Eden H Reviews Spotify’s “Discover Weekly”

So, recently Spotify started doing “Discover Weekly,” wherein, each week, they create a playlist specially designed for you, based on your taste profile, what you listen to, you know, the like. Now, I am notoriously difficult to find new music for. I have broken many a well-meaning friend. But, being a devoted music lover (who has burnt herself out on everything she listens to), I opened my mind and gave it a go. Here’s a quick overview of what they had lined up for me:

MusicThatDoesntSuck

“Spellwork” by Austra – This was almost good, but was actually terrible. Taking influences from edgy, underground music and playing is to a dance beat is not a winning combination, people.

“Cool For Cats” by Squeeze – Spotify giving me Squeeze to listen to is just out of the fucking blue. Maybe they picked up that I love cats and thought I’d like the song on that principle? I don’t know.

“Mouth Breather” by The Jesus Lizard – Here’s how this song was written: “Brah, brah, listen to me shred, brah!” “Oh my god, brah! You’re shreddin’ it!” The end.

“Stars” by Hum – I appreciate your attempt to sound just like the Smashing Pumpkins, but it just didn’t work out, kids.

“Witch” by the bird and the bee – I understand, you’re going for that Goldfrapp/1930s Lounge Singer sound. OK. But these lyrics are TERRIBLE. Also, why does it seem like every time I click on a picture of an Alternative Music band, it’s one skinny dude with a bed head, and one skinny girl with Bettie Bangs? Maybe if you had more band members there would be more of a chance that one of them will stop you from sucking.

sad-hipster

“My Sister” by The Juliana Hatfield Three – I love my sister. I will not listen to your hate, Juliana.

“Promises” by Fugazi – This one makes sense. I like Fugazi in that way that someone who likes the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat and Black Flag tends to like Fugazi.

“Under Your Skin” by Aesthetic Perfection – You know those friends who tell you, “Oh, you like this band? Then you should listen to this other band, they sound just like that band you like!” and they’re totally fucking wrong? Well, this is one of those. Someone, somewhere, equates this with Marilyn Manson, I’m sure. And they would be wrong.

“We Know Where You Sleep” by The Paper Chase – I don’t listen to rap. Unless someone hacked by account, I have never listened to rap on my Spotify. Why are you playing this for me, Spotify?

“I Luv the Valley of OH!” by Xiu Xiu – This is obviously Hipster music, but all the same, I’m very confused and have no clue if I like this or not. I’m a little bit scared and thinking about calling my friend for consolation now.

“Soma” by The Smashing Pumpkins – Everyone, including Spotify, is determined that I should listen to the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s officially a conspiracy.

“Icarus” by Jason Webley – Now, this one. I know why this one’s on here: It’s because I like Amanda Palmer and Amanda Palmer works with Jason Webley. Let me tell you a funny story about my first introduction to Jason Webley. In December 2010 or 2011, I went to see the Dresden Dolls. I knew nothing about who was opening for them, so when a random hipster got onstage and started testing the mic, I thought, “Okay, he’s a roadie.” So then this guy picks up a FUCKING ACCORDION and starts to sing, stomp, and play a sea shanty. And EVERYONE ELSE in the crowd KNOWS THE SONG and FUCKING SINGS ALONG. Somehow, I am the crazy person in this room for not knowing the words to this SEA SHANTY. A SEA SHANTY. I cannot stress that enough, A SEA SHANTY.

“Mental Hopscotch” by Missing Persons – So, according to Spotify, I either like super underground weird fucking shit, or the Most Mainstream Hits of the 80s?

“Halloween” by AFI – Look, I’m not a fan of The Misfits. But to allow AFI to cover one of their songs is just brutal.

“It’s Not” by Aimee Mann – Actually not bad. I’m guessing Spotify has picked up that I’m a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan (Maybe my playlist called “The Bronze Jukebox” tipped them off? Hmm…). However, every song I’ve heard from her has followed the same pattern: 1) Just an acoustic guitar, solemnly strummed, with sorrowful, understated vocals singing about some love lost. 2) Sweeping strings join in. 3) The drums pick things up, and the song moves into a sort of depressed jaunt. 4) Aimee Mann says something soul-crushingly pessimistic and you go cry yourself to sleep.

“60 Feet Tall” by The Dead Weather – Okay, I like The Dead Weather. I can dig this…

“Mistaken for Strangers” by The National – This is one of those songs that is so middle-of-the-road, so bland, that it is impossible to have any feelings about it whatsoever. It is a void that sucks in all your humanity and turns you into a lifeless, soulless robot-creature. It is neither good nor bad, which somehow makes it a lot worse. I listened hard to try and make out any lyrics, because I knew they were singing words of some kind, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to pay attention to what they are saying. It’s a non-song. It’s evil. It must be stopped. No, but seriously. Have you ever heard a song like that? It may be on the radio, and you heard it and thought, “Okay,” or you heard it on your friend’s iPod, and you could ask your friend about it, and they can’t really tell you anything about it, because THEY ALSO have no feelings about the song, or you heard it in the background of a party scene on your favorite TV show, and you thought, “Is this anybody good?” because it sounds kinda like it could be a band you listen to, and the next day you’re talking about the show with your friend, and you ask them “Hey what was that song playing during the party scene? It sounded familiar, like maybe Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains or Mother Love Bone,” but the answer is NO. NO, it’s not even Stone Temple Pilots! It’s some band that has one song on the radio. They’re basically just filler material for when our collective consciousness that controls the world runs out of unique ideas for bands, so they gave us THE NATIONAL.

It's true.

It’s true.

So that’s about the sum of it. This week? Spotify’s “Discover Weekly” gets about a 2/10. Like, it wasn’t all bands that I hated. Then I would be sure that Spotify was just fucking with me. Maybe next week it’ll be more accurate.

If you guys like this little review, just thumbs-up it, or whatever system WordPress has, or leave a comment and let me know. I might start doing this monthly, if there’s interest.

That’s all for now. Until next time, lie, cheat, steal, and blame it on the talking moose.

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My Response to an Argument About New Music

I recently engaged in a discussion which allowed me to rant about things that angered me. Of course, talking about why music today sucks is going to attract some heated arguments against my points. After mentioning that the last new band I heard that I liked was the Dresden Dolls, people became distracted by that single statement, ignoring everything else I said. They attempted the excuse everything away by saying that I was just not looking hard enough for good, new music, which was not my point at all. My point is that I have heard the music of today, and it is lacking something that its predecessors had. I came back to explain my points further. The resulting two posts are duplicated (with some editing to help for context) here for your consumption:

“I’m not necessarily a fan of cabaret music, just (what I define as) good music. It can be punk, jazz, blues, rock, alternative, industrial, goth, post-punk, new wave, pop, electronica, or whatever… I’m just not finding anything nowadays that matches up to the quality of stuff that I like from the 90’s (like Marilyn Manson, Tori Amos, Tool, Le Tigre, Hole, etc…). I mean, as far as I’ve seen, the new Kathleen Hanna/Tori Amos/Marilyn Manson/Maynard James Keenan hasn’t reared their head yet, and music is suffering for it. Florence and the Machine was interesting, but doesn’t really hold up next to stuff from the 90’s. Queens of the Stone Age is awesome, but they technically came out of the 90’s as well. Brody Dalle (of Sourpuss/The Distillers/Spinnerette) used to be hardcore, now she’s trying to go the sell-out-pop-hipster-rock route that just sounds like everything else and I just don’t think it sounds good. People tried to paint Lady GaGa as a new Tori Amos, saying that they’re part of the same thread of evolution, but as far as I’m concerned, that would be DE-evolution. I’m happy to hear Garbage’s new album was pretty much up to standard as their other albums, which rock, but, again, they’re 90’s. No one seems to be breaking new ground. I guess you just have to go way underground to find good new stuff.

The funniest/most depressing thing to me is when people say, “If you like this artist, you’ll like this artist.” The unspoken ending to that statement is usually, “because they’re a cheap, talentless imitation of that artist you like.” People kept telling me, “If you like Joy Division, you’ll like She Wants Revenge.” That band is just Joy Division’s music ripped off, with lyrics that hold no substance. The thing I love about most artists is their originality and their substance. Don’t give me pop versions of visionaries. I want depth and innovation. I want PASSION and ORIGINALITY, not soulless reverb played while some kid whines about how his shoe lace broke in front of a girl he liked.”

Then, of course, came more arguments that missed the point: “Those bands are derivative, too.” “Riot Grrrl is just basic punk.” What people got out of my post was that, “Oh, so you’re saying that the 90’s are the best musical decade?” This led me to wonder if they were actually reading, or just skimming over and picking up keywords. I responded with this:

“I’m just saying that the 90’s had my favorite music in it, and that, to me, it seems to be the last era that really had creativity and soul to it. I also love the Dead Kennedys (80’s), Joy Division (70’s), Stevie Nicks (70’s/80’s), The Cure (80’s, mostly) and Nick Cave (80’s/90’s). So I’m definitely not saying one era is better than another.

It’s not about it being a derivative, musically: It’s about the content. The argument that Manson was just ripping off more obscure Industrial bands is moot, in my opinion, because he did some really groundbreaking stuff. His music has depth to it, which, as far as I’m concerned, a lot of the industrial bands that are listed as being better because they’re obscure, lack. Just because you were the first to do something doesn’t make you the best at it. Trial and error. You deserve credit for it, but it doesn’t mean you did the best version. And to say that Riot Grrrl is just punk, seems to me to be missing the point. The Riot Grrrl movement was about reviving feminism, which people were already calling “dead.” Go watch the documentary “The Punk Singer” about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, and you’ll understand it better.

The truth is, there are only so many different notes and sounds. Queens of the Stone Age borrows heavily from Iggy Pop, Tori Amos from Kate Bush, Nirvana from the Pixies, Hole from Stevie Nicks and Sonic Youth. Having influences is not the point. I’d argue that Tori Amos is better than Kate Bush, honestly. It’s all about the message, to me. I’m not saying influences are bad: I’m just saying that the huge majority of the music nowadays is not being inspired by their predecessors: I’m saying they’re imitating their predecessors by not adding any passion or soul of their own. What’s the difference between Kate Bush and Tori Amos? Tori had a new voice. She wasn’t Kate Bush. She took influences from Kate Bush, as well as Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Carole King, and so on, but she added her own experiences, trials and passion to it. When I listen to music today, I don’t hear that: I hear a bunch of kids who never developed mentally or emotionally past 12 years old, and who all want to sound like each other.”

Like an Ouroboros/Endless Human Centipede, the music of today is primarily a bunch of imitations of imitations. Some band named Vampire Weekend/My Morning Jacket/Baked Potatoes Rule comes out sounding bland and pointless, and then it spawns a millions of imitation bands, trying to sound like another bland band in a sad attempt to get signed. At least when punk bands imitated each other, if they did, it was not to get signed and get rich, because it was pretty much guaranteed by Ronald Reagan that you would not be signed (at least by a US label). The point of the youth is to rebel against the unjust laws and restrictions of the previous generation. This is where the music movement of today falls short. Hipster music is the new movement, following Hippies, Punk, Grunge, Riot Grrrl, Goth… and now Hipster? This music does not rebel against anything in any way. And it isn’t for lack of injustice in the world. So why do Hipsters mostly sing about “boys” and “girls” who refused to go to the prom with them? Well… my analysis of that would be best saved for a later date. Until then, go watch “The Punk Singer” documentary about Kathleen Hanna, and listen to Joy Division. Just because.