Google Music Play v Spotify

I’ve just started an experiment which I’ll log within this post.  Now that Google Music Play is on Sonos, I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I like Spotify and was happily converted a year or so ago, enticed by a collaborative playlist created for a weekend away in a cottage, but I’m very anal about music and the gaps on Spotify do bother me.  I’ve imported lots of old playlists from iTunes, and typically 5 out of 40 tracks will fail to play.  Now, since I’ve already paid for these songs (mostly in non digital format and ripped to iTunes), I’m not too impressed with a service that charges me £10 a month for admittedly brilliant access to lots of other stuff but which won’t let me play the music I OWN. If I could upload all of my bought music to a cloud to which only I have access, Spotify would be perfect.  But I can’t, so it’s not.  Google Music Play allows me to upload 20,000 tracks.  I’ve got more than that, but have settled for a “canon” of around 11,000.  A decent start, although being petty and anal I would prefer to be able to upload *everything* I own and curate later. But let’s see how this goes. I have a month’s trial with Google, so let’s see if it can convert me in 30 days.

Round 1 : Nixon by Lambchop

I love Lambchop.  I saw them live at the Barbican in 2002 and it’s up there with the best concerts of my life.  Certainly in terms of acoustics and the crisp heartbreaking quality of Kurt Wagner’s voice in that auditorium, it remains at the top of my gig-going experience.  The set mainly comprised tracks from what are still my two favourite Lambchop albums, Nixon and Is A Woman.  Neither of these two albums are on Spotify (although just about everything else by Lambchop is).  Tonight I have a craving for Nixon and I am currently listening to it (“Up With the People” lifting my soul as I type this line) on Google Play.  One-nil to Google.

Google v Spotify

Round 2 : Perhaps I should give it just a little more time?

Writing a paragraph about Lambchop led me to thoughts of the perhaps improbable Kurt Wagner vocal on “Give It” by X-Press 2.  Cue an almost instant equaliser for Spotify.  As the screengrab shows, Spotify’s got lots of lovely versions of the track, including my favourite, which just rises and rises in beautiful beautiful glory and glorious glorious beauty.  Google Play just has this indulgent piece of electro shit. 1-1.

Oh, and it’s not that important to me, but with Spotify I can embed songs on a blog post rather than just linking and opening unwanted windows.  2-1 to Spotify.

Round 3: Digging the new

The comparison here relates not only to NEW music but also music that is new to me.  With Mary Anne Hobbes on  6 Music playing through my beautiful Sonos system, I used Shazam to ID a number of tracks that I liked, with the intention to then see how many of them Spotify and Google Music Play are able to locate.  I love Shazam. in the past I’ve been known to spend years in search of a track that I heard just the once; I even starting humming a particular tune to various record shop owners in Soho in my efforts to identify it (turns out it was Groovin’ With Mr Bloe by Mr Bloe although it took an email to Capital Gold to eventually get that answer).  Now I just switch on Shazam and it saves me the work, time, embarrassment, and most importantly the need to email a DJ that I frankly couldn’t stand.  I remember a golden night with my now-wife, probably our third date, when Shazam led me to Signor Rossi and King Khan within half an hour of each other.  An life doesn’t get much better than that.

Today’s 6 Music selection was less life-changing than the third date with my wife, but did throw up a nice variety of tracks.  Before I put Spotify and Google Music Play to the test, however, I need to update the scores just based on two observations I made while writing the last paragraph.  I love Shazam, and Shazam links directly to Spotify. 3-1.  Google Music Play doesn’t have any tracks by King Khan and the Shrines available for streaming; Spotify has the entire back catalogue. 4-1.  But, and it’s a big but (big enough to please Sir Mix-A-Lot perhaps), neither provider has the Signor Rossi soundtrack, which serves to underline the importance of Google’s facility to stream music I own from a cloud.  4-2 Spotify.

Working my way through my Shazam tags, both providers serve up tracks by Naughty Nature, Ibibio Sound Machine, Blondie, The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, Sharon Van Etten, Jonathan Richman, and Damon Albarn.  On these they can’t be separated.

Not all versions of “Genesis” by Grimes are playable on Spotify, despite appearing (very annoying).  You have to scroll down until you reach SINGLES before you find a working stream.  No such problem with Google, which plays the track within seconds. 4-3.  Ironically, given how Google made their name, searching and navigation is far smoother on Spotify.  I’m impressed that both providers have a fairly obscure live Blondie track, but Spotify gets it for me in seconds, while Google Play hides it in a pile of many other tracks entitled “Intro…”. 5-3 to Spotify

One final Spotify advantage to mention in all this: I don’t know of any radio station that comes close to 6 Music in terms of all-round quality.  Christ knows how I coped as a teenager without a station sympathetic to sensitive ears, but thank God I’ve got one now.  On Spotify I have several 6 Music playlists, including the station’s main playlist, and they’re curated and updated by 6 Music, freeing me up to sit and wonder where I’d be without Shazam.

Spotify 6 Google Play Music 3.  It’s difficult to see Google closing the gap now, but there are still 27 days in which that could happen…





Reading a story tweet by tweet

I like Jon Ronson.  I never realised quite how fascinating a person he is until his recent appearance on the Richard Herring Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP!)

After that interview I started following Ronson on Twitter, and yesterday he appeared on my timeline with a series of tweets that move from curiosity to despair in under a thousand characters:


I don’t twig what “swimming” might infer initially, and I suspect that Ronson doesn’t either.  I’m thinking more along the lines of the “ooh look at that interesting eccentric” that pops into your head when you see an old man going for a January dip in the pool on Hampstead Heath.  But events become very dark very quickly.  And the narrative is very brief, even with the throwaway detail of the conversation about Steinbeck, and the now inappropriate interruption of a message delivered to a different audience in a different tone and for a different purpose.

Ronson’s decision not to stand and gawp is admirable.  We all tut at the rubbernecked voyeurs who slow down to pass the unspoken tragedy of a mangled car on the hard shoulder, but our tutting tends to be at its loudest when we’re being held back in a queue, and strangely absent when we take our own turn to pass by and stare with gory thrill and that sense of there but for the grace of a god that I don’t believe in…

Ronson takes the righteous path by walking away: there’s nothing he can do to help; there’s nothing anyone gains from his presence as a spectator.  And he leaves the story hanging.  Now laden with dark symbolism, it’s all over too quickly, and I feel guilty for wanting to follow the story to its conclusion. The writer walks away but I’m still peering back to work out what’s going. My curiosity is not sated. ”

“I’ve gone” bears incredible weight.  When do we ever say “I’ve gone”? “Gone” reflects the absence on a person or thing from the location and perspective of the speaker  “She’s gone” means she’s no longer here.  But it’s unfeasible to state “I’m not longer here”. With “I’ve gone” Ronson is both absent from and present at the scene. I read and I am there too, but not there at all.

When Ronson appears on my timeline again today I catch the final tweet in a sequence that contextualises and completes the story.  It’s heartbreaking and it’s eerie. And my timeline presents it to me in reverse, like an episode of Columbo: the brutal facts first; the background and explanation following piece by piece.  And this is not the author’s intention.  The medium is dictating the way I digest the message.  And again I feel guilty.  For all the heartbreak, I feel another thrill of the new.  I have never read a text in this way before.  And how often do we ever experience that?



Ultimately, though, the message here renders the medium insignificant.  Ronson links to a newspaper article, again poignantly brief, telling the story in three paragraphs that quickly dissolve into isolated sentences.  The poor girl beside them, looking away.  Not returning our gaze.