Posts tagged Soundtrack
Waiting for the HomePod

If you want an impartial point of view on everything about Apple, Six Colors is always a good source of news. 

That said, I've been an Apple Music subscriber from the very beginning and, therefore, looking with a lot of interest at HomePod product. Unfortunately it is not yet available in Italy, so I'm staring at the window waiting for the product release over here.

Meanwhile, I read basically all the online reviews. Mostly negative for the product launch timing, all of them positive about the speaker's quality. 

Loving music myself, I'm super curious about this last feature. Six Colors sums up in the right way which are the plus and the problems that Apple has and needs to face being so late in the market:

The HomePod is the Siri Speaker I dreamed about in 2016. Unfortunately, it shipped in 2018, and it’s got a lot more competition now. With the launch of Apple Music, Apple had a great opportunity to come out with a superior voice-controlled music device and claim the high ground in this market; HomePod is good, but it feels like a product that’s two years late to market (and yet still has features missing, such as stereo pairing and multi-room support).
The Sonos One may not sound as good as the HomePod, but it’s awfully close—and you can pick up two for the price of a single HomePod and put them in a stereo pair today. The Sonos One even supports Apple Music—but not with voice control, as the built-in Alexa assistant works with Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and a few other services, but not Apple’s.
So where does the HomePod fit? In the end its biggest differentiator is that it’s the only way to listen to Apple Music via voice commands. Even as someone who fits in the target demographic for HomePod, that’s slicing a market awfully thin. If you’re the user of another music service, you can use AirPlay to play music from your phone to the HomePod, but at that point, why would you choose HomePod over something like Sonos One? Keeping in mind that Sonos One is half the price.
Two years ago things would’ve been different. But the competition in this category is fierce, and Apple has some catching up to do. Will HomePod end up being, like the Apple TV, an expensive product that is notable because it supports Apple’s ecosystem in a way that no other product does?

Anyways, I do really want to try it!

Song Maker

This is fun!

Google has launched “Song Maker,“ a nifty new in-browser program that allows users to sequence basic beats in their web browser. “Song Maker” is the latest web-based music tool from Chrome Music Lab, which has previously rolled out experiments geared towards demonstrating and visualizing concepts such as chords and oscillators. “Song Maker” users can program drums, change the tempo, and set the key so that even the most inexperienced beatmaker can come up with something listenable. It’s also compatible with MIDI keyboards. Try it out for yourself.
Blossom & Modern Ruin

Usually at the begging of each month I used to write about new music stuff. Hence, after listening new albums for a few times every Friday, I used to pick the best ones and suggest them here, in Italian. 

This time I've decided to dedicate this post to Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. 

I met Gallows, former Frank Carter's band, back in 2009 at Rock in Idro in Milan. I was there for Limp Bizkit and the band was the opening act. I didn't like them in the first place, too hardcore for my tastes, especially when lyrics don't follow the music rhythm. 

Fast forward to 2015. It was one of the last days of Rdio, the music streaming service, and a new album appeared within my suggestions' page: Blossom by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.

A raw gem, a punch straight to your stomach, an unstoppable train of rabid, furious, angry hard rock. The way it's crafted implies you listen it with no interruptions. It's a manifesto of expressing your most hidden rage against the world and anybody you dislike and disrespects you. 

A catharsis. 

Yet, one of the most magnificent albums of the past 15 years, at least.

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes performing at Legends Club. Milan, October 2016

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes performing at Legends Club. Milan, October 2016

So, when in 2016 the band (which in the meantime changed rhythm guitarist and drummer) announced their second album to come out in January 2017: Modern Ruin.

One of my deepest fears was that this new album wouldn't been able to reach Blossom's peaks. 

But Blossom was too good to be outdated by something else. Modern Ruin is out for a week now. I've been listening to it non-stop for about 20 times from the beginning to the end. 
Because this album needs time, because in every song there's at least another one and, gosh the lyrics, they are the living proof of the artistic maturity of Frank.

So, I decided to avoid any comparison with Blossom. Modern Ruin is an evolution of that sound, while it maintains the inner vibe of the band it's also a master of fusing melody and a powerful lyrics intensity. 

Wild Flowers and its The Hives-esque sound is one of my favorites, but every day I change my mind and I really cannot decide which one to pick. Today I'm stuck with Thunder and its drums section. 

Ah drums, yes, drums. The new drummer Gareth Grover (formerly of Gallows) is just amazing. As I tweeted to him, being a newbie drummer myself. 

If you are curious about listening to Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, there's a bunch of new tour dates around Europe and the United Stated. Available here

Watching and listening to their videos is also a good place to start. 

Band & Albums vote: ★★★★ out of 4.

I've decided to cancel the Soundtrack blog. Better, all the posts I've written there have been now moved into AC, my main blog, in the section "Soundtrack". Where I'll keep talking about music I love. 

End of public service announcement. 

Loud - How Apple Music UI should be

The last two months have been as crazy as hell. Good intentions too often get destroyed by reality and there's simply not enough time to do stuff we are pleased to accomplish. Such as writing here on Soundtrack.

Anyways. I got enough time to discover a new app I warmly suggest you to download: Loud.
It is available for iOS and it's a great substitute of Apple Music. Better it's something Apple should look after in order to learn how customers need a simple UI and appreciate an easy software interaction. 

I have accidentally fallen into it after I was looking for a proper scrobbler for iOS, since none inside the iTunes Store is working properly with Apple Music. While Loud scrobbles in the background and saves offline scrobbles for later. So, if you are a Last.fmaholic and Apple Music power user like I am, this is the best option you can get on iOS.

Loud automatically syncs to your Apple Music, iTunes and iTunes Match libraries/playlists and show them up in a really nice interface. It misses the option to search for new artists/songs/albums and save them to your library, or navigate through Apple Music menus such as "For You" or "Radio". It basically replicates whatever you find into the "Music" section and reflects immediately any action you will do in it.

But I do think it's enough.

Even though it's really basic stuff, it's minimal, easy to use and it's as it was supposed to be a digital music interaction experience: on mobile 90% of the time I keep on listening to something I have already saved previously or downloaded for an offline usage and I need to access to it quickly. Have you tried to do so on the Music app?

Simply what I was looking for to have a decent music software experience on the go. 

Download it here.

I really hope that Shad Deen, Loud creator, will develop a desktop version as well!

A Bot Made Me a Mixtape

Howdy folks, and welcome to a new section of my blog, Soundtrack. This will be completely in English and it will deal just around music topics.
Mostly you'll be finding album suggestions, review, new releases plus some deep thoughts on streaming services which I'm very fond of (Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Tidal... you name it, I've tried it). 
Finally, I'm Italian, I've studied English for several years now, but bear with me in case you'll find written mistakes that could bother you a lot. I will try not to make any. 

Ok, so, without further ado let me dig into the main topic of this first post: Discover Weekly by Spotify. 

Discover Weekly has 1 year life now and for those of you who still don't know what it is, it's a super killer feature that creates a personalized playlist based on your music tastes, updated every Monday.
It's so perfectly crafted that already 40 million users have already used it and, as said, it is the current best differentiator of the music streaming service. 

But it is still crafted by a computer. Better by Spotify machines or more precisely by the recently acquired company Echo Nest (The Ringer has a good article on Echo Nest) which system was once one of the strong points of the beloved and a-lot-missing Rdio service that decided then to ditch it after it has been acquired by Spotify. 

So far, so good. The system is fine, delivers what it promises and normally allows me to discover at least 1 new artist at every other week pace. Furthermore, is the only reason for me to maintain a Premium account on Spotify, because it's the only way to listen to Discover Weekly on my Sonos system. A part from that, after the farewell of Rdio, I found my perfect spot on Apple Music (but that's another story). 

My title hints at "I Made You a Mixtape" of  Federico Viticci on MacStories. He tells the story on why Discover Weekly is becoming more and more important to him because: 

Spotify's Discover Weekly, on the other hand, has brought back the edge I was missing from music streaming services. Discover Weekly is helping me find new music like I haven't done in years. Every Monday, I feel like I'm back in high school and staring at the handwritten back of a mixtape cover. I crave its sense of discovery.

Fair enough. Music discovery, like music taste, has no rules, it's something very personal and most of the times does not follow any specific path.
The way I discover new music (an activity I'm really addicted to) is a multifaceted process. It goes from Discover Weekly, as said, to the For You section on Apple Music, the well curated A-List playlists on Apple Music based on different genres, reading blogs or specialized websites & magazines and so forth. 

But the past Monday one of these pillars was broken down by something I didn't expect would have worked this way.

Last week was bank holiday in Italy, so I decided to take couple of days off for the celebration of the Italian Republic Day. I had some driving hours ahead of me, so I've to save on my Spotify library some suggested playlists with some party music was kind a ritual and a must have to me. 
I must start by saying that this is defenetely not my genre of music. I'm addicted to Hard/Alt/Indie Rock (Just take a look at my 3 collections) but having some other people on board, it's always fun to have that late '90 early '00 kind of mood where we all know the songs that are playing and sing on those notes. 

Listening to a set of songs casually, very far from my music tastes, I personally think doesn't mean that I like those. It doesn't mean that I'm starting to listen to those regularly, because I didn't take any actions against them, such as: hit a button to like every single song or save into my personal library. 
I've just subscribed to a suggested playlist and saved it offline not to waste 3G data connection while abroad. That's it.

But here what happened this Monday when I opened my Discover Weekly to listen to the list of songs as I used to do for 1 year now. Look at this list below, click on it to zoom in and better read what kind of suggestions I got...

My altered Discover Weekly of this Monday

That is not me, this is a playlist of a dancefloor addicted or a person particularly attached to a late '90 melancholy.

A Bot Made Me a Mixtape

And it failed, how possibly 2 hrs of listening to a particular music genre could have screwed up 1 year of listening and usage of Discover Weekly?
This sounds totally a bullshit to me. Really. I can understand that sometimes the songs filling my "personally crafted" playlist won't encounter my attention and tastes, but this is a mistake by design. 

Apple Music, on the contrary, may not have yet a killer feature like this one, but all its "For You" sessions and the so well built suggested/personalized playlists are just one ♥ away from you. And, sorry to say, it is so much more reliable. 

A screen from Apple Music UI on iOS

A screen from Apple Music UI on iOS

Now, I don't know if my Discover Weekly will be fixed by the morning of the next week's Monday (my good friend Lorenzo says yes), but crucial fact remains, a machine is entitle to build its supposed best differentiator feature just on what you strictly listen and processes that as it as your preferred genre over all. 

So imagine you have kids, you want to hold a themed party or whatever situation you might think of where music is involved, and use your very personal Spotify account to reproduce it, you are basically screwed up because you Monday your Discover Weekly is going to be populated by weird stuff.

So for Spotify, and how its algorithm is working, listen to music should be considered as an active action that states what you are and stand for no matter what are listening to, while I still remain convinced that it should be decided by the end users what they like or not, and the so-called machine learning should start processing from that set of data and propose a coherent offering of tailor made playlists. 

It's a long path the one that will bring machines to learn us and in this case is demonstrated that even the most sophisticated music software yet isn't able to interpret what a person really wants at the end of the day. 

Although, future is bright and we cannot expect nothing but better and better experiences.