Hitting Pandora’s Box

In the NYTimes 9/2/06 Sunday Arts & Leisure section there’s an alright (albeit two years behind) arts& Leisure section cover piece concerning the shift, on the net, to user-controlled and influenced music buying.

One such example proffered, the music genome project at Pandora, allows users to enter in a favorite act and then receive suggestions and sound clips of acts they’d probably also like; this is done to a less exhaustive level on itunes and Amazon. Problem is, if you’re a music geek like me, you’ve already heard most of the suggestions Pandora offers — but that’s only if you start off easy, like I did, entering Guided By Voices and getting slightly wrong suggestions of Superchunk and the horrible Spiders.

So I entered the violin-led instrumental punks the Dirty Three, and the first suggestion was a very uncharacteristic track from the proto-Fugazi nutcases Lungfish, which was a surpise. Lungfish is 99% nothing like the Dirty Three. Other acts suggested as Dirty Three-like were also misrepresented by uncharacteristic instrumentals: Old Time Relijun, Alex Chilton, etc. I think any analog MG (music geek) worth his/her salt would suggest the likes of Blind Idiot God, Friends of Dean Martinez, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Explosions in the Sky, maybe even Mogwai, etc.

Going by specific track makes Pandora seem especially tailored to itunes, to which Pandora links if you want to buy what you hear. Follow the money. Anyone buying albums at Amazon by artists suggested by Pandora, for at least the Dirty Three, will be mislead.

Stumping Pandora is child’s play — enter Sockeye. But that’s predictable, Sockeye being a bit of an unfairly obscure choice, legendary as they are for spewing the most offensive and sick punk/sludge/pop in the past 20 years (and no, the Frogs, much as I enjoy them too, aren’t as funny or sick).

Yet Pandora should not be stumped by entering Joe Meek. That’s embarrassing.

So just email J Frank with bands you like, and he’ll suggest others you might like. He might also mislead you intentionally if he feels like messing with you, but then he’s more HAL 9000 than he is search engine.

4 thoughts on “Hitting Pandora’s Box

  1. I was one of the johnny-come-lately suckas who tried pandora for the first time after the nyt article. Not only was it pretty easy to stump (maria mckee? hardly obscure — trying to test its ability to create chick rock playlists) but worse, it has only a few justifications for its suggestions that it repeats over and over like an on-message political candidate. Also, YLT’s Mr. Tough is the most funnest song of 2006. I will brook no contradiction.

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  2. Maria Mckee stumped it? Jesus. She’s even rock royalty – she shares a parent with the late Bryan MacLean of Love. The guy wrote ‘Alone Again Or’ for chrissakes. You know, I received the new YLT today, and I’m relieved to say it’s quality. Haven’t gone as deep as lyrics yet. But check out the album review on emusic – by David Cross, & funny this time.

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