Digital Music

Music Streaming Discovery Match: Serendipity 2, Algorithms 0

Even as the streaming giants continue to pour more and more resources into creating the perfect music ‘discovery’ algorithms for their listeners, good old fashioned serendipity often still seems to come out on top.

Guest post by The Song Sommelier of Medium

The major streaming companies continue to invest in more & more sophisticated algorithms to recommend new music to us. This is the holy grail of music discovery — the perfect algorithm (side question: if the perfect algorithm existed, would it in fact keep recommending us the same song over & over?).

This is all well & good, but the irony is, there remains no more satisfying form of discovery than serendipity itself. With serendipity, the sheer fact that the discovery is by happenstance is what is so-very-good about it. That’s how I discovered the band Joseph — a complete and very happy accident. I had sat down briefly with the head of an indie label, and as I often do, I asked the question “who should I be listening to?”. His reply was both immediate and singular: “Joseph”. Okay then — easy to remember at least.

Naturally, I later fired up Spotify and typed the word Joseph into the search bar and there they were. Joseph — an Americana band of three sisters from from Portland, Oregon; Natalie Closner Schepman, Allison Closner and Meegan Closner (three sisters in one band what could be better than that? You might find our sketch of Joseph on the blog btw!).

Joseph sketch by Mick Clarke

I’m always surprised when I don’t know a band in this genre — and Joseph had just released their fourth L.P. Their debut album Native Dreamer Kin was released back in 2014! Never heard them on the radio, or ever mentioned. I gave the new album Good Luck Kid a spin. It starts with an absolute belter of a track: Fighter (track 2 on this edition). It’s a truly great album opener. But then the whole album is a blinder. Just fantastic Americana-country-pop. Wholly accessible but ambitious and expansive. It’s everything an Americana album should be — if not a concept album, then a start-to-finish cohesive piece of work. It’s my favourite album from 2019. It reminds me a lot of classic American odyssey albums by American women artists including Tori Amos Scarlet’s Walk, or Emmylou Harris Red Dirt Girl. Or Aimee Mann’s masterpiece on the subject of addiction Lost In Space. It’s that good. Well I think so.

So what’s so serendipitous about it? Well, the funny thing is, the recommendation wasn’t even Joseph at all, but Joesef — the rising star soul singer from Glasgow hailed (by some) as the male equivalent of Amy Winehouse. I only discovered this when I realised Joseph weren’t on the label of the executive I’d met with (and label executives naturally plug artists on their own labels of course). As it turns out, I’m also very intrigued by Joesef — whose ‘Don’t Give In’ (from his Play Me Something Nice EP) has already been featured on our almost legendary Dark & Stormy Soul series. So there you go, not only serendipity itself, but two great discoveries for the price of one.

Now I ask you, can algorithms do that?

On this (overdue) New Americana Vol. II, alongside the wonderful Joseph, we bring you a selection of our favourite recent releases by relative newcomers to the scene (Black Belt Eagle Scout, Purple Mountains), established returners (Pinegrove, Big Thief, Bon Iver, Charlie Parr), artists from elsewhere making music just occasionally on the edge of Americana (Ren Harvieu, Taylor Swift, Angel Olsen, Alexandra Saviour) and sometimes, just when we need them — legends. Wilco close us out in style as we open up to a new decade: Ode To Joy indeed.

Best to be optimistic and serendipity will save us all…

For more see https://www.songsommelier.com/

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