Berkeley Social Scene
-- You said you wanted to break out of the box, and you've done it in many ways. First there's the studio sound, with its managed, intimate compression and careful balance, in contrast to the rough edges of live performance. Then there's the predominance of crisp, undistorted instruments, and the soft, pitch-perfect vocals. Even the songwriting itself seems different; it feels gentler, more relaxed. The major chord where the key suggests a minor accentuates the sense of openness and light, while the unusually close vocal harmonies add warmth. Everything about this is elegant, including the ending.
-- As everyone so far has already noted, the low end seems to be missing; the song sounds like it's coming out of an iPhone. Setting that aside, there's lots to like about this entry: the playful words with their inventive scan, the controlled chaos of the accompaniment, the urgent groove of the beat, the well-timed breakdown and rebuild, the hypnotic backing vocals. Good singing. The ending trails off a bit; a more abrupt stop might have been better.
-- Satanic metal seems to work for this title. I haven't listened to enough of the genre to offer helpful comments, but if I were trying to do this I would probably go with a more ominously present bass and a more consistently thick texture; the open spaces offer relief, which nobody expects from Hell. All the same, with its strident, dissonant guitars and intense, angry vocals, this does a pretty good job. The very last note, a brief slash, seems to convey a sudden loss of interest rather than a dread finality.
-- This strikes me as a collage, lyrically and musically, along the cryptic lines of the 1970's graffiti artist Basquait. (To be completely clear, I'm not suggesting you're the next Basquiat; I'm just groping for a context to help make sense of things.) The various elements that make it up are not obviously related, yet in aggregate they leave a disconcerting sense that something just beyond reach is being expressed. This is reinforced by seemingly meaningful repetitions, adding to the feeling that this is about something so utterly alien that any attempt at communication requires extraordinary measures.
-- I was trying to convey the mood of a moonlit December evening. [EDIT: We're all aware that the full moon of December 22, 2018 was the thirteenth full moon of the year, right?] I tried writing some lyrics about snow and bare trees and blue illumination and stuff like that, but I'm no poet and it was pretty bad, so in the end I let the music do the talking. There are one or two things I'd change, but overall I'm happy with the result, even though as an instrumental it's likely to lose a vote or two. (The relative worth of instrumentals has come up before; see for example the Meat Grinder
review thread. For what it's worth, I'd never submit some random instrumental with no connection to the title -- where's the fun in that? -- but I'll say no more for now. Just be thankful you were spared my bad poetry.)
-- Another highly eccentric entry in the fight, but in contrast to Hot Life's, this one places an extended lyrical narrative over a musical track which, for all its curious nature, has a certain rhythmic and melodic cohesion. The effect is not so much a disturbing collage, in the manner of Basquiat, as a strange lens of perception, in the manner of van Gogh (again, no suggestion of van Gogh's genius is intended). I say these things because I really don't know what to say; self-expression takes many forms, and not all of them speak to all of us. Certainly there is a consistency in your approach. I feel as if your main interest is in the lyrics, which are always fun to listen to, and the accompaniment is an impressionistic conveyance.
-- A very interesting mashup of a danceable pop-rock tune played straight by a backing band; a slightly raunchy lead; an eccentric, swooping, oddly distressed vocal with a subtle flange; and some space-laser/game arcade noises added for effect. I'm not sure it all comes together as a cohesive whole -- the sound effects feel like they're attached loosely -- but I like the tune and the band, and the singing.
Paco del Stinko
-- The main part is a finger-snapping gumshoe riff that distantly evokes the theme from Peter Gunn, but builds and develops eventually into an inimitable PdS vision, complete with some screaming solos. I notice there are actual finger snaps, which must be hard to record. There is a less gritty, rather melodic part for contrast, and yet another part at 1:41 that manages to draw on both the other parts while remaining independent. The lyrics are unusually political. All of this is good, with a fine ending to top it off.
-- Very different from the acoustic approach of your other recent entries, this short, hard-driving rocker took me by surprise. It has a really solid feel, thanks in no small part to the very tight performances on all instruments. The trusty acoustic guitar does put in an appearance, but I'm not sure the effect is as desired; it feels like a folk singer has been sitting completely unnoticed in the middle of a stage full of Marshall amps, until suddenly they fall silent. Bands like Led Zeppelin can make this work, but I don't know how; maybe they make the insignificant tiny acoustic guitar sound bigger and more awesome with some big reverb, or they leave in a cosmic backing pad for drama. Must check it out. Apart from that minor quibble, this is a refreshing, energetic, and enjoyable entry.
Somebody named Seth
-- The music has a long, thoughtful, deceptive arc. On the first listen, during the first minute or so, I thought the arrangement was too dry and the song seemed to be wandering aimlessly, but by the end, having the larger picture, I was a fascinated convert. The intimate, out-front vocals command centre stage immediately; then the arrangement grows around them, introducing textural and rhythmic drama, and increasing steadily in ominous intensity. On second and subsequent listens I liked it almost from the opening notes. Even at four minutes plus, it holds interest. In fact the music is so interesting I have to force myself to pay attention to the lyrics -- which also build suspense nicely. The music and lyrics complement one another perfectly, and the vocal delivery has an appropriate urgency and desperation.
-- This is a pleasant composition, with one part in the I-VI-II-V tradition, and the modulated second part built on two major sevenths separated by a fourth. At 0:41, echoing Lunkhead, I get the same "Space Oddity" vibe from the step up and the suave, relaxed reverb guitar. The song alternates between a tranquil mood and a happy, upbeat vibe. It's very likeable, one of the better entries in the fight.