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Putting iTunes Radio To The Test, Indie Pop Style

iTunes Radio

I listen to a lot music during my two-hour daily commutes to and from work. Each way involves going over a bridge, through three tunnels and zigging and zagging down narrow streets with seemingly perpetual construction. There are many opportunities to go stark raving mad. Good music therefore is key. Its essential.

I decided the other day to put iTunes Radio to the test. The cool kids are not supposed to like this. Gizmodo says its a “sucky money-maker,” “boring, and packed with shortcomings and missed opportunities.” Its a mere Pandora clone, but with about twenty-seven times the number of tracks.

Meh.

Gizmodo really isn’t very cool, anyway. Its “review” is pretty lame and closes with a suggestion to make the service better in a way that it acknowledges probably “can’t be profitable.” Apple, of course, is in the business of not being profitable.

Nevertheless, anything with twenty-seven million tracks sitting on its servers has the opportunity to be pretty interesting. Pandora has about a million. It gets pretty boring, pretty quickly.

So, for my little test, I created a radio station from the music of Stephen Lawrenson, whose recent work, Obscuriosity, is a candidate for album-of-the-year. You can check out the gorgeous twelve-string driven brilliance of its best track, “Words To Say,” right here. That was the vibe I was trying to achieve for my morning commute.

“Stephen Lawrenson Radio” certainly delivered the goods . . . for a while. I got cool tracks from Greg Pope and Throwback Suburbia. Some tasty mid-60s vibes were delivered by Marco Joachim, whom I had never heard previously. His song “Those Days” sounded great on the freeway.

The Connection, about whom I wrote recently, chimed in with some more hook-filled goodness right out of 1964. This one is so good, in fact, that you should listen to it in this post:

And, who out there would not smile when being served up Kurt Baker doing Nick Lowe’s classic “Cruel To Be Kind“? Listen to that one right here, too:

So far, so good.

But when iTunes Radio starts veering off course, it can go haywire.

Although I don’t have much of an interest in hearing Nirvana these days, “Come As You Are” remains a great song. But, two songs later, I was “treated” to Bruno Mars. Whatever Bruno Mars has to do with Stephen Lawrenson is far beyond me. That then gave way to Linkin Park (great stuff if you were 17 about 10 years ago), The Fray, some dull latter-day Alice Cooper, and Mumford & Sons. Weird, but perhaps understandable in some far-off way. There is no rational explanation, however, for trying to make me listen to Pink. Not gonna happen. Ever.

Order, though, was quickly restored to the world by Teenage Fanclub doing “I’ll Make It Clear”:

Perhaps iTunes Radio needs to learn the user’s preferences. There are some twenty-seven million tracks from which to choose, which is quite a collection. I skipped the Bruno Mars to Mumford set entirely. I trashed the Pink tune immediately. Maybe they’ll be sent to my digital oblivion.

Nevertheless, on what was its second day of its availability to the public-at-large, iTunes Radio wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good. Indie pop listeners can certainly dig getting big doses of the likes of Throwback Suburbia, Kurt Baker and The Connection selected algorithmically for them.

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2 thoughts on “Putting iTunes Radio To The Test, Indie Pop Style

  1. My worst experience with “music recommendation radio” was when I was trying to create a station on Pandora featuring multi-tracked vocal harmonies (Queen, Jellyfish) and it played Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.” I’ll try anything over Pandora.

    • The issues I noted here seemed to have arisen from the shared nature of the account at my house — the kids don’t have their own account but have simply used mine. That might fix itself with active management and the banishing of offending tracks.

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