Wednesday, July 2, 2008

We Agree! We Agree!

At Carrie Brownstein's "Monitor Mix," she bemoans the crappy results of iPod shuffle. She writes:

Additionally, by placing the songs in a horrible sequence, iPod shuffle highlights the weaknesses of one's music collection instead of the strengths. After a few bad songs in a row, I begin to second-guess my taste in music. Why, for instance, do I still have that one Ludacris song on there, or entire albums by Mastodon, Journey, or The Magic Numbers when all I need is a handful of songs? Also, there seems to be too much Beatles and Roxy Music and not nearly enough Wilco or Springsteen. And why play only my least favorite songs by my favorite bands?

Not surprisingly, those who have commented on her blog entry all agree with her. I'm interested in Brownstein's blog, but too often the vibe I get from the readers is 'Me and Carrie from Sleater-Kinney agree,' so I don't spend much time reading the comments.

I've had unpleasant shuffling experiences as well. Mine became fixated on 1980s Joni Mitchell, stuff I put on the iPod with the hope that a new context would make me like it more. Those Joni tracks aren't there anymore, but in general, I've enjoyed hearing songs in odd contexts, and I've found contexts that make songs stand out that I thought were minor on the albums they came from. And compensating for my iPod's love of Joni is its ability to find its way back to John Cale's Vintage Violence or anything by Nikki Sudden.

And I've discovered why so much third tier, regional R&B didn't find a bigger audience. Heard next to each other, rare groove tracks, songs from the Night Train to Nashville sets and tunes from the Eccentric Soul series seem like cool variations on the themes that produced hits. Heard in a more eclectic context, their generic natures becomes clearer.

Early in the piece, Brownstein articulates the promise of shuffle as "an endless radio station that only plays your music," and at the end, she challenges readers to see if they like or can even tolerate the first five selections made by their iPod shuffle. I'd challenge readers to find a radio station that plays five songs in a row that they like, and if they find it, I want to know about it.

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