Tag: music

Musical addictions: lastfm


I don’t like working with music in general–it distracts me when I’m fighting against code or complicated maths, and it just makes me miss the important bits when reading a set of technical specifications. However, when writing, it’s a whole other problem. I find music is helpful–only certain kinds of music, mind you, to get me in the proper mood.

Basically, I require anything that doesn’t require me to focus on the actual lyrics, or distract me with a strong, aggressive beat: either songs I know well, soft instrumentals I don’t know–or light pop, where the lyrics aren’t much of a problem… Songs in languages I don’t speak so well–Spanish or Vietnamese–are more of a hindrance because of that knee jerk reflex to try and understand every single word of the song. Songs in languages I don’t speak at all (say, Japanese or Chinese) are not a problem, and they’re generally a welcome change.

But I kind of like variety in my music, too; and recently I found that I knew by heart most of the songs in my itunes library, which was a little boring (even more so for the H, who I think was about ready to kill me because I listened to the same stuff over and over). I bought a few more CDs, but I was really looking for was a radio station that would have music I liked. I used to be a big fan of Pandora‘s system, which basically learnt what you liked over time and presented similar songs to you–but Pandora threw me out because I don’t live in the States (a common problem in my life, see ebooks).

Until a recent post by Tobias Buckell alerted me to the existence of Last.fm. Basically, download the Scrobbler app for Mac, which links to itunes and analyses your recent playing history–and then offers you a choice of “radio stations”: either the stuff by people you already love and listen to (the “library radio”), or mixes between the familiar and guesses as to what you’ll like (the “mix radio”). And, like Pandora, you can like songs or ban them in order to improve the accuracy of suggestions. So far, I haven’t had to do that: the mix radio has been pretty accurate (unlike Pandora, actually, which had a tendency to offer me metal out of nowhere, based on some weird association).

Consider me addicted 🙂

Yup, it’s paying. 3 euros per month, but at that price, given how often I listen to music, I’ll fork out gladly.

(for the record, the stuff I listen to tends to be Vienna Teng, Dar Williams, Emmylou Harris, the Innocence Mission–lots of singer-songwriters with a folk or classical vibe, and some classical/religious music)

Music to Write By


Last one, for the road… (the BF/H is playing go, and I’m too tired to do anything else)

So, I just got myself a brand new CD, and I was looking at my playlists. I use music all the time (I pretty much can’t write without a familiar sound in the background), and I’ve got a medium consumption of stuff: once in a while, I’ll buy a new stack of CD to have new songs to add to the rotation. By the looks of it, the last stack of CDs I bought was more than a year ago–so it’s time to look for more. I thought I might share some of my favourites, on the off-chance some of you enjoy the same kind of songs, and could point me out to more artists I ought to be checking out. I mainly listen to female singer-songwriters (don’t ask, I have no idea).

-India Arie. First CD I bought for myself, years ago. I liked the first two albums (India Arie and Voyage to India to bits), but I haven’t been as big a fan of the later ones.

-The Innocence Mission. Karen Peris has such a wonderful voice. I don’t have everything by them: some of the old ones are hard to get hold of, and I stopped buying CDs after being somewhat disappointed by And Now the Day is Over, but the new ones sound good.

-Vienna Teng. Her first album had two songs that floored me (“The Tower”, and “Between”); the second one was pretty good, and I was somewhat disappointed by the third one, but I just got the newish one, Inland Territory, and it looks like a return to top form.

-Dar Williams. The first album I bought was The Beauty of the Rain, which is awesome (especially the atmospheric “Mercy of the Fallen”). I now have pretty much the entire backlist, and I’ve just seen there’s a newish album, Promised Land. Shiny.

-Tracy Spuelher. I downloaded a couple free songs from amazon, “Hummingbird” and “Where do we go now”, which I found pretty good–catchy, with good lyrics and a nice mood. I listened to her newer albums, which are even better–and I gave in and bought an entire album off itunes (which I never do, because I hate not being able to transfer music where I want).

So, any other cool singers in the same vein I ought to know about?