Category Archives: Music

(She’s Not) The Only Girl in Town

Here’s a music video of a song Bob Clay and I wrote a few years ago.

How to Find Great New Music, with Spotify

I keep hearing my fellow Mac enthusiasts raving about the “For You” tab in Apple Music, and how music discovery is so much better in Apple Music than in Spotify.  I get it, we’re Apple fans, we are supposed to be excited about new Apple hardware and apps.  And I suppose if someone forced me to speak kindly of the mishmash that is iTunes and is bolted on new addition, music discovery would be the second thing I’d mention (the first thing being the very real benefit of combining, on both the desktop and your mobile device, your streaming music and your owned music).  But I have to say, I hear a lot of people trying very hard to convince themselves that they like Apple Music.

Let’s take a look at music discovery within Apple Music and Spotify.  For this experiment, we’ll focus on discovering music I don’t know about already, as opposed to other similar music already in my library.

First, let’s take a look at the “For You” tab.  Here’s the top screen of mine.

Click for larger view

Click for larger view

There are only two records in there I haven’t heard (Hound Dog Taylor and Bob Mould), and no artists I’ve never heard of.  I like The Band, but bombastic and heartfelt classic rock ballads is most definitely not one of my genres.

Now, Spotify.

There are three primary ways to discover new music in Spotify.  First, the “Discover” tab under Browse.  Here’s the top of mine.

Click for larger view

Click for larger view

I’ve heard of all those artists too, but I’ve only heard two of the records listed (Otis Gibbs and The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash).  All of these are clearly within my preferred genres.

Second, there’s the new “Discover Weekly” playlist.  Here’s my current one.

 

Of those 30 songs, I’d previously heard only four of them.  That’s pretty amazing, and while I don’t love all of them, there’s a lot of good stuff to be mined from that list.  It’s closer to what I like than any “human curated” playlist I’ve come across while trying to work my way through the corn maze that is Apple Music.

Finally, there’s the most fun and rewarding way to find new music on Spotify. Surfing around the “Related Artists” links.

Click for larger vew

Click for larger view

I have spent hours surfing around looking for new music this way.  Most of the stuff in Rancho Radio, my “Kent curated” public playlist, was found that way.

Competition is great for consumers.  Apple Music will make Spotify better, and there’s room for both.  But don’t tell me it’s hard to find new music on Spotify, because I have a thousand or so tracks in my various playlists that say otherwise.

Maybe Apple Music will become the best music service out there.  But let’s be honest.  The announcement at WWDC was a disjointed disaster, and the app is confusing and hard to use.  I’m hoping it will get better (though I’ve been hoping iTunes will get better for years), but there’s a lot of work to be done.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with Spotify.

GoodSongs: HoneyHoney

You run to the river, you run to the sea.
Sift through the rubble, and search the debris
But you won’t find anything if you don’t find peace.

HoneyHoney

Purchase Links:
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Song Ideas Workflow for Songwriters

Song ideas are like dreams: you have to write them down right away, or you will forget them.  I can’t count the number of song ideas I’ve had while driving, that were lost before I got to a place I could write them down.  For example, a few weeks ago while driving home from the farm I noticed, not for the first time, that just about every car I passed had two occupants.  A guy driving, and a girl in the passenger seat.  An idea for a light-hearted, hopefully funny song started to percolate.  The hook was something along the lines of “all these cats with all these cuties, they must be pirates with all that booty.”   [NOTE: I will use this line eventually so don’t steal it!]  I had parts of two verses, a chorus and the beginning of a melody in my head, but everything but the hook was forgotten before I got around to writing it down.

All of this got me thinking, again not for the first time, about a way to capture song ideas before they are lost.  I needed a way to capture a few lines, a hummed melody, or maybe just a concept.  Here is what I came up with.

Using the indispensable and highly recommended iOS app Workflow, I created a “Normal” workflow (this will make sense when you see the app) that does the following:

  1.  “Record[s] Audio” at “Normal” quality (because all we are doing is capturing information), beginning “On Tap” and finishing “On Tap.”
  2.  saves the recorded audio to the “Song Ideas” folder in my Dropbox.

workflowapp

Then I  created a Hazel rule on my Mac to monitor that Dropbox folder and move any incoming files to the “Song Ideas” subfolder in the “Music Creation” folder on my Mac.  This rule also sets a green color label on the file, so I’ll know it came via this workflow.

hazelsongrule

Finally, I added this workflow, called “Song Ideas,” to the home screen on my iPhone via the Sharing> Add to Home Screen function within the Workflow app.  Now it sits on the first page on my iPhone home screen, for easy access while driving.

kentshomescreen

This workflow allows me to quickly record and save any song ideas I have, from anywhere and in very close to real-time.  While I created it specifically for songwriting, you could use this workflow to save and manage just about any information.

All the Money I Had Is Gone

This

made me think of this.

GoodSongs: Will Quinlan & The Deviners

It never mattered what we thought we knew
We were wrong
Oh so wrong

I’ve only heard a few Will Quinlan songs, but I like all of them.

Purchase Links:
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GoodSongs: Well Worn Soles

wellwornsoles

I get a lot of music to (hopefully) review.  Most of it is good.  Some of it is great. Every now and then a record matches up perfectly with my musical DNA.  Like the one I received recently from Well Worn Soles.  This record is wonderful from the first listen.  It sounds like what I want to hear when sitting on the porch at the farm.  It sounds like music I’d love to hear live.  It sounds like life.  Real, authentic, natural.  When I read their bio, I began to understand why .

They met while enrolled in the bluegrass program at East Tennessee State University and quickly recognized that there was something special about the two of them together.

Yes, there is.  Emerson Wells-Barrett and Chelsea Dix-Kessler make some amazing music.  I could share just about any of the 11 songs on their forthcoming record, “Country/Folk by Well Worn Soles,” which is scheduled for release on August 4, 2015, and you’d love it.  But when someone writes and sings “We were something, me and you.  Two happy spiders, all tangled up in our web,” well, that’s the one I have to pick.

Big Red Fire – Well Worn Soles

There’s a lot more to love on this record.  Chelsea plays a beautiful fiddle and Emerson plays a mean mandolin, among other instruments.  There’s traditional country, there’s bluegrass arrangements, there’s honky-tonk, and there’s even the right amount of humor (humor on a record is like whiskey; a little is good, too much makes my head hurt).  They remind me of so many of my favorite bands.  Freakwater, The Be Good Tanyas, The Everybodyfields (the benchmark for Tennessee duos), etc.

When this record comes out, buy it, stream it, heck, steal it if you have to (not really).  If you like well written, well-played rural American music, you’ll love this record.

I do, and I do.

Keep up with Well Worn Soles via their website, Facebook, and Instagram.