remembered.




Open Honesty
wmh (June 1986... revised July 2, 2013)

Seems to me you have some hidden doubt
You want to know just what I'm all about
So you pull my veil to see my face
Just to get a taste.

And what was it that you found there?
A pale and often haunted stare?
I need to know cause I've seen it before
In my own mirror.

Perhaps you saw yourself mirrored in my eyes
A thin yet useful disguise
Often draped in someone else's lies
Or maybe you saw someone you knew
Or one time thought you wanted to
A person just like you.

That's it
Open Honesty
Two words never meant to be
Open and honesty
You never let me in...
You gave me true lies and alibis
And every reason in the world
Why there could never be
Open Honesty.

I won't fight this battle anymore.
You're like the evergreen outside my door
Whose seasons turn but leaves don't fall
You never change at all

Perhaps you saw yourself mirrored in my eyes
A thin yet useful disguise
Often draped in someone else's lies
Or maybe you saw someone you knew
Or one time thought you wanted to
A person just like you.

That's it
Open Honesty
Two words never meant to be
Open and honesty
You never let me in...
You gave me true lies and alibis
And every reason in the world
Why there could never be
Open Honesty.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Cleveland


I've updated the song and have some more notes about it... here's a link to the new blog post:

http://music.cratchit.org/2014/02/spintunes-8-round-1-and-cleveland.html

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Conquered The Day

This is an autobiographical piece. William and I used to paint signs for a living. It's also a very old piece... we wrote it while we were still painting signs. However, I've never played it on the piano before. Until today it was strictly a guitar piece.

I really, really, really like this song. Oddly enough, William doesn't think much of it. I think that it mainly just reminds him of another day at work.


The sound quality here is poor, but I mainly just wanted to get the arrangement recorded so I don't forget it.

I CONQUERED THE DAY
wmh

I conquered the day with paint-stained fingers
And brought life to a painted man
His double dimensions seemed no more alive
'til I moved with a brush in my hand

It continues to keep a sane man sane
This yellow faded through red
Though the eyes in the back will steady the hand
The vapors go to my head
The vapors go to my head

Work out the brush in Gothic one-stroke
I've heard over and over again 
Of its eyes how they move!
For it's heads that they turn on the roads of the world
That give you the money you spend

Small letters make dreams for six-o'clock days
As the easel falls off the wall
A pile-up of patterns makes life oh-so-easy
For letters of twenty-four tall
A pile-up of patterns makes life oh-so-easy
For letters of twenty-four tall

Work out the brush in Gothic one-stroke
I've heard over and over again 
Of its eyes how they move!
For it's heads that they turn on the roads of the world
That give you the money you spend

I conquered the day with paint-stained hands
And fingers that formed color schemes
But I've washed them away, along with today 
To forget what I've done and I've seen
I've washed them away, along with today 
To forget what I've done and I've seen

Work out the brush in Gothic one-stroke
I've heard over and over again 
Of its eyes how they move!
For it's heads that they turn on the roads of the world
That give you the money you spend

For it's heads that they turn on the roads of the world
That give you the money you spend

Monday, April 8, 2013

On My Way

Here's a nice little song, with lyrics by William. It's a mood piece that are just vague enough for you to assign whatever meaning that makes it personal to you. The original lyrics don't have a date, but I'd put them somewhere around 1980 - 1982. This is the first they've been set to music, though, and they were re-tooled for that.

This is just me on the piano, but if I were to produce it, I think I'd do it as Bluegrass... banjo, fiddle, guitar, double-bass, and and brushed percussion.


On My Way

-- William Hoover

There's a grassy knoll I've been dreaming to
And a fountain not too far away
And I'll be sipping that water
As soon as tomorrow
'Cause I'm leaving today
I'm On My Way

There's a cool water summer on my mind
And a breeze blowing over the bay
And by Tuesday this week
I'll be off of this street
And settling down to stay
I'm On My Way

On My Way
And soon I will be far away
Ain't gonna stay
Sometimes here -- always on my way

There's a shady tree I've been thinking of
And a sunset to follow that day
And I can't wait to go
Into my Tomorrow
Say goodbye to Today
I'm on my way

And there's a moon in the river staring at me
From the eye in the glare of a wave
And I don't even know where this river is flowing
And don't really care what they say


On My Way
And soon I will be far away
Ain't gonna stay
Sometimes here -- always on my way

On My Way
On My Way
On My Way
On My Way


Saturday, March 16, 2013

SpinTunes 6 Round 4 Reviews

I'm not a judge. I have no standing. But I'm going to review this round anyway, and reveal my preferences, too; because that's the kind of jackass I am.


OK, this is tough, because I like all these guys, but I'm going to do it anyway. I'm being as critical as possible here, which is quite likely to mask the fact that I like all of these entries. If it sounds as if I'm worst possible take on things, that's probably true, but only because cheerleading is a little less interesting to me today.

First, let's look at what the challenge really says. "Write a protest song in which you try to convince your listeners about something you strongly believe" (that's from Round 3). Round 4 constrains the contestants to the same topic they used in Round 3.

Here they are, ranked in order of my preference, top to bottom.

Ross Durand - Someone's

A few things put Ross' entry on top for me, though Edric's is undeniably more emotional and RC's is smoother production. This, like Ross' previous entry, is the quintessential War Protest. This could easily have been a bad thing, since Ross is supposed to be trying to convince someone of his point, and Hawks are notoriously difficult to sway. But Ross grabs you with a strong, strong beat and an intensely listenable hook that keeps you there for the message. Of all of these songs, This one is the one I would listen to, by choice, most often, while paying attention to the lyrics. These are lyrics and a message that can't be ignored. Then Ross drops napalm in the form of Sierra Durand for the penultimate chorus. "Someone" is an impersonal pronoun: Sierra makes it personal. We can send "someone" to war, but this little girl's dad needs to stay safe at home. By extension I start thinking about the other little girls with dads of their own. This was exactly the right string to pull. The production has a definite "live" feel to it... I could hear this played down at Shady's on a Saturday night with beer, peanuts and a whole lot of whoopin' and hollerin'. I'm a sucker for songs with the human factor.

RC - Get Out Of My Way

I thought that RC's lyrics lacked some subtlety last time. He definitely corrects that here. The shift to first person is always a good choice. RC's no longer telling me about these problems, he's showing them to me, and that makes the difference between preaching and persuading. My quibble is that it may be a bit too subtle here... RC almost misses his own challenge by focusing on general problems rather than inequities (he left himself a really narrow challenge), but this is tenuously rescued by one line: "I hear the schools across town are so much better". Solid production, smoothly listenable and good replay value means that people will hang around for the message. It's possible that the production works slightly against it as a protest, in that it's easy to just sit back and let this tune wash over you without paying much attention to what it says.

Edric Haleen - On The Matter Of Bullying (Part 2)

At first you'd think, yup, Edric poured everything into that and it's a shoo-in... and it may very well be. I know *I* love this song. I was indeed the stereotypical chess-club nerd in the locker. I actually carried a slide rule in a holster... this is the universal bully-sign for "give me a swirly". This song should be punching every emotional button I have. But my logic wouldn't let me be until I understood what was bothering me about it.  Who's Edric convincing, and of what? At first it seemed to me like preaching to the choir... the message is just one that doesn't require a lot of convincing. Who disagrees with the statement that bullying is bad? That's when I did an about-face and realized that it's a good thing he put in the talking points at the end, or one could easily driven to despair if one were pre-disposed to that mindset by bullying. That kind of suicidal reinforcement obviously isn't the intended message. On the other hand, "You're special, and don't let those bullies destroy that" would be a great message to convince your listeners of, but unfortunately it's not in the actual song*. This is a song for healthy people who already agree with you. For that group, I think it's very effective as a protest in that it would move those healthy people (especially those who have overcome abuse) into offering help that they might not otherwise, but it's not something that I would recommend be played for someone who is actually suffering from abuse at the present time.

* I know it's possible to have a healthy discussion about whether being on the recording makes it technically part of the song or not, but in my mind, stepping away from the piano and dropping character signals the end of the song, and the beginning of a serious talk that's not part of the song.

MC Ohm-i - If You Were Gay

I'm going to sound like the world's biggest curmudgeon here, which is really sad, because I really, really like MC Ohm-i's stuff. His first stab at gay marriage didn't get me because it had no emotion. This is more of that. Ohm-i is definitely focused on that "convince your listeners" bit, but he's going about it like that annoying guy on the bus who keeps quoting facts and figures at you who you'd really like to steer into a discussion about baseball or sneakers or what kind of onion is best on hot dogs but you can't because you can't get a word in edgewise and why did you have to miss that earlier bus and OH MY GOD you've eighteen more blocks to go and is it possible to cut yourself with a ballpoint pen?  OK, I'm exaggerating. My point is that I think this subject goes over a lot better with a first person perspective and a little heart. Between that and the audible "seams" in the sample, I'm left wishing I could justify placing this higher. 

(Just an observation: there were a boatload of "gay marriage" songs in the last two rounds. We might have done one ourselves in Round 3 if we hadn't already done the topic, and as a protest song, too. I think I may go ahead and produce it better now.)

And that's all the songs. Yup. Every blessed one.

UPDATE: Someone has pointed out to me that there were shadows this round. OK, many people have pointed that out. And they noticed that there were no reviews of those shadows here. In my defense, I've already posted reviews of every blessed song, which is all I promised. That said here are...

THE SHADOWS!   (bum bum BUUUMMMMM!)

Again, a reminder... we were tasked to do another protest song, using the same topic as last time. Since the BYD gave us an anti-PC rant and one against Big Software, that's the target. I think I know what's going to happen here...

Boffo Yux Dudes - Wireless Head (SHADOW)
I immediately like the rhythm and the instrumentation. I also like the song a lot... easily my second favorite BYD song ever (after "FOOT!"). It doesn't meet this challenge, though.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Tear it Down, Build It Up Again (SHADOW)
Err... uhm.... I'm going to argue that this meets the challenge, because it expresses the same sentiment as "Eliminate the upper class / Along with the lower and middle" from Eat the Whales. There. I said it.

Cherry Pi (w/ Boffo Yux Dudes) - Octo Pi (SHADOW)
Err... uhm.... See, it's like this... "Occupy SpinTunes" -> "Occupy" -> "Ocu Pie" -> "Ocu Pi" ("Pi" from "Cherry Pi") -> "Octopus Pie" -> "Octo Pi". That's a long way to go for a misspelled pun, but it's not a protest and doesn't meet the challenge. But it does have Cherry Pi in it, which is something.

Boffo Yux Dudes - Operating System (SHADOW)
HEY! How did THIS get in here?!? It clearly meets the challenge, taking up the same lament as "The Ballad of the Last of the Hackers" from Round 3. I don't know how to handle that.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

SpinTunes Round 3 Results and Round 4 Challenge

We were eliminated in round 3. We did do a fair bit better than I expected, coming in at 6th place in a field of 12 competitors.

Here's the challenge for the remaining competitors:
Mulligan - Write a protest song about the same topic you picked in round 3. (2 minute minimum) (your submission is due March 10th 11:59PM)
 I must admit partial culpability for this, as it's based on a challenge idea called "do-over" that I submitted. The intent of that was to present the same challenge exactly as it was presented before. If they had done that simple, simple thing then they would have gotten four new, interesting songs about other topics that these competitors also feel strongly about. We'd get new angles, new perspectives, new ideas from the same prompt.

But nooooooo... once again they have to open a six-pack of Derp Cola and pass it around before dicking with an already simple, clearly worded challenge to its overwhelming detriment. So now the judges insist that the same old ideas be re-hashed. The result... well, the result remains to be seen, but here's what it looks like from here:
  • Edric Haleen gets to write another protest against bullying.
  • MC Ohm-i gets to write another protest against the prohibition against gay marriage.
  • RC gets to write another protest about the inequality of educational opportunity.
  • Ross Durand gets to write another war protest.

A lot depends on an email sent last round. Spin asked us for a short explanation of our round 3 song. Now we know why. Dr. Lindyke would have been fine this round, as we explained that our official entry, "The Square" was a protest against political complacency, not Communism or oppression in China. On Facebook I said, "Plan A is, frankly, more exciting intellectually, but it's a complicated thought that we're struggling to illustrate." Were we competing in this round, I'd be thanking William for going with that "complicated thought". We could do a dozen songs on that topic and never mention Tiananmen Square again. We'd just paint another illustration.

Somehow I don't think these four guys were so oblique in their explanations. Of the Final Four, I'd surmise that Edric is in the tightest spot. He not only picked a very clearly defined topic, but he hit on every permutation of it in one song. Finding a new angle is going to be tough. RC's song had a very narrow focus as well... but as I stated in my review, I think it could have been more subtle, and this is a chance for him to come up with some lyrics that match the artistry of his music. Ross Durand went with the most oft-used protest topic, and I'm fairly sure he simply describes it as a "war protest", so while another angle as artistic as this last one will be difficult, it should be do-able... he's got plenty of source material.

There are a huge number of ways to illustrate the gay marriage arguments, and a fair number of them are likely to be more compelling than reciting statistics. So, if I had to handicap this race, I'd say MC Ohm-i has the early advantage in terms of opportunity. I've been listening to some of his other stuff, and he has range. I complained about lack of emotion in the last round, so I should explain this: an artist doesn't have to emote... he has to make us emote. It just takes the right words.

Handicapping aside, it's a new round, but for the first time ever all slates are NOT wiped clean. Topics having been assigned, it's anybody's round.

Fortuna vobiscum.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SpinTunes 6 Round 3 Reviews

Wow... tough round! I'm glad the judges are doing the judging. I'm going to give you opinions anyway.

First, the songs:


And, so there's no guesswork about it, here are my picks for "The Final Four" (in order of preference):
Ross Durand - Don't Send Them Away
Jenny Katz - Next Nice Town
Edric Haleen - On The Matter Of Bullying
The Middle Relievers - Love Builds Homes
Now the whys and wherefores (in album order):

TurboShandy - Guns 
Catchy and well-executed (can I say "executed" for this song??) but lacks subtlety.

Jenny Katz - Next Nice Town 
Witty, clever, and easy to listen to. It's a scathing rebuttal of First World insensitivity that has a bit of that Joni Mitchell "They Paved Paradise" vibe, and which suprised me with a little Hendrix homage. This is one of my picks for the final four.

RC - An Equal Start 
This has a great melody and sound. To my ears it's the best produced song of the round. Like TurboShandy's entry, I think the lyrics lack a little subtlety. 

Edric Haleen - On The Matter Of Bullying 
Edric starts this song in the "kiddie pool" and wades into progressively deeper waters. Not content to describe bullying, he punctuates his point with an assault-weapon barrage of words that will resonate with anyone who's been bullied. And once he posits that the adults will have a solution, he goes on to prove they don't. It's a great illustration that bullying reaches far beyond the playground. One of my picks for the final four.

Ross Durand - Don't Send Them Away
This is the quintenssential protest song format and subject. Ross bullseyed the challenge with this folksy military lament, and he makes it personal by adopting the voice of a wounded veteran. One of my picks for the final four, and my number one choice overall.

Steve Durand - Just War 
"Is it a just war / or is it just war?" I like the hook, I like the funk. As a war protest I don't think it carries the same kind of emotional impact as Ross' entry.
Steve has written a song bio.

Jerry Skids - The Separation Of State And Nothing
I was initially put off by the harsh vocals and the fact that it initially seems to be a bunch of aimless bitching, switching targets from verse to verse, finally resolving in the bridge into a protest against the Pledge of Allegiance. Then it hit me that the delivery (complete with explosive plosives) and the rambling seem to follow the pattern of a George Carlin-style monologue.  It became a lot more clever. Carlin had pretty much the same opinion of the Pledge.
Jerry has written a song bio.
“I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.” -- George Carlin
The Middle Relievers - Love Builds Homes
Instantly brain-catching song which makes it's point through illustrative storytelling, not bludgeoning. I wish the vocals were cleaner. It sounds like in a place or two the choice of note may have been up in the air. Nevertheless, one of my picks for the final four.

Brian Gray - Walk (Live From Woodbury)
Love the 9/4 time (which I mistook for 6/4 on first listen). It's clever, but as a protest song "about something you strongly believe", I think this Walking Dead tribute takes too many liberties with the challenge to hit the final four.
Brian has written a song bio. (I admit to not catching the hunger angle at all.)

Dr. Lindyke - The Square
Competent drums and piano this time, but given the dated material, weak vocals, and the strength of the other entries, I think it would be a travesty if this weren't our last round.
I've written a song bio.

MC Ohm-I - If You Don't Like Gay Marriage
I like everything I've heard from MC Ohm-I, and on this particular subject he's preaching to the choir. That said, this loses me a bit in the statistics. I think the Middle Relievers tackled this subject more convincingly, pulling both the intellectual and emotional strings. MC Ohm-I is missing the emotion.

Kevin Savino-Riker - Dinosaur Sam
This challenge was tailor-made for KSR's distinctive vocals. This has some really clever wordplay... and the West Coast funk is spot-on. I think it's edged out by my top-four pics, though.
Kevin has written a song bio.


SHADOWS 

"Buckethat" Bobby - Knock Off (Shadow)
The most polite protest song you will ever hear... a true Canadian protest. Stop fighting, eh? It's a shame it didn't make the deadline. I don't think it needs the bass.

The Boffo Yux Dudes - Eat The Whales (Shadow) 
I keep threatening to analyze the distinctive "BYD mode" of which this song is a prime example. I started to do that here, but it really deserves an essay, and maybe a government-funded study.

The Boffo Yux Dudes - The Ballad of the Last of the Hackers (Shadow) 
There will NEVER be a last hacker. ;)

Dr. Lindyke - Memory Of A Future Past (Shadow) 
This protests nuclear proliferation by means of a vision of the future. It's my first attempt at a live electric bass guitar, and I'm fairly happy with the way that turned out.
I've written a song bio.

Dr. Lindyke - It's A Joke, Not A Dick (Shadow)
The full title is "It's a Joke, Not a Dick (don't take it so hard)". Some people have suggested this should have been our official entry. Nah. This is a joke, and it's for a very limited audience of people who I hope have a sense of humor. Making it official would have ruined it as a joke and made it an insult.
I've written a song bio.