Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on



Just this past week I considered something I never, ever thought I would: eliminating the iPod from my life. Well, maybe not entirely, as I do use it a lot for games and watching videos. I’m talking more as my primary music player.

I’ve come to realize in my life that I just don’t have the time or even the interest to keep on top of it all anymore. I have about 20 gig of music on my Mac Book, which is duplicated on my 80 gig iPod Classic and kept in an ever rotating selection on my iPod Touch. But, it’s just gotten to the point I don’t want to be bothered anymore.

Sometimes I think I spend more time grabbing, organizing and copying tunes than actually spent listening. What was once a quite enjoyable hobby has turned into something that feels like work. And, the mere thought of trying to keep up with new music makes it feel that much more like a job.

Get a load of what I go through now.

I have one iPod filled with nothing but hits and better known tracks from the 50’s on. I call this the "Whitburn iPod," named after famed Billboard authoritarian Joel Whitburn. My other iPod, a 16GB Touch, is filled with more current full albums.

Trying to keep on top of these two beasts takes sometimes up to an hour a night, scouring Usenet (shhhhh!) or iTunes for new music. Then, of course, the process of making sure the tags or the artwork is correct (OCD is a bitch!). Oh, and playlists, gotta have playlists! It’s quite jarring to hear Taylor Swift followed by Metallica.

Honestly, I’m tiring of it. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’m becoming lazy. Maybe I just want to be passively entertained.

So what are my options?

Radio is out. Nope, can’t do it. Never minding how badly radio just sucks here in the New York City area, the advertising drives me up the wall. It wouldn’t be too bad if it were 30 seconds every few songs, but I’ve been stuck in the car while my wife plays one of “her” stations where they’ll play two or three songs and then 4 minutes of mind numbing ads and horrendously over-processed DJ chatter.

Satellite radio is certainly tempting, and as an Opie & Anthony fan I can easily justify that cost, but somehow it feels like I lose the portability that is so important. And from what I understand, the stations aren’t programmed nearly as well as they were before the merger making them more like terrestrial radio that ever. Thanks Mel.

Just the other day though I found what might be the alternative I’ve been looking for: Slacker Radio.

I started streaming some of the various stations off the Slacker site and was impressed with the variety and song depth. The 80’s Rock channel, which I spent quite a bit of time with over the weekend played a lot of what I was in the mood for with nary a bum track.

I figured I would look for just the right channel to stream at a BBQ and came across Party Hits. It started out promising enough, with songs from Nickelback and Katy Perry. Here’s where the best part of Slacker kicks in: eliminating songs or even entire artists from your stations. The second I heard some over-tuned hip-hop shit, I clicked Ban Artist from the toolbar and T-Pain, you are history. Kayne? See ya. Amy Winehouse? Well, I dig “Rehab” so she’ll get a pass for now.

Even better, I started to discover artists I simply overlooked or just never had time for, bringing some of that passion for music back into my life. White Tie Affair? Check. Kings Of Leon? Very nice.

There’s also the option of creating your own stations by entering an artist’s name into the search engine and letting it make a playlist for you, which can be fine tuned to any degree you’re willing to get involved with.

Ah, but where’s that portability I mentioned a few paragraphs back? Don’t I need to be tethered to a computer? Not at all. I’ve discovered two options that let me listen wherever I am:

-My Blackberry Curve, with an SD card, lets you “save” up to 12 stations to play back at any time, with or without a data connection. The quality, surprisingly, is not bad at all. I do miss the ability to tweak the sound, but when the cost is free it’s hard to complain. A simple once a week hook up to my computer fills me with new music.

-My iPod Touch, as long as I have a Wi-Fi connection, can stream any station. Perfect for around the house. If Slacker somehow incorporates the ability to cache a station like the Blackberry, I’m not sure if you’d ever need to buy music again (and this is a feature I would gladly pay a monthly fee for).

Slacker also offers their own portable music player, the G2, which is supposed to combine the best features of both. With a Wi-Fi connection, you can stream your music while at the same time saving up to 25 stations to bring with you wherever you go. After hearing “iPod Killer” attached to every new gizmo that hits Best Buy, this may truly be the first one that can slay the mighty dragon of Cupertino.

Time will tell what the limit of the playlists are, or really how customizable one can get (I threw things like Jellyfish or SR-71 at the search engine and created quite the playlists) but right now it’s all I listen to.

Oh, by the way, and I’m now taking donations to buy me that G2 unit!

  • Pingback: Slacking… « Make Your Life Easier()

  • Kelly

    Very tempting, indeed! Good to know :)

  • Kurt Torster

    I did also discover this morning, that if you have kids and chose to play something like Teen Rock in the car, you will get the edited versions so there’s no worry of Buckcherry’s “Too Drunk” popping up at the wrong time!

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Slacker is pretty awesome. I didn’t know about the artist block feature! I was pretty close to a G2 purchase for a while, and then I got sucked into putting my music on an external drive, which has occupied a lot of my more recent listening

    The Iphone is my next device that I really, really want. Bad.

  • Layla

    Hmmm, I may check out Slacker but am pretty hooked on Last FM. My iPod upkeep is pretty simple so I’ll stick with that too :)

  • Matt Wardlaw

    Layla, as some one that has Last and an Ipod as well, I think you might enjoy Slacker – there are some well programmed stations on there that impress total music geeks like myself :-)

  • Starleigh

    Ugh. I’ve had bad experiences with Slacker on my blackberry….decided to try iheartradio instead. i know you said you hate commercials, but seriously they have amazing channels that aren’t local radio on there too…absolutely IN LOVE with the discover & uncover channel on there–doesn’t sound over processed and no commercials AT ALL. i’ll b sticking to that channel on iheartradio.


  • Kurt Torster

    I’ve had a very good experience with the Slacker app on the Blackberry. The only problem I experienced was getting my device to hook up with any of my computers, which is more RIM’s issue and nothing to do with Slacker.

    I think I’m going to get a G2 though.