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Browsing my Brain

·744 words·4 mins

On Heavy Rotation
Apple Music digital cover of album Aloha by Son Little, released 2020.

Today, it happened again that I was picking my brain for the title or artist of a song whose melody popped up in my head. Alas, I remembered neither. I imagined however, vividly, what the album cover looked like: a dark silhouette of a cyclist on a red-tinted orange background. Now, in the old days™️ of records or compact discs, most likely I also would have remembered approximately where in my collection that record was stored.

I never was one to organize my discs meticulously by alphabet, or artist or label. But I had large chunks which belonged together by some parameter meaningful to me, be it a certain era, group of artists, label, gerne or whatever made sense for me to group records on a shelf or crate. Finding a song or album in such a case would have been a matter of homing in on the region on the shelves and then browsing maybe 20 to 30 records.

Record spines on a shelf
Record spines on a shelf.
That’s one reason why I still cherish my collection of physical records1. I love to look at full size covers (well-done gatefolds are a joy to open up and peruse), read the liner notes (pretty much gone in the digitial era, aren’t they? There were digital album packages including booklets as PDF at one point in time. Today, Apple Music makes a half-assed attempt at sometimes providing a summary of the album contents. But proper liner notes on musicians, production, nice artwork of lyric drafts, all that is gone for worse). Maybe this is one reason for the resurgence of vinyl in recent years, as more and more people feel2 what’s sometimes missing, despite the convenience of having all available music at your finger tips.

The next best thing in the digital world, I think, was Coverflow, and I was sad when it was removed from iTunes. I do not understand why it has not been kept at least as an option.

Now today, at first I browsed by genre. I vaguely would have associated the song with some (sub-)genre of soul3. That approach failed4.

Searching the music library
Searching through the music library.

Then, I thought to remember something from the chorus like go on, or move on, and I tried to narrow down by searching for titles containing on. I know, not a very specific search term, but it was the best I could come up with. As luck would have it, scrolling through the song titles, eventually the album cover I looked for showed up. Curiously enough, the song title was not the one I was looking for, but both title and artist contained the search term on.

Neve give up song title in music library
Neve give up, the song title that triggered my search and this post.

Apple Music files the album under Alternative, by the way. As to why is anyones guess, but the record label is an indie5, maybe that’s why.

  1. and my trusted old 1210-Mk2 spins its platter now into it’s 30th year. With that lifetime, it might be the oldest equipment in my possession, disregarding some books or records. Often dissed by many HiFi snobs who prefer to be called audiophiles, the 1200 series is a venerable HiFi turntable, which became a de-facto standard amongst DJs due to its sturdy build and powerful direct-drive. ↩︎

  2. after all, what’s music, if not a highly emotional topic? ↩︎

  3. what is the difference between Electro-Soul and Electric Soul, anyway? Or Nu-Soul and Neo-Soul, for that matter? Whilst the streaming services are not always consistent in the way they name and associate genres, there has been a time where genres have been used overwhelmingly. In my own library, there is one particular culprit responsible for flooding the genre list with most of the -soul entries: the series of Mercedes-Benz Mixed Tape↩︎

  4. and confirmed why I have hidden Genre from the categories of the music library. In many cases, I believe it to be too too narrow to assign one genre tag to an artist or album. In other cases, it would need to be more specific. Reggae would make up about 50% of my collection, rendering it useless as a filter. But more specific sub-genres like Rocksteady, Roots or “Modern Roots”, "Rockers" or “Early Reggae” are not applied sufficiently consistent to make them useful. And shouldn’t Dub be a full genre in its own right, instead of Reggae/Dub? So I never worried too much about the genre metadata. ↩︎

  5. ANTI, probably best known for Tom Waits. ↩︎