Despite having no talent myself, there is no force that is more definitive in my life than music. I spend hours each day listening to song after song after song on iTunes and on Dyn client Spotify.
This being the case, I was excited to hear that I was assigned to write about Pandora, a site where I have had a moderate amount of experience in the past.
Launched in 2000 and based in Oakland, California, Pandora (another Dyn client) is an automated music recommendation service and online radio application. The site allows you to enter a song, artist or genre into its search bar and then proceeds to build a playlist around that item, assembling songs that share similar musical qualities to the user’s query. You’re able to skip a few songs an hour, but for the most part, you’re very much along for the ride.
Starting off, I chose to see what Pandora might build from my own favorite band, Brooklyn’s The National. If one were to scan through my iTunes play history, they’d find that The National accounts for over half of the songs on my ‘Top 25 Most Played’ and each individual track has no less than 15 plays each.
That being said, I’ve been yet unable to find a band that sounds anything like them. Combining drum-driven modern alternative with stormy post-punk revivalism, The National has always sounded entirely unique to me.
Let’s see what Pandora has to say about that.
For the first thirty minutes or so, that playlist seems to be just a general primer of modern indie/alternative music. There’s a little bit of Modest Mouse, some Band of Horses, even a touch of Sigur Ros. All of the music is enjoyable, but nothing that really gels with my original request.
It’s only when the next track comes on, probably the 12th or 13th on the playlist, that I’m really taken aback.
The band is called The Editors, a British indie unit out of Birmingham that draws heavily on the stylings of Joy Division. They sound a lot like Interpol but are more lyrically aggressive.
More so than any other band that I’ve listened to in the last thirty-five minutes, though, they have exactly the musical texture I’m looking for: hoarse and melodic, anthemic but possessing a slightly melancholic edge.
I immediately open a tab and go to YouTube, grinning over my success.
The rest of my time on Pandora was spent gleefully cycling through genre based playlists , while I slowly made notes of bands I wanted to look into further. I encountered everything from dubstep to opera, tripping over sub-genres I didn’t even know existed.
Of course, that’s what Pandora is all about: discovery.
The site is an invaluable resource for anyone with musical curiosity, assembling a string of music right before the user’s eyes (or ears) that winds through the familiar and the wholly novel. Bands are not prioritized based on label shilling or density of airplay. Rather, the site is structured around the elements of the music, the sonic genetics of each individual track.
Closing the site as I go to write this, I find myself wondering how to frame my thoughts. After all, the very nature of the application and the organic unfurling of the unexpected tracks lends itself poorly to structured analysis. Honestly, the only way to really understand any praise of Pandora is to to go on there and experience the adrenal potential of the station on your own terms.
It’s so organized around user preference that it’s almost impossible to provide any sort of satisfying generalized critique. All that I can really do is urge anyone who hasn’t already spent time there to stop reading this and just GO.
Actually, stop reading. Go. Go now.
I guess I can see why they chose the name. You really don’t know what you’re getting until you open the “box.”