Playlists and other ways to bring your music back

Talking about music with a friend a while back, I got to thinking about what I do to revisit music that has lain fallow in my giant morass of MP3s.* When you have 41.9 days worth of music, it’s easy to forget to listen to an album, here or there.

"Music Droid" cc-licensed by The Smurf
“Music Droid” cc-licensed by The Smurf

So I try a few strategies to bring some of that old enjoyable music back to the fore.  First, I pick one or two “flashback” albums each month to add to my monthly playlist.  Second, I cherry-pick songs for the occasional playlist for my car, or for Avery’s iPod, or for random listening or something.  But this doesn’t seem like enough.

So I’m brainstorming a few ideas here.

Search Phrase Playlists.  I already documented this one.  Rolfe came up with way more ideas than I did.

Edited Search Phrase Playlists – Similar to the above, but driven by a bit more picking and tweaking.  Here’s one I did using the words Angel and Devil:

Angels and Devils
Angels and Devils

And another to the phrase “Say That Again”

Say That Again
Say That Again (Xs for tracks from audiobooks to be removed)

Event Association Lists – start with a song as the seed for the list.  Use word-association techniques to connect it from song to song. Build a playlist from it.  For example, a playlist springing from my friend Nate, bouncing around songs from high school:

  • “Rusty Cage” was my first Soundgarden song, which Nate put on a mix tape for me in sixth or seventh grade.  I listened the heck out of that tape on my safety-yellow Sony sports walkman while I trudged through the snow delivering the free advertising newspaper in my neighborhood.
  • “Sailin” (The Band Dick Tidrow), a goofy ska cover of the Christopher Cross song.  Nate always made sure to bring Mr Dirt Rides Again to parties when he brought CDs (as I remember it, he carried them in a small wooden crate), just so I could sneak over to the stereo and make everyone mad by playing that song.  Runner up from that CD: “Telephone Sal.”
  • “Rotten Apple” (Alice in Chains, from Jar of Flies).   An alt-rock fan, I really liked the grungy metal of AiC’s first two albums, Facelift and Dirt.  So when Jar of Flies came out, Nate and I drove through slushy March rush hour to the nearest Best Buy to buy the album.  Then we complained all the way home about how awful the album was.  In time, I came to like this album the best.
  • “Been Caught Stealin'” (Jane’s Addiction). Shortly thereafter, I bought another AiC EP and brought it to Brandon’s house to show off.  Just before I got to play it, we discovered that the beginning of “Been Caught Stealin” made his dogs bark loudly.  We played that song several times that day.  Poor dog.
  • “Superhero” (Ani DiFranco). Brandon had an eclectic taste in music, and although he isn’t the first person to introduce me to Ani, he is the person I most strongly associate with her work.  I also associate this album (Dilate) with my time as a deejay at the college radio station, where, like Ted (Dr.X) in How I Met Your Mother, no one listened to my show.
  • “China” (Greg Brown) At the radio station, I discovered a variety of music types.  I came to like ska and some of the less hardcore punk music, and I came to discover a whole bunch of folk musicians.  Greg Brown’s “China” was a regular song on my show for months.
  • and so on…

Last Played – If you have had a consistent iTunes library for a long time, you could use the “last played” or “plays” column to bring forth tracks from the depths that you haven’t played yet.  Alas, since I put in a new hard drive on my computer in mid 2010, my “last played” stats are relatively new, with some 11,000 tracks having no ‘last played’ date at all.

Song Name – Alphabetize all your songs by song name and select a random group of ten.  (This could also lead you to interesting “first word” search lists. Here are two such results for me:


Shuffle: Finally, you can take your life in your own hands with full on Shuffle.  I have a dynamic playlist called “Only Music” which excludes audiobooks.

*Unlike the much-ballyhooed Emily (discussed most adroitly on Jonathan Coulton’s blog), my 80GB of mp3s represents a significant investment, of which at least 90% were purchased on CD or more recently from download sites like emusic, Amazon, and occasionally iTunes, and  a significant number of the remaining tracks are audiobooks I’ve borrowed from the library and will delete once I’ve “read” them.  I never got into the napster/limewire thing.

One thought on “Playlists and other ways to bring your music back”

  1. Don’t know if this makes sense for you, but I’ve made a playlist including all the songs that I haven’t rated. Which, as it turns out, is quite a lot. I rate each song when I listen (and am not caught up in writing or editing) and so the playlist is constantly shrinking, but also full pretty much of new stuff. I’ve got almost six days of music unrated, which is not nearly at your level, but it still means a significant amount of time will be spent listening to songs I haven’t listened to in a while.

    Of course, once everything’s rated, I’ll be forced to fall back on one of your many schemes.

    Which I understand was your plan all along.

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