eMusic Gets New Recommendation Engine

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I’m an eMusic subscriber and supporter and noticed that they’ve overhauled their homepage centered around a new music recommendation engine called MediaUnbound.  Now, when you sign into the site as a member, you’re presented with a grid of music you’ll like made up of personalized recommendations based upon your history. You can also sort the list by new arrivals.  

I’ve been checking out the recommendations but am cautiously optimistic.  Like any music recommendation service I’ve used, I don’t expect much.  Most of them are disappointing, especially if you’re an avid music fan. But I understand eMusic’s need to upgrade. As a subscription based model, it’s important that their members find music they like.  Otherwise, they’re apt to cancel.

What makes this new music recommendation service, MediaUnbound, supposedly unique is that it  combines both algorithmic and human inputs to try to come up with better recommendations for users right from the start. And how are MediaUnbound’s human inputs different from say Pandora?  This is where the story gets interesting, or amusing at the least. MediaUnbound CEO Michael Papish answers this question in a recent TechCrunch post and added a most amusing critique of other music recommendation services in existence. 

On Pandora’s human input process:

Pandora has created a feature factory of humans chained to headphones attempting to objectively rate the sonic features of every song ever made (well, ok, only ~200k hand-picked songs). We think this is a horrible use of use of the creative, constructive, opinionated, and (sometimes argumentative) resource called the human music geek.

On the rest of the music recommendation technologies out there:

    —Pandora. Purely sonic-based as determined by team of human experts classifying every song into features. Not scalable. One-trick pony only able to determine that one song sounds like another song, not anything about user preference or other personalized recommendations.   
    —iLike. Purely algorithm-based utilizing only data from other iLike members. Service is meant to be embedded in a widget, not a full-fledged recommendation platform across an entire music service.

—iTunes Genius. Sub-standard, algorithm only – developed in-house. Only uses iTunes data. Steve Jobs has creepy man crush on John Mayer and Jack Johnson.

—MySpace Music. Crazy flashing yellow buttons that randomly start playing Buffalo Springfield songs when you visit your friend’s page.

—AmazonMP3. Utilizes the Amazon recommendation platform which is based mainly on collaborative filtering. We assume they use some human tweaking, but they’ve never publicly stated this fact. The AmazonMP3 recommendations are crippled because they are based on regular Amazon recommendations which are very focused on closely related items (i.e. Bob Dylan’s _Blood on the Tracks_ returns Bob Dylan’s _Blonde on Blonde_. duh!)

—Last.fm. Purely algorithm-based utilizing only data from other members and their scrobbles.

Starf**ker

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Artist: Starf**ker
AlbumStarf**ker
File Under: Indie Pop
Recommended if You Like: Chromeo, ELO
Featured Track: Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second‘, ‘Iaadeedaa

Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second:

Iaadeedaa:

Here it is.  My last Album of the Week recommendation for 2008! And what better way to close out the year than with a little Starf**ker.  Come on, say it. You know you want to.  Starf**ker!!

The debut album of this Portland-based group has grown into one of my favorite listens these last few weeks. The band’s dreamy, tranquil grooves are just the right anecdote for these foggy, wet San Francisco days of late. It’s just downright refreshing and fun from start to finish. Their lyrics are whimsical and kooky – but never kitschy –  bringing a smile to my face with every listen. From the hilarious ‘German Love‘ (I’m gonna give it to you) and the completely nonsensical ‘Iaadeedaa’ to the obsessively catchy ‘Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second’, this album has me hooked.  Now go get your groove on.

Get this album free via eMusic’s 50 Free MP3 Promo

buy it at insound!

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Best Songs of 2008 – Indie Rock

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Every year I host a music swap with my music geek friends where we share our top albums of the year.  This year we spiced it up a bit by adding a new component – a mix of your favorite songs of 2008 by artists not represented in our Best Albums of 2008 list. (Ryan’s rules, not mine.) So here it is, my mix of some of my favorite indie rock tunes for 2008. I was struck by a lot of San Francisco local music this year and have noted those artists with an asterisk (**).  I enjoyed the emergence of such good music from my hometown and hope you will too. Enjoy!

  1. ** Pigeonhold by Port O’Brien
  2. Testify by Carney
  3. ** The Drag by Ty Segall
  4. Pot Kettle Black by Tilly and the Wall
  5. Operation by Deerhunter
  6. There Are Birds by The Ruby Suns
  7. The Dazzled by Crystal Stilts
  8. The Shedding Path by The Lord Bird Dog
  9. Chemtrails by Beck
  10. Oppressions Each by Brightblack Morning Light
  11. The Columbia by Lackthereof
  12. ** Hellhole Ratrace by Girls
  13. ** New York Through York by Lady Genius
  14. Charlyn, Angel of Kensington by Jason Collett
  15. My Baby by Juliana Hatfield
  16. Furr by Blitzen Trapper
  17. ** Peg by Cryptacize
  18. Lady Luck by Richard Swift
  19. Don’t You Worry by Jim Noir

Get these albums free via eMusic’s 50 Free MP3 Promo

buy it at insound!

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Glasvegas Christmas EP

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ArtistGlasvegas
Album: A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss)
File Under: Brit Rock
Recommended if You Like: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Phil Spector, Oasis, U2
Featured Track: ‘Fuck You, It’s Over’

If you haven’t already heard of Glasvegas, you probably soon will.  They are one of the most buzzed about bands in the UK right now, receiving accolades from “best Scottish band in 20 years” to “The Greatest New Rock and Roll Band in the World” (NME).  Wow, no pressure or anything.

Their hugely anticipated self-titled EP went straight to number 2 on the UK charts this fall.  Their sound has hit such a nerve with fans that they’ve caused a sensation. Taking musical influences from Phil Spector and The Jesus and Mary Chain, their droning reverb-drenched music is tempered by the poetic, pop-like melodies of lead singer James Allen.

In fact, Phil Spector’s 1963 Christmas album made such a big impression on the band that they have recorded their own Christmas mini-album, A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss).  The 6-song holiday offering was recorded in Transylvania and features 5 new songs and a cover of the Christmas classic, “Silent Night“. You can buy a bundle of their debut album, Glasvegas, and the Christmas EP, A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss), on iTunes for $10.99.

EP Track List: 
Please Come Back Home 
Cruel Moon
Careful What You Wish For 
Fuck You, It’s Over 
A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) 
Silent Night / Noapte de vis

In the meantime, enjoy this new track off their holiday EP, Fuck You, It’s Over. Just in time for Christmas and soon to be a holiday classic, I’m sure.  And if you’re in San Francisco, Glasvegas is playing Popscene January 8, 2009 at 330 Ritch.  Tickets are sold out, however.

 

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Mixtape: Best Songs of 2008 – Electro/Pop

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As many of you who read this blog already know, I’m mostly indie rock girl but I do dabble in a little indie pop/electronica from time to time. I am attracted to that Euro/ambient/dub pop/downtempo groove. However, it’s the rare album in this genre that can hold my interest all the way through. Which is why you won’t find many (if any) electro/pop albums on my top 20 list for 2008

But there were many great songs of this variety that stood out to me this year.  And here is a compilation of some of those tracks that moved me.  I love listening to this mix and hope you will too. Enjoy!

Listen to Best Songs of 2008 – Electro/Pop:

  1. Koushik, ‘Lying in the Sun
  2. Air France, ‘Collapsing at Your Doorstep’
  3. Martina Topley-Bird, ‘Phoenix’
  4. The Black Ghosts,Full Moon’
  5. Nightmares on Wax, ‘195LBS.
  6. The Notwist (Panda Bear Remix), ‘Boneless’
  7. Tobacco, ‘Hairy Candy’
  8. Lemonade, ‘Sunchips’
  9. Raised By Robots, ‘I Love You/U Luv Me 2′
  10. Starf**ker, ‘Florida’
  11. Rafter, ‘Juicy’
  12. Cut Copy, ‘Lights & Music’
  13. Nightmares On Wax, ‘Da Feelin’
  14. Rainbow Arabia, ‘Omar K’

Get these albums free via eMusic’s 50 Free MP3 Promo

buy it at insound!

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Another One Bites the Dust

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First Muxtape, now Mixwit.  Another online mixtape playlist service bites the dust. There’s not a whole lot of information posted as to why Mixwit is shutting it’s doors, but one can only guess the RIAA has a hand in it.

Here’s the announcement in it’s entirety. 

We regret to announce that Mixwit will cease to exist at the end of the year.The website and profiles will be turned off around Dec 27th and all embedded widgets will stop playing before the end of December.

We’ve put a year of work into Mixwit so this choice wasn’t taken lightly. I won’t go into the details of our situation but state simply that we boldly marched into in a position best described as “between a rock and a hard place.” We’re very grateful to be have been part of the mixtape revival of ‘08 and are satisfied to be able to to bow out while things are still good.

You guys are all amazing. It’s clear that all of you put a ton of time and effort into your mixes. For me personally, I was looking forward to all of the designs people created for their tapes. There was a lot of basic tapes and many lovely photos, but the designs and artwork – WOW!

We’re very sorry that this has to end. We’re going to try to figure out some way to archive the artwork and playlists, if for nothing at least historic value. As for now, everything needs to be shut down by the end of the year just to make sure we’ve got a clean start for 2009.

We’ll return early next year with a new company and new toys. Until then, enjoy the holidays and please take good care of yourselves, your families, and your friends =)

 

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Peasant – On the Ground

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Artist: Peasant
AlbumOn the Ground
File Under: Indie Folk
Recommended if You Like: Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Elliott Smith
Featured Track: Birds

You know how annoying it is when you diligently track new music from your favorite blogs, hear something you get excited about, then can’t find it because the album isn’t even released yet?  Well, I’m sorry but I’m about to do that to you right now.

I just can’t help myself on this one though.  Peasant’s, On the Ground, was a little gem sent to me from Paper Garden Records last month and I cannot stop listening to it.  Unfortunately for you, it’s not available until January 27, 2009. But you can pre-order here now.

Peasant is the musical alter-ego of Damien DeRose from Doylestown, PA.  And you can’t help but think Elliott Smith when you hear his beautiful lyrics and delicate acoustic arrangements float by.  I’m completely obsessed with the song, ‘Birds‘.

Based upon his upcoming engagements to promote the album, it appears I’m not the only one obsessed.  He just recorded studio sessions with Daytrotter (known for helping to launch emerging bands like Of Montreal, Vampire Weekend, Tokyo Police Club, Spoon, and A Place To Bury Strangers), and is scheduled to record live sessions on WOXY and LaundroMatinee as well.  Oh, and let’s not forget his upcoming music placement on the new Showtime series “United States of Tara.”

So go get it already!  Pre-order here.

Check out the Daytrotter recordings here.

 

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Winter’s Here and the Music’s Free

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London-based indie pop group, Their Hearts Were Full of Spring, have just issued their first seasonal double a-side single, Winter, featuring covers of Fleet Foxes’ ‘White Winter Hymnal’ and Neil Young’s classic ‘Winterlong’.  

There’ll be one double-a-side single released every season for the next year – four in all, starting with Winter and all tracks will be free to download exclusively from God Is In The TV Zine.

Enjoy!

Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring covering Fleet Foxes’- White Winter Hymnal

Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring covering Neil Young’s – Winterlong


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Music Lovers Gift Guide

T-9 days and counting.  Have you done all your holiday shopping yet?  If not, here’s some gift ideas for that music lover in your life (perhaps yourself) that might inspire.  I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing some of this booty in my stocking.  

 

Ticket Stub Diary , $12.oo

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This journal created by Eric Epstein has special sleeves to protect ticket stubs and pages to write down every detail from that epic Springsteen show back in ’84. Plus, it clears up drawer space.  

 


 

iDrops , $14.95

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iDrops restore the health of your iPod (all models), iPhone, iBook, MacBook (white), eMac, and iMac G5 by bringing back the plastic, polycarbonate, or acrylic’s original factory finish and shine. This two ounce bottle of liquid health will last you many and multiple applications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FM3 Buddha Machine, $25.00


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This ‘Soundbox’ from China is causing a senstation worldwide. The Buddha Machine is a hardware loop player, built kind of like a little AM radio (available in 6 different colors, shipped randomly), but without all the nonsense . It produces nine different looped ambient tones with a pitch control switch (kinda like a whammy bar), volume knob, and 1/8” audio output. Based on handheld soundboxes used for worship all over Asia. Great for music geeks and musician friends—the possibilities are endless.Brian Eno bought eight of them!

 

 

 

Mixa 1GB USB Mixtape,  $33

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Now you can give the gift of music in style! So novel but oh so fun, I wish I found this site earlier in my holiday shopping adventure.  Mixa is 1GB USB cassette tape (with a cool inny outie action), that comes with your own personally designed sleeve.  Make a party mixa, holiday mixa, thank you mixa, or a just because I love you mixa for that someone special in your life. They even have a money-back guarantee if the recipient of your love mixa doesn’t fall head over heels with you . (Though they say any love mixa holding a Lionel Richie song will be exempt.) What have you got to lose?

 

 

Griffin IKARAOKE V.2-U, $49.95

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Just plug iKaraoke into your iPod, cue up your favorite tunes, and you’re on. iKaraoke’s all-in-one microphone/processor isolates the lead vocal track and fades it, giving your voice room to make that favorite tune your own.


 

 

Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, $79.00


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Oh please, please Santa I’ve been really good this year.  Can I get this in my stocking please?! These nifty new earbuds from Apple offer pro audio performance, impressive sound isolation and a mic and remote, making it an essential accessory for iPod or iPhone users.

 

 

 

 

InSound’s Indie-Rock-in-a-Box, ~$100 and up (prices vary)

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Buy 10 or more CDs from InSounds Top 100 Seller List of 2008 and get 25% off and Free Shipping! A very cool way to give the best in indie music this year.  Plus they’ll even package them in a special box and tie it with an Insound ribbon!

 

 

 

Sonos Player, $999 and up

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The mac-daddy of all music gifts, this fellatio-worthy piece of music equipment gives you instant acsess to all from your music from any room in your house. Plus it comes integrated with Rhaspody, Sirius XM Satellite, Last.fm and Internet radio. What else could you possibly ask for?  I can’t live without it.

 

 

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Men are from Mars

 

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Photo by Debra Garcia

Like most of us in our generation, I was raised in an environment that emphasized the similarities between the sexes, not the differences. I thought we were all equal and the same and never really questioned it, until I had a kid.  I now realize the folly of that belief.  For it’s never been more clear to me that boys and girls are fundamentally wired differently.  And there’s nothing like the raw impulses of children to hammer that home.

What’s most shocking to me is how the communication style and emotional needs between the sexes are so apparent, even at age 3.  Take, for example, the scene above. That’s my little guy, Judah, and his Thai girlfriend, Monet.  Every time they get together the same thing happens.  She goes to the ends of the earth to vie for his attention and he pretty much ignores her. The more she tries, the more he pulls away. Because, you know,  when you’re 3 years old, what can compete with smashing up cars and pretending to be Kung Fu Panda? Not girls anyway….yet.

Recently Monet spent the entire afternoon trying to hold Judah’s hand, much to his chagrin.  After trying to escape this nonsense unsuccessfully, my little caveman threw his arms up in exasperation and hollered:  “MONET!  Just because I don’t hold your hand, doesn’t mean I don’t love you!!”

Oh…my….god.

Listen to ‘Foreign Girls from the Foreign Girls EP by Joseph Arthur, one of my long-time favorite artists.

Get this album free via eMusic’s 50 Free MP3 Promo

buy it at insound!

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