Friday, December 9, 2011

Songza replaces your mixtape with streaming playlists


By Athima Chansanchai

For those who struggle with music playlists, Songza offers instant, streaming relief in the form of curated playlists made by a network of experts and submitted by the public.    a

Some people are into serendipity (radio people). Some must make a playlist for every occasion, mood and especially for friends (mixtape people). I would have to say I'm more the latter. I started with actual cassette tapes back in the day, then progressed to CDs and now, send Spotify playlists to a select few. For myself, I like having playlists for road trips, workouts and long plane rides without Virgin America's Red music selection. But honestly, I don't have the time I used to have to make such compilations. a

Songza gives people like me plenty to play around with, even if I have to let go of that control instinct and trust others' (strangers, even!) choices. (But if I don't like something, that's what the forward button is for.) The free service even compiled holiday song lists (including Hanukkah!) for folks who need to entertain others at all the soirees that typically pop up this time of year.a

Playlists can be shared via Facebook and Twitter, and saved, for later listening. It's also available as an app on iPhones, Android devices and Kindle Fire.a


Screenshot of Songza tabsa

I plunged into Songza this morning by choosing the "Motivational" section (under the "Moods" tab), to get my day started on the right notes. (Songza allows users to start browsing by genre, activities, moods, decades, culture and record-store clerk and then drill down from there.) a

"Code Your Face Off" features music with this description: "Work your Wget magic while listening to these motivational electro-bangers." I clicked play and "Genesis" by Justice started playing. Catchy, electronic, slightly annoying but ok enough for me to hit forward. The next song, "& Down" by Boys Noize, made me feel like I was trapped in a Tron movie, but that's not the worst thing in the world. If I was some stereotypical code head trapped in my dark, caffeine-infused abode, this may do it for me.a


Screenshot of a Songza playlista

But alas, I am not, so I moved on to another playlist: "Late Era Classic Rock." Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about. First song: "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger. Yes! I'm motoring now, baby! And then the follow-up showed up they knew what they were doing: "I can't go for that (No can do)" by Hall & Oates. Then "Tough Guys" by REO Speedwagon. If you can't appreciate this kind of cheese shredding to get you started at 6 a.m., well, I don't know what to say. For me, it's a great way to wake up and work.a

Last night, I came back late from the airport, still a little wired but needing sleep, so I perused the "Soothing" selections under "Moods" and found the "Sunday Morning" playlist. I should have stuck to something more new agey, because this kind of playlist is also meant for that transition from evening to morning. But still, it was good.a

Beginnings are key. If you can't catch me with that, I'm moving on. But this Sunday Morning playlist kicked it off with "Phone Song" by Les Mange-Tout and moved onto picks like "We almost had a baby" by Emmy the Great.a

Here's what Songza told us about who makes these playlists:a

Every playlist in Songza's browse-able library was handmade by a music expert. Songza employs an extensive network of specialized experts (including critics, journalists and musicians) to serve as playlist curators. Sometimes Songza's users submit expert-quality playlists directly to the site; after a careful vetting process, they can be approved for inclusion in the library.a

You know that saying, there's something for everyone? I think Songza may do that, with its range of playlists. And if you're just the most wee bit adventurous (or homicidal) you'll try out something like "Murder Ballads": "A disturbed sibling of traditional folk ballads, murder ballads detail the motivation, execution, and aftermath of killings," that begins with "Mary Hamilton" by Joan Baez. Such pretty music for such violent subject matter.a

To clear the palate, I wandered over to the "Decades" tab and found the "'90s Party" playlists (because I went to a lot of parties in the 90s) and chose "At a '90s School Dance" and happily bobbed along to "Gettin' Jiggy Wit it" by Will Smith and then "Around the Way Girl" by LL Cool J.a


Screenshot from Songza based on playlists recently listened toa

There's also a tab called "Record-store Clerk" under which you find playlists under even more specific parameters: "Dance Music That's Not Assaultive" and "When You're Over Being a Music Snob" caught my eye. Under the latter, I chose "Anglo-Fidelity": "UK sophisti-pop featuring either glossy '80s-style production or an overt American soul and jazz influence." Whatever. It started with ABC's "Be Near Me." Good enough for me. "Town Called Malice" by The Jam followed, and after one flub (Level 42's utterly forgettable "The Chinese Way"), it bounced back with "When Love Breaks Down" by Prefab Sprout. (Later, Level 42 is redeemed with "Something About You.")a

Of course, when you're a mixtape person, the urge to create is strong, so there is an option to contribute a playlist. I may have to do this, although it comes with this caveat: "Due to licensing restrictions, playlist contributors cannot listen to their own playlists, but everyone else can."a

More stories:a

Apps are coming to Spotify Cyber Monday: $2 albums on Google Music 'Chocolate Rain' guy sings for the 99 percent Site suggests cocktails based on your taste in music

Check out Technolog on Facebook, and on Twitter, follow Athima Chansanchai, who is also trying to keep her head above water in the Google+ stream.a

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