Field Theory by Hadyn Green



This was supposed to be my second post on Friday, sorry for the delay. And I would like to eschew my usual topic of sport and instead tread on other’s toes and discuss music and computers. Mainly it’s about how the two have combined to seriously alter how I listen to music: I don’t listen to albums.

In the distant past (somewhere in mid-2000s) I used to buy CDs. For those who don’t remember these were reflective disks prone to scratching and sunlight. I still have stacks of them at home; they sit below a dusty and unused piece of equipment called, rather imaginatively, a CD-player.

The CD player though, sits below a very well used piece of electronics called the "amplifier music thing". It is what I plug my iPod or laptop into and what makes music blast into my house at various volumes depending on my mood. So let’s be clear on that first, I still do listen to music. In fact I listen to more music now than I did even five years ago.

But now my life is lived through playlists. I have a "good morning" playlist, I have a "tiki-tiki" playlist, a "summer" playlist, a "just great songs" playlist, a "good new stuff" playlist, and so on. Playlists are the new mixtapes.

In fact if I ever listen to whole albums it’s because I’ve made an artist playlist. For example I had a whole month only listening to my Amy Winehouse playlist (technically two albums and a couple of singles), I was surprised as the next person that I didn’t get sick of it after a day.

But it is a rare occurrence these days that I will sit and listen to an album from track one to track n in numerical order. I quickly tired of having to listen to tracks the tracks that, for want of a better word, sucked. So the creation of playlists in WinAmp and then iTunes was definitely my thing.

The iPod’s random function also worked wonders. But then it got better, iTunes got Genius.

For those of you who haven’t tried Genius yet, I, and many others, heartily recommend it. Genius takes a selected song and creates a playlist made of songs that are "similar". Similar is defined by many things that are in the file’s meta-data, like genre for example.

If I go into iTunes now and select April March’s Chick Habit and press the Genius button it gives me back Beth Orton, Ray LaMontagne, Patti Smith, Belle and Sebastian, Neko Case, The Strokes, Gomes, the Watson Twins, and, for some reason, The Little River Band. Fantastic! (well apart from the Little River Band).

In short it creates a playlist for me. And given that I’m basically a lazy s.o.b. this really is genius. I may never listen to an entire album again. But will I ever buy an entire album again? Yes.

I still have an issue with buying singles. While it is easier and I know I like it because I’ve heard it on the radio or the internet, what about those buried gems that are never released by the record companies? It is only from the crappiest of bands where my favourite song from an album also happens to be the main single release.

For example, I love the Kings of Leon’s Sex on Fire, but I know there are going to be other songs on the album I’m going to like and possibly ones I won’t but I can’t tell which is which by listening to a 30 second preview online or sitting at a listening station in a CD store. So I buy the whole album.

I suppose I could download the album from those crazy Scandinavians and see if I liked it first, but, y’know, the RIANZ folk would HATE me.

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