Not long ago, my buddy Dan sends me a rather innocent-looking link to a site called “Pandora“.
The concept behind it is neat. You tell it a band, and it tries to find music that’s similar to that band. It’s tied to the “Music Genome Project,” a program designed to identify elements in music that distinguish songs from each other (or, in this case, match them to each other.)
Of course, I first put in Shriekback as my band. Pandora dutifully produced several songs it claimed might sound like Shriekback. I listened to them and then gave each a thumbs up or thumbs down to say whether I liked it.
Results were mixed. I got a couple things I didn’t like. The second song it picked was “One Word” by John Cale and Brian Eno, which I loved. The most Shriekbacky tune I got was “This Big Hush” but that’s probably because it’s a Shriekback song.
The most frustrating thing was that the only feedback you could give were a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down — you either like it or don’t. That’s fine, except that doesn’t really address the point of the site, does it? There were plenty of songs I heard that I liked, including “One Word,” but didn’t feel were like Shriekback at all. Picture a venn diagram…in one circle are people who like Shriekback and in another circle are people who like, say, “One Word”. I happen to be in the overlap, but I don’t think my status there means much to any other Shriekback fans.
(On the other hand, Pandora just picked a Depeche Mode song for me, another of my favorite bands. Maybe it does know something…)
What was really interesting, though, was hearing songs in the context of “I think this might be like Shriekback.” I heard a song by the Thompson Twins that I wouldn’t normally have heard or associated with Shriekback. It was interesting to listen to it thinking, “What about this song is similar to this other band?” and actually sort of being able to pick out a common thread.
I next tried Fountains of Wayne and in addition to getting even more songs that actually WERE Fountains of Wayne, I got ones that again I liked, but I didn’t think were overly similar. John C. was meanwhile rolling with a Matthew Sweet-inspired station and was having pretty good luck.
Unfortunately, Pandora has never heard of Ultra Vivid Scene.
Pandora’s Flash-based and will probably get sued by the RIAA eventually, so you should probably check it out sooner rather than later. It’s a neat way to discover some new music, and fun to play with.