Spotify, You Don't Know Me So Good

Date :

December 20,2023

I listen to a lot of music. Especially on Spotify. Each year they make a snappy piece of content with our data. According to Spotify’s Year in 2023, I listened to 34,844 minutes of music, translating to 24 days of nonstop listening. That’s 4,226 songs. On August 30th, I was on Spotify for like 10 hours listening to Mozart and Tom Waits. Those artists were listed as part of my top five along with Ludovico Einuadi, Jeff Parker, and Surprise Chef. But with a Leap Year of listening and some 2,369 artists, this data speaks less to what I listen to than to how I listen.

Four of my top five artists are on yoga and relaxation mixes, which remained consistent for most of the year so it makes sense that they would register as a top artist. Some readers may couch up Stephen-Davidowitz’s notion that data doesn’t lie, we do, and that’s what I listen to. But am I really listening in these moments? Are hearing and seeking different from the ambient energy used to buoy a state of calmness?

I spend a lot of time trying to find new music. Since the pandemic I started making mixes based on the year, collecting new tunes by Shazaming in public spaces, from friends, KCRW, television shows, and from Spotify—their Release Radar is solid. These playlists become time capsules. Just as Beach House’s Myth always reminds me of being in LA in 2012, Mia Doi Todd’s Under the Sun reminds me of the early days of the pandemic. A quick note of Widespread Panic, and I’m back in college. From a neuropsych perspective, this association is natural; our brains categorize and store things thusly so our bodies can balance chemicals via predicting what’s next. Hence why we favor the familiar: our bodies can predict it. However, finding new music carves new neural pathways as our brains seek to categorize and find new predictions, which is why folks tell you that listening to new music can improve your cognitive functioning. Diversity and exploration favors growth. It’s also fun.

Spotify said I listened to 130 genres, which is absurd. It visually represented this as a densely layered sandwich (the self-referential nature of the internet makes me think it’s a reference to my name). Naturally, it had to simplify those genres into more familiar categories: singer-songwriter, rock, jazz, chamber pop, and new Americana. Much of the chamber pop and jazz are listened to while reading or relaxing, as background music to set a mood. Jeff Parker, Mozart, Ludivico, are all great for this. But what I seek out on a day-to-day basis can be very different. Granted, I do seek out Parker et al, but when I collect new music, I dump it into the annual playlist, and over time I edit it into more mood-related playlists that transcend genre. Because I listen to things on shuffle, putting me at the whims of Spotify, this variety is key to ensure the sort of surprise that keeps the vibe fresh and my synapses on their toes. At the beginning of December it was at 340 songs for over 16 hours of play. It’s now down to 145 songs, which you can listen to here (recommended on shuffle). But I also selected the 27 separate artists I loved hearing this year. An asterisk indicates an awesome album.

Lucinda Williams
Kevin Morby*
Jason Joshua
Iggy Pop*
Nick Waterhouse*
Parker Millsap*
Margo Price*
Early James
Chris Stapleton
Charlie Crockett*
St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Dinner Party (Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder, Terrace Martin)*
Meshell Ndegeocello*
Baaba Maal
Norah Jones*
Alabaster DePlume*
Altin Gün
Larry Goldings, Kaveh Rastegar, Abe Rounds*
Sharon Van Etton
Pamploose, Larry Goldings
Rose City Band*
Jonathan Wilson*
Peter Gabriel
Steve Gunn and David Moore*
Surprise Chef
Jason Isbell*

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