This is an NGADM Round 5 Review
You, sirs, have been rocking this contest since the start. Every round you had an extremely memorable, distinguishable track, and each one was so well-produced, well-executed, and well-written. This was, above all, an incredibly well-deserved first place.
What I respect the most about this track would be the scale of it all. Once again we've got four talented vocalists in here, and on top of that there's actually a lot of detail and variation that can be found in elements of the mix like the guitar and vocals. In addition to that, you have a tried-and-true song structure, climactic ending, and emotionally uplifting melody, which makes this a VERY fulfilling and satisfactory listening experience. Production-wise, this is also no slacker! I much prefer how you mixed the vocals here than in your previous track, and everything is clear and pronounced. Some specific things I loved about this would be the thick vocal harmonies, dreamy texture on the guitar, 2:53's rhythmic change, and of course the beautiful lead vocal performance.
Like I was saying to midimachine in his review, finding issues in these tracks was a huge problem for me, even after over a dozen listens to each. I eventually settled on complaining about the fact that this is... I dunno, safe? If I had to compare this to the other tracks you've submitted to the contest, it's decidedly more straightforward, with a cookie-cutter pop structure, standard uplifting key change at the end, and mostly simple composition. I hardly care because of how WELL you executed everything, though. This is me nitpicking a track which I consider among the best that this year's contest has to offer.
Truly brilliant work to you all, not just for this track but for the five excellent tracks you've graced our ears with. Congrats on being the first team in NGADM history to land first place, and thanks for the wonderful music!
Step, my man. It has been quite a journey, and we're super ecstatic to have even made it this far let alone take the win! I agree with you that (generally) the composition aspect is more simple than some other stuff we've done (I mean, we didn't use 3 key signatures and 5 time signatures like Vanquish the Night, haha). But we put probably an equal amount of time into it. Josh actually mixed this on his studio monitors this time (he had been using slightly above average computer/laptop speakers for the previous rounds since his studio is no longer in his home). Thanks for all the work you put into this Step! (even putting LunacyEcho's track up on the front page instead of yours, :P I see what you did there)
It has been an honor!
Hot damn, this is one of my favourite tracks of the whole contest. You played it pretty safe by going back to your track that had the most success this year - your Round 3 track - and making something in a similar style, but this time I think you nailed it even further. That melody is brilliant, and I cannot overstate this. It's catchy, it's memorable, it's fun, and it has a super nice modulation to the aeolian mode at the end of it. Synths/sounds are, once again, impeccable. The sawtooth synths you used for the lead sound are especially good. Again, the vibrato and pitch bending you put on them just quadrupled their enjoyment factor. Sick reverse kick at 1:40 too!
I listened to this track and bassfiddlejones/joshgawaldo's track at least 15 times each, and finding issues in both of them was a nightmare. I mean really, the only thing I can point out is that the ending is abrupt and lame. And that bloody air horn, man. Was so tempted to dock a point for it. It gave me the fright of my life the first time I heard it with headphones on, while walking to uni. I nearly mlg360noscope'd my underwear.
Honestly, this is beyond fantastic. My favourite track from you this contest, although you've been keeping a VERY strong pace throughout. The final matchup could've gone either way. So yeah, thanks a million for taking part, posting such awesome music, and providing many donks and ":v" faces. Congrats on the second place!
it's been real. and hey, thanks for judging!
This is NGADM Round 4 Review.
It's a shame that we never quite heard a proper collaboration between you two, but both of you have individually created some truly spectacular pieces, with this being no exception. The composition in this is nothing short of breathtaking. You took an era/style and captured it so beautifully, with suitable instrumentation, tasteful harmonies, gorgeous melodies, smooth flow, and a thoughtful and sensible compositional structure to boot. As always, your samples and usage thereof is flawless. The portamento on those strings is expressive and fitting. Oh, and I just wanted to highlight 1:07 in this track, which is one of my favourite parts. The transition leading to it was brilliant, and the texture you create with the gentle harp noodling in the background is wonderful. When you highlight the melody at 1:28 with those warm strings I got chills. Really, this is excellent stuff.
Sorry to repeat what others have said but yeah, the only reason I docked 0.3 would be production value. It's not bad by any means, but I agree completely with MetalRenard that the frontal strings were a bit too dry. There's also some weird glitchy stuff going on with the note release now and again, but I know you're aware of that and didn't lower my score for that.
It's a breathtaking cinematic piece that truly pays respect to the 70s Hollywood era. Incredible work on this. In other circumstances this would be an easy matchup winner, but unfortunately your opponents churned out one beast of a track too, which is why this just about didn't make the cut. Still, it was great having both of you around for the contest.
This is an NGADM Round 4 Review
This is certainly quite a departure from the kind of music you've submitted so far. Despite this new, decidedly more kawaii approach, there's still a lot of the stuff that bore such sky-high scores from me in the past, such as the clear, punchy production value, fantastic choice of synths, and highly melodic content. You've got some neat vocals, a solid structure, fantastic mixing, and excellent sound design. It's really solid stuff.
My main issue is that this isn't quite as novel as I would've hoped it to be. The main melody can get a bit crass and obnoxious, and there wasn't really enough variety and novelty to make this live up to your previous submissions. I was personally really happy to hear that trademark synth solo of yours, since it was a brief respite from the cheesy pop stuff, and was more akin to your previous work. Not that I didn't enjoy the rest of the song, but I think a lot of the "wow factor" of this track comes from that solo haha.
Anyway, still an awesome submission. Good luck in the finals!
This is an NGADM Round 4 Review.
When I saw that you two were paired against SoundChris and JacobCadmus, I knew that, given the stupid amounts of musical talent you all have, either group would have to churn out a true masterpiece to beat the other. This is a true masterpiece, deserving of probably one of the highest scores in NGADM history.
You weren't lying when you said that this was in a different vein from the other content you two have created during the course of this contest. Not only is the genre different, but even the entire approach. If I didn't know any better, I would have not guessed that this submission was made by the same people who made your previous submissions. This is a lot more "grounded" in its structure, in that it doesn't veer off into crazy time/key signatures and totally new and distinctive sections like your other stuff does. There's also, of course, the usage of vocals, which is a new addition to your NGADM 2015 repertoire. Despite this completely new direction, you still excel, dare I say even more than you've excelled in past submissions.
The melodies and chords are so memorable and likeable. Probably one of my favourite things about this track would be how solid the composition is. Another one of my favourite things would have to be the performances. I knew your (talking to bassfiddlejones) wife had a scary good singing voice, but what I didn't know is that you were hiding an awesome singing voice all this time yourself! All the singing is fantastic, really. The parts where a bunch of vocals come in sound incredibly full and warm. And Josh is really shredding it on that banjo, wow.
Of course, there was also a bunch of other stuff I enjoyed, such as the switch to double time, the lyrics, the production, the sound of that percussion, and so on, but to avoid this review getting too long, let me just get the nitpicks over with. I think the vocals are too mid-heavy, and some of the mixing and editing on them was a bit wonky (such as 2:03's voice being too distant in the mix or some parts being out of sync). One stylistic complaint is that I really would have liked to hear an instrument solo here. This is more personal preference than a legitimate reason to dock some points, but I did find myself hoping to hear some killer banjo riffs take the spotlight around halfway.
Anyhow, you've well and truly blown the judging team away. Fantastic work to all of you. The question is, how will you top this for the final round?
Step! Thank you for the wonderful review - we are tickled that you guys enjoyed this song so much. Hopefully much more to come for Newgrounds!
Agh, I hate it when you submit short/unfinished stuff like this. I can definitely empathise with you on the writer's block/technical issues (to be honest, those are the main reasons why I don't think I'd take part in an NGADM if I weren't busy hosting it haha), but at the same time it's certainly a disappointment to see all that wasted potential, especially after the beast of a track you churned out for the last round.
Having said that, it'd be a heresy to leave this unfinished. There's an unexpectedly large amount of atmosphere in what you've presented here, no doubt thanks to your copious use of reverb/delay. The sounds/synths in particular are all extremely pleasant to listen to, and on top of that the production has to be some of the tightest you've given us so far! The part at 0:30 sounds so crisp, and that bass in particular is absolutely great. Melodically, this also doesn't fall short, but it's essentially a set of rhythmically-similar melodic phrases repeated a bunch of times. It definitely lays the foundation for a ton of awesome melodic development, though!
I've run out of things to say for this. It's unfinished, no doubt, and, as much as I'd have liked to reflect a compensation for that in my score, I'm afraid I had to dock a lot of points. Make no mistake that this is the start to something great, but it has a way to go before it gets there. Either way, it's been a pleasure having you in the contest!
This is an NGADM Round 3 Review
Hey aliaspharow! This review is WAY overdue. My apologies; I left it out accidentally and only now did it hit me that I have yet to review this.
Anyway, onto the review. I have to say; way to go for totally upping your game! This is my favourite track from you so far this NGADM. It's got all the qualities I enjoy about your music, except now they're presented in a super coherent and perfectly-structured ~4 minutes of earcandy heaven. Seriously, this sounds so much more like a finished and thoughtfully-structured track than your other NGADM submissions. Each section leads naturally to the next, and when we finish listening to the track, there's a feeling of satisfaction and conclusion, which is certainly a mark of a well-structured piece of music. Of course, on top of that, you keep up your pace of stellar production and beautiful melodic content.
I actually don't have much to complain about in this track. It's a super solid submission with everything I look for in a drum'n'bass track. The sole problem I want to talk about lies within the second half of the track, which feels kind of static and unvaried. You lead up to 2:00 nicely, but after that the song stays at exactly the same energy level till the end. Another break before the final climax could fix this, or (preferably) you could've increased the energy levels even more, adding more layers of intricacy and melodic content.
All in all, this is impressive to say the least. Wonderful job on this!
SKYE. Holy crap I'm late for this review. Sorry about that! I forgot I hadn't sorted out all of my Round 3 reviews.
So, here's what I think about this track. First off, I need to commend you on those absolutely insane drums. It's times like this when your whole "write a whole song in one pattern" method shines, because the amount of variety, subtleties, and rhythmic changes in your percussion is beyond ridiculous, in a good way. Your drums are pleasantly stimulating and rewarding to follow, and even sound great, samples-wise! That extent of technicality and intricacy also carried over to your melodic stuff, which is, for all intents and purposes, an astoundingly enjoyable concoction of organised chaos. I especially love the melodic content you threw in during that acoustic guitar solo, which was an unexpected but welcomed veer into some surprisingly emotional and touching composition.
So this is definitely a fun listen, but I do have my issues with it, issues that were summed up pretty nicely by my fellow judges. I feel like there was more of a focus on technical appeal, and less focus on sonic/musical appeal. I'm not a fan of your leads, and I'm missing the crazy sound design that your other tracks excelled at. The melodies were certainly an engaging listen, but aside from that one acoustic guitar solo, none were all that memorable, and didn't communicate much to me beyond "look how technical I can be". This isn't as much of an issue as I make it sound, but certainly something worth mentioning.
Overall, you have a killer track here, as always. It's obviously a shame to see you go, but you put up one hell of a fight. Bravo, and thanks for all the awesome music!
This is an NGADM Round 3 Review.
First off, I want to apologise for the tardiness! Onto the review.
So, what initially impressed me a lot about this track would be the atmosphere you created right from the get-go. That intro is nothing short of film-worthy, with the subtle electronic elements, soft staccato string passage in the background, and those awesome swelling strings. You've created, as always, a wonderfully cinematic experience. Another thing I particularly liked over here is how airy the track is! It's something I've noticed in nearly all of your music. I think it's somewhat of a temptation to make orchestral/film music very warm and thick, but it's a temptation you don't fall into. Your tracks have a certain sense of airiness without sounding empty, and yet you still craft such excellent atmospheres. It shows a sense of restraint and control that's valuable for any musician to have.
While I do think this is extremely high-quality stuff, I'm also going to echo what those below me said. It doesn't really venture anywhere. As you probably guessed, the lack of dynamics is killing this track, from the perspective of an NGADM judge. It would fit beautifully in some long, tense scene in a film, but as a listening experience it's a mere exercise in subtlety, and nothing more. It doesn't tell a story or have much movement. Your last round's track suffered from this to an extent, but I liked the emotion and composition of that one a lot, whereas over here the focus seems to be on atmosphere. Atmosphere alone won't get you the sky-high scores you need at this point in the competition!
While I adore all the subtleties and atmosphere, I was hoping for a bit more of an experience! That said, this is, like always, professional-level stuff from you. I hope to see you in any future NGADMs, and it's been a pleasure!
And it was a great pleasure for me too! I don't really have much to say, those reviews are priceless, and surely I still have a lot to learn. Can't wait for next NGADM, and I hope that you will see some progress :)
Geoplex makes a really good point; how the hell is this a product of two people? It sounds like the result of a carefully-planned piece by a single mastermind. It flows so well and the melodies and harmonies are super well-thought-out, so I'm very impressed with how you guys both put this together. Would've required no less than perfectly coordinated teamwork. I'm actually curious - how did you two tackle the song? Did LucidShadowDreamer finish the whole piano part and send it to dem0lecule to add strings? Or was it a more progressive collaboration (one of you finishes one part, the other finishes another, etc)?
Anyway, that aside, time to judge the meat of this track. I actually find it quite interesting that this was paired with Jacob's and Chris' track, because both are similar in that they're very hard to judge in my opinion. This is a behemoth of a track, with nine minutes of beautifully written and heartfelt composition. I am actually genuinely impressed by the melodic and harmonic content here, and the brilliant use of motif. It's so easy for piano and strings to sound like noodling/improvisation, but it's clear that you put a lot of thought into this and structured it sensibly.
I have two main problems with this track. The first would be those strings. Compositionally, they are very good and fit wonderfully with the piano, but in terms of execution? Poor at best. They sound dry and artificial. The legato strings in the foreground are in desperate need of legato transitions between the notes, too. By contrast, the piano sounds excellent. Good sample, humanisation is all there, velocity work is solid (except maybe at 2:30 the piano gets a bit too grating)... but yeah, while compositionally the strings and piano are at a very high standard, the strings struggle to keep up in the production department.
Another issue is that I think this piece struggles from having TOO MUCH content. I usually complain about a song not having enough, but in this case, as much as I love what you've given us here and think that you did a great job keeping it interesting, it just comes off as overwhelming and tiring to listen to. I particularly find the section from around 3:00 - 5:30 to tire me. The song seems then transitions to an awesome climax, followed eventually by a well-placed reintroduction of theme, which allows it to pick up the pace a little, but that particular section overwhelmed me personally in terms of the sheer amount of content and super serious demeanour.
I really had a hard time judging this track and your opponents'. In the end I had to be a wuss and give each of you the same score. I think you and your opponents all have extremely solid and memorable tracks. Even though you guys didn't make it through, it's sad to see you go! Great work getting so far, and it's been a pleasure!
Thanks a great deal for yet another wonderful review :)
We've tackled our different collaborations in different ways. For this one, here is what we did:
I came up with a few ideas, and had dem0lecule come up with a few ideas as well. His ideas were string based, and my ideas were focused on the piano. But I interpreted his ideas in a way that allowed me to make them fit with the piano, and planned the piano parts around the string melodies he sent me. Especially the third and fourth movement are based closely around his original string ideas. But I think that the main reason this is so consistent, is because all of the piano was played by me in one sitting, and the arrangement of the piano is all mine this time. That said, I have no idea how dem0lecule managed to write so great string melodies for the entire piece in just one night. I did edit certain parts, and for the fifth movement I changed it and added my own ideas, but other than that, it's mostly the same. And even if I hadn't changed such parts, it would've still sounded just as consistent (yet different), because I have an older version I can listen to as well, which already sounds great.
But we were both of a similar mindset, and the intention behind the track is mostly the same for the both of us, which is why I think it was pretty easy for us to get a good structure. And once again, I am sure that playing the piece on a piano makes pretty much anything sound like it was made by one person, because I have a certain style of playing that really shines through whether I want it to or not.
Yeah, I definitely get that our tracks would both be difficult to judge. We're very happy that you appreciate the melodies and harmonies, as those along with the arrangement, are the core of the track. I spent a lot of time working on transitions and structure especially. I am at a point where chords and melodies seem to come to me much easier than a good arrangement. So I made sure to really focus on having a motif, and a few other kinds of more hidden repetition. But I'll get more into that when I eventually gather enough time and energy to respond to johnfn's massive review.
You're definitely right. If you compare this to my unplanned improvisations, there is a huge difference.
And yes, of course. The strings pain no one as much as they pain me. But, life came in the way. That said, I have talked with dem0lecule, so when things calm down, we'll put aside some time to produce this properly, with his intruments (though I might just use my electronic piano as the piano sample). I really appreciate those tips though. I produced this very quickly in the last minutes, so even I could do so much better, but I still need as much advice as I can get for the future. Dem0 has things more in check though XD
The piano power at 2:30 is definitely intentional. But with this particular VSTi, maybe it doesn't sound as good as it could. Maybe slightly different EQ settings at this part would've made it better. I actually didn't change the piano velocities manually at all, which may be a mistake. But I felt I played it well enough, and that removing a few mistakes would be enough. And for the strings, most of my time that last night went into editing the velocities. But as Geoplex pointed out, the ADSR humanization is totally lacking.
We both knew from the start that making a track this long would be tiring for many people. But we also didn't really care, as we didn't set out to make a pop track. I get what you mean with 3:00-5:30, but I think that those parts are also very important to convey what the piece is intended to. I feel it wouldn't be at all complete without them. Maybe better production would help this too?
There is a lot of new content that doesn't really repeat much in the middle section, which is why I think you and others might find those parts especially tiring to listen to :)
I'm glad you noticed the climax after that though, even if the mix doesn't really bring it out as much as it should be!
Yeah, I figured that you had a hard time picking one of the tracks to give a higher score to. I might've given a higher score to Chrismus based on the production alone. Then again, I personally like the structure and harmonical/melodic content in this track more. But I am obviously incredibly biased XD
But I totally get what you mean. I think it's fine that you decided to score both tracks alike, and both dem0 and I are super happy with your high score, especially as the score is so high despite the length and the production.
So once again, thanks a million for organizing this awesome contest, for judging, and for leaving great and helpful reviews. It was a blast to participate, and we seem to have done pretty well in the end, which is all fine and dandy for me. In fact, I'm almost personally secretly a bit happy that we lost eventually, as I had soooo much other stuff I had to catch up with o.O
I'm still only barely managing, but I'll soon have some free time again.
I'm sure we'll definitely participate (separately or together) if you organize this again next year!!!
It has been a pleasure indeed :3
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