Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sykonee Surveys Spotify's Senseless Suggestions: Round 1

You’re always getting recommendations from them – Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Songza (really…?) – but how often do they align with your actual tastes? Does it depend on how effective their data algorithms are, or how large a pool of information they have to work with? Simple shameless marketing? Not that I ever bothered following their suggestions, as I beat to my own drum, seeking out the music I want to hear, not what some other thinks is best for me. Hmph. *adjusts monocle*

So when Spotify sends me an email of their suggestions (geez, already, guys?), I’m ready to automatically send it to the Trash. “But wait,” says the little spider in my head, “why not turn this into an opportunity?” “How do you mean, little spider coiled around my cerebellum?” “Reviewing the music from your personal collection’s fine and all, but why not spice things up a little? Listen to the recommendations Spotify sends you, maybe discover some new acts while giving a chance to those you’ve casually dismissed in the past.”

The Spotify Spider makes a point. I really ought to mix my content up some, lest I burn myself out on standard reviews all too quickly again. Plus, I’m curious to see whether Spotify’s suggestions might improve, narrow in on my tastes as I sample their catalog more and more.

Here’s how this’ll work. Spotify sends me ten suggestions with each email (I don’t know how frequent these will be yet). I will sample the first two songs of that artist/band/act I see on Spotify and give a quick summation of what I hear, plus a ‘rating’ based on how close Spotify got it to my interest. Sounds good? Alright, no sense wasting time, let’s get onto the first round!


Cake - 1. The Distance / 2. Short Skirt/Long Jacket

Okay, this is unexpected. I think I’ve heard of Cake, a rock/funk/hop/etc. fusion band that’s been around since the early ‘90s. The second tune sounds like something that would have come about in the late ‘90s ska era (those trumpets…), which isn’t surprising as it came out in 2001. The Distance sound more punk-grungey, again unsurprising as it’s a mid-‘90s song. I’ve a feeling their discography’s far more eclectic than this though. It’s funky enough to pique my interest. Will check some later.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 3/5

Jungle - 1. Time / 2. The Heat

Hey, I like me some jungle! Amazing Spotify would recommend a whole genre though. Oh, wait, the band’s name is Jungle. And they’re… another fusion band, though the electro/synth-pop/glam-funk vein. Jungle’s very new too, both these tracks coming from their self-titled debut album released this year; also signed to XL Recordings, which is why Spotify suggested them to me? Both tracks are rather similar, The Heat a tad slower and groovier. They’ve definitely got a nice sound, but come off a bit too fluff and hipster-bait. Not that it’s a bad thing, as Hercules & Love Affair proved.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 3/5

Katy Perry - 1. This Is How We Do / 2. Dark Horse

Oh dear. This is going to mess up future suggestions, isn’t it. What else is there to say about Katy Perry? She’s hot, she got an annoying high pitch, and is somehow a pop music juggernaut, currently towering over every other female in the business. She seems like a nice enough lady, even if she’s constantly presenting herself as a total ditz. I don’t need to hear anything more from her on Spotify because every pop radio station won’t stop playing her songs. Ugh. Dark Horse, her weak jump on bass music, you’ve almost certainly been forced to hear at some point this year. Not sure why This Is How We Do was the first song though, as it’s a fairly generic dance tune, even by Perry standards.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 0/5, at least on Spotify; there’s no escaping her radio presence.

Hybrid Minds - 1. Meant To Be / 2. Lost

Ah, here’s the jungle. Liquid funk to be exact, but these two tunes blend the blissy vibes of atmospheric jungle too. Hybrid Minds are another newish act, though the members have been players in the D’n’B scene for a while. Even with the standard, brisk 2-step in action, these are some lovely chill-out soul tunes. I can honestly say I haven’t heard much like it before, and I’m apparently not the only one, a quick scan of their PR praising them for an innovative direction in the liquid funk scene. Lord knows it could use it. Mmm, that Mountains album looks tantalizing…

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 4/5

Radiohead - 1. Creep / 2. No Surprises

Wait, I thought Radiohead wasn’t on Spotify! Ah, it’s just Thom Yorke that pulled his own material. Everything Radiohead released with the EMI group is here. Go figure. Also, I can’t say I’m eager to hear much more Radiohead. Creep I’ve heard plenty of times, especially at karaoke nights. I’m sated, thank you. OK Computer’s an album I’ve kinda-sorta thought about getting some day, but I’m in no rush. I totally forgot about No Surprises, those charming bells reminding me of Brian Wilson down in the mopes. I like that era of Radiohead better than their early work anyway. *gasp*

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 3/5

Angels & Airwaves - 1. Paralyzed / 2. The Adventure

Apparently a rock supergroup, comprised of members of bands that I’ve kinda liked (NIN, The Offspring), not at all liked (Blink-182), or never heard before (*shrug*). Paralyzed is their most recent single, sounding like a heavier arena rock anthem, but is over before it ever gets warmed up. Damn radio versions. The Adventure, on the other hand, instantly reminds me of jangly ‘80s U2, but with shouty vocals rather than Bono’s operatic bellow. I can see this being a favorite of folks growing too ‘mature’ for outright angst rock, but totally not for me, thanks.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 1/5

Mayday Parade - 1. Stay / 2. Terrible Things

Another ‘punk-opera’ band? Why is Spotify recommending this to me? It says because its “popular in [my] area”, which may be true, but I haven’t a clue about that. This is a scene I don’t follow at all. A few of my old high-school friends living nearby might like it though. Actually, these two songs remind me more of emo’s more twee moments, especially so with Terrible Things, a simple piano ballad that erupts into an overblown arena-rock cry for emotion. Perfect for a teen drama. Pass.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 1/5

Grateful Dead - 1. Friend Of The Devil / 2. Casey Jones

The Grateful Dead are a very important hippie jam band in the world of hippie jam bands. I remember seeing a cool video of theirs where the band members became skeleton puppets, but they’re not a group I’ve cared to dig into much. Not from a lack of interest, oh no! There’s just so damn much of it out there, and most claim their live material’s better than studio recordings anyway. I had no idea they had a blues-rock number named after a Ninja Turtles character (hur hur!). A Dead Dive could happen some day, if I’m in the mood for ‘70s folk rock again.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 3/5

Snow Patrol - 1. Chasing Cars / 2. You Could Be Happy

Yay, another ‘inspired by Radiohead’ shoegazey rock band. I know I’ve seen Snow Patrol name-dropped before, almost certainly on indie sites eager for the next Radiohead to emerge. I feel like I’ve heard both these songs before too, though maybe the ‘gentle twee beginning into widescreen wall-of-rock’ song writing became so prevalent in the mid-‘00s, it all mushed together from my perspective. They probably have different songs, but I’m already bored by these Radiohead clones. Moving on.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 2/5

The Strokes - 1. Reptilia / 2. Someday

Alright, real rock! Or revivalist garage rock - something with teeth at least. I still remember when The Strokes were being counted upon to save rock music from its current doldrums like it was a decade ago. Most had written them off when they went on a half-decade hiatus, but they’re back, making their same brand of unapologetically simplistic rock ‘n’ roll. I assume anyway, since these two songs are from their breakout years. Now I’m curious whether they have evolved as a band or not. Not dying to hear, mind you, but one of these days, perhaps.

Odds I’ll Listen Again: 3/5


And the final tally for this round of Spotify Suggests is 23/50. Oh dear, that’s not good at all. Then again, it is early in this experiment. We’ll see how things improve whenever I get another email.

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