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music friday: discover weekly

The streaming wars continue. Two of the last three Music Fridays had connections to the new Apple Music service. Now Spotify has a new trick up their sleeve: Discover Weekly.

“Every Monday, you’ll find two glorious hours of discoveries and deep cuts waiting for you in Spotify. It’s a tailor-made mix based on the tunes you listen to, and similar tracks discovered by fans like you. You’re going to love it.”

This week’s list contains 30 songs, with a running time of just under 2 hours. Some selected highlights:

Emitt Rhodes, “Somebody Made for Me”. An ironic “first-ever Discover” track ... made for me, indeed. This is just the kind of thing that should turn up on a list like this. I remember Rhodes from when I lived in Capitola in 1970-71, and probably haven’t thought of him more than twice in all the years since. I don’t have any of his songs on my hard drive, so this is Spotify making a guess. And hitting the target.

Patti Smith, “Redondo Beach”. Third on the list, and the first song that I have demonstrated affection for in the past, i.e. Spotify isn’t really guessing here.

Abner Jay, “Cocaine Blues”. This is recognizable as the song that Dave Van Ronk sang, but just barely. I had never heard of Jay, an eccentrie “one man band”. Again, this is just the kind of song I want to see in a list like this, connected to something I like but also something I’ve never heard before.

Link Wray, “Fire and Brimstone”. Another excellent choice. Growing up, I had a 45 of Wray’s “Jack the Ripper” that I played over and over. And of course, there was “Rumble”. This comes from a 1971 album he cut in his early-40s, and it’s a good one. I saw Wray in concert in the 70s, all dressed in leather and grinding noises out of his guitar.

Merry Clayton, “Gimme Shelter”. I’m someone who thinks Clayton’s best contribution to this song came with the Stones, not in her solo attempt, but I can’t argue with Spotify’s choice here, and I’m always glad to hear this version.

The Slits, “Instant Hit”. This came right after Clayton, and I’m not sure about the segue. But The Slits are yet another fascinating choice. This was the opening track from their debut album, the one with the band naked and covered with mud.

Lucille Bogan, “Shave ‘Em Dry”. I’ve played this more than once on Spotify, so it knew I’d enjoy hearing it again. Possibly the most dirty lyrics ever recorded ... the first line is “I’ve got nipples on my titties big as the end of my thumb”, and by the time the song is over, Bogan has told us that “I fucked all night, and all the night before, and I feel just like I wanna fuck some more” ... I can’t quit quoting, there’s also “Now your nuts hang down like a damn bell sapper, and your dick stands up like a steeple. Your goddamn asshole stands open like a church door and the crabs walk in like people. Ow, shit!” Thanks, Spotify! (Bogan recorded this in 1935.)

There were other fine choices from the likes of Jonathan Richman, Love, Courtney Barnett, Lucinda Williams ... even Wilson Pickett’s version of “Hey Jude”. It wasn’t all perfect ... nothing is going to make me like solo Scott Walker, although even there, I can see why they chose it. And there were oddities like William Onyeabor and Vashti Bunyan and Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir. It really was a terrific playlist, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next week.

[Edited to add Spotify playlist]

Comments

Charlie Bertsch

Interesting. I have become increasingly confused by the options available through these services and mostly just listen to my own, manually assembled playlists or the local college radio station. But I may take another plunge into the land of algorithms.

Steven Rubio

This Discover Weekly playlist was uncanny. Keep in mind, it was based on what Spotify knows about my taste, which includes the 30+ manually-assembled playlists I've concocted. So their algorithm is based on what I did on my own. Some of what they coughed up was obvious ... Patti Smith, Lucinda Williams. Others were interesting extractions from what I listen to ... The Slits, Courtney Barnett. And then there were the ones that led to my calling it "uncanny" ... Emitt Rhodes, Abner Jay, a Link Wray track from the 70s. Compare this to Apple Music, which admittedly is working from a far shorter backlog of my tastes. They did a good job, but mostly without surprising me. That is, they knew I liked Neil Young and Bonnie Raitt and the 60s, and that's what they gave me. Nothing that made me feel like they'd gotten inside my head, the way an Emitt Rhodes selection does.

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