Some words about music.
I’m wrapping up my first week of a rather grand experiment: avoiding iTunes/Apple Music and using Spotify in their place. I cancelled my subscription to the now defunct Rdio streaming service and went all-in with Apple Music as soon as it went live back in June. While Apple Music wasn’t perfect, I liked how it was the only service that could combine all the music I’ve downloaded over the past decade, plus stream new music, and then give me access to all those songs across all my devices. At least in theory.
As time has passed, though, I’ve grown more and more frustrated with Apple Music. My biggest issues are how songs that I’ve downloaded onto my computer often show up in different forms on my i-devices because Apple Music gets confused by the metadata attached to the original file. For example, instead of hearing the version of “Animal” from Def Leppard’s Hysteria that I grew up on, my iPad will play some terrible live version. This doesn’t happen with a ton of music, but enough to be annoying.
The bigger issue is how Apple Music syncs data across devices. Ever since I began using iTunes in 2004, my default playlist is one called “Newest Latest” that includes everything I’ve added to my iTunes library in the past 40 days. That way I was always sure to be listening to and evaluating the most recent music I had downloaded. Since flipping the switch on the iTunes Music Library feature, though, the software keeps making duplicates of that playlist. Right now iTunes tells me I have seven different versions of that playlist, with four different combinations of tracks in them. Every few weeks I’ll go delete all the extras instances, but they just reappear shortly after. I’ve also had a hard time adding songs to playlists on my iPad or iPhone then seeing them show up back in iTunes on my Mac.
It’s also frustrating that Apple Music does not play nice with last.fm, the service I’ve used to track my listening data since 2005. That’s why I had to stop sharing my monthly listening stats: music up in the iTunes Music Library cloud will not get counted in the last.fm stats.
And I hate that it is so hard to find the latest releases on Fridays when new albums get released.
I’m not really sure what the final trigger was, but last week I decided to go ahead and give Spotify a shot. So far, I’m digging it. I like that it seems pretty seamless across devices. I like that last.fm is built in. I enjoy seeing what my friends who are Spotify users are listening to. The music recommendations seem a little more true to my tastes than what Apple Music offered. And while it’s still a bit of a chore to find new releases on Fridays, especially compared to how Rdio listed them, it is still easier than Apple Music makes it.
Making the switch also gave me a chance to simplify my music catalog. The thousands of songs I’ve ripped, downloaded, and purchased over the past decade are still sitting in my iTunes library when I want to access them. But rather than importing everything to Spotify, I spent a few hours working through my catalog and only loading the songs I consider vital into my new Spotify library. Instead of thousands of songs, I’m dealing with a few hundred now, but with the ability to stream anything else at a moment’s notice. That’s also made it a little easier to focus on the newest music.
Sure, I could have done a lot of that in iTunes by just deleting much of the cruft from my library there, but then I’m still left with all of my other complaints about the service.
Odds are Apple will fix some of the issues with it’s music service and software, and if it ever reaches the point where it is more usable than Spotify, it’s easy to switch back. For now, though, I’m sticking with Spotify. If you’re on it, look me up.
In other music news, I’ve been a huge fan of music critic Steven Hyden’s writing for many years. I first found him when he worked for the AV Club. He moved from there to Grantland. Now, like many Grantland refugees, he’s a bit of a free agent. While our musical tastes don’t completely overlap – his is necessarily broader than mine – I’ve generally found the bands, albums, and songs he gets most excited about are pretty similar to mine. And he’s written some wonderful, long-form profiles of some of my favorite acts as well.
His first post-Grantland project is a podcast called Celebration Rock. So far he’s had some good interviews, but the most interesting episode is #4, on which he and fellow critic Ian Cohen run through their ten favorite rock albums of the ’10s up to now. Perfect gym listening material!
That episode kicked off a nice Twitter thread where listeners share their favorite 10 albums of the decade. It’s a fun thread to read through. It reminded me of a few albums I haven’t listened to for some time, has me interested in a few I’ve never listened to, and provided confirmation that a few of my favorite albums are loved by many others.
Perfect excuse to share my list, right? It was tougher to put this together than I expected. There are some great albums that others mentioned, but which I just don’t listen to much any more. If it’s going to be on my list, it needs to be something I go back to often. And a few albums I wanted to include were from just before the decade began. Still, I came up with 10. In order:
1) The War On Drugs – Lost In the Dream
2) Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium
3) Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
4) Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
5) Japandroids – Celebration Rock
6) Spoon – They Want My Soul
7) Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams
8) Arcade Fire – Suburbs
9) Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
10) School of Seven Bells – Ghostory