Archive for September, 2010

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z=z at Tourfilter Night, Thurs Sept 16

September 15, 2010

Cambridge! Somerville! Boston! Allston Rock City! Late notice, but I’m guest DJing at Tourfilter‘s monthly residency at River Gods, just outside Central Square, Cambridge this week: Thursday, September 16th, and the festivities start at 9 pm. Same drill as last time: my playlist is composed entirely of songs from artists with shows lined up for the Boston area in the next month or so. And the fall concert calendar looks fantastic.

UPDATED: (Friday, September 17th) Here’s the full playlist:

01     Guided By Voices, “I Am A Scientist”    Friday, November 5th at Paradise Rock Club

02      The Motion Sick, “Winged Bicycle”     Saturday, September 18th at TT the Bear’s

03     Great Big Sea, “When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down)”     Friday, September 17th at Orpheum Boston

04     Screaming Females, “I Don’t Mind It”      Tuesday, September 28 TT the Bear’s Place

05     Me First and the Gimme-Gimmes, “The Rainbow Connection (Muppets cover)”    Thursday, October 21st at Paradise Rock Club

06     Superchunk, “Hyper Enough”     Tuesday, September 21st at Royale Boston

07     James, “Laid”     Saturday, September 25th at Paradise Rock Club

08     Belle and Sebastian, “Judy and the Dream of Horses”     Friday, October 15th at Wang Theatre

09     Frightened Rabbit, “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”     Friday, October 29th at Paradise Rock Club

10     Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, “First We Take Manhattan” (Leonard Cohen cover)     Friday, September 24th at Church

11     Sufjan Stevens, “Chicago”     Wednesday, November 10th at Orpheum Theatre

12     Born Ruffians, “What to Say”     Wednesday, September 29th at The Middle East

13     Teenage Fanclub, “Your Love is the Place Where I Come From”     Saturday, September 25th at Royale Boston

14     Swans, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (Joy Division cover)     Thursday, September 30th at Middle East Downstairs

15     Stars, “This Charming Man” (Smiths cover)     Thursday, September 23rd at House of Blues Boston

16     Mates of State, “Get Better”     Sunday, September 26th at Paradise Rock Club

17     Sea Wolf, “You’re a Wolf”     Tuesday, September 21st at Middle East Upstairs

18     Cake, “Short Skirt, Long Jacket”     Saturday, September 18th at Orpheum Theatre

19     Oranjuly, “I Could Break Your Heart”     Thursday, September 16th at Great Scott

20     Pavement, “Stereo”     Saturday, September 18th at Agannis Arena

21     Of Montreal, “Coquet Coquette”     Thursday, September 16th at House of Blues Boston

22     Broken Social Scene, “Texico Bitches”     Friday, September 17th at House of Blues Boston

23     Built to Spill, “You Were Right”     Friday, October 1st at Paradise Rock Club

24     Sleigh Bells, “Tell ‘Em”     Tuesday, September 28th at Orpheum Theatre

25     The Xx, “VCR (Matthew Dear remix)”     Sunday, October 3rd at Orpheum Theatre

26     Holy Fuck, “Lovely Allen”     Sunday, September 19th at Paradise Rock Club

27     Gary Numan, “Cars”     Thursday, October 22nd at Paradise Rock Club

28     Caribou, “Odessa”     Sunday, September 19th at Paradise Rock Club

29     Ratatat, “Drugs”     Wednesday, September 29th at Paradise Rock Club

30    LCD Soundsystem, “Dance Yrself Clean”     Tuesday, September 28th at Orpheum Theatre


Image: River Gods by brixton, used here under its Creative Commons license.

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Thinking about playlists

September 5, 2010

I love playlists. I live and die by them, and make new ones almost daily. My car doesn’t have an MP3 input and I have a daily commute, so a good chunk of my music listening is in the form of burned CDs—de facto sub-75-min playlists. And I realize it’s antediluvian, but I still trade mix CDs with many of my friends (via snail mail, no less; I think we all love the charm of the hand-made packages in the post), and those CDs are one of my favourite modes of music discovery.

Almost all the playlists I make are custom, largely by necessity: the songs are usually hand-selected, and they are frequently also hand-ordered. In time for this weekend’s London Music Hack Day, The Echo Nest debuted a powerful and flexible set of tools to algorithmically generate playlists, and I did a little gedanken experiment to compare the playlists you can currently generate with these tools with the kinds of playlists that I make.

Here are some examples of playlists I’ve made or updated recently, ordered roughly from least to most amenable to automating:

New music: I have a playlist called ‘Current’ where I throw recently downloaded music for further listening.

Albums: If I download an entire album, I’ll keep it together, at least for the first few listens (and then I decide that I really only like “Sprawl II” off the new Arcade Fire album).

Artists: Today I will listen to every Elliott Smith song I own.

Playlists by geography: I have a playlist called ‘CanCon‘ that I made for a friend of mine who just moved to Canada. Amazingly, this looks reasonably easy to do with Echo Nest’s new APIs, although it might require a bit of careful tweaking to include my hometown of Toronto, since it’s well south of the 49th parallel.

Workout playlists: Recently, I’ve been doing musical sprint intervals: moderately-high tempo songs intermixed with short, loud, fast songs by punk bands like the Ramones or Pansy Division.

Playlists of bands with upcoming shows: Boston-based concert tracking service, Tourfilter, has a monthly residency at a local bar, at which I DJ’ed a few months ago. All of the songs are by artists that are playing in the Boston-area in the next month or so.

Songs I can play on bass: Sadly, a very short and slowly-growing list right now (“Green Onions,” “Seven-Nation Army,” and a handful more).

My friends’ bands: A playlist of music by people I know.

Playlists for other people: Playlists or mix CDs made I’ve made for friends of music that I think they’ll like, based on what I know of their tastes.

Playlists by mood: Usually not just ‘happy’ or ‘sad,’ though. I have a recent playlist I made as a soundtrack when I was feeling melancholy and restless (lots of Waterboys, Sea Wolf, Frightened Rabbit).

Playlists by theme: As an example, I made a playlist of ‘embarrassing’ music for a friend of mine, which was mostly songs at the intersection of nerdy, funny and bawdy (think The Bloodhound Gang’s “The Bad Touch”).

‘Best of’ lists: Like most music geeks, I like making lists of the stuff that I like best (although I guess if I was a real music geek, I’d describe it as ‘the best music’)

What do I feel like?: Quasi-random concatenations of whatever I feel like listening to on a given day.

The first half are pretty straightforward. The second half get a little tougher—some of them are nearly algorithmic, but only if you happen to be me. The thought processes behind the last two are opaque even if you are me. Coming up with those last few seems very close to a musical Turing Test;  not that I’d put that beyond the ability of people like the Echo Nesters, although there might be a few existential crises along the way.

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