last.fm, again

I’ve joined last.fm, again, under a different name. The intention, again, is to post a ‘recently listened music’ widget somewhere on the site, but I’m still thinking about how best to rearrange various things. In the meantime, I was slightly startled by this. The ten most listened to artists for this week are:

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers
  2. The Beatles
  3. Radiohead
  4. Coldplay
  5. Muse
  6. The Killers
  7. Nirvana
  8. Metallica
  9. Bloc Party
  10. Death Cab For Cutie

I’m not going to type out any more, but the trend continues.

I’m not generally comfortable using the term ‘white’ as a term of mild derision, because I’m not given to self-loathing (about my race, at least), and I’m well aware that, on so many levels beyond mere skin tone, I tick all the boxes. This isn’t a misguided bid for some kind of urban cred, but: that is just the whitest list I’ve ever seen in my life.

Really, of course, ‘white’ has nothing to do with it; I just don’t get guitar rock. It always seems like the basic principle is that ‘if we make enough messy noise, people won’t notice that we’ve got rubbish voices and no rhythm’.

Having exposed my own musical prejudices, it’s only fair to point out that you can see what I’ve been listening to recently on my last.fm profile page. Feel free to mock accordingly.

A silly new feature!

I’ve added a list of music I’m currently listening to in the sidebar on the left. It uses a neat little WordPress plugin called WP-Scrobbler that grabs the info from your Audioscrobbler feed. So that list on the left automatically updates as I listen to music thorough iTunes. Or at least I think it updates every six minutes.

The default setting is to give the song title, artist and date and time for each song. That seemed like too much information, so I’ve got it just giving the last eight artists. But if you click on the name of an artist, it’ll link you to the Last.fm page for the particular song I listened to.

Pandora.com

A few posts ago I mentioned that I was trying a personalised internet streaming service called last.fm, which uses a combination of tags and people’s preferences to find music it thinks you will like. I decided it was a bit crap because when I asked for music similar to Marvin Gaye, it suggested De La Soul, N*E*R*D and Willie Nelson.

Well, I may have the answer – Pandora. They’ve classified all their music according to its musical qualities and use that information to choose songs for you. To use the same example, if I ask for music similar to Marvin Gaye, first it gives me a Marvin Gaye song, then the next is ‘Easy’ by The Commodores, and if you ask why it chose the song, it says:

Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features classic soul qualities, mild rhythmic syncopation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, string section beds and major key tonality

Then ‘I’m Stone in Love with You’ by The Stylistics, ‘I Wish it would Rain’ by the Temptations, and so on. In other words, it’s quite nuanced and accurate.

You can make it even more precise by choosing an individual song to make selections based on. I’ve noticed a few gaps in the collection already – no Twinkle Brothers! No Will Young! presumably both because it’s a labour-intensive process adding new music and perhaps because it’s a bit US-centric. At the moment I’m using the 10-hour free trial, but I’m sorely tempted to sign up when that runs out. It costs $12 for 3 months or $36 for a year, and it’s Flash-based, just running through your browser.

last.fm

I joined last.fm, a site which streams customised internet radio. The idea is that it learns what music you like (by eavesdropping on your computer, and via your recommendations and radio choices), and uses people’s choices to build up stations. If you’re a non-paying member, you can choose stations like ‘Similar music to Kylie Minogue [or whoever]’ or, via a tagging system, ’80s’, ‘dance’ or whatever. If you chuck some money at them – £1 a month, which seems pretty reasonable – you can get a personalised feed based on your own preferences.

It seems like a neat idea but so far I haven’t been impressed. The ‘similar music to’ feature throws up things like De La Soul, N*E*R*D and Willie Nelson as being similar to Marvin Gaye (but also, to be fair, Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone). The first two things that came up when I wanted music tagged with ‘dance’ were Oasis and Beck. And if I choose to listen to 80s music, it isn’t because I want to listen to Limp Bizkit or the Beach Boys.

On the positive side, it’s a nice clean site, the audio quality is good and the range of music available is fairly impressive, if not spectacular. Maybe they just haven’t got enough information yet to make the searches accurate. Maybe it works better if you have a personalised feed. But I doubt if I’ll stick around long enough to find out.