Sunday, February 18, 2007

Adventures in Pandora, Episode 1: WTF

On the nightshift, and sometimes just at home, I often listen to ye olde Pandora on the internet. Quite frequently, I listen to Jon Ronson's Ronson On archives, but sometimes I listen to music, too.
As of right now, I have, um, let's see, 10 stations on Pandora, which follow:

Bad Ass Folk: based on my suggestions of the Mountain Goats, Two Gallants, etc.
Big Pop: which is an attempt to scratch my Andy Kim/Tommy James itch.
Global Psych: this is the newest station, still very ill-defined. Hoping for some Luaka Bop-type stuff. Os Mutantes, Jorge Ben, etc. I've been trying to get some 60s French pop in there too to try to broaden the base.
Herky Jerky: a dismal failure reaching for White Hassle/Railroad Jerk type stuff, of which there is none. So instead, based on the Railroad Jerk entry, I get tubloads of 90s rock, including Hootie & the Blowfish.
Howling Hex: for all things Neil Hagerty/Jennifer Herrema related, I suppose it should be called Truxrox or something, but having it "H" based keeps it near the top of the list, alphabetically.
Mello Instro: another poorly defined station, ranges from Precious Fathers to Tin Hat Trio. Okay, "poorly defined" in this case = "too narrowly definied"
Nerd Rap: De La, Talib, Ghostface, etc
Sweet Country: trying to get countrypolitan, like 70s Jerry Lee Lewis, but the Jerry Lee Lewis stuff triggers 50s r&b, so it's kind of a bust. And the Willie Nelson suggestion triggers Sheryle Crow(e?). So it needs more
Sweet Soul: I plugged in the Dramatics and the Commodores.
Rough Soul: Rufus Thomas to Sugarman Three.

So that's what I'm working with. I'm listening to Sweet Soul right now, and it's playing the Commodores' "Night Shift", which is, y'know, PERFECT. But two songs ago, when I decided to start this entry, it played "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind)", one of my VERY FAVOURITE Soul/R&B songs, only they played the one (I didn't even know it existed, HOW COULD I KNOW?) by the New Kids On the Block!!! And that's why Robots will never rule the Earth. They have no judgment, no sense of context. This Pandora robot just coldly examines quite superficial aspects of songs and doesn't seem to take in to consideration the fact that I am not a 12-year-old girl in the year 1990! In fact, the mere suggestion that I am a 12-y-o-g-i-t-y-1990 should make the Pandorbot self-destruct. And then I could go back to listening to Mastodon on the iTunes.
So now, I've switched to Sweet Country, and it's playing Jay Bennett, who I think used to be in Wilco or somesuch, which has ZERO to do with what I'm looking for in this station, but I think I entered Smog into the computation, which has completely ruined the experiment. Okay, axe the J-Ben, and we get "Why Baby Why" by GeoJones, which is is still a little hillbilly for what I'm after. Fast forward it, though, cuz I still might some 70s George, esp. George & Tammy, whoo! So now it's giving me Merle Haggard (thanks to the Willie, no doubt), CRIPES. Merle gets THUMBS DOWN. Not it life, just for this station. THIS IS SCIENCE DAMMIT. So now it's playing Iron & Wine. GIVE ME ONE BREAK, YOU CURSED MACHINE!
Okay, switch I&W to Bad Ass Folk, right? That's more or less the secondary reason for that station, as a clearing house for most of the stuff that's coming up in Sweet Country thanks to my ill-conceived Smog request (I just wanted to hear "Dress Sexy at My Funeral", which, to me, is a Countrypolitan song).
Okay, Charley Pride, "A Shoulder to Cry On". Nice. I've interviewed CP about three times, back in my music journalist days. I highly recommend interviewing him if you get the chance. He'll tell you a story, and I don't just mean he'll tell a story, but he'll tell YOU a story. He'll take the jist of your conversation, and find some anecdote that will sublimely express the very thing you were wondering about, only he won't actually answer your question, and he'll take LOTS of sidetrips in making the point. But it's wonderful. And if you can get tix at a decent price, go see him. He wears awesome sweaters, and still sings great.


Each night that I go out there and I hear that applause and appreciation, it's just like it was the first time. I love what I do, and I think that permeates out to my fans and right back to me. They love it, and we love doing it. It's a good marriage.

Okay, let's move over to the Howling Hex station...what've we got? Old Time Relijun, YES! Skronky w/o sax (at least no sax yet). I don't think these guys have any actual connection to Trux, but I dig their spirit in the same way. There's a sort of rock-as-freejazz, but not really aesthetic. Next up, the Minutemen, which, okay, that's closer to OTR than Trux for nu-jazz fakeness and turbull singing, but okay, yeah, plus the Meltzer connection (D. Boon had a Meltzer pome in his pocket when he died, sad, huh?). So now, Erase Errata, who, um, I think my brother likes these guys. I get why Pandorobot is playing this, it has that same syncopated Zappa-like swirl thing, but it's a little to proggo for me. So skip that, and now it's Tricky Woo, which I plugged in as a variable. Only, Pandora has a very poor selection of CanRock, and they only have Tricky Woo's hair metal album, First Blush, which I like, but, um, I don't think I like the stuff that it triggers, so maybe I should take it out of the equation. So now I get Chavez, which has nothing to do with anything except 90s alt-rock (i think they toured with the Smashing Pumpkins, blecccchhhh). So this station is broken. TIME TO MOVE ON.
Let's see what Herky Jerky gives us...Clem Snide, okay, I can kinda see the Railroad Jerk connection there. Very Brooklyn-y, very, um, rootsy but also wordy. Urbane. Or as Pandorbot sez: "features subtle use of vocal harmony and electric guitar" GREAT. NICE TO PULL OFF THE PANEL AND SEE THE MACHINE AT WORK. But I kind of like "End of Love", so who cares WHY, let's just listen. Back to the Nat'l Post cryptic x-word, which feels reallyl easy this week. Anagrams are always the easiest for me, because, y'know, the answer is LITERALLY right there. I mean, Withdraws corrupt decrees (7)...
Who the hell is Karl Blau? Sometimes I think Pandorbot just makes shit up to piss me off. NEXT!
Global Psych, okay, this one holds the most promise of actually introducing me to new (to me) music, since it's sort of a (fake) genre that I'm only sort of casually into. Zuco 103, sorta triphoppy, foreign language, I like. Sez P'bot: "features minor key tonalities, portoguese lyrics and synthesizers", which are all things P'bot believes I dig, so: RESULT!


When I first got in to the business, people would always ask me, 'How does it feel to be the Jackie Robinson of country music? How does it feel to be the first coloured country singer? How does it feel to be the first negro country singer?' I'd say, 'I don't feel no different.'

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