Flavia – Hateful (Single)

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

This past Friday June 1, electronic pop artist FLAVIA released a new single called "Hateful".  Prior to this track, I had never heard of Flavia, so I'll let the press release do some talking:
FLAVIA is an electronic pop artist based in Los Angeles, CA. She mixes dark pop and futuristic R&B, exploring the borderland of yesterday’s soul and tomorrow’s electronica. She started to write music at a young age in Ireland and Italy, where she spent her formative years. Having moved often growing up, she feels the closest thing to home-base in her music. “It’s a part of me,” she says. “I couldn’t escape it event if I wanted to.”
In listening to "Hateful", I definitely caught wind of all of these influences in her music.  Oddly enough I also got a bit of a "Lorde" vibe in her music, which is not at all a bad thing. Here's some info about the new track:
Sharing a powerful message for kindness, strength, and human condition, Hateful was inspired by FLAVIA’s own real-life experiences. Reflecting on such experiences opened the way for the larger issues of animosity, division, and bullying in our society today. With the release of her debut single, FLAVIA hopes to reach out to victims of hatred and bullying, and to remind people to treat others with love and respect.
I can get behind that sentiment.  I think that a lot of people share her views toward bullying (online bullying especially) so hearing art related to that is welcome.  It helps take the power away from the people who would direct their hatred toward us. As for listening the track itself, you can find it on Spotify!  Check out Flavia's website at http://www.flavia.la, and be sure to check out her YouTube channel as well!  It opens up with the track "No Gravity" and it's super cool.

Anela & The Early Hours – Yesteryear

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

I received this email submission back in June 2017; so right off the bat, a slap on the hand to me for not getting to the review until now, nearly a year later. Yesteryear by Anela & The Early Hours Anela & The Early Hours is an indie pop group out of London, Ontario.  Yesteryear is their debut album; here are some of my thoughts about it. Right off the top, I have to be honest and say that this album did not "wow" me.  I feel that it is a solid, well-produced album, but it doesn't stand out as something special to me.  That said, I would still recommend giving this album a listen. Like I said, it sounds well-produced.  It's "radio ready", in the sense that it sounds good over my speakers and headphones - the sound isn't too flat or anything like that.  Guitar work in the 7 tracks is delicate but has a presence, and the drums have a certain "pop" to it.  I like lead singer Anela Navarro's voice, though it doesn't fluctuate through very much range (however it sounds like she potentially has a wide vocal range in her if she chose to use it). Singles from the album include "Space" and "All Alone", for which there are some YouTube videos you can watch: here and here.  The stand-out track for me though was "Stuck With You" - I liked that one the best. Overall, "Yesteryear" is a good album and I recommend it.  3/5.  You can purchase it from iTunes, or stream it on Spotify/Soundcloud/Bandcamp (link above).

Project: Scan CD Barcode & Play in Spotify – Part Two

Read up on Part One before continuing on – otherwise this post makes no sense.  Why are you reading it out of order?


Day Four – Things Are Working

You’ll remember at the end of Day Three I was getting frustrated with how things were working out, and that I might need to head to a different direction.  In fact, in the intervening days between pausing the project, moving to a new house, and continuing today (Tuesday), I even came across ANOTHER option that might even take all the hard work away from me:

Lifehacker: Stream a Vinyl Album By Snapping a Pic of Its Cover Art With This App

I think this project sounds awesome and is probably a better implementation of what I want to do, but at this point it’s merely a back-up option that I’m going to hold onto.

So I know for sure that using the “auto input” option (described in Day Three) definitely works – but to me that’s very clunky and goes against the entire point of what I’m trying to do with this project.  I did some extra digging and found a barcode for Maroon 5’s Red Pill Blues album (Best Buy is very handy with listing EAN barcode numbers, it turns out).

I went back to AutoSpotify and figured out how to get it to search and return results properly.  I fiddled around briefly with broadcasting intents, and they worked to some extent – but not the way I wanted.

In the end I realized there was a “play media” function with AutoSpotify that I wasn’t leveraging before.  I was able to play the album directly from the URL (obtained from the AutoSpotify Search).

Just to drive the point home, I want to say again – it worked.  I took the barcode from the album (Red Pill Blues), searched the EAN database for the name, plugged the name into a search of Spotify’s database, and then automatically played the album.

I haven’t tested it fully with the barcode scan – that’s next.  But just a quick summary again of the apps I needed to make this work:

  • Tasker
  • AutoTools (JSON Read)
  • AutoSpotify (Search & Play Media)
  • Also need an EAN Database API login (free version)

Full barcode test is next.


Day Five – Putting It All Together (Again)

Finally, it all came together!  I grabbed some CDs from my collection.  Only one of them worked – The Sheepdogs’ Learn & Burn.  That’s okay – I fully expect some of these scans not to return any information (or the correct information).

The ultimate point is that I was able to scan a barcode, look up the album name in Spotify, and play it automatically.  It took me a while to get there, but I’ve got it all set now.

I think the next step will be to add some checks – for example, if it can’t find product information, tell me so that I can decide to try to look it up via image search (the one I mentioned from Day Four).  That type of thing.  Make it a little smarter.

Anyway, if you want a copy of the task (assuming you have Android, and all of the required apps / plugins), let me know and I’ll make it available after I clean it up.

Project Time: Scan CD Barcode & Play in Spotify

It’s been a long time since I’ve started a fun tech project.  I’m not too hands-on when it comes to the hardware, but I like dabbling in the software side of things.  Without further ado, here’s what I’m trying to accomplish, in a nutshell:

Using my phone (or a tablet, that works too), scan a CD barcode and play it in Spotify (or whatever music app I happen to be subscribed to at the time).

This post is being written as I walk through the project.  There are quite a few pieces involved in getting it to work, and I’m piecing it together one at a time.


Day One – Gathering Materials & Initial Tests

This is where I figure out what it is that I need to make this thing work.  As far as I can tell, this is what I’ll need:

The first test I came up with was to figure out how to trigger everything in the first place.  I found this handy Reddit post that used a different method to scan barcodes as a starting off point.  To save you a click though, I’m triggering the task by launching when the Barcode Scanner app is open AND the clipboard is set (that’s how the app works – it copies the barcode to the clipboard).

In the task itself, I want to look up the barcode information.  Apparently you can do this using EAN, which stands for International Article Number (it was originally European, hence the “E”).  Autoweb has a web service to look up product info from the EAN database, which is perfect! So in Tasker, I am sending the barcode (which is stored in the clipboard at this point) to the EAN database, which returns a bunch of different results from product name, description, category, etc.  Well, as long as all that information is in the database, that is.

Grand & Toy Highlighter
Grand & Toy Highlighter

I tested it with the closest object I could find with a barcode – a Grand & Toy highlighter (pictured).  Unfortunately that test didn’t give me any meaningful results, so I had to test something else.  I tried a bag of chips (it was free – technically expired, from the vending machine) and still, nothing came up.  I seem to be doing something wrong.  I think the rest of Day One will be spent trying to figure this out.

So I figured it out with a different method.  I couldn’t figure out how to use the Autoweb API action, so I decided to just eliminate that variable and use an Autotools JSON Read (you can view a tutorial here).  In conjunction with the JSON Editor Online (link), I figured out how to get Tasker to display the information I needed.  After some fiddling, success!  “Roundedge Yellow Highlighter” (incidentally the EAN entry for Grand & Toy has the company name entered as “Grand & Tory”).

Now that I’ve got this basic, most important part of the process figured out, I can now start scanning CDs to see what information comes up in the JSON file and look up via Spotify.

I’m having mixed results – my personal CD collection is packed away right now, so I’m using my parents’ collection to test.  I got a positive match for “Crazy for Gershwin”, but looking up the barcode for Gordon Lightfoot’s Gord’s Gold gave me the following product description:

Lorcos Cinnamon Orange Christmas Cat In A Boot Single Soap Bar 10.5 Oz. From France

So…this might not be the smoothest exercise, but it DOES work.  Sort of.  I count this as a success.


Day Two – Connecting with Spotify

Connecting to Spotify has been somewhat problematic.  While I’ve been able to read barcodes and get the album name, searching the Spotify database hasn’t been so easy.  I used the Tasker plugin AutoSpotify to run a search.  I think I’m just not clear on how the plugin works because no information would return to me.  None of my attempts to get the Spotify API in Autoweb to work either.

So that’s frustrating.  To top it off, randomly my “HTTP GET” action (the function that is reading the EAN database) is failing.

All said, things are not going as smoothly as I would like.


Day Three – Changing things up

I was getting frustrated on day two trying to get the Spotify automation to work.  So I decided to change things up and go back to methods I know have worked for me in the past.  Enter AutoInput; it’s another plugin that simulates and automates user input.

I created a test task with a pre-set search string.  It opens Spotify, clicks on the search icon, pastes the search string, and clicks on the top result.  For the two tests that I ran, I used “our lady peace clumsy” and “oasis what’s the story morning glory”.  In both cases the top result was the correct album.  So this part of the puzzle works fine.  The next step was to put the barcode read and the automated search function and put them together.

I’m not having very much luck.  I think the problem is that I’m sorely lacking in CDs to test with; I did one test at Wal-Mart, but came up with nothing.  I think if I had the CD in hand I might be able to see if it returned actual artist / album information as opposed to what I’ve been looking at (an amalgamation of the two on a greatest hits album – reportedly, greatest hits albums aren’t reliable for EAN scans).

Leaning more toward the much more manual intensive process of printing QR codes for each album. I’d rather not put that much work into it, however.


To Be Continued…

I’m going to put this project on hold for now.  The bones are there, I just don’t have the time or the materials present to continue testing.  There will definitely be a follow-up to this entry though!

Radio Free Burrito Mixtape: If This Be Sin

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

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10 Waves Of You – Sail

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

Sometimes I go down a very strange rabbit hole on Jamendo.  The other day on the radio, I heard some jazz in the background and decided that I wanted to listen to some jazz while I worked.  Instead, I did some clicking around to see what was new and found this 4-track instrumental EP from a musician called 10 Waves Of You, "Sail". First, a little about 10 Waves Of You; here's their bio as written on Jamendo:
10 Waves of You is an Italian Ambient Post Rock one man band from Milan (Italy) formed in 2014. Luca Crivellaro plays guitar, bass, voice, keys, piano, synths and percussion. I'm am a free diver (not scuba diver!) When i make music i search for the same emotions that I feel when I free dive in the underground water: alone, curious, numb, trying to reach every possible positive vibes from the underwater creatures and hidden world. I hope my music will make you think, feel and imagine…
So, some interesting notes there.  I really like what Crivellaro has put together with this little EP.  The title track, Sail, was my favourite by far.  Stay with me on this point: I enjoyed the Twilight films, and thought the best part of them was Carter Burwell's scores (Amazon: Twilight [The Score], The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 The Score Music by Carter Burwell).  The piano work is fantastic, and that's the vibe I got from Sail and the other 4 tracks on the album.  I found the album as a whole calming and relaxing, and listened while I got my work done. On the slightly negative side, the album is too short for me.  At 4 tracks, I had to move onto something different pretty quickly.  Also, some of the tracks edged too close to the "elevator / hold music" category, which was a little off-putting. Overall I recommend it, especially "Sail".  You can find the album on Jamendo here: https://www.jamendo.com/album/158044/sail

Jamendo’s Current Best Of All Genres

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

There are some pretty solid tracks on Jamendo's "Best Of All Genres" list when you head over to the main page.  Here are some highlights for me:

Pure Mids - These Days - A nice, light pop-rock tune.  I could definitely find a place for this group in my rotation of music.  Pure Mids are an American group.

Always the Alibi - After All I've Done
Always the Alibi - Ain't Another Girl

Two-for-one deal here with Always the Alibi, providing some solid rock for your Friday morning.  Another American group, from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Wonder if they know Chip and Joanna from Fixer Upper?

Jekk - Strong - Smooth soul.  Jekk is a French artist and has been making music since 2014. 

OnClassical - E. Satie - Trois Gnossiennes - I. Lent - Alessandro Simonetto - OnClassical is a great Italian collective on Jamendo.  They release some well-produced classical music.  It's really relaxing and helps get work done.

Tony Petersen - James Alley Blues - The song title says "blues", but it's pure folk.




Recommendation: Daniel Robinson – Little Birds

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

Just thought I'd throw out a quick recommendation!  I found this on Jamendo the other day, and thought it was a great folk/pop album.  Some of the tracks are a little dreamy, which is great.  I didn't like Those Were The Days too much; Nowhere to Hide and Little Birds were definitely standout tracks for me. 

I was listening to The Decemberists' new album before dropping into this one, and the transition worked well for me.  If you have some time, take a listen to Daniel Robinson's Little Birds.

https://www.jamendo.com/album/175519/little-birds

Mini Podcast Review: Double Consciousness

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

It's been far too long since I've posted anything - will be honest, I've been devoting attention to my personal blog and have been neglecting this one; partially the reason behind that is because I'm not as comfortable writing about music (strange as that seems) as other topics.

I promised in my last podcast and a few tweets that I would review the new podcast from Toussaint Morrison called Double Consciousness.

I will be up front - this podcast is not for me.  I thought that because I love what Toussaint brings to the table musically, that adding his podcast to my subscription list would be fun.  I appreciate the content and discussion topics that he and podcast partner Joetta talk about, but I found the episodes to be a bit too long for my personal preference.

That said, this isn't a podcast I would completely abandon.  I think that they have the makings of a great show, discussing important topics (and some not-so-important topics sometimes) from their perspective.  And to clarify, they're talking about issues from a black person's perspective, which is still relevant today despite any social progression we've made around the world. 

I think one of the other reasons the podcast doesn't resonate with me fully is that I am a white male so it goes without saying that I can't fully relate to their discussions. 

However I still recommend giving it a listen and see if it's up your alley.  It's available on iTunes and most other podcast platforms.

#111 – Jamendo’s Best of December 2017 Playlist

Originally posted on Alternative Airwaves

New episode to start your day. The tracks in this episode are almost exclusively from Jamendo's Best of December 2017 Playlist. Recorded a bit differently this time - you'll have to use the playlist below to follow along as the songs and artists aren't introduced in the traditional way. Enjoy!

Podcasts mentioned in the episode: