I’ve watched every season of High Maintenance a few times. We’ve been watching them again lately when we need a short show to watch in the evenings and this time around I’m deeply focussed not the soundtrack for each episode.

I’ve always been aware of the music in the show (it’s amazing, here’s some background from pitchfork) but this time around, moreso.

Anyway, here a couple of playlists that capture the show’s soundtrack:

Spotify – High Maintenance

Apple Music – High Maintenance

Also, here’s a good interview with Ben Sinclair about some of his current listens from a few years ago.

I have a bunch of playlists that I’ve crafted over the years and when I moved to Apple Music I was disappointed to see my local library copies of those files replaced with Apple Music’s versions. It seemed to be totally arbitrary and, importantly, the play count, rating, etc. was different on my local library copies then it was on the Apple Music versions of those songs.

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In the above, I know that I have a copy of Can’t get There from Here in my local library, so not sure why the Apple Music one was substituted in my playlist. Anyway, I want my local version in there so I can track stats, etc.

I poked around the venerable Doug’s Scripts for a while but couldn’t quite find what I needed so I wrote this script which:

  • Select/start playing a song in the playlist you want to work with
  • Creates a new playlist called “$playlistname Local Files.”
  • Checks each song in the active playlist to see if it’s local or Apple Music
  • If it’s not Apple Music, it just adds it to the Local Files version of the playlist
  • If it is Apple Music, it checks to see if there is a song in your library with the same Artist and Song name
  • It then copies the tracks that result from that search to the Local Files version of the playlist
  • If it can’t find a local copy, it adds the Apple Music version to the “Local Files” copy of the playlist

The search is really loose so it will find multiple local copies if you have them which is a bit of a pain in the butt. SO you need to go to the new playlist and remove the local versions (live! Remix!, etc.) from the playlist.

I’ve run this on a few big playlists with ~1000 songs and it runs just fine. It might be helpful for a few folks so I’m putting it up here but that said, I wouldn’t download and run this unless you know what the code is doing.

Month 2 of my algorithm-free music discovery. I think my Top 5 songs definitely reflect that.

You can listen to this playlist on Apple Music or Last.FM

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The Alison is a real gem that I found digging through Bandcamp. I’m withholding judgment a bit on Epic’s takeover of Bandcamp. I hope it doesn’t destroy the product/community and/or turn it into an onboarding platform for musicians to sell NFTs.

There are a lot of strange ones on the list, too, because I’ve found this Apple Music Playlist called Sleep Cycles that has a bunch of really excellent ambient drone stuff that I use to sleep on the couch when family obligations force me up at 4:30AM. So if you’re listening and wondering why those tracks are on there, it means I was up early so many times that some of the tracks got repeated, a bunch. Not entirely sure how or if to filter them out.

Anyway, The Weather Station was another gem of a find. So suggestive of Kate Bush but the band is also crackling with quiet intensity which I love.

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As promised, I’m trying to get better with tracking my listening and less-algorithmic with my music discovery process. Here’s what I listened to a lot of in January. Maybe next month I’ll figure out some fancy way to make this list streamable? We’ll see.

Here’s the playlist on Apple Music.

Wet Dream – Wet Leg – Wet Dream – Single
Slide Tackle – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
Be Sweet – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
Wild Blue – John Mayer – Sob Rock
Tell Me Something Good (feat. Chaka Khan) – Rufus – The Women of Soul
the angel of 8th ave. – Gang of Youths – the angel of 8th ave. – Single
Bonny – Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen (Remastered)
When Love Breaks Down – Prefab Sprout – A Life of Surprises: The Best of Prefab Sprout (Remastered)
Anxious – The Housemartins – London 0 Hull 4
Happy Hour – The Housemartins – The Last King of Pop
Better Now – The Weather Station – Ignorance (Deluxe Version)
But Not for Me – Ahmad Jamal – Dinner Jazz Classics
Remember – Air – Moon Safari
Nicoteen – Bunny Lowe – Nicoteen – Single
My People – Cha Wa – My People
Bring On the Dancing Horses – Echo & The Bunnymen – Nothing Lasts Forever
in the wake of your leave – Gang of Youths – angel in realtime.
Don’t Change – INXS – GLUTTONY – EP

This is a pretty handy Swiss Army knife-type shortcut for creating Apple Music Playlists from last.fm data. I originally wrote it so that I could create Apple Music playlists based upon the listening history of my last.fm musical neighbors. But as I started poking around on the web, I noticed that last.fm users were looking for ways to play their own playlists on Apple Music, too.

There are a few key variables in the shortcut, most are defined through menus as you run the shortcut. The only two you need to explicitly add to the top of the shortcut are username and APIKEY. You can get a last.fm API key here.

Username: the name of the user to use for a data source. I run this with my own username but also run it every once in a while with my musical neighbors’ usernames to create discovery-type playlists

Period: overall | 7day | 1month | 3month | 6month | 12month – The time period over which to retrieve top tracks for. You’ll select this from a menu when you run the shortcut.

Threshold (e.g. only include songs that have been listened to more than x times): the rationale for this variable is sometimes when creating a playlist you only want to include tracks that you (or whatever username you’re querying) has listened to multiple times. You’ll select this threshold from a menu when you run the shortcut.

Limit: the number of tracks to pull (note that if you select 50 tracks here but set the # of times listened threshold to a high number the playlist will only include the tracks that meet that threshold so may include less than 50 tracks).

This has been working pretty reliably for me for the past week or so, so I’m sending v 1.0 out into the world, hope you enjoy and find it useful. You can download it here.

A few weeks ago I began using an iOS app called Marvis (which, I cannot recommend enough for helping to organize and find albums/playlists in your Apple Music). Using Marvis, I’ve created a few rule/filter sets that help me surface albums I haven’t listened to in a while.

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However, what I am finding is a disappointingly large number of albums I have ripped or collected in MP3/FLAC over the years are incomplete. 

Take this Neil Young album, After the Gold Rush for example:

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Why in the world am I missing track 3?

I know that I own this CD and ripped it myself. I’m totally confused as to why the track is missing. At first I thought Apple’s Cloud Sync was somehow to blame and that this track was just missing in my Apple Library but not on the actual filesystem. No such luck. It’s missing on my external SSD as well as on my backup drive. 

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I am totally confused about what’s going on here! 

The Great Purge

Marvis has helped me realize that I have a bunch of albums in my Apple Music Library that I am never going to listen to. Stuff that I’ve acquired over the past 20 years or so. In the early years of digital audio, in a frenzy of “digital music acquisition syndrome” I just piled my external drives up with all sorts of garbage as friends and I would trade drives. For example, I like some Bjork now and then, but do I need her complete library? Prob not.

Anyway, I have set a goal to reduce my Apple Music Library to just the essentials. I’ll keep complete albums that matter to me and remove stuff that I’ll probably never spin. But while I remove the cruft from my Apple Library, I’ll keep the source files on my filesystem/external drive so that if I ever want to reimport them, I can. 

Which leads me back to my incomplete album problem. Some of the albums I want to keep in my Library have ended up being incomplete which is a bummer.

As usual, Doug AdamsDoug’s Applescripts site has a script I can run to help me at least determine which of my albums are incomplete. Albums Amiss has proven especially helpful:

This script uses track information to calculate whether a particular batch of tracks with the same Album title represent an incomplete or over-complete album, with either too few or too many requisite album tracks. Such batches will be copied to a discrete results playlist where they can be examined. The entire Music library or an individially selected Smart playlist can be scanned. (To be clear: the script does not check some kind of online database; it uses the extant local track entry information. Thus, tag accuracy is essential.)

Of the 2,400 or so albums currently in my library (I’ve already purged about 300, so, progress!) this AppleScript found 700 that are incomplete. Now, at least some of those are because my track entry tags are missing but a lot are just plain incomplete albums. So this helps jumpstart the purge in 2 ways:

  • Start by reviewing the albums that are missing tracks for stuff I’ll never listen to and remove it from my library
  • Determine which incomplete albums I want to rerip from CD (and do so in some kind of lossless format this time around)

Hopefully when this little project is done, I’ll have an Apple Music Library that consists of complete albums that I want to listen to and not a lot of cruft. From there, I ought to be able to build out some especially useful/inspiring lists in Marvis. 

This, combined with my current habit of buying vinyl from artists I’m currently digging, makes me feel like I’m moving just the tiniest bit away from streaming as my preferred way of listening to music. 

Anyway, if you are interested in learning more about Marvis, here is a terrific writeup of the application from Marc Barrowclift.

Started writing this in my journal but figure it’s probably something share-worthy, here’s a quick look at what I listened to in 2021. Planning on using last.fm this year to better track this stuff.

Telecaster/Guitar music

Earlier this year during lockdown I picked up a very nice used American Telecaster. I love it. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum from my Gibson 335. They both have their place in my playing/songwriting. Anyway, picking up the tele got me listening to way more tele players including a lot of Kenny Vaughan and Marty Stuart.

Reading a bunch of Kenny Vaughan interviews, he kept mentioning Hollywood Fats, Roy Nichols and Roy Lanham so I did a lot of digging on their playing over the past year.

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Somewhere in that dive on tele players, I came across Ripley Johnson who is not at all like Kenny Vaughan but as soon as I heard him playing with his Rose City Band, I immediately went over to the Thrill Jockey website and bought all of the Rose City Band albums on vinyl. There’s something that reminds me of the more melodic exploration/noodling of Jerry Garcia’s playing in Johnson’s playing and I love his tone and the sound environment of the Rose City Band albums so he was a really welcomed accidental discovery this year. He reminds me a bit of William Tyler, too, but maybe more accessible or less demanding than Tyler who I didn’t listen to as much this year as I did in 2020.

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I listened to the Jerry on Jerry audiobook this year which I highly recommend for any fans of Jerry Garcia and his playing. So much good material in there and it’s Jerry’s actual voice on the interviews so that’s a joy, too. He mentions this fiddle player, Scotty Stoneman, in a couple of the interviews and that ended up being a very useful vein to mine on the streaming services and it yielded a live show where he’s playing with Clarence White though you can’t hear Clarence too well on the recording. Still great listening and I could hear that sense of abandon and really long melodic phrases in Stoneman’s playing that Jerry was so drawn to.

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Pop/Country, etc.

I continued my deep dive into Bahamas. During a break in covid my son and a friend of mine headed up into NY to see Afie Jurvanen at Webster Hall and it did not disappoint even though it was a solo show and it would have been great to see him with a full band but, man, what a great player/performer/songwriter. I’ve gone back to his Live to Tape videos on YouTube so many times this year.

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Also listed many times to Sierra Ferrell’s Long Time Coming. Great songwriting, fantastic performances. Such a listenable ablum, i should buy the vinyl version if its available (or would if they were not all sold out!). Her album deserves to be sold out, all killer, no filler!

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Also, waded a bit into the Hiss Golden Messenger waters. I heard Way Back in the Way Back on our local 90.5 The Night radio station on my way to a gig. Immediately after hearing it on the radio I fired it up on Spotify and listened to it about 5 times in row. Love the guitar tone on the outro solo. I listened to a few albums and spun Quietly Blowing It many times and while they were all good, nothing grabbed me like that first song.

Same is mostly true about The War on Drugs latest, I Don’t Live Here Anymore. I spun that album quite a few times. I’m not sure if it’s because of a lack of hooks or just my lack of attention but nothing from those repeated listening really stuck with me though when I fire it up when I’m putting the dishes away in the kitchen, etc, there is a really nice comfortable familiarity to the album so it may just be taking a while for it to stick.

My son had been telling me about King Gizzard for months now and every time I put them on I just wasn’t feeling it. Until I heard their latest release, Butterfly 3000. Perhaps my favorite album of 2021. I love everything about this album from the songwriting to the sonic landscape. It’s all so new and fresh to my ears and melodic, too.

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John Mayer Sob Rock. A few tracks on this really stuck with me and I love the whole shitpost vibe of the album and the sounds are just incredible and are like a nostalgia bath for the ears.

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Other

I have no idea how I landed on this album but I must have listened to it 25 times this year and still find it to be one of my favorite to listen to when I’m up before dawn waiting for a reasonable hour to start making coffee:

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I’ve been buying albums from new artists for the past year or so. If I find myself repeatedly listening to a new release on Spotify or Apple Music, I buy the record. It’s usually about $30 w/ shipping which is steep but I’ve long suspected that the margin is pretty good for the artist so, why not.

A couple of recent purchases are Yola from the Easy Eye store and a couple of Rose City Band releases from Thrill Jockey. Have listened to them a few times and really like having the artwork/liner notes.

Anyway, came across this today:

A vinyl record costs ~$7 to manufacture, and a band typically sells it directly to fans for $25 — good for $18 in profit.

By contrast, streaming services only pay out a fraction of a penny for each listen. 

A band would have to amass 450k streams on Spotify to match the profit of 100 vinyl sales.

So I think my assumption was correct that buying records from artists is a good way to support them. Anyway, so more interesting numbers around vinyl and supply chain are in the full article.

I use this service called readwise that helps me remember what I read. I’ve posted about it before. 

Anyway, it occurs to me that I really need something similar for my listening. Like, what artists have I recently followed in Spotify or tracks I’ve dug Apple Music, etc. I think there’s probably some way to use iOS shortcuts to get at this info. Until then, I’ve resuscitated my last.fm account and paid for the year of Pro access so I can play around with the reports and API. I spent some time at lunch today hacking away at it. I think even just getting an email that looked like this grid below of my top albums from the past month would be a great first step. Note that some of these albums weren’t actually my top albums for the month but because of a bug in one of the apps I was using a bunch of songs got duplicate/triplicate counted. I think I’ve got that worked out. Anyway, nice little programming challenge for 2021!

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I scored a great deal on a NAD receiver/amplifier (with a phono preamp!) recently and finally had a chance to run it through its paces into my KEF Q150s. I primarily listen to vinyl through this setup but also have an older AirPort Express going into an outboard DAC via optical out so that I can stream music from Apple Music and Spotify via AirPlay from my iPad/iPhone.

Which is how I stumbled across the opportunity to check out some of Apple’s new Dolby Atmos versions of albums. First up was a quick run through Rush’s Moving Pictures. The Dolby Atmos logo showed up under the album art and I sent Tom Sawyer over to the NAD via AirPlay ready to have my socks blown off.

And it sounded like garbage. I did some A/B between the Apple version and the Spotify version and the plain old Spotify version sounded way better. So I did some digging and it turns out I was doing it all wrong.

The thing with Atmos-enabled albums is they should only be played on Atmos-capable speakers/headphones (like AirPod Pros or HomePods via Apple TV) not on a pair of regular KEF’s. It took me a while to figure out that it’s important to sanity check the Music settings on your iOS device to make sure everything is all cool before sending music over AirPlay.

When you go to Settings->Music->Dolby Atmos on your iPhone or iPad make sure it’s not set to Always On! If you put it on Automatic what happens is if you are playing through AirPod Pros (or other Atmos-enabled speaker) is that it plays that Atmos-version of the album but if you AirPlay to a regular stereo, it plays the Lossless instead.

I confirmed this and now when I choose to AirPlay to my HiFi system the logo under Moving Pictures changes from “Dolby Atmos” to “Lossless.” Pretty cool.

So, the regular stereo Lossless stuff sounds, as expected, pretty excellent through the NAD->KEF setup. Also, the Atmos stuff sounds pretty cool through the AirPod Pros I have, not sure if it’s anything more than a novelty at this point. Some mixes just sound a little wider but others (I stumbled on I Want You Back by Jackson 5) you can really hear the soundstage way more distinctly in the Atmos version as opposed to the plain stereo version.

I don’t do a lot of serious listening through my AirPods but if you have a pair and want to hear something really cool, click this link and wait about 10 seconds and then start to turn your head from side to side. Pretty cool, right?

So the next step here is to check out some Atmos stuff on my pair of stereo HomePods. I have a pair of the original HomePods and they sound killer as a stereo pair. Unfortunately you can’t airplay right from your phone to the HomePods and get Atmos-enabled sound. Instead you need to send audio from an Apple TV to the HomePods to get the Atmos features. Which isn’t too big of deal since we’ve got an Apple TV in the room with the stereo pair. I’m looking forward to checking that out.

Signed up. It’s a no-brainer for my family as we were already on the 2TB cloud storage plan.

AppleTV+

It’s got Ted Lasso. Enough said. 

kidding. Still AppleTV+ has some terrific stuff on it. And Ted Lasso.

Apple News+

I’ve hated Apple News ever since it started asking me if I wanted to open RSS feeds in it but it seems to have stopped doing that maybe? And I’m curious to see how the audio version of news works. So, verdict is out on News.

Apple Music

Maybe the worst music service, ever. But I sync my Spotify lists over to Apple Music and can play them on my HomePods so, there’s that. We had Spotify Family. I think I’m the only one who won’t fully make the jump to Apple Music so I kept the individual Spotify plan for myself and we’ll see how the rest of the family makes the transition. I don’t think they’ll miss Spotify like I would.

Arcade?

I don’t know what it is and am not likely going to find out.

Fitness+

Kinda excited to see how this pans out. I use Zwift right now but everything about Zwift’s bluetooth/hardware integration feels janky. Hoping Apple can do this better.

My new favorite Keyboard Maestro shortcut allows me to toggle between audio outputs (Built In Output device and my USB output). The Built in volume controls my iMac speakers, the USB output controls my Amp. So, combined with the superb Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource, I can easily bounce back and forth between controlling my music volume (Roon, Spotify, archive.org) and my Zoom volume using my keyboards volume controls. This sounds like it would be easy and it is, sort of, by using switchaudiosource-osx (available as brew install switchaudio-osx from command line). 

Anyway, this is a huge problem solver for me. Stoked. Click pic below for larger version if you want to see the actions.

 

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Other stuff? My dog ate my Kindle. I had the base model and upgraded to the fancier Paperwhite. Since I use the JUMBO FONT to read without my glasses on, that extra 300dpi really looks nice! Highly recommend paying the extra $30.

Also, been doing a lot of work building out my HiFi setup with an Intel NUC running Roon/Qobuz and loving it. Will do a writeup next week when I’m not so busy. 

  • Dark Mode for Web – Some css tips for making a dark mode version of a website. Putting this on my list of things to tackle.
  • You Are A Strange Loop – YouTube – Was speaking with some friends about Doug Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach the other day and then serendipitously came across this great, short video explainer of the strange loop, key to understanding what he’s getting at in his book. So worth the viewing time.

Other things from this week? I’ve been doing a deep dive on Roon’s audio player as a way to unify my local music catalog with my Qobuz account. Very good so far but I think I need to buy a Mac mini or something to run it as my old MacBook Air isn’t working out so well.

This is somewhat unnecessary right now as I just got in the mail the vinyl LP of Yola’s Walk Through Fire and that has been in heavy rotation on my turntable. Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys plays on/produced this masterpiece. Dude has an incredible ear. Such great stuff.

  1. Instapaper Saves for This Week:

Pinboard Saves for This Week: