furia furialog · The War Against Silence · Aedliga (songs) · photography · code · other things     ↑vF
9 July 2015 to 4 December 2014 · tagged tech
During an interview with Wired, one of my Spotify co-workers explained the depth of our listening data by saying that we knew, for example, what the hottest song was in Cleveland on the 4th of July.  

This was intended rhetorically, but the interviewer, reasonably if maybe over-literally, asked him what song it actually was. And thus I got an email.  

We do, in fact, know what the hottest song was in Cleveland on the 4th of July. It was (for at least one definition of "hottest") Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The U.S.A.".  

But I never like one-song answers when an army of semi-autonomous robots would suffice. Obviously we know a lot more than this one song. Patriotic July 4th listening spikes aren't as sharp or wide as the ones around Christmas, but that kind of just makes them easier to detect. And because July 4th is a native holiday here in the US, where Christmas is imported, the spikes are also interestingly regionalized.  

So I did a little analysis of the songs whose Spotify streaming spiked most dramatically in individual American cities on July 4 compared to the rest of the world in the preceding week. 103 cities had distinct enough patterns to make statistically relevant top-40 lists of these songs, so I made playlists for all of those (and a sampler with 1 song from each), and then combined them into this insane grid-thing I use for making abstruse sense of a lot of lists at once:  

 

Each number in the grid is the rank of that row's song in that column's city's 4th of July list. From this we can see that Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' "American Girl" is the 4th of July song shared by the most cities. (But it ranks quite differently in different places, and some of the places where it doesn't even make the top 40 form a potentially telling set: the Bronx, Compton, Detroit, Houston, Newark...)  

Pick your own city (the names along the top are links to the individual playlists in Spotify) and see if it sounds familiar.  
 

I started to try to take the non-4th songs out of this, but quickly decided that that made things less interesting, so I didn't. This is what we were listening to on the 4th of July, 2015. There weren't fireworks all day, and next year will be partly different just like it will be partly the same.  

If you like moving parts, you can re-center the grid by clicking the little gray arrow under any city. The cities whose listening was most similar to Cleveland's are mostly cities similarly insulated from glamor: Plano, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Orlando. But then there's Boston, not far away after all, with 3 of the same songs as Cleveland in the top 10, and more than half their top 40s in common. This makes sense to me. Bright lights and loud noises appeal to fairly basic instincts, and we are certainly drawn to them here.  

But then, if you spin it again and look at the country from Boston's point of view, there's Portland Oregon, and San Francisco, and Seattle and New York and DC. I don't think you'd mistake Boston for John Mellencamp's "Small Town" for longer than a day. We wave the flags with enthusiasm, but then the cannons fire, and the last rockets leave the barges in the Charles, and before very long it's dark and quiet and north-eastern again, and we turn and walk back through the streets to our homes.  

I spend a lot of time fiddling obsessively with the knobs on complicated music-discovery machines. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it helped, and I spend a fair amount of that time pondering whether I'm confident that it's helping.  

Your streaming music world is also about to be extra-complicated by more machinery for personalization, and I work on some of this, too. One clattering armada of machinery for trying to find music worth being discovered by somebody, and another one for trying to figure out which of that music is the music for which you are that somebody. It's kind of a wonder we can still hear over all that grinding.  

Although, actually, it's less of a rhetorical wonder than an actual question. Can we hear over it? It's not inherently bad if your complicated thing is complicated, but it's bad if it's complicated and not better than something simpler. So in this spirit, I've added one more playlist to the end of The Needle, my array of emerging-song supposedly-discovering lists.  

It is called The Straw. It is assembled by programmatically taking one track each from a random sample of 1000 or so of the both obscure and uncategorized releases from the current week's Spotify New-Release Sorting Hat.  

There is no complicated scoring or optimizing or clustering, there is no personalization, there is no iteration or feedback or machine learning. Some of it probably isn't even new, or shouldn't have been uncategorized, or maybe shouldn't have been made. If my fancy machines are working, and if the underlying collectivist moral premise they implicitly represent -- that the world's listening patterns distinguish memorable music from forgettable -- has significant validity, then listening to this playlist should be a poor use of your time.  

But those are non-trivial "if"s. If anybody claims that they do something mysterious and yet valuable, based on appealing but abstract assumptions, you ought to be able to demand that they, at least, have actually contemplated how the world would be if they didn't.  

And this "they" is me, so here is my professional memento mori, an unfancy discovery engine that believes wholeheartedly, even when I have the courage to think I'm only pretending to, that to find amazing music you've never heard, all you need is a way to find music you've never heard.  

The most constant motivating feeling in my life, I sometimes think, is the fear that there is genuinely amazing music somewhere that I am missing. This fear has been confirmed many, many times. So many times that I have spent even more of my time building machines to, depending on your perspective, either fight the fear or just confirm it more efficiently.  

For the past couple years, one of these machines has been maintaining a playlist called The Echo Nest Discovery as an attempt to find some songs, independent of origin or style, that are either rocketing out of obscurity or rocketing just as cheerfully to the edge of obscurity before plummeting ignominiously back into the depths of it. This has been a pretty good machine. It has found me a lot of music I've enjoyed and would never otherwise have heard. (And also found a fair amount of music that I was already enjoying, which is good, or at least confidence-building.) I think of this list as the world on shuffle. It finds strange and wonderful things, although not every individual song is necessarily both.  

But the Echo Nest's acquisition by Spotify has given me access to even more data than we already had, and among many other things, I have built a new fear-confirming machine. I call this one The Needle, because there are needles on turntables and needles on detection instruments and needles in haystacks and I think there was once some other thing.  

This machine is, I think maybe, a little better than the last one. Hopefully. It's definitely a little fancier. Where the Echo Nest Discovery found one batch of things every week, there are actually Needles of three different gauges:  

 

Current is the shallowest search, and basically looks for potential major world hits near the beginning of their rise. Some of these will come from places far from your ears, some of them you may already be trying to get out of your head. But if three lists sounds like too many to you, then this is probably the one you want.  

Emerging attempts a balance between velocity and obscurity, closer to the spirit of the Echo Nest Discovery. Most people will not have heard of most of the things that show up on this list, but a few of these songs will probably go on to be hits. Many of the others will be great. If you follow this list, you will expand your world.  

Underground digs deep. Maybe sometimes too deep. You may not be prepared for what you find at this depth. Coelacanths with poor hygiene. Terrible ripoff covers of new songs that aren't on Spotify yet, dubious remixes of songs that may have been dubious to begin with, novelty hits from places you weren't actually planning to visit. Somebody, somewhere, is listening to this stuff, but people are weird. Yes, even here, some of these songs are gathering their powers to escape into the light, but if you follow this list, it is probably because your problem with the darkness isn't that it's dark, but just that there's so deliriously much of it.  

And if all of these things sound great, there's also a consolidated version that combines these three lists into one. This is even more of the world on even randomer shuffle.  
 
 

But one of the ways we now have a lot more data is that we know where every Spotify listener is listening. I have already been using this to tell what people are listening to in countries and cities, and now it allows me to look for things that are maybe-rocketing out of local obscurities. So there are, in fact, sets of Needles for every country where Spotify has enough listeners. For example:  

 

Some of the smaller regions don't have (or don't fill) all three lists yet, but we're constantly growing, and all these lists are updated every week (usually some time on Saturday), so the current list of lists is here, and it will only keep growing.  

And maybe you won't care. Maybe you already think you have enough music in your life, or that you need more but you already have sources. Maybe you think that what a thousand people in Estonia suddenly discovered yesterday isn't relevant to you. There are, after all, many ways to live, and you have to choose carefully among all the many potential torments. Maybe you don't see a haystack and wonder if there is a needle in it.  

But what I have come to believe, and why I encourage you to not conclude so quickly that you know what you need, is that the needle/haystack metaphor misses the point. The haystack doesn't conceal needles, the haystack is made of needles. I've been thinking of this as a "discovery" tool, and it can be that, but it can also just be a way of listening.  

So put the needle on the record. The things people are listening to far away only seem weird because "far away" used to matter. You used to have to go to Estonia to hear what people were listening to there. Estonia used to be a "there". It's still partly a "there" for licensing reasons, as not all of the songs in all of these lists will be available in all the other regions. Art and joy always move faster than law. But eventually we always catch up. Everywhere can be a here now. Or tomorrow, or next week.  

Do you want to hear what that will be like? It will be amazing.
Through a roundabout series of connections, I got invited to be part of a roundtable panel at EMP Pop 2015, which ended up (in keeping with this year's themes of Music, Weirdness and Transgression) being a group deliberation on the subject of The Worst Song in the World.  

And since I was going to be there, and conference rules allowed for solo proposals in addition to the group thing, I figured I might as well also try something fun and weird and outside of my usual current data-alchemical domain.  

In the end the thing ended up being not quite free of data-alchemy in the same way that my songs without drums always somehow develop drum tracks. But it's not about data alchemy. At least mostly not.  

All the talks are supposed to eventually be available in audio form, but in the meantime, here is the script I was more or less working from. To reproduce the auditorium experience you should blast at least the first 20 seconds or so of each song as you encounter it in the text, and imagine me intoning the names of the songs in monster-truck-rally announcer-voice, and then saying everything else really fast and excitedly because a) you only get 20 minutes, and b) it was 9:20am on the Sunday morning after the Saturday night conference party and some people might need a little help relocating their attentiveness.  

(Also, be forewarned that neither the talk nor the music discussed is intended for underage audiences or people who are insecure about religion or genuinely frightened by grown men growling like monsters.)  
 

The Satan:Noise Ratio
or
Triangulations of the Abyss  

I grew up in what I wouldn't call a religious community, exactly, but certainly one that was dominated by the assumption of Christianity. My social status was kind of established when I told two members of the football team that the universe was formed out of dust, not Godliness, and it really didn't make any difference whether you liked that idea or not. This was second grade. We had a football team in second grade.  

By the time I discovered heavy metal, I was pretty ready for some kind of comprehensive alternative. Science fiction, existentialism, atheism, algebra, Black Sabbath. These all seemed to frighten people, which suggested they were good and powerful ingredients. But if you're going to fight against football in Texas, you have to have your shit organized. You need a program.  

Obviously as an atheist I wasn't going to believe in Satan any more than I was going to believe in elves, but the idea of Satanism seemed potentially compelling anyway. Like Scientology, but with roots, and better iconography, and fewer videotapes to buy. And I had learned a lot from reading the liner notes to Rush albums, so I dug into Black Sabbath albums with the same enthusiasm.  

Black Sabbath "After Forever"  

[You have to remember that at the time, that was really heavy. But the words go like this:]  

I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ
I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced
Will you be so sure when your day is near, say you don't believe?
You had the chance but you turned it down, now you can't retrieve  

Puzzling. But then, as if realizing they were missing something, they got a new singer whose name was Dio, and made an album called Heaven & Hell.  

Black Sabbath "Heaven & Hell"  

Sing me a song, you're a singer
Do me a wrong, you're a bringer of evil
The Devil is never a maker
The less that you give, you're a taker
So it's on and on and on, it's Heaven and Hell, oh well

Fool, fool! You've got to bleed for the dancer!  

The music: solid. The lyrics? Not exactly "Red Barchetta".  

But OK, what about Judas Priest. Didn't two guys kill themselves after listening to Judas Priest? Now we're getting serious.  

Judas Priest "Saints in Hell"  

Cover your fists
Razor your spears
It's been our possession
For 8,000 years
Fetch the scream eagles
Unleash the wild cats
Set loose the king cobras
And blood sucking bats  

OK, if I wanted a fucking rhyming "evil" version of Noah's Ark...  

But whatever. Before I found the Satanism I was looking for, New Wave happened, and it turned out that androgyny and drum machines scared the football boys way more than Satan.  

And then I left Texas and went to Harvard and took on a very different set of social challenges. So the next time I cycled back into metal, as I always do no matter how many other things I'm into, I wasn't looking for more elaborate pentagrams to shock football boys, I was looking for more hermeneutic nuances to situate and contextualize metal for comparative-lit majors who listened to the Minutemen and the Talking Heads.  

Slayer. The Antichrist. Fucking yes. Slayer makes Sabbath with Ozzy sound like Wings, and Sabbath with Dio sound like Van Halen with Sammy Hagar.  

Slayer "The Antichrist"  

I am the Antichrist
All love is lost
Insanity is what I am
Eternally my soul will rot (rot... rot)  

So, that's not Satanic, that's Christian. I mean, it's sort of ironic, Slayer of course were the original modern hipsters.  

But what about Bathory? In Nomine Satanas. Fucking Latin! Or something...  

Bathory "In Nomine Satanas"  

Ink the pen with blood
Now sign your destiny to me  

Jesus fucking christ: more fealty.  

Emperor. These are Norwegian actual church-burning dudes. Although, it's Scandinavia, so the church-burning was actually part of a progressive urban planning scheme with multi-use pentagrams in pleasant, radiant-heated public spaces.  

Emperor "Inno a Satana"  

O' mighty Lord of the Night. Master of beasts. Bringer of awe and derision.
Thou whose spirit lieth upon every act of oppression, hatred and strife.
Thou whose presence dwelleth in every shadow.
Thou who strengthen the power of every quietus.
Thou who sway every plague and storm.
Harkee.  

Satan's uvula! "Harkee"?  

Gorgoroth "Possessed by Satan"  

worldwide revolution has occurred
holy war, execution of sodomy
We are possessed by the moon
We are possessed by evil
We are possessed by Satan
possessed
possessed by satan
and then we rape the nuns with desire  

We rape the nuns with desire? This is a program of sorts, I guess. But not one that offered solutions to any problems I actually had. But after a while, I kind of stopped asking music to solve any problems in my life that weren't about music. As an adult, the main thing I asked from my Satanic Norwegian metal was leads for where I could find more of it. The most constant internal theme in my life has been the desperate gnawing suspicion that all the music I know is only the tiniest sliver of what actually exists.  

And maybe what we fear guides our evasions so inexorably that we always end up confirming our suspicions by our nature, but my love of metal motivated and informed my work designing data-analysis software as much as it haunted my attempts to understand emotional resonance, and gradually over the years my writing about music for people bled into writing about music for computers, and that's how I eventually ended up at Spotify, where we have a lot of computers and the largest mass of data about music that humanity has ever collected. And this makes it possible to find out about a lot of metal that you might not otherwise know about. A lot. And a lot of everything else. So I ended up making this genre map, to try to make some sense of it all.  

 

And having organized the world into 1375 genres (which is approximately 666 times 2), I can now answer some other questions about them. Just a few days ago, in fact, purely coincidentally and in no way because I was writing this talk at the last minute without a really clear idea where I was going with it, I decided to reverse-index all the words in the titles of all the songs in the world, and then, using BLACK MATH, find and rank the words that appear most disproportionately in each genre.  

It wasn't totally obvious whether this would produce a magic quantification of scattered souls, or a polite visit from some Mumford-and-Sons fans in the IT department, but here are some examples of what it produced in a few genres you might know:  

a cappella: medley love somebody your girl home time over will with when need around life what tonight song that don't just  

acoustic blues: blues woman boogie baby mama moan down mississippi gonna ain't going worried chicago shake long don't rider jail poor woogie  

modern country rock: country beer that's that whiskey love good like cowboy truck don't she's carolina back ain't just wanna this with dirt  

east coast hip hop: featuring edited kool explicit rhyme triple hood shit album game check ghetto what streets money flow version that style  

west coast rap: gangsta dogg featuring niggaz nate snoop hood ghetto playa money pimp thang shit smoke game bitch life funk ain't west  

I'd say that shit is doing something. [The whole thing is here.]  

Using this, I can finally figure out the most Satanic of all metal subgenres. It is Black Thrash, whose top words go like this:  

satanic blasphemy unholy death infernal antichrist satan hell blood holocaust evil metal nuclear doom vengeance black flames darkness funeral iron  

If Satanism is fucking anywhere, it is here.  

Nifelheim "Envoy of Lucifer"  

OK, no idea what they're saying there.  

Destroyer 666 "Satanic Speed Metal"  

Um.  

Warhammer "The Claw of Religion"  

Since the beginning of time
A weapon was built and protected
To keep the balance in line
To guard the "forces of the light"
Do you hear the cries of all the ones that fell?  

Isn't that actually the narration from the beginning of The Fifth Element?  

Sathanas "Reign of the Antichrist"  

From the fall of grace-I shall rise again
Avenging chosen one-Known as Satan’s son  

Well, it's certainly Satanic. But it's Satanism as mirror-image Christianity. Like, imagine if Jackson Pollock's avant-garde transgression was taking Vermeer paintings and repainting them with left and right reversed!!!! To be fair, that's the usual way in which revolutions collapse into politics, hating the status quo's conclusions but being unable to escape its assumptions.  

However, I have a lot of other metal subgenres to work with, and I can actually reorganize the world as if Black Thrash were its point of origin, and then as we move slowly away from that point, genre by genre, we can start to see the patterns change.  

"Satan" begins to disappear.  

 

"Christ" goes away.  

 

"Damnation" no longer so much of a concern.  

 

"Chaos" starts to appear.  

 

"Darkness" is everywhere.  

 

"Eternal" fascinates us.  

 

As does "Beyond".  

 

"Death", always death.  

 

And over and over, at the top of almost every list that doesn't start with "Death": "Flesh".  

 

Except groove metal, where the number 1 term is "Reissue".  

So my mistake, maybe, was in assuming I was looking for a philosophy that called itself Satanic. Give up that constraint, and ideas start to coalesce after all.  

Entombed "Left Hand Path"  

No one will take my soul away
I carry my own will and make my day  

Enslaved "Ethica Odini"  

You have the key to mystery
Pick up the runes; unveil and see  

Dantalion "Onward to Darkness"  

Existence is your own adversary,
a path full of pain and madness.  

Mitochondrion "Eternal Contempt of Man"  

Now the earth, sea, and sky all have torn
Now a gate from the void hath been born
Both the watchers and the unholy do agree
Eradicate that vermin filth humanity  

Dodecahedron "I, Chronocrator"  

Reigning formulas undone
Oaths sworn into silence
Our world will be without form
Our earth will be void  

We are approaching a version of Nihilism that is not an absence, but an embrace of nothingness, an embrace of the finite, of finity.  

Celtic Frost "Os Abysmi Vel Daath"  

Where I am there is no thing.
No God, no me, no inbetween.  

Totalselfhatred "Enlightenment"  

OK, first of all, the band is called Totalselfhatred, and they sound like this. Dreamy.  

I cannot change your destiny, can only help you think
As far as my horizons lead - your thoughts will be more deep
Hope inside is torturing me - keeps painfully alive
A light inside, a knowledge deep, that shines so bright!  

And then, maybe, the grand masters of this, Deathspell Omega.  

Deathspell Omega "Chaining the Katechon"  

That's a 22-minute song, and it does not fade in.  

The task to be achieved, human vocation
Is to become intensely mortal
Not to shrink back
Before the voices
coming from the gallows tree
A work making increasing sense
By its lack of sense
In the history of times there is
But the truth of bones and dust.  

Here, then, are some potential tenets of a chaotic black metal philosophical program:  

1. Babel. Acceptance of chaos, instead of a futile struggle for order or serenity
2. The Codex. To exist in chaos is to seek complexity over simplicity
3. The Void. There is beauty in darkness
4. The Scythe. There are either no illusions, or all illusions, but either way, only death is real  

Which all adds up, I think, to something that I basically understood in second grade, after all: grimly acknowledged free will. That is the philosophical core of metal, as an art form. That is the exact rebellion I was seeking. To choose Satan, and particularly to choose Satan without giving him any positive qualities, is to assert that the act of choosing is more important than the actual choice. To choose death is to assert that choosing is more important than living. To choose death symbolically is somewhat more powerful than choosing it literally, because you can choose it symbolically more than once, while gives you a chance to refine your symbolism.  

Blut Aus Nord "The Choir of the Dead"  

That is Blut Aus Nord's "The Choir of the Dead", from an album actually called The Work Which Transforms God. What does it say? I dunno. But what does it mean? "Hail Satan" is "Think for yourself" plus noise.  

Thank you, and see you in Hell.  
 

[The whole playlist that I was playing from is on Spotify here: Triangulations of the Abyss.]  

Thanks to the Program Committee and the audience for indulging this whim, and particularly to Eric Weisbard for backing up his early-morning scheduling of this racket by showing up to moderate the session himself.
One of my Spotify co-workers walked into a cafe and music venue called Grenswerk in Venlo, Netherlands, and discovered that they have expanded Every Noise at Once, physically, to cover an entire wall. I am basically dumbfounded.  

 

Photos by Asa Lidén, wall by Daan de Haan.  

Note that they didn't just print the thing, they actually rotated it 90 degrees, since the wall is wider than it is tall, unlike the web page.  

My daughter asked if you can touch the words on the wall to make the music play. That would be amazing. But this is already amazing as it is.
I found myself, as one does, needing to know what words appear with disproportionate frequency in the titles of songs from various metal genres. So I did a thing to calculate this for all genres. It's pretty entertaining.  

This year I was again in charge of tabulating the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Music Critics Poll. My ongoing statistical hyperindex to my tabulation years of the poll (2008-2014, so far) is here:  

Pazz & Jop Stats  

My short essay-ish write-up about this year for the Voice is here:  

Pazz & Jop Tabulation Notes  

The published and statistical versions of my own ballot are here:  

glenn mcdonald 2014 at villagevoice.com
glenn mcdonald at furia.com/pjs  
 

I also want to note that I felt as strongly about my #1 album vote this year as I ever have. I wasn't really expecting anybody else to vote for it, but I admit I had hoped that somehow somebody would. I contend that this album offers a historically unprecedented and culturally significant listening opportunity.  

 

Also, here is a Spotify sampler playlist for the poll's top albums, and another one of all the songs that got 5+ votes in the poll and are available on Spotify:  

 
 

And while your reaction to all this is probably not going to be "Yes, sure, but let's hear a lot more music glenn liked", here are my short (sic) lists for albums and songs:  

 
 

And lastly, just for fun, I took the list of artists who got at least 10 composite points this year (album points plus 2 points per song-vote) and ran it through a thing I have at work for auto-booking a hypothetical festival. This tries to auto-arrange the artists into thematic clusters as might appear on parallel-schedule festival-stages, and then suggest some additional artists who aren't on the list for each stage. Here, then, is the lineup for the 2014 Autobooked Pazz & Jop Music Festival:  

Stage 1 - (various styles)  

Starring:
- D'Angelo
- St. Vincent
- The War On Drugs
- Taylor Swift
- FKA twigs
- Sturgill Simpson
- Spoon
- Angel Olsen
- Miranda Lambert
- Sharon Van Etten
- Parquet Courts
- Beck
- Caribou
- Sun Kil Moon
- Swans
- Future Islands
- Lana Del Rey
- Jenny Lewis
- The New Pornographers
- Wussy  

With:
- Washed Out
- Purity Ring
- Mariee Sioux
- Wavves
- Still Corners
- No Joy
- Kasey Chambers
- Weekend
- Twin Shadow
- Micachu
- BLOUSE
- Small Black
- Oberhofer
- Young Prisms
- Class Actress
- Yuck
- Lotus Plaza
- Youth Lagoon
- Poliça
- Dark Dark Dark  
 

Stage 2 - alternative hip hop, hip hop, trap music, pop rap, underground hip hop, rap  

Starring:
- Run the Jewels
- Azealia Banks
- Y.G.
- Freddie Gibbs
- Nicki Minaj
- Rich Gang
- Future
- Shabazz Palaces
- Pharrell Williams
- Vince Staples
- Open Mike Eagle
- Schoolboy Q
- Young Thug
- Isaiah Rashad
- Kendrick Lamar
- J. Cole
- Iggy Azalea
- BIG K.R.I.T
- DJ Quik
- Pharoahe Monch  

With:
- YelaWolf
- Joey Bada$$
- The Weeknd
- Kid Ink
- Rich Homie Quan
- MellowHigh
- WZRD
- Gunplay
- Ca$h Out
- Lil Debbie
- Frank Ocean
- Theophilus London
- A$AP Rocky
- Action Bronson
- Childish Gambino
- XV
- Flo Rida
- JJ DOOM
- MellowHype
- Flatbush Zombies  
 

Stage 3 - contemporary jazz, contemporary post-bop, avant-garde jazz, cool jazz, jazz  

Starring:
- Mark Turner
- John Coltrane
- Ambrose Akinmusire
- Darius Jones
- Steve Lehman Octet
- The Bad Plus
- MARC RIBOT TRIO
- Bill Frisell
- Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band
- Matthew Shipp
- Tony Bennett
- Jemeel Moondoc
- Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden
- Sun Ra Arkestra
- Craig Handy
- Miles Davis
- George Cables
- The Nels Cline Singers
- Sonny Rollins
- Vijay Iyer  

With:
- David Hazeltine
- Eldar Djangirov
- Christian Scott
- Tigran Hamasyan
- Matana Roberts
- Danny Grissett
- Fieldwork
- Bob Berg
- Bob Moses
- Taylor Eigsti
- Baptiste Trotignon
- Michel Petrucciani
- Gerald Clayton
- Gilad Hekselman
- Edward Simon
- Omer Avital
- Ari Hoenig
- Julian Lage
- Ravi Coltrane
- Jacky Terrasson  
 

Stage 4 - brutal death metal, death metal, deathgrind, metal, grindcore  

Starring:
- Behemoth
- Morbus Chron
- Opeth
- Oath
- BABYMETAL
- Horrendous
- At the Gates
- Dead Congregation
- Incantation
- Swallowed
- Edguy
- Abysmal Dawn
- Cardiac Arrest
- Job for a Cowboy
- Pyrrhon
- Execration
- Machinae Supremacy
- Sectu
- Aevangelist
- Cannabis Corpse  

With:
- Bloodbath
- Nader Sadek
- Necros Christos
- Antropomorphia
- Man Must Die
- Hail of Bullets
- Catamenia
- Eternal Tears of Sorrow
- Kalmah
- Anaal Nathrakh
- Skinless
- Desultory
- Necrophobic
- Nunslaughter
- Benighted
- The Duskfall
- Ulcerate
- Severe Torture
- Repugnant
- Centinex  
 

Stage 5 - future garage, bass music, footwork, wonky, indie r&b  

Starring:
- Flying Lotus
- Aphex Twin
- Actress
- Taylor McFerrin
- The Soft Pink Truth
- Clark
- Objekt
- Lone
- Leon Vynehall
- DJ Dodger Stadium
- SBTRKT
- Myrkur
- Starfoxxx
- Untold
- RL Grime
- Bug
- Mndsgn
- DJ Rashad
- Disclosure
- Rustie  

With:
- Gerry Read
- Afta-1
- Hudson Mohawke
- Jamie XX
- Clubroot
- Lil Silva
- Débruit
- Knxwledge
- Two Fingers
- iTAL tEK
- Flako
- Cosmin TRG
- Koreless
- Free The Robots
- Dauwd
- TNGHT
- Letherette
- Julio Bashmore
- Groundislava
- Ras G  
 

Stage 6 - post-metal, sludge metal, stoner metal, black sludge, drone  

Starring:
- Pallbearer
- Yob
- Eyehategod
- Godflesh
- Thou
- Mastodon
- Midnight
- Inter Arma
- Earth
- Coffinworm
- Floor
- Old Man Gloom
- Kitty
- Body Count
- Wreck and Reference
- Wolf Blood
- Tombs
- The Flight of Sleipnir
- Lord Mantis
- Nadja  

With:
- Whitehorse
- Elder
- Talbot
- 16
- Helms Alee
- Acid Witch
- Wolvhammer
- Amenra
- Bongripper
- Dragged Into Sunlight
- Cough
- Ides Of Gemini
- Horn of the Rhino
- Atriarch
- Reverend Bizarre
- The Atlas Moth
- Herem
- Black Tusk
- Bongzilla
- Black Math Horseman  
 

Stage 7 - chaotic hardcore, straight edge, hardcore, hardcore punk, power violence  

Starring:
- GridLink
- Fucked Up
- Cold World
- Trap Them
- Cretin
- Off
- Enabler
- Tree
- Raw Power
- Thumbscrew
- Bully
- Trash Talk
- 7 Seconds
- Code Orange
- Foreseen
- Give
- Haymaker
- Homewrecker
- Horsebastard
- The Mongoloids  

With:
- Expire
- Full Of Hell
- Backtrack
- Nails
- Code Orange Kids
- Dead In the Dirt
- Minority Unit
- Harm's Way
- Incendiary
- Oathbreaker
- Downpresser
- The Secret
- Trapped Under Ice
- Mammoth Grinder
- No Warning
- All Pigs Must Die
- Torch Runner
- Dead End Path
- The First Step
- Down to Nothing  
 

Stage 8 - outsider house, detroit techno, techno, acid house, chicago house  

Starring:
- Andy Stott
- Theo Parrish
- Moodymann
- Kassem Mosse
- Francis Harris
- Joey Anderson
- Perc
- Container
- Omar S.
- Gesloten Cirkel
- Function
- Boonlorm
- Christian Löffler
- Hieroglyphic Being
- Joris Voorn
- Juju & Jordash
- Reagenz
- Xosar  

With:
- Recondite
- LoSoul
- Redshape
- Shifted
- Smallpeople
- Christopher Rau
- Donato Dozzy
- Voices from the Lake
- Tin Man
- Floorplan
- Petar Dundov
- Black Jazz Consortium
- John Roberts
- Jacob Korn
- Tevo Howard
- Steffi
- Mike Dehnert
- Tony Lionni
- Vakula
- Conforce  
 

Stage 9 - atmospheric black metal, pagan black metal, black metal, post-metal, avantgarde metal  

Starring:
- Triptykon
- Agalloch
- Alcest
- Botanist
- Woods of Desolation
- Blut aus Nord
- Darkspace
- Primordial
- Wolves in the Throne Room
- Sólstafir
- Harakiri for the Sky
- Mutilation Rites
- Raspberry Bulbs
- Spectral Lore
- Thantifaxath  

With:
- Amesoeurs
- Les Discrets
- Lifelover
- Winterfylleth
- An Autumn For Crippled Children
- Oranssi Pazuzu
- Woods of Ypres
- Hate Forest
- Altar of Plagues
- Kauan
- October Falls
- Ne Obliviscaris
- Ulver
- Lunar Aurora
- Glorior Belli
- Secrets of the Moon
- Negură Bunget
- Dark Fortress
- Walknut
- Lantlôs  
 

Stage 10 - orgcore, alternative emo, folk punk, melodic hardcore, punk  

Starring:
- Against Me!
- Joyce Manor
- The Menzingers
- Sugar Stems
- The Cold Beat
- Restorations
- Mariachi El Bronx
- Cheap Girls
- Antarctigo Vespucci
- Black Wine
- Brick Mower
- Chuck Ragan
- The Lawrence Arms
- Rancid  

With:
- The Horrible Crowes
- Masked Intruder
- The Dopamines
- Iron Chic
- Banner Pilot
- Larry and His Flask
- Nothington
- Candy Hearts
- Off With Their Heads
- Elway
- The Gaslight Anthem
- Apologies, I Have None
- Direct Hit!
- Dear Landlord
- The Arrivals
- Red City Radio
- Tom Gäbel
- Spraynard
- Jeff Rosenstock
- Dave Hause  
 

Stage 11 - retro metal, space rock, stoner metal, stoner rock  

Starring:
- Temples
- Cayetana
- Sweet Apple
- Truckfighters
- Colour Haze
- Pontiak
- Blues Pills
- Black Bombaim
- Comet Control
- Kyng
- Mount Carmel
- Verma  

With:
- Stoned Jesus
- Samsara Blues Experiment
- Five Horse Johnson
- Asteroid
- The Flying Eyes
- Kadavar
- My Sleeping Karma
- Horisont
- Monkey3
- Mars Red Sky
- Greenleaf
- Birth Of Joy
- Tweak Bird
- Graveyard
- Wo Fat
- Radio Moscow
- Lonely Kamel
- Causa Sui
- Siena Root
- Quest For Fire  
 

Stage 12 - world, afrobeat, mande pop, highlife  

Starring:
- William Onyeabor
- Tinariwen
- Orlando Julius
- Kasai Allstars
- Tony Allen
- Dobet Gnahoré
- Francis Bebey
- Hassan Hakmoun
- Ibibio Sound Machine
- Malawi Mouse Boys  

With:
- Fatoumata Diawara
- Franco
- CHEIKH LO
- Terakaft
- The Souljazz Orchestra
- Vieux Farka Touré
- AfroCubism
- Lokua Kanza
- Bombino
- Ayub Ogada
- Ismaël Lô
- Papa Wemba
- Staff Benda Bilili
- Tamikrest
- Bonga
- Issa Bagayogo
- Victor Démé
- Geoffrey Oryema
- Ballaké Sissoko
- Daktaris  
 

Stage 13 - k-pop, k-hop  

Starring:
- f(x)
- Seo Tai-Ji
- After School
- 홍진영(HONG JIN YOUNG)
- Infinite
- Crucial Star
- Jiyeon  

With:
- EXID
- 블락비 (Block B)
- 티아라
- 걸스데이
- EXO-K
- 백지영
- Orange Caramel
- VIXX
- 태양
- EXO-M
- 씨엔블루
- 휘성
- 김현아
- F.Cuz
- B1A4
- Epik High
- Big Mama
- Boyfriend
- 윤하
- 유키스  
 

Stage 14 - southern soul  

Starring:
- Grady Champion
- Sir Charles Jones
- T. K. SOUL
- O.B. Buchana
- Theodis Ealey
- Vick Allen  

With:
- Latimore
- Marvin Sease
- Mel Waiters
- J. Blackfoot
- Willie Clayton
- Big Bub
- Donnie Ray
- Bigg Robb
- Roy C
- Ms. Jody
- Barbara Carr
- Omar Cunningham
- Jeff Floyd
- Floyd Taylor
- Peggy Scott
- Lee Shot WIlliams
- Carl Sims
- Wendell B.
- Sheba Potts-Wright
- J Blackfoot  
 

Stage 15 - dub, reggae, roots reggae  

Starring:
- Jack Ruby
- Black Roots
- Bunny Lee
- Hollie Cook
- Horace Andy
- Zvuloon Dub System  

With:
- Dubmatix
- Ijahman Levi
- Clinton Fearon
- The Viceroys
- Pablo Moses
- Kiddus I
- Niney the Observer
- Winston McAnuff
- Jacob Miller
- Nucleus Roots
- Capital Letters
- The Revolutionaries
- Junior Delgado
- Little Roy
- Hugh Mundell
- Black Slate
- The Itals
- Cornell Campbell
- Tappa Zukie
- Twinkle Brothers  
 

Stage 16 - australian alternative rock, australian indie  

Starring:
- Courtney Barnett
- The Preatures
- The Jezabels
- Chet Faker
- King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
- Laura Jean  

With:
- Emma Louise
- seth sentry
- San Cisco
- Loon Lake
- Angus Stone
- Northeast Party House
- YesYou
- Clubfeet
- The Griswolds
- Art of Sleeping
- The Jungle Giants
- Gold Fields
- The Cast Of Cheers
- Last Dinosaurs
- Mat McHugh
- The Delta Riggs
- Bonjah
- Diafrix
- Hayden Calnin
- Matt Corby  
 

Stage 17 - bossa nova, mpb, samba, brazilian pop music  

Starring:
- Bebel Gilberto
- Caetano Veloso
- Juçara Marçal
- BossaCucaNova
- Gilson  

With:
- Mariana Aydar
- Tribalistas
- Maria Rita
- Tim Maia
- Maria Bethânia
- Mônica Salmaso
- Vanessa da Mata
- Adriana Calcanhotto
- Emílio Santiago
- CéU
- Luiz Melodia
- Tamba Trio
- Fernanda Takai
- Edu Lôbo
- Gonzaguinha
- Rosalia de Souza
- Nara Leão
- Os Cariocas
- Maria Creuza
- Toquinho  
 

Stage 18 - soca  

Starring:
- Popcaan
- Chronixx
- Bunji Garlin
- Duane Stephenson
- Blackie  

With:
- Million Stylez
- QQ
- Skarra Mucci
- Charly Black
- Protoje
- Khago
- Cherine Anderson
- Alaine
- Tessanne Chin
- Jah Vinci
- Romain Virgo
- Serani
- Voicemail
- Bugle
- Konshens
- Tanya Stephens
- RDX
- Lil Rick
- Gappy Ranks
- Future Fambo
The February 2015 issue of Wired UK has a short piece and infographic about European music-genre-listening preferences, derived from some data I prepared for them (from the same underlying sources as The Sound of European Cities).  

Spotify just published the super-cool #YearInMusic thing, which shows a variety of statistical excerpts and summaries of both Spotify global listening and (if you're a Premium subscriber) your own for 2014.  

Among other things, the global feature includes an editorial citation (which I had nothing to do with picking) for 2014's "Breakout Genre", Metropopolis.  

You might not have heard of Metropopolis. A few people who also hadn't heard of it wrote indignant articles about this fact:  

- Here Is Spotify's List of the Most Streamed Music of 2014, or What the Fuck Is Metropopolis? (from Noisey/Vice)
- Stop trying to make "metropopolis" happen: How Spotify forged a dubious new musical genre (from Salon)  

Conversely, hundreds of people who hadn't heard of it either have now subscribed to the ENtro playlist that demonstrates what it means.  

It doesn't actually much matter what it's called, I think. It's not a breakout genre name, it's a set of music that was breaking out in 2014. If you don't know what the name means, click the link and listen to it, and then you'll know. I don't care if it "happens", I care that you find more music you might love, and this might be some of it.  

But it does also have a name, and I happen to know the story of how there came to be a thing with this name.  
 
 

One of the things I watch over at work is the Echo Nest / Spotify list of genres. A genre can be any of many kinds of things, and can be varying degrees of known or unknown. In practical terms, "genre" for us kind of just means "thematic listening cluster", and our goal as we have expanded the list is to find and name and track as many such thematic listening clusters as we can identify in the world.  

In most cases, these clusters exist in the world with a name. "Album rock" is a thing. "Samba" and "Nintendocore" and "Sega" are things (and Sega has nothing to do with Nintendocore!). We can model and track these, and make playlists to express them, but we don't have to name them.  

But not all the clusters we find come with already-culturally-established names. What do you call the emerging cluster of loosely r&b-derived, often synthpop-orchestrated, generally sensual music that people like Frank Ocean and How to Dress Well are making? Various music-critics have suggested "pbr&b", "hipster r&b" and "r-neg-b", but most people who like the kind of music we're talking about don't know those terms. We originally named this cluster "r-neg-b", because of those three that was the one with the lowest amount of smug derision. But people kept accusing us of making that up, so we recently switched to calling it "indie r&b", on the theory that the music is kind of a cross between indie pop/rock/folk and r&b, and at least maybe you can guess what "indie r&b" might mean, whereas "r-neg-b" reads like a character-encoding error.  

Or sometimes multiple clusters come with the same name. When you say "trap", for example, do you mean trap or trap? One is a hip-hop subgenre, the other is a largely-instrumental electronic subgenre. For our list, then, we have opted to eliminate the ambiguity by calling the hip-hop one "trap music" and the electronic one "trapstep". There's nothing magically right about those names, but they are at least different from each other.  

And then, sometimes, because at Spotify we have maybe more data about human music-listening patterns than has ever existed before, we find clusters that you otherwise probably wouldn't be able to isolate, and thus wouldn't even have thought to name. For example, you know those rousing neo-rustic folk/pop-ish artists like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers that kind of sound like Dave Matthews ran over a jug band? We have the data to make a listening cluster around those with hundreds of other someway-similar bands. If you like that kind of music, you'll probably enjoy listening to this cluster. But it doesn't come with a name, exactly. So we called it "stomp and holler". We didn't totally make up that term, but it wasn't a genre name before we said so.  

And you could argue that it still isn't a genre name, really, after we said so. This is fine. We don't have a philosophical or taxonomical agenda, we just have these clusters of awesome (usually) (to somebody) music, and we need some words to use as labels on a map, or as titles on playlists. When I have to make up names, I try to do so using the absolute minimum amount of creativity necessary to produce a unique new phrase, and thus we get a lot of rather mundane coinages like Malaysian pop and traditional reggae and atmospheric black metal. Sometimes I resolve name-ambiguity by the innovative linguistic wizardry of adding the words "more" or "deep", and thus we get a series of methodical techno clusters called deep house, deeper house and more deeper house. On the one hand, these are dopey names. On the other hand, if you like that kind of music, I'm betting that, in the same way that I continue to listen to BUMP OF CHICKEN, you'll still like listening to it long after you get over the name. (Or embrace it.)  

Every once in a while, though, I lack the imagination to think of a boring name, and am thus forced to settle for a creative one. This is how the cluster of theatrical melodic metal with mostly operatic female vocals came to be called fallen angel. This is how the cluster of music that can sometimes sound like people singing distractedly while dissolving parchment sheet-music in beakers of gurgling solvent came to be called laboratorio. This is how the cluster of music that used to be New Wave only we're still listening to it now that it's old came to be called permanent wave. This is how we came to have shimmer pop and shiver pop and soul flow. I'd pick duller names if I could, but the names just exist to get you to the music.  

The music, in all cases, is actually picked by computer programs using math to distill massive quantities of data. No matter what label I apply, these clusters exist because the world of people who make, listen to and write about music has collaboratively brought them into being by playing and listening and writing in particular combinations of patterns. In most cases, the computer programs use all this data to do two things: first they try to pick a set of cluster-appropriate artists, and then they try to pick those artists' most cluster-appropriate songs.  

This often works, but not always. Take, for example, piano rock. The numbers we calculate to characterize songs don't identify individual instruments, so if you let the computers pick artists that fit the "piano rock" mold, you get a bunch of rock with pianos, but also a bunch of similar rock by bands that don't actually ever use pianos. We could have let this happen, and renamed the cluster "post-maudlin rock", but in the spirit of avoiding smug derision, we instead went through the artist-list by hand and made it deliver, at least roughly, on the promise of "piano rock".  

And this is how we got metropopolis, too. I was listening, at one point, to a lot of indietronica, but when the computers made their indietronica playlist, I found that about half of it sounded like Chairlift and Chvrches to me, but half of it didn't. Which wasn't a problem, because "indietronica" doesn't have to sound like Chairlift and Chvrches, it just has to sound indie and tronic. But I wanted the cluster that did sound like Chairlift and Chvrches. So I made it. I had some other candidate names that I have since forgotten, but "metropopolis" seemed obviously better than the others as soon as it occurred to me, some kind of shiny aesthetic futurism with an insidious dystopian undertone.  

I watch over this cluster myself. The computers are actually pretty good at suggesting potential additions, but I take the time to go through and listen to each one, and only put them into the cluster if they sound sufficiently metropopolistic. This is, from my point of view, an admission of temporary defeat. The computers ought to be able to do this by themselves. If we had a few more dimensions of audio analysis, quantifying just a few more psychoacoustic attributes, maybe we could isolate the precise buoyant glitteriness I hear, or the kind of resigned muting of energy that distinguishes some of the data candidates I reject. I don't, ultimately, think this cluster is any different from liquid funk or doo wop. It's a thing, I can hear it. The computers can't hear it yet. And I wanted to listen to it more than I wanted to wait for them to learn.
Site contents published by glenn mcdonald under a Creative Commons BY/NC/ND License except where otherwise noted.