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Seeking new sounds

January 27th, 2010 · Posted by Skuds in Music · No Comments · Music

Last week I read a little sort of review of the website Spotiseek in the Guardian.  It is a website where you put in the name of an artist you like and it generates a 16-track Spotify playlist, which it calls a mix tape, based on that artist.  The idea is that the list features stuff you might well like if you like that artist whether it is similar artists, ones who influenced or were influenced by that artist, related artists, or whatever.Although the output is a Spotify playlist, the choice is based on data from which is a good thing – sometimes I find Spotify’s own classifications a bit idiosyncratic.  The Guardian raved about it a bit, so I thought I would give it a go.  I found it to be interesting and it introduced me to a few things I would not have heard otherwise, although the results were a bit mixed.  It did throw up some choices that really were not that related to the artist I put in, but fortunately they chimed with a totally different aspect of my tastes.

Still some room for improvement, but useful as it stands.  A few examples:

Mano Negra

Very good list.  It was a mixture of French and Spanish artists. Seven were artists I knew of and would rate as similar (like Manu Chao, Sergeant Garcia, Les Negresses Vertes, Amparanoia and La Ruda Salska) including one band that I saw back in the 80s and hunted for without success because I was spelling their name wrong – Les Cameleons, who provided the music for Circus Archaos. Of the rest, most were new to me but still similar to Mano Negra/Manu Chao and deserving further investigation (like Che Sudaka, Los Autenticos Decadentes, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Fermin Muguruza and La Kinky Beat).  A couple of tracks were OK, but didn’t really grab me.

Only one fail: Hot Hot Heat.  For some reason this was listed on Spotiseek (and therefore as being by Hot Pants but is really Hot Hot Heat.  Nothing against HHH per se – but it didn’t fit with the selection. Hot Pants were Manu Chao’s band before he got famous, so what Spotiseek was trying was a bit genius. Unfortunately it failed.

Steely Dan

Tracks by Steely Dan, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker.  Only one artist I hadn’t heard of – Air Traffic, who didn’t really fit in the list.  The rest was all a good match even if it didn’t introduce me to anything new (10cc, Boz Scaggs, Fleetwood Mac, America, etc.)  A pleasant listen though.


Another good list, but with a technical fail where it tried to be too clever.  It included Primus, Oysterhead (A Les Claypool side project), Praxis andd Faith No More.  Oysterhead would have been a real nugget to find if I hadn’t discovered it only last week.  Some other tracks were a good fit – Infectious Grooves’ cover of Immigrant Song was as bass-heavy as any Primus song as was a Mr. Bungle track.  I will probably listen to a bit more Helmet as a result of this playlist.

The fail was where Spotiseek thought it was picking a track by Sausage (yet another Les Claypool project) which would have been clever.  The only problem is it was actually a track by Big Boss Sausage and the Pacifist of Fury.  Actually quite a likeable track and a brilliant band name, but I’m sure it is not what was intended.


Chosen because there is no Spizz on Spotify, so I wondered what it would turn up.  Not a bad list actually: Lene Lovich, Alternative TV, Au Pairs, The Members, The Monochrome Set, Penetration and Department S were all familiar names.  Some of the rest were good listening, like The B-Movie Kings or Department of Eagles even if they wre not very Spizzy at all.  Kitchen & The Plastic Spoons and Red Zebra were totally new to me but quite Spizzy and might be worth checking out a bit more.  There was a track or two that stuck out like a sore thumb (like  Theatre of Tragedy more straightforward death metal than indie) but otherwise not a bad list at all.

I also tried Arctic Monkeys , Busta Rhymes , and John Holt.   All three produced playlists that were very good and full of appropriate artists, although no real surprises.  The John Holt one was especially enjoyable as it introduced me to the reggae version of Whiter Shade of Pale although it contained the only real anomaly of the three: Stockholm Blues by Tony Joe White which is about as un-reggae as you can get.

Overall, I’m pleased with Spotiseek even if it does throw up the odd wrong ‘un.  Best of all, it is really easy to use.  Just type in an artist name, hit send and then you can drag the list and drop it into your play queue or straight into a playlist.  I think I will be using it a lot when I can’t decide what I want to listen to because its a lot better than Spotify’s artist radio feature.

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