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The Late Movies: The Pixies' "Doolittle" Turns 23 Today

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the release of Doolittle, a landmark album by the Pixies that influenced boatloads of musicians in the ensuing years (though most musicians I know pretend they liked Surfer Rosa better).

Last year, in a roundup of Pixies covers, I wrote: "The Pixies have had a special place in my heart since I discovered Doolittle in 1996 — three years after the band had broken up and seven years after the album was released. I used to listen to that tape on repeat as I walked to class, from class, even sometimes in class." I still listen to the album all the time -- albeit no longer on tape -- and seeing them live in recent years (the band formed again in 2004) was wonderful and unexpected -- quite honestly, it was my version of seeing The Beatles suddenly rise up, join, and start touring again.

So now that I've baited you into leaving Beatles-vs.-Pixies comments, I present Doolittle in its entirety, in various live recordings spanning the decades. Enjoy. If you've never heard of this band before, I suggest you skip down to "Here Comes Your Man" and listen to that first.

"Debaser"

The best song about surrealism and eyeballs yet. From the reunion tour. I still love Kim's intentionally out-of-time echo vocals.

"Tame"

From Brixton Academy, 1991. "Taaaaaaaame!" Note the concordance between this loud-quiet-loud dynamic and bands like Nirvana. Also be aware that the first ten times I heard this song, I hated it...then I loved it. I recall telling my roommate, "But it's just yelling," and he said, "No it's not. Just keep listening."

"Wave of Mutilation"

The less-often-heard original "fast" version from the album (a slower "UK Surf" version is considerably more popular but less hardcore). From 2005.

"I Bleed"

From Glastonbury, 1989. Complete with slight mistakes in Joey's intro guitar line.

"Here Comes Your Man"

The famously awkward music video, in which the band, incapable of lip-syncing, simply held their mouths open during the parts where singing occurs. I remember seeing this on 120 Minutes and having my mind blown.

"Dead"

Live in Utrecht, 1990.

"Monkey Gone to Heaven"

Live on Letterman. "There was a guy. An underwater guy, who controlled the sea...."

"Mr. Grieves"

Some audio/video sync issues, but still quite nice.

"Crackity Jones"

Live in Utrecht, 1990. Just one and a half minutes long.

"La La Love You"

David Lovering finally gets a shot at a lead vocal, and Frank is "all crackers." Also: "Hi, Mom!" and "Boston!" I remember this song really, really confusing me when I first heard the album. The false start here makes this more fun, in my opinion.

"No. 13 Baby"

From Austin City Limits. At around the 2:05 mark in this recording starts the part of the album where the listener's existential dread is greatest. Melodic noodling and chugging rhythm section equals "I think I'll just skip class and rethink my priorities."

"There Goes My Gun"

"This is the difficult section, the challenging section of the album." -Kim Deal

"Hey"

I used to play this on the jukebox at Club Downunder in Tallahassee, Florida, over and over. See also: a live-in-studio version from 1988.

"Silver"

Creepy much?

"Gouge Away"

Hey look, another album about eyeball trauma. A twofer!

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New AI-Driven Music System Analyzes Tracks for Perfect Playlists
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Whether you're planning a bachelorette party or recovering from a breakup, a well-curated playlist makes all the difference. If you don't have time to pick the perfect songs manually, services that use the AI-driven system Sonic Style may be able to figure out exactly what you have in mind based on your request.

According to Fast Company, Sonic Style is the new music-categorizing service from the media and entertainment data provider Gracenote. There are plenty of music algorithms out there already, but Sonic Style works a little differently. Rather than listing the entire discography of a certain artist under a single genre, the AI analyzes individual tracks. It considers factors like the artist's typical genre and the era the song was recorded in, as well as qualities it can only learn through listening, like tempo and mood. Based on nearly 450 descriptors, it creates a super-accurate "style profile" of the track that makes it easier for listeners to find it when searching for the perfect song to fit an occasion.

Playlists that use data from Sonic Style feel like they were made by a person with a deep knowledge of music rather than a machine. That's thanks to the system's advanced neural network. It also recognizes artists that don't fit neatly into one genre, or that have evolved into a completely different music style over their careers. Any service—including music-streaming platforms and voice-activated assistants—that uses Gracenote's data will be able to take advantage of the new technology.

With AI at your disposal, all you have to do as the listener is decide on a style of music. Here are some ideas to get you started if you want a playlist for productivity.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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