Tag Archives: spintunes


2 Feb

Time to tackle the last 14 songs in Spintunes 4, Round 1. So far only Hazen Nester & Gold Lion have dazzled me, but there are some heavy hitters in the back of the pack. I’m hoping for a fun afternoon of listening.

KSR-1  (Kevin Savino Riker) is up first. I would love to hear him do some Coheed & Cambria. He’s got a voice for it. Good vocals but the song drags on. There’s not enough of variety in it. Some bigger highs and low or emotional punch would do this some good. Robert Borden started me off on the wrong foot by 1- mentioning Carrot Top and 2- confusing me because he was a girl, especially with such well done high notes. It’s kind of like the first time I listened to Brian Molko. Goodness, there are some odd references in here. Furby. Really? I haven’t thought about that in eons. I kinda dig this song but where’s the nightmare in this? Liner notes say that this is about the “tickle monster”. Well then. Menage a Tune is third at bat. Much better than her past tunes. She hasn’t found her place vocally. It sounds like she would love to go full on Nightwish-style opera over the rock, big sweeping vocals but it never pushs that envelope and the music is thin, it’s just the canvas. It didn’t come together but it could someday. Marlon Barnes does the g^2 thing (guy & guitar) which is fine with me. It’s my thing. The idea of losing teeth is a scary concept so I get the child’s nightmare aspect. It’s not a bad song. There’s some charm here. If he’s not a New Yorker and a part of the anti-folk scene, he needs to be. He gets extra points because I found myself singing the song as I walked through the office.

Caleb Hines is #25 of 34. Caleb needs to work on his vocals. He gets points for using the word Escheresque. That would be a great band name. I’m putting that on the list. The lyrics are okay. Music isn’t thrilling. “Eh” just about covers the song as a whole. Chris Cogott comes in at #26. Backup vocals/ double tracking is such a nice touch. Very 60’s-70’s feel and it’s got a wonder of a guitar solo. The song is lyrically very simple but effective. I’m not going to give it a spotlight here on the blog but I’ll say it’s one of the better songs in the round. Chris Tallman brings a song called “Fear The Reaper” with no cowbell in sight. WTF?! G^2 stuff. The lyrics have a nice ominous tone to them in their brief exploration of life and death. Not a standout song but not the worse in the bunch. Steve Durand wins for best imagery. The visual of Jesus looking down at the poor naked kid in class is a good one. It’s a cute song. It’s got little kid nightmare all over it plus it’s got a little underlying thread that catholic guilt can mess you up sometimes. Good job. Luke Brekke, Esq. has a song that’s very low in the mix and clips in the choruses. This song is more tragedy and regret than nightmare. I’m not a fan of the choruses at all. I like the storytelling even if it missed the nightmare challenge. Wait What? hit the mark on the kiddie nightmare challenge. Toilet demons is a goofy nightmare choice but that’s how kids are sometimes. I used to worry that creatures could crawl up the drain in the sink when I was little (never feared the pot though). Some good musicianship especially on the bridge. The hook is weak. I’m 50/50 on this one.

We are in the final stretch! It’s Boffo Yux Dudes time. Party. Party. Party. etc. The concept that monsters are partying in the kids room is good. It reminds me of the old Sesame Street cartoon with the dancing “alligator”.


Can’t say that I dig this BYD song. So much more could be done with the chorus other than just repeating “party”. Jon Eric is at #32. This is a good song with a nice chorus. Would’ve liked the last verse to be something more. It’s 3 very similar verses, except that he caterwauls a bit in the last verse. I would’ve liked that last verse to build up the story’s intensity. Instead it only builds at the end and quite suddenly. If this song had more of building tension to it, it would rock. Instead it’s okay. David Ritter is in the penultimate slot. Am I seeing that right? 7+ minutes? Oh, okay. Glitch. It’s only about 2:40. I was wondering he was going to stretch a song about the Easter Bunny for all that time. Good choice of childhood nightmare. There is always something ominous about the childhood legends that somehow sneak into your house: Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny. Did my parents not have a security system?! Decent little tune. Lastly, Ross Durand with guitars that make me wanna sing “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride!”. I don’t get the story. I’m trying to get it straight. There’s a kid who dreams of being chased but then something flies over them and escapes while the kid gets mauled, so the kid is always left to wonder why the something or another was able to fly away. Tough story to get over especially when its kept a bit intentionally vague. If it was that the kid and his sibling were running in the dream and the sibling could always get away while the kid got eaten (or a similar tale that’s a bit more concrete in the details) then I think it would work better.

No spotlights in the last 14. My favorite of this round was Gold Lion, followed closely by Hazen Nester & Chris Cogott.

So, what song do I pick for 1129. Well, since this is a Spintunes round all about nightmares:

Song 1129: “All Nightmare Long” by Metallica

Gotta love this video.



1 Feb

Before I go diving back into the world of Spintunes, I want to talk about something very exciting. It’s February which means it’s time for the February Album Writing Month. Every year, I team up with the members of the Berkeley Social Scene (as Zinkline) to make a new album. This year is no different and I have already begun work on a very cool concept.

“But Niv, what about last year’s FAWM?”

I’m glad you asked. Yesterday was the official release of “Suntory Time” by Zinkline. I’m very proud of this album. It’s based on the works of Bill Murray and has a bunch of great songs on it. Please check it out at http://berkeleysocialscene.bandcamp.com . Here’s a taste:

Song 1126: “This Dirty Cage” by Zinkline

Now onto the Spintunes. Brian Gray is up first. He went in a different direction with the idea of the childhood nightmare. he went with a nightmare of being grown up and working at an office. That misses the mark for me. I appreciate a song with a guitar solo and it’s a pretty decent composition but I feel like he took a wrong turn on the nightmare challenge. Edric Haleen went with a lullaby and then askewed it. It’s supposed to be eerie and nightmarish but it never got there. Moody and a little weird but it never got truly chilling. I can see that he was focused on the rubato and trying to use that to create the scary atmosphere. Good experiment but experiments sometimes fail. Rosalind channels Spintunes veteran (and my bandmate in Mr. Nakazawa’s Book of Surprises) DJ Ranger Den with a girl and piano tune but it doesn’t make for much of a nightmare. I guess the song is about mosquitos (I’m not reading liner notes today)  which are more annoying than scary. Gold Lion started with some nifty (yes I say nifty) guitar sounds and she has quite a voice. The double tracking on the chorus is a good touch. The lyrics are thin but it all works. I dug that one. Gonna shine a spotlight on that one.

Song 1127: “Lady in Blue” by Gold Lion

Fate puts another female singer in line. Jess Scherer‘s voice reminds me a little of Erin of Zinkline which is a good thing (Erin’s got a little more old soul in her voice). Hey, you remember that old song “Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Kix? You can totally sing it over the piano here. Try it. “Pray the lord your soul to take”? Take, not keep. Interesting. The song’s okay but I’m not racing to download it or anything. Jim Holmquist  has a sing-song little tune about the old man next door and the dreams he’s had since he was little. It’s got such a Hawaiian feel to it. At the end, he tries to rock it out some but the punch is missing in the song. I feel like the playful feel of the song takes the strength away from the nightmare visuals. I understand trying to create this clash but there’s nothing wrong with just going with the darkness. 🙂 Drei Vietrel Drei does the same thing as Jim but does it in a Syd Barrett Pink Floyd way but then breaks into some more sinister styles. The woke with a scream line was weak. No delivery. It’s all together odd. I’d rather enjoyable odd over bland, so you get a thumbs up. Hey, Emperor Gum is back. I appreciate his experimental leanings. He went with a ballad with some very familiar rhythms. I was sleep inducing at the start but turned around towards the end. It got more interesting but it may have been too little too late. The Orion Sound has song #19 and it’s about Nazis. Again, it’s another artist who decides to take the nightmare and go with it more playfully. And then it gets self referential with the rubato remark at the end. It’s catchy but emotionally threadbare which is amazing to me when you’re singing about a nazi nightmare. Last song for today, Trader Jack. He’s like 90’s 4 Track Tapes PJ Harvey as a guy. I dig guy and guitar songs and this has potential. I think i’ll give this song a few more spins.

Still a bunch more to go including some powerhouses like Jon Eric, Steve Durand, Chris Cogott and KSR-1 (That’s Kevin Savino Riker, I’m gonna try to get that to catch on). Until then, I leave off with Kix!


31 Jan

Each year is met with various musical challenges. For instance, tomorrow is February and thus starts FAWM: February Album Writing Month. Each year, I team up with the members of the Berkeley Social Scene to create a new album. I’ll talk more about that in a later post. There’s also the wonderous Songfight which goes on year round (and I’ve got a huge Songfight project on the horizon) and its sibling contest The Nur Ein (which I organize). There’s also a competition called Spintunes. I was a judge during the first Spintunes contest and if you read my previous blog, Audioshards, then you know that my stint as judge was not without its share of controversy. Spintunes revolves around a very strong community of musicians and you gotta love that. Well, Spintunes 4 has just begun and since I’m without my home computer (aka my usual jukebox), this is a perfect time to do some listening and a little reviewing.

Round 1 of Spintunes 4 is a double whammy. Each song has to be about a childhood nightmare and each has to utilize rubato which is kind of hard to explain. Basically it’s freely playing with the tempo. It’s not your run of the mill musical term so I was surprised to see it at the beginning of a competition. No warm up round here. Let’s see what we’ve got. Here are the first ten. (I won’t be criticizing the rubato. I personally struggle with defining rubato so I’m not gonna criticize anyone’s interpretations.)

Governing Dynamics has this dark sound to him that I enjoy. I also like his choice to go for his higher register in the song. The bass ready plods along. It’s not a well done bass line at all but got some charm to it. I guess that goes for the whole song. It feels very long and this comes from someone who listens to 10 minute Nadja songs full of drones. Still, a decent tune out of Travis Norris. Faux put up a song that’s a little all over the place. I know it’s intentional but I found myself struggling to get something to grasp onto in the song. I fear that I won’t remember this song by the time I’m done listening to the round. Looking at the Dex01 lyrics, I was excited to here this one because it’s my kinda nightmare lyric. I was surprised that after about 1:30, it started sounding like Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” just with very high, kinda nasally vocals. I dig the punk. I think Dex01 with a lower octave on the vocal could get a cool Iggy Pop and the Stooges thing going. Too bad, it doesn’t work as well for a song about a nightmare. Hazen Nester brought the odd but it brought some dark too. The sound effects and the fake newscast were a bit distracting but there is a great disturbing sound to this. There is so much to be said for ambiance and then coupling it with the sweet lullaby sounds. This is a pretty fine piece of work. He gets a spotlight:

Song 1125: “An Indellible Mark” by Hazen Nester

Rebecca Angel  also went for the creepy lullaby. It was a good intentions. The delivery left something to be desired on occasion. Like the piano had these odd staccato bits (at least I’m calling them staccato and not stumbles). There’s some decent imagery and some strong vocals towards the end but it didn’t pull together for me. Still, not the worst thing I ever heard by a longshot. David DeLuc has a very clean sound that reminds me a bit of Jonathan Mann. It’s a fun song but at just over 2 minutes, when I got into the groove of the song, the song was already done. That was a shame because I was enjoying it, despite it being an almost uplifting sopund to a nightmare song. Now, I exactly what to expect out of my x-tokyo bandmate Noah McLaughlin. He has a certain rock style that is driven by his very unique vocals. The lyrics on this song are a mixed bag. Some are great like “You are always someone’s monster”. Some are not as great like “my family tree of twisted branches”. All in all, a decent tune but I didn’t get the emotion of the delivery. Felix Frost brought some crazy experimental stuff like screamed out Nightmare Before Christmas so I guess it worked as a nightmare tune. It was a chiptune 8bit nightmare. But does the music match the lyrical content? I guess it doesn’t have to necessarily but when the music is so wild, the lyrical disconnect becomes distracting. Jacob Haller, now that’s a voice for a nightmare song. It’s built for gritty blues and hell yeah, it’s got an accordian in there too. Wish it was played better but a great idea. Beside the accordian mess, it’s a good song. I wish he’d go that next step. If he would’ve gone Screamin’ Jay Hawkins forceful or Kirk Windstein gruff, I would’ve been hooked. The last of the first ten songs is Common Lisp. Before he got to the poetry part, I was already thinking “this is more like poetry than song”. I think he got really wrapped up in the rubato challenge and its almost to the songs detriment. By the time the last act came around, I was done with it all. Great examples of rubato, but not a great song.

Okay, more tomorrow.