Steve’s Media Blog

Archive for the ‘playlists’ Category

I was pointed to this neat thing by Lifehacker: SonicSwap.  It is a tool that lets you stream your iTunes playlists from your computer for others to hear.  Here’s the kicker, though; something like that sounds illegal, right?  Not so with SonicSwap.  The service doesn’t actually host your music, so it is pretty darned legal.  Well it sounds good in theory, that is, until you realize it pulls music from YouTube.  The chances of all of your music being on YouTube is probably pretty low (and actually, just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s legal).

I read through the comments and found some suggestions for Simplify Media.  This service looks like it lets you stream your music to people you choose.  I haven’t had the chance to test it out for various reasons: I’m at work, my computer’s network driver won’t work at the moment due to a reinstall of XP, and I don’t have anyone to stream to.  I do want to look into this though and will follow up with a review if I can get it to work.

On a side note, there really isn’t a lot of Mr. Men wallpapers out there.  I had to make my own Mr. Bump desktop wallpaper, inspired by a Mr. Men calendar I picked up last night.  Here’s what I came up with: something simple but it will work as my wallpaper when I get home.  Feel free to download and use if you are so inclined.  I will freely admit to taking the original image from google image search anyway, so no worries!

Mr. Bump

Mr. Bump

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Mix Tapes - Funky colours

Mix Tapes - Funky colours!

Through the magic of StumbleUpon, I stumbled upon (clever, no?  I bet no one else thought of that joke.  Ever.) this playlist: “The Perfect House Party Playlist: Pre-Drunk Rock To Hip Hop“.  It’s a fairly comprehensive list of 50 tracks that does exactly as the title says: it goes from rock to hip hop (and then back to lighter fluff but I don’t think that would make as good of a title).

I appreciate well-thought out playlists – it used to be my favourite thing to do before I got lazy and just played everything I had on random.  I still make playlists occasionally and I will probably make a few more soon – but I digress.  I perused the list and while I really like some of the selections – not many people pick Beck except for Devil’s Haircut or Loser – I wouldn’t call the list “perfect”.

I think if you really want a good house party playlist, you have to mix the current pop songs in there.  I have no problems at all with including some original stuff – you have to have some unique flair to your music choices.  But you also don’t want your guests going “what the hell is this?  I don’t know it, so therefore, I cannot dance to it.”  No, ideally, you want them to hear songs they know and like to dance to, and then have them asking “Hey what’s this other song?  I’ve never heard it, but I love it!” for the non-radio pop stuff.

Really, there is nothing wrong with popular music that they play on the radio.  It is called popular for a reason: people like it.

I meant to write this up Friday or Saturday, while the movie was still very much fresh in my mind.  However, it doesn’t matter, since it was good enough for me to still remember it (and subsequently re-enjoy it if you will) a few days later.  It’s a perfect movie to review on this blog since it deals with music.

I will admit, I really didn’t recognize 90% of the music in Nick and Norah (spoiler warning in link!  It goes to Wikipedia).  In fact, while the movie was about a group of kids trying to find a Where’s Fluffy? concert in New York, and that Michael Cera’s character was in a band, and he was really good at making playlists, music wasn’t really the true heart of the story.

It provides a vehicle to move it forward, but it’s really a great story about a couple of kids who realize they like each other, and not their respective previous lovers.  Which, when you think about it, makes sense.  The movie is based on a book of the same name written by David Levithan (co-written by Rachel Cahn).  It should follow that character is the heart of the movie.

I found it very enjoyable and would watch it again, no question.  Don’t be fooled by the trailers (which make the movie seem like it is a standard teen comedy a la Superbad) – it is good quality stuff.  One thing though – I definitely get the vibe that the movie is trying to pick off the success of Juno – the title font is a dead giveaway of that.

Sometimes I hate that I appear to be a sponsored supporter of Apple‘s products.  It just seems to work that way (back in my college radio days I seemed to play a lot of “free single of the week” songs from iTunes).  But how can I be blamed if I truly enjoy the products they put forth?  They’ve got a solid mp3 player in the iPod, and they operate a well-oiled marketing machine.  I respect that.  And their music store is pretty much top notch.

So of course, I also appreciate the applications they offer for the iPhone/iPod Touch.  Namely, the Remote application.  It’s free, and it’s awesome.  I finally got to play with it a little this weekend, and boy did I have fun.  It’s a very simple application, but sometimes simple applications can be the most fun.  If you’re not sure what the Remote application does, allow me to demonstrate by illustrating the following scenario:

You’re hosting a party, and all your music is trapped on your hard drive.  Your CD player only holds five CDs, so eventually you would have to be switching CDs in and out, and even then your guests might not appreciate your music choices.  What do you do?  You hook up your computer to a set of wireless speakers in your living room, and use your iPhone/iPod Touch to control your musicl ibrary with Remote.  Guests can easily pick music as well without poking around on your computer.  You can even generate Genius playlists with the latest version.

That is the power of the simple Remote application.  It’s easy to set up, and easy to use.  Just thought I’d point out a really cool (free) music-related application.

From the Lifehacker blog, a possible solution for those with poor iTunes 8 Genius recommendations.

I haven’t had too many issues with Genius, but apparently a large portion of people have.  Either way, here’s a list of tips to optimize your Genius playlists that I liked the best from that Wired article:

  • Rate your music – something I’d like to do but haven’t gotten around to for the most part (40 gigs of unrated music is a lot to go through!)
  • Match your genres to iTunes – I like to keep genres simple, so this is a good suggestion. 

There are a few others, but the one that stands out the most for me is really the simplest:

Upgrade to iTunes 8.  A lot of people are refusing because of the supposed inaccuracy of Genius (and that its main function is to sell music.  Well, yes, that is what Apple is trying to do).  The more people that use Genius, the better the results.

If Genius is still not for you try checking out some of the related links at the end of the article.

I was thinking this morning about my taste in music, and how it’s evolved over the years.  This was sparked mainly when “Now That You Got It” by Gwen Stefani popped up in a playlist this morning.  It’s a song I know I had (it’s on the “Sweet Escape” album), but didn’t really listen to it on a regular basis (read: at all).  I enjoyed it.

When I was younger though, my music library consisted largely of Our Lady Peace anD Oasis albums.  Before that I would listen to my brother’s early 90’s dance music tapes while we played with Lego (I still have a fondness for some C+C).  A little later, classic rock was added to the mix, and I listened to that stuff exclusively.

To put it in perspective, when I was in my second year of university Gwen Stefani came out with her first solo album.  Being a fan of No Doubt as it was, I thought I’d check it out.  A friend told me I probably wouldn’t like it – it wasn’t really my style.  Turns out, at the time, she was right.  I didn’t like it and I promptly deleted the album off the computer.

The next year I was in college for radio broadcasting.  The station we ran there was an alternative/hip hop format.  We also had an internet station that was purely hit pop music.  Already I was being introduced to new music.  I don’t know if it was the whole notion of the profs telling us to open up our horizons or if I just realized there was good music out there beyond my normal scope, but something happened and I find I enjoy several different types of music.

In general, I like music I can get into.  Either it has nice lyrics, or a catchy beat – whatever the quality, if I like it, it doesn’t matter what genre.  Even country has a place in my library (my limits for that one were pushed when I worked for a country radio station).  So that’s why my library has everything – from Pussycat Dolls to Carrie Underwood (I’m pretty sure I was blasting “I Don’t Need A Man” in the car yesterday).  Not just to make sure party music is varied, but for my own enjoyment.  My girlfriend has also recently introduced me to a lot of new songs that I probably never would have listened to before.

Just thought I would share my taste in music.

 iTunes 8 was released I guess mid-day yesterday, which saw Apple introduce two new features to the program.  The first is a new “Grid View” feature – which is nice enough to look at for the album art, but apparently can only play one song/album at a time.  Standard list view for me, thanks. 

iTunes Grid View

iTunes Grid View

The really cool feature is “Genius”.   If you’ve ever used Pandora or something similar, you’re already familiar with the idea of a playlist generated from a single song, populated with similar-sounding songs.  Well now iTunes has it.  Just let iTunes analyze your library (and if it’s as big as mine – 40 gigs at least – it might take a while.  Run it and go play outside) and you’re off to the races.
Example of Genius at work

Example of Genius at work

 I used to really take my time putting together extensive playlists for CDs, but since I got an mp3 player/ipod I’ve been a little lazy.  I like Genius because it does for me what I used to do manually.

They also added it to my ipod touch – so you can start a new “Genius playlist” on the fly.  Really handy.  While Genius tends to repeat artists (never two in a row, at least), I’ve been impressed with the list it put together for me.  I listened to one on the bus ride to work this morning and it mixed together very well.  Take a look at the list here.

I first learned about “Genius” on the Lifehacker blog.  After using the feature I can’t believe how many negative comments there are about it!  Oh well, you can’t please everyone.

Genius certainly doesn’t beat a well-thought out manual playlist but in a pinch, it’s really great (and good enough for me).
 

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