A Handful of Sad Songs: Reviewing the Speak Into My Good Eye 24 Hour Songwriting Challenge Compilation

by Brian Erickson • October 30, 2016 • Arts & Entertainment, MusicComments (0)2098

Keeping with the spirit of SIMGE’s third annual month-long throwdown where artists have literally 24 hours to write, record, and submit a song to head honcho Mike Mehalick, I decided to do my own ultra-fast review of the resulting album. I listened to each track one time, offered up the first few thoughts that came into my head and gave myself until song’s end to cement it all in. Once the song was over, that was it. I had to move on. I didn’t edit or revise in any way and like the SIMGE comp, you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

  1. Slonk Donkerson – “Casanova’s At It Again” – Nothing tentative or demo-y about this. Remarkable this was written/recorded within 24 hours. Great guitar/keyboard interplay and perfect harmonies.
  2. Fruit & Flowers – “Way Out” – Dark waltz that goes spaghetti Western pretty quickly. Is this the band that recorded theirs in the car? Makes sense; there’s a lot of movement. Maybe if Beach House had more guitar. Great way to make three chords interesting across a full song.
  3. Hanford Reach – “Eyeore” – Love the descending guitar line into the chorus as well as the melodic tension the bass brings to the proceedings. There’s this quasi-epic feel that lifts it.
  4. The Vaughns – “Vamos” – Be still my heart; I love The Vaughns and I don’t care who knows it! This song gives me the Real Estate feels in all the right ways. Anna Lies builds the tune on top of what sounds like the first drum machine ever invented and creates harmonic bliss. Can’t wait to hear the full band wrap its powerpop paws around this one on stage!
  5. Good Luck Spaceman – “Basement Windows” – Love the Owen/AmericanFootball vibe of the vocal delivery and how the song kicks into half time with a minute left for that extra dash of bombast. Slay me with your guitars any time you want, Good Luck Spaceman.
  6. Bone and Marrow – “Sirens” – Inventive use of drum machine and keyboards to keep the song sounding operatic. “Are you the deadly living or the living dead?” is a lyrical standout thus far.
  7. Fun While You Wait – “Silver Linings” – I’m gonna come out and say it: Fun While You Wait’s Devon Moore is SUCH a good singer! The band delivers another lyrical highlight that could be a mantra for the whole scene: “As long as we keep trying I don’t mind.” FWYW once again makes things sound breezy and effortless.


    Francie Moon

  8. Francie Moon – “In the Sun” – Francie Moon, one of the region’s hardest-working songwriters delivers our first true solo track. Great singalong chorus melody that my inner Brian Wilson can’t help but want to harmonize over. Props to Mike Mehalick for putting two of the scene’s best vocalists back-to-back.
  9. The Porchistas – “The Tierneys Song” – Funny “morning after” song about beloved bar Tierneys. Anything that involves hair of the dog, I can get behind! I want Tierneys to make this their official song. “When it rains shots pour.”
  10. Aquino – “Nancy With the Shadows” – Synth and drama meets theatrical vocals, I’m all in!
  11. Fairmont – “Casting Shadows” – I love the “in the room” upright piano and the occasional, purposefully-disjointed acoustic sounds: the guitar-mandolin interplay works well. That suspended D chord allows the song to float just an inch or two above the ground. Nice touch!
  12. Giraffe Giraffe – “Trend Setting Sun” – Almost Lennon-esque during the “down, you’re going down” sequence into the chorus. Is that a mellotron I hear? Beatle harmonies are the way to win my heart.

    C.R. & The Degenerates

    C.R. & The Degenerates

  13. C.R. and the Degenerates – “Loudmouth” – I never thought I would have wanted to know how Win Butler would sound if he was in Nada Surf instead of the Arcade Fire. Now I do and I want more!
  14. Fortune Yeller – “Make Your Way Home” – I love how widescreen Fortune Yeller gets on this song, imbuing the song with a pleasant late-afternoon haze.
  15. Zoo Keys – “Tanking” – New wave-meets-lo-fi. Like if Stephen Malkmus and Spiral Stairs started Pavement ten years earlier.
  16. Modern Crowds – “This Time” – Few things are better than a tightly-wound, driving, melodic powerpop tune! Who are Modern Crowds? That’s a question I will never again ask myself. Congrats guys, we’re paying attention. Thanks for the ear-grabber!
  17. Homeless Apians – “Pillow Fight” – Guitar-drums-synth-glockenspiel and foreboding vocals. Dirgey and minor key-driven, this is one of the more uniquely-produced songs on the compilation.
  18. The Paper Jets (f. Tim Ryan) – “One Day Kate” – I’ll go easy on my own contribution. Beach Boy harmonies on the bridge and a snaking guitar line throughout. Based on a song fragment by the late, great Tim Ryan who shows up to give the song’s intro and take us out, as well.
  19. Ryan Hobler – “Paper Airplane Life” – HA! I get it. The Paper Jets followed by “Paper Plane Life.” It’s an optimistic turn after a pair of the comp’s darker contributions. The wall of voices over the end, tho!
  20. Old Man King – “Skin and Bones” – Clever clever, Old Man King, name-dropping SIMGE. Heartbroken yet still hopeful. How’d they get that great guitar tone for the solo? Sounds like they dug the guitar straight out of the dirt behind Ry Cooder’s house.
  21. Michael Venutolo-Mantovani – “Hourglass” – Aged, world-beating folk tune. “I don’t need an hourglass to tell me it’s time” is another lyrical highlight. Gritty soloing. Sounds like they borrowed Old Man King’s guitar.
  22. Jackson Pines – “I Ain’t Gonna Leave (When They Dare Me)” – Busted, defeated, lonely, and contemplative. Jackson Pines conveys political sentiments over a pleading countrypolitan melody. “Those who can’t see it claim it’s not around.” A line appropriate for our time.
  23. The Big Drops – “Ocean” – A nice palate-cleanser following a couple of folkier tracks. I’m a sucker for a good shuffle and the Big Drops are pulling it off. Slide guitar, ukulele, and far-off vocals convey the feeling of the “Ocean” that the song title suggests. Do I hear a hint of Harry Nilsson toward the end? I sure hope so!
  24. Chris Blacker – “Another Day Another Song” – Chris Blacker writes a song about how tough it is to write a song. He succeeds on the strength of a superior melody accompanied by solo piano.
  25. Colton Kayser – “Drunk On Sunday” – Scene darling Colton Kayser offers this jaunty, buoyant solo track; intricate guitar-playing a la the Tallest Man on Earth with understatedly cocksure vocals to match.
  26. Josh Cabrera – “Finish First” – Another one of the compilations most imaginatively-produced tracks. Robotic synth and vocoder married to genuine emotion.
  27. Brian Rothenbeck – “24 Hours” – “I am only four chords and a handful of sad songs / So don’t waste your time on me / Cause I was already gone.” Marry me, Rothenbeck, you rapscallion; you spinner of yarns, you writer of excellent road-songs!
  28. Where Is My Spaceship – “You Think That I’m Very Pretty” – A simple melody and name-dropping Claude Debussy while also handing in a Debussy-like circular melody is a clever mid-album highlight.
  29. Foxanne – “Sea Blue” – One of the more haunting performances on the compilation. Like the title – “Sea Blue” – the inside/out melody seems to bob out on a lonely, restless ocean. I like when theme and aesthetic match up. It’s the sign of smart songwriting and Foxanne is one of the smartest in the biz!


    A. Bird

  30. A Bird – “Time” – Oooooh! Reminds me of those Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach tunes. Punchy vocals, and autumnal piano melody and some jazzy brushwork on the drums make for a bubbly, sugary pop tune.
  31. The Clydes – “Malady” – Digging the acoustic guitar/mellotron/falsetto vocal layering going on. Also like when a minor-key song is still catchy.
  32. Swanky Tiger – “Wake Up” – Confident, and self-assured. You can’t have a name like Swanky Tiger and be all “um…does this sound okay, maybe?” This song sounds like what I wish people meant when they used the term “modern rock.”
  33. Roulette – “Led Astray” – Powerful vocals and another great back-to-back sequencing on the record. Heavy riffs galore!
  34. Kenny Miller – “With Me” – The down-mixed vocals make the song possibly sound more shoegazey than Kenny Miller intended. But that’s fine; I’m on board.


    Laree Cisco

  35. Laree Cisco – “I Do” – A handclap-driven swing resets the mood of the compilation. I’m thinking Laree Cisco needs to testify what with those gospel vocals happening in the background. Amen!
  36. Lovetester – “Stop Drop and Rock and Roll” – “Stop Drop and Rock and Roll” is that kind of spiky, groovy late 70s pub rock being hawked by Joe Jackson on ‘Look Sharp.’ The slight reggae break in the middle only reinforces the songs effortless cool.
  37. Experiment 34 – “Well, You Know” – I like Matthew Makin’s singing here! He raps on E34’s proper songs most of the time. The descending breakdown in the middle of the song is cool and the manic vocals add some psycho swagger.
  38. Gene Pompilio – “In Vino Veritas” – Do-woo vocals to start things off with a little Buddy Holly thrown in there, too. I love the pre-Beatles rock and roll influence happening with a lot of the material on the compilation.
  39. Casey Hopkins – “About a Surfer Girl” – “About a Surf Girl” will sound a little familiar to a certain type of listener. Clever, clever, Casey Hopkins. For those unsure, I won’t ruin the surprise. Nicely-done.
  40. The Maravines – “Apple Pie” – Intro gives off a distinct Mac DeMarco impression. Slide guitar, and lilting vocal melody is held together with keyboards and an interesting tempo change at the end.
  41. Fence – “Quidditch” – Oh wow! What’s this sound like? It sounds like New York and fuzz and Coney Island when it’s 1,200 degrees out. How warm must it have gotten in Fence’s practice space? I love the deliberately gunky sound of this song.
  42. Grey Goes Black – “Enough to Waste the Day” – Bands continue to make inventive use of drum machines and sequencers across this whole album. Keyboard flourishes coupled with distant-sounding vocals lend weight and drama.
  43. LEAVE – “Say It” – At first I had to check to make sure Grey Goes Black didn’t contribute its second song in a row. Splendid similarities in tone and execution. But as the song continues to unfold, it feels dark and dirgey like the heaviest Afghan Whigs. The vocalist even has a bit of that Greg Dulli affectation in there.
  44. Mary Knapp – “Tread Softly” – Ooooh, I like where this song is going immediately. Distant vocal layers unravel to reveal a sprightly synthpop tune with a killer piano hook before cutting into a haunting spoken-word piece.
  45. Nicholas Edward Hertzberg feat. Cait Darcy – “Grieve” – Hit me in the ears with samples galore! Classical piano rolls and deep, heavy rhythm tracks dominate this Bjork-like avant pop piece.
  46. Kisos – “You Said” – “You said that you don’t want this to end.” How’d you know, Kísos? As this comp comes to a close, I kind of wish it were a little longer. We’re introduced to its first true R&B tune; a Dangermouse-type beat and pitch-perfect soulful vocals.
  47. DeModa – “Lucid Dreams” – DeModa knocks this album-closer out of the park! Eschew the typical high-drama for an ambient backside-shaker instead. This song has so much texture you could sand an untreated piece of lumber with it; wow! Layers upon layers. What a way to cap off another great compilation!

You can pick up the compilation here. All proceeded go to help benefit City of Angels.

Copyright, You Don’t Know Jersey, LLC (2010-2024)

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