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Final round of NGUAC 2018 is here. Same criteria as the previoud round. Come up with a new song in two weeks. I feel lucky that I made it to the last round. Last time I entered this competition, I got knocked-out in the preliminary round. So making it this far is a huge accomplishment to me.This song was a bit different to make. I'm not much of a singer, but I wanted to do something with vocals. Totally a new experience. I tried to get the mix to be balanced as well as I can. But overall, I had really fun making this one. Instrumentals was fun to make, crap hit the fan when I was recording vocals. I slowly understood the technical side of the process. Can't do anything about the singing part...yet.

Started working on the song on my guitar. Simple I -IV progression. Didn't want to complicate things so I slowed down the tempo a lot from the original idea. I wanted to write about wanting to sleep to run away from everyday problems. Overthinking, worries, bills, work, love, whatever it is that generates the annoying noises in your head that keeps you from clocking out. Trying to get away at least for today from these thoughts. Sleep seems to be the only remedy, an escape I should say. That's what this song is basically about. Hope you enjoy this one as well. Peace

Eyes closed tight so the light won't sneak in
It's been a long day and I'm sick of guessing
Seeking heartbreaks before they even crack
All I wanted was some peace and quiet before I hit the bed
I'll be fine
I'll be alright
Sitting patiently but you keep me waiting
I'm first in line for wasted time, no chance of returing it

DAW: FL Studio
Plug-ins: Stock plug-ins (3x osc, Sytrus, etc…)
Samples: Cymatics Sample Packs

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yesss this is my jam. getting big toro y moi vibes from this

main criticisms:
- drums are a bit too dry and cheap sounding even by chillwave standards. that clicky kick could be more rounded and i think damper hihat/cymbal sounds would fit better than the brittle 606/808 style ones used at the moment

- as sleepfacingwest said, the vox have been too aggressively de-essed. would've liked a little 1/4-note delay on the vox just to give them extra some sparkle. some more of those cool pitch/dubdelay effects like at 1:17 sprinkled throughout the 2nd verse/prechorus would've been good too because...

- the 2nd half of the song feels too similar to the 1st and really needs some variation or extra layering to beef it up and make it feel more climactic. really feels like it wants to end big like on that chord at 3:57, with the "fine" just continuing to get lower and lower as everything fades out.

overall i love this and from a purely personal/subjective standpoint it's definitely one of my favourites from the competition. sounds better than some of the commercially released stuff in my chillwave playlist on spotify tbh, make of that what you will :)

icantpronouncethis responds:

Thank you for the review. I think this was my first attempt at a vocal centered song, I was kinda taking the safe route. Now that I listen to it again, I should've vary it up a bit on the second half. Compression has always been an issue and I'm still trying to get used to it. I also shouldve created two different version of the drum track and pick the best one. I got so used to it hard hitting beats, that I didnt even consider the other option.

I love the jazz/pop feel of this. It's got a bit of quirk to give it personality to boot. Those vocal samples doubling the synth are really fun.
The super quiet intro is cool, but I think you could bump the gain on this just a touch. I like how it draws you in and I think the difference in volume between the intro and the rest of the track works, but the disparation between the two sections was just a little too much.
The sibilance and fricatives in your vocal performance are really hard to hear. I think the words in the vocal line would have more definition if you made those upper frequencies a bit brighter. A little compression on the vocals would also help keep things audible when you taper the ends of the words. I like that you didn't go for hyper compressed bubblegum pop vox, but in this case, a lot of the lines can be quite difficult to hear at all.

1:20 - I love this moment. I would consider adding a synth pad with a resonance/cutoff sweep to this section under those descending synth intervals (something like 0:34 in 'Lights' by Max Tundra or a more subdued/subtle version of the sweep you have going on at 3:04 in your track).

I like the brilliance of some of those crash cymbals, but I think they could be pulled back a bit so they don't stick out quite as much.

The descending piano line is awesome.

In general, I really dig this track. The style is a unique and memorable take on some pop tropes. You get extra points for imbuing personality. There are some mix issues that I think could be addressed (mostly in the vocals...I'd knock this up about half a point or more if they were more audible), but in general this was really enjoyable. This is one of the more original submissions this round. Cheers!

icantpronouncethis responds:

Thank you so much for the review. I did have many obstacles working with vocals due to it being the first attempt rally working on it. Compression has always been an issue in my music production. Maybe I should crank it up to a eleven than slowly drop it down to an acceptable level. One thing I learned for sure is to prepare before recording anything. Apparently high school choir class is not enough to get a good take.

I like the jazzy chords and the mellow beats at the beginning. I really like the vocals, including the lyrics themselves. Sometimes, I think the vocals could be compressed a little more, just to put them a little more up-front in the mix. Occasionally, your voice tails off a bit toward the end of the phrase. The cute melodies at the post-choruses are simple, but still enjoyable. I think my biggest problem with the piece is that the composition feels pretty safe. The texture was pretty minimal in places, and I think you could’ve gone a lot further to create a sense of release and resolve with some of these post-chorus sections. At the very least, varying the melody slightly between 1:20 and 3:06 would probably be advisable. You also overuse the crashes/hats, like at 1:20. Overall, though, this is a catchy and fun track with a strong production quality and cool sound design. Keep at it, Icantpronouncethis!

Mixing, mastering, and balance
Structure, transitions, phrasing, and variety
Melody, tonality, harmony, and texture
Instrumentation and sound design
Emotion, atmosphere, and catchiness
Originality and uniqueness
Overall (how do the elements above interact?)
Composite score

icantpronouncethis responds:

Because this was my first attempt at using "normal" vocals, I kinda wanted to make it a bit simple, but I did learned a lot in the process. The part that still gets me is the compression. I know the gist of it, but I'm not sure how to use it effectively. So many knobs. Plus, there so many use of it, Limiter, Sidechain Compression, etc. Any tricks and tips to practice or learn more about compression?
and thank you so much for your input. It was a lot of fun being in this competition.

Intro synths work well together, especially that perc, although I might have liked a different kick.

Vocals could have used harder compression. You're a little pitchy here and there, and I find the instrumental starts to overwhelm you at point. However, despite the talk-singing, I find this also works reasonably well.

Mix probably could have used compressing to some degree as well, but it does sound like you mixed everything very cleanly, which I appreciate.

Initially I would have been more critical of the lyrical composition, however, your diction and overall writing actually carried them well. Internal rhymes were fairly strong, as were your end rhymes in places.

I actually was not expecting "wanted" to jive so well with "quiet," but "all I wanted was some piece and quiet before I hit the bed" might ring better after "before they even crack" as "before I go BACK to bed."

Overall though, nice structure. Really surprised me with how well this turned out as your first time working with vocals seriously. Great work. Can't wait to see what places it takes you. :)

Thanks for coming out to NGUAC!

icantpronouncethis responds:

Thank you for the critiques. Compression is a very strange area to understand. I get the gist of it, like how softer sounds get louder, and louder sounds gets softer. But really applying it gets my head spinning. Plus, there so many uses for it; like side-chaining and stuff. Any tips about learning this beast? Is there like a video or articles you recommend to learn about using compression effectively?

One thing I realized about the vocals, is that "bad" singing is so hard to work with.

Tough break, R&B is one of those genres that's actively difficult for me to listen to.

Where to start? The instrumental really isn't doing it for me. The sounds feel canned and don't resonate at all. I'm pretty sure this is part of the R&B aesthetic so I guess I can't go in on you too hard for that. But overall the different layers just feel kind of uninspired. At best you could call them relaxing, but the timbre is a little too bright and cheery for that.

Vocals just sound weird to me, partly because I just don't listen to this kind of music and partly because I've never heard it come from a white dude. It's not bad, and the effects you mixed it with do make it blend with the instrumental, but it's not a groundbreaking performance. Nothing lyrically profound seems to be going on either, but I do like the internal rhymes on the first line (eyes closed/tight so/light won't.) It's a shame you use so many simple and slant rhymes for the rest of the song because you set the bar pretty high there.

icantpronouncethis responds:

Thank you for the critiques. This was my first-attempt to work with "normal" vocals and I had a pretty difficult time with it. I just gotta learn from my mistakes, and also practice more. Maybe if I had a clearer vision of where I was taking this piece might have helped me a bit more. Your comment on lyrics got me thinking about how I should be arranging them. I only focused on end rhyming, didn't even think about the internal rhymes. For sure that would've been fun area to venture.

Credits & Info

3.93 / 5.00

Aug 23, 2018
11:17 PM EDT
File Info
6.2 MB
4 min 29 sec

Licensing Terms

Please contact me if you would like to use this in a project. We can discuss the details.