Sunday, September 16, 2007

Mad About "Mad About You"

Good news, you faithful readers, you! After two arduous months of review and old-school finaglery, "Mad About You" has made it through to round 2 of the current contest and been selected as "Track of the Day" for 9/16/07. In layman's terms, this means that among jaded wannabe rockstars like myself, one of my songs has been judged to be definitively not the worst song they've ever heard. Does it get any better than this? I ask you, does it? I tell you it does not. No wait, that sounds sad. It definitely does get better than this, but I remain enthusiastic about this message and my life in general. Seriously, get juiced, this is a big day for us all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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5 recent reviewer picks of mine:

  • Get To You Muzzy Luctin, Hard Rock
  • Sirens Dash Reflex, Rock
  • Man in the Cold Steph MacLeod, Acoustic (as well as his other songs "Circles" and "Breaking Out")
  • Golden Gate Likely Stories, Acoustic Jazz-rock
  • Fragile Things The Two-Time Jimmy, Rock

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to get a 5-star review

Well, today is my lucky day, for I am the proud author of a Review of the Day. In honor of this glorious occasion, I've decided to update my shiny blog toy. No, Mommy, it is my favorite toy, and you may not sell my blog at our garage sale. I love my blog. See, I'm playing with it right now. Right now, Mommy.

Some general guidelines on how to get a favorable review from me on

Don't worry about style: I try to use Roger Ebert's famous philosophy (paraphrased poorly here) and judge the overall work in the context of what it set out to achieve. Nothing worse than a reviewer who says "I don't like [STYLE], so this didn't really work for me. Everything was too [HALLMARK TRAIT OF STYLE] for my liking."

Everyone starts with a three: I start off with the assumption that the song will be a three-star review. The artist can improve or wither from there.

Singers: I expect singers to hit their notes. Extra credit for emotion. Extra credit for technique. Points off for rhythmic difficulties, particularly for being the weak link in the groove. Most points off for sour pitch.

Groove: I expect the song to be more or less in time. I won't sit there with a metronome checking it, but I shouldn't feel the pulse drag or rush except where by clear design. Extra credit for tightness (everything lines up). Extra credit for nuances of feel (laying back, etc). Extra credit for keeping it tight, but getting creative with it. Points off for misbangs (notes that miss the cue). Points off for rushing and dragging. Maximum points off for dropped beats.

Instruments: I expect everyone to be in tune and have a basic command of their instrument. Extra credit for creativity. Extra credit for interacting well with other instruments. Extra credit for virtuosity. Extra points for building momentum over the arc of the song. Points off for flubs. Points off for noticeably poor technique. Points off for flatline performances that are the same from start to finish.

Writing: This is the most subjective aspect of my review, but I try to be fair and not rely purely on my own preferences. I expect the design to be evident. It doesn't have to fit a template, but I need to sense the mastery of decision-making. Extra points for taking care. Extra points for catchy melodies. Extra points for interesting chord changes. Extra points for perceptive or compelling words. Extra points for surprises. Super extra points if the lyrics, melody, and chords are all clicking. Points off for lyrics that draw attention to their awkwardness. Points off for melodies that cling to one note for lack of trying. Points off for melodies that don't fit the scale of the chords in songs that are otherwise very conventional --those that are likely mistakes or failures to write a typically-tonal melody rather than a band that clearly experiments with polytonality. Points off for songs where neither the lyric nor the music remains interesting for the duration of the song (in my view, at least one thing has to compel the listener to finish the song).

Recording Quality: Although I write about it extensively in my reviews, this aspect matters the least to actual scoring for me. It is, after all, Nonetheless, I expect that every song will be listenable. Points off for terrible noise issues. Points off for key elements which are literally inaudible (e.g., the recording is a handheld tape recorder in someone's bedroom, and all I can make out is the guitar because it's right next to the mic and the singer is eight feet away, getting his Norah Jones on....) I don't really give extra credit in this category, except for especially creative recording techniques. I'll give a good review to a terrible recording of a good song and performance. However, I would never give a great-sounding recording of a ho-hum song five stars.

One Star (6% of my reviews): Nothing important is working or something is failing so spectacularly that it doesn't matter what the status of anything else is. Or plagiarism. I give one star for plagiarism. It's one of my kooky rules.

Two Stars (17% of my reviews): One or more big problems or lots of little ones without enough extra credit to offset.

Three Stars (28% of my reviews): The default. An equal mix of small strengths and weaknesses with nothing great enough to elevate it to a four and nothing terrible enough to sink it to a two.

Four Stars (30% of my reviews): I'm very enthusiastic about the song, but there are a couple problems that stand out. Typically, you can't break my four-star barrier on performance alone --the song has to have some merit. But a great song with noticeable performance problems will not get more than four stars from me.

Five Stars (19% of my reviews): Great performance of a great song. Recording quality may be in any tolerable ballpark, by which I mean that home studio efforts qualify so long as they emulate the typical standards and practices of professional recordings (basic stuff). I would accept a live recording, and in theory I would accept a scratch demo, if the artist had positioned everything just right so that the song was clearly audible and the recording didn't get in the way. I have to feel like it has tremendous potential right away to get somebody signed or licensed.

Five of my favorite five-star reviews:

  • A little grit on something great
  • Rousing and feral
  • Tight, tight, aaaaaaaaannnd tight
  • Interesting to the last
  • Laying way back

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Is it really a battle of wits if you're beating down some sort of abusive Czech ELIZA?

My Review:

Ripping off Annie Lennox ("Always and Forever" Minus0)
Well, to start off, the entire first verse plagiarizes Annie Lennox's "Legend In My Living Room" (second verse) word for word (see  And it's not as if it's a cover, somehow ignorantly violating policy --these are stolen lyrics misappropriated into some terrible listless spiral.  Do I really have to go on?  Even were it not for this offensive outright theft, this song has got problems.  The singer is wandering in a haze and the melody has no center.  The backup vocals are out of phase.  There's no dynamic shape to this extended dramatic whisper.  In a normal review, I might mention that the chord changes show some potential, but given the exposed crooked moral compass, who knows where those really came from.  Can these guys write at all?

From the "band"

Yes......... we can write...and its not rip off you moron!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And my reply:

Actually, what you've done is the very definition of "rip off." As I very specifically cite in my review, you STOLE words from an Annie Lennox song and tried to pass them as YOURS, copyright 2007 Z. Mesic and everything. I have reported you for doing so to the administrators of this site, and since your action is a clear-cut violation not only of copyright law, but also the specific policies of GarageBand, I'd be shocked if your account didn't get revoked.

And what's worse, not only did you steal the words, but you wasted the theft in a terrible song. I'm normally very civil in my reviews, but in your particular case, I have absolutely no qualms about lambasting you and your ethics.

Reading back over your email, it occurs to me that maybe I'm just talking over your head. Let me try it in your own brilliant writing style:

No......... you can't write...and it's rip off you thief!!!!!!!!!!!

His reply:

ha ha ha ha............
you're so funny....looser!!!!!!!!!!!

And mine:

Glat to se yu hafent losed yur sens if humir. Lern tu spel, insidintli. Kent weet fur yu tu skwez in de lest werd. I espeshally luv how yu dunt feal ani ned to defind ur yoos uf somun eles werds or efen iknelege it hapind et al. Praps ur difins cud bi det yu sikikli chaniled hur unwitenlee. Wed yur witt, yoo jes mit git of der huk!

And finally:


Or maybe just one more from me:
zloděj (thief)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Listening to [Blank]

Recently, my friend Siri made me wise to the hipster phenomenon known as Because that's how I do it over here in the marketing department --I adopt a philosophy of many foreign words, laissez-faire, zen, holistic, bibbity-bobbity-boo. You get the point. Just as I still have no idea how to blog, I remain doggedly convinced that the internet is comprised of BBS Dungeons & Dragons games played on message boards (in Tokyo, John Fried hopefully just wet himself --THE SHAME!). Anyhoo, I count on you, my fan(s), to appraise me of the marketing potential of this, the international net. Now pardon me while I adjust my monacle and de-scuff my bowler.

The toll for having my songs posted on said website is that I must review fifteen pairs of songs (you know.... 30) for each song that I wish to submit into contests and the review queue. Needless to say, I have been reviewing pairs of songs by the Winchester bushel. Only 5 stones of pairs of songs more and I'll have all four and a half pairs of songs I uploaded entered into the contest!

The GarageBand review process is straightforward: I listen to the song, draft a short review, give the song a 1-5 star rating, and pick which member of the pair I preferred. Most songs are decent, but not great, and my ratings seem to fall into a normal bell curve.

I've been primarily reviewing either acoustic or hard rock tracks, and here are the best songs I've heard in each category (in no particular order). You can consider this my stamp of approval.

Hard Rock:

  • "Down" Ground Mower
  • "In Your Wake" Bipolar
  • "Reanea" Rejn
  • "The Bitter End" 17th Parallel


  • "Wish I Was Here" John Pippus
  • "Rain" Minor Prophet
  • "Petals" Debra Fitzsimmons
  • "Tears on Tarmac" Dusty Colours

So this blog won't really let me plug those into the "Listening To" blank, but you and I will know the truth --I'm on, reviewing away.

Feel free to remember that my CD is downloadable from iTunes for 5 pairs of dollars, and it is --by many standards-- a fine choice to fill in the "Listening To" blank. If it lets you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Musing (read: meandering)

Cody plays slide guitar so fast
that cameras are powerless to record it
Played 9 Muses Saturday night to "a small but appreciative crowd" (read: Brian Costello). The sound was very "hot" (read: unspeakably loud) since Mick wanted to "bring people in off the street" (read: scare away werewolves). It was nonetheless a "loose" (read: fun) show with a lot of "interaction" (read: speaking directly to Brian). This was one of those gigs where --for whatever reason-- I just felt in the groove and confident to explore the songs a little more, and I'm actually very keen to review the video. There should be some good versions of "I'll Never Be Far from Your Side," "Best of Days," "Goodbye, Dream," and "24 Bad Ones" (a new song I'm trying out for size).

Near the end of my set, the members of Huge Sally showed up as substitutes for a last-minute cancellation. One of them (spacing names, here) said that they were thinking about doing a set of all covers. "Go on," he says, "name me some covers."

"Hmm. I don't know, what stuff do you play?"

"C'mon, just name anything. What music do you listen to?"

(Pause) "Jeez, I just can't think of anything right now." Now that was a lie. I could think of something. I could think of the dulcet tones of Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood. That's what I could think of. That and nothing else. But somehow, I didn't think that Huge Sally had a ready-made version of that particular tune prepared for our listening pleasure. Plus, it is the general consensus of articles in peer-reviewed journals that other people don't typically enjoy Motley Crue as much as me.

"Well how about them?" (pointing to my King's X shirt) "Who is that?" (squinting dramatically) "Oh, King's X! Yeah, I don't know any King's X, but every time I hear them or hear about them, I respect them."

"Yeah. They're probably my favorite band right now. I guess it's hard to suggest a cover because all I'm really listening to right now is King's X, Audioslave, and stuff like that."

"Well, I don't know any Audioslave but.... King's X is kind of one of the first reggae rock bands, right?"

(pause) "I don't know if I've ever thought of them that way. More like progressive hard rock meets gospel?"

"Modern alternative? How about some Sublime?"

"How about you just hit us with your best shot?" They ended up playing some of their own material instead.

It's not fair to say this because how could he have known? Something about Sublime has always rubbed me the wrong way (read: I can't stand Sublime). And if you can't read my blog because of it, I hope we can still be friends (read: I can still send you promotional marketing materials). Look forward to seeing you at the next bank of shows, you crazy readers (read: Eric), you!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Don't Know How To Blog

I don't know how to blog. I know even a caveman can do it, and the lessons of Geico have taught me that it is insensitive and wrong to state it that way, but nonetheless, I am incapable of that which a sophisticated international neanderthal (interanderthal?) globetrotter with the confident tennis sweater has no doubt been doing since aught-four. There, see, I dragged us back in time again. I'm so reprehensibly backwards. It's inexcusable. Aught-four. Speaking of time travel, I played at the Twin Paradox last Friday. It was the first time my daughters Cara (3) & Hadley (1.5) had ever seen me play live (where they weren't able to push their way onto my lap and seize control of my guitar), and they.... well.... they rocked out. There was --I feel I can safely say this even though I didn't really measure it on the Rockometer(tm)-- more out-of-control dancing and (thanks to Hadley the human bowling ball) moshing than at any other show I've ever had. What? The kids don't call it moshing any more? What do they do now? The Robot? Sweet. My time machine works. This was also the first gig where I played any live piano since the old Mercury Cafe days. Before returning home for bedtime, Cara came up and sang one of her own songs, "Knocking." Open the door/Somebody's knocking/There's nobody there/The tree is still broken/And we can't fix it/We can't fix it anymore." Vaunne remarked that Cara was clearly imitating my "teeth-clenched not moving your lips" style instead of her usual full-throated showtune-belting technique. For the record, that's not my style, Vaunne.

Sometime soon, I'll post an mp3 from the show for you --and I mean Eric-- to download free. Good versions of "And You Say," "Lucky Man," "Up To Her," "At First Sight," among the obscura.