Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rant: I hate you Indie Genre Tag.

I listen to a lot of music. By a lot of music I mean I border on obsession. I listen to every kind there is, all the time I'm not playing it. Before you can say "Everything? Who does this guy think he is?" I will tell you this. My last few procurements are a collection of ancient Chinese folk songs, some Blur albums (Parklife is great by the way, very 80's in spots) and bunch of old ragtime records I found in a thrift store. So I'm into it, hardcore ya know?

A few years ago my CD collection had grown to an unmanageable size and I decided it was time to rip the whole thing into MP3. It took me about 2 years to get through it all but it was totally worth it. Now I had most of my music in a searchable index and I was pleased. Soon as my collection grew beyond it's original 60GB size it started getting harder and harder to search so I decided that it was time to start tagging all of my music. The only fields open to me were Artist, Album and Genre. I groaned, I wailed, I pulled on my hair and finally sat down and started creating genres for my music.

I hate genre. I hate it with a burning passion, I think it's a terrible way of describing music in any but the broadest of terms. So I stick with some pretty broad terms; Opera is easy to distinguish from Punk Rock, Hip-Hop sounds very different from Mexican Bolero etc. The real bitch of it comes in truly modern music. Where the hell do I put Devotchka? They're a Gypsy/Bolero rock band from Denver for fucks sake. Genre? They want nothing to do with it, just enjoy. What about Beck? Every album sounds like a new street drug I've never tried and any attempt to file it in my collection feels wrong.

Alas a gigantic music collection requires some organizing or I'll find myself back with my CDs, staring at a giant cluster fuck of boxes and buying the same album three times in one year because I don't think I own it. So I can either create a genre tag for every Balkan Beat Box that keeps scribbling outside of genre lines or I can try and group some of this crap together so I can find it. Recently a genre tag that I truly despise is creeping into my digital music.

Indie.

I hate you, Indie genre tag. You are a method for distributing music, not a damn genre. You describe nothing, but so much of what I'm all about these day keeps landing in this pile. Again, Devotchka? Where the hell do you go Devotchka? Beyond creating a specific genre for Ukranian/Mexican Rock I can find little else to place them in. Maybe rock, but it still doesn't fit quite right. I'm not rocking out while I listen to them, I rock out when I hear The Black Keys. Or to make things worse, where am I to file Beirut? Gypsy-folk? AAAARG!

I've tried replacing the Indie tag with a few others and I've managed to extract Indie Pop and Psychedelic into their own categories but honestly it's painful work and not something I'm interested in spending a lot of time laboring over. I want to enjoy my music, not spend a couple hundred hours organizing it. That is the exact reason I went to MP3s so long ago, it's supposedly very convenient. Prove it to me MP3s, be more convenient.

I want music playing software that allows me to write in my own fields and then populate them with data that matters to me. Like what kind of sex goes good with this particular Leonard Cohen collection, or what color fruit reminds me of this Animal Collective track. I want emotional tagging. I want to be able to ascribe a mood to every track and every album in my library so when I'm feeling pissy I can just scroll down through my Ani Difranco records and listen to all the tracks tagged as "Pissy". Where's my Magical iPod that can do all of this? Damn you Indie genre, damn you for being useful and annoying.

Fuck it, someone please just take a picture of me every time I play Gulag Orkestar and tell me where it should be filed.

Thanks for listening to me rant,
Eriq Nelson.

12 comments:

Ben Meyercord said...

I hate genres too, but I love Shuffle.

Ste. Goldie said...

I love smart playlists.

Jess Gulbranson said...

Shuffle, yeah. Used to be the bee's knees to throw all four discs of "Citizen Steely Dan" into a changer and hit random...

Eriq, I think what you're looking for is a long way away, and certainly stupid iTunes. Maybe Winamp v19? Quantum playlist prediction with genre hypergranularity? Limbic system assisted tagging with haptic feedback?

Jess Gulbranson said...

Excuse me, should read "certainly NOT stupid iTunes"

james4765 said...

Heh - gotta love those Klein bottle bands that absolutely refuse to fit on any shelf. On the other hand, it's a good problem to have, since confusing boundary-destroying bands are so much more refreshing than the Fantasia in C# Major, Catalog Number 583, By Maestro Blowhardus Dreadful...

The Reinhold said...

HA...
for me its nutz the whole genre thing with music. As a Dj - shit.. I go to find my music and its listed in about 15 different ways. Techno - Techhose, minimal, electro, house, hardhouse, progressive house, deep house, and then the famous indie dance/ nu disco & just put everything else into electronica & chill out. And im not even going to get in to all the different types of drum and bass. Its crazy..

Amber Dawn said...

Eriq, I think I love you.
I feel the same way. Playing in a band people always ask me what kind of band we are and im like.. umm indie rock i guess? but that could be anything, really. I much prefer the "sounds like this mixed with this with more of this and less of this" method...

Amber Dawn said...

oh, i also am a big shuffle fan. partly becuase I'm too lazy to create playlists on my ipod.

Eriq Nelson said...

@Amber This is why I only describe what I'm playing as food. "We play a deep brandy soaked base of trip hop, it's sprinkled with brown sugar and topped with a heavy cream sauce of reverbed organ. It pairs well with a deep red." Metaphor is the only appropriate response. I like to confuse people deeply with answers to questions like that as well. Try "We play post-staplecore. My inspiration comes from office supplies."

Jess Gulbranson said...

You can always try being uncomfortably honest. I've gotten good mileage with "All my songs are about Satan or pussy or both."

Ste. Goldie said...

I swear to god. I added probably 1000 songs to my iTunes in December. I changed the genre on most of them and then added this thing called "group" so I could make smart playlist... It's a labor of love but I get off on it so hard.

Ste. Goldie said...

My music is a dildo for Satan's pussy.