Spotify Discover Weekly: a review

Spotify launched Discover Weekly at the end of July, making Mondays a little less terrible with specially curated playlists and keeping its customers out of the clutches of Apple Music. I wasn’t initially convinced that the service would be of any use to me…like most people, I just Shazam all the alt-rock I hear at Starbucks and call that music discovery. Plus, I listen to a pretty eclectic selection, from Elliott Smith (for contemplative strolls) to the gangsta rap I play at predrinks and parties for a smidgen of cool. In short, how could it make any sense of it all?! Would it suggest experimental Latvian hip hop or white noise? The Longpigs or JoJo? Oh, and it had divided opinion online…

I was surprised, then, that my first Discover Weekly experience induced an existential crisis of French New Wave proportions. I was bombarded with bands I hadn’t encountered in ages and desperately wanted to explore further: Mercury Rev, Sonic Youth, a few Scottish bands from the 80s like The Vaselines and Josef K, Les Savy Fav. There was an element of rediscovery, too, with big Velvet Underground and Stones tracks, and a couple of songs that I hadn’t heard since the days when I exclusively wore 500% polyester clothes from Camden, like Whitechapel by S.C.U.M.

This week offered some strong suggestions, too. FIDLAR’s skate punk vibes made for an exciting new discovery; The Fall’s extremely off-kilter cover of Lost In Music by Sister Sledge (complete with garbled Franglais intro) made me giggle; I stopped and paid more attention to stirring folk of The Staves. Minimal Britpop revivalists Superfood made a decidedly Blur-shaped impression and I starred about twenty songs by The Modern Lovers, a 70s/80s pre-punk band from the US I’d only heard of in passing.

Overall, however, this week’s playlist didn’t totally deliver. Sure, the big rocky choruses and guitar music from snivelling indie upstarts of the previous playlist remained intact, but it wasn’t as disquietingly Orwellian as I would have liked. An ancient Killers single took me back to vomit-flavoured houseparties circa 2008. The most ubiquitous Stone Roses, Smiths and Pulp B-sides jostled for attention, just in case I’d been in a coma for my entire life. And what to make of The Liquidator, much-loved reggae instrumental and, erm, UK football coverage staple. Inexplicably, there were no less than three ska/reggae songs in this week’s playlist, as jarring as peach and aubergine emojis permeating polite conversation. As I only listen to Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits once every ten years or so, I may well have had my account hacked by the Jamaican Julian Assange.

Spotify might not be able to cook me pancakes on a Sunday morning, but its playlists often touch on the music I really, really like (think “38 year old’s severely weathered iPod classic”). Nevertheless, a human touch will always trump top secret algorithms. That, and a little less reggae.

Spotify, will you take a walk on the wild side?

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