What's on my Zune?

The first 10 songs that showed up on a random shuffle.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
5 min read

Just to let you know a little bit more about me, here's the obligatory "hit random shuffle and tell me the first ten songs that come up" post. Only instead of using an iPod like most bloggers, I'm using my Zune.

(Full disclosure: this Zune is a review unit I received from Microsoft. I use it as my main music player for two reasons. First, my iPod's hard drive died out of warranty, and my wife is devoted to hers and won't let me steal it. Second, I convert a lot of vinyl using Microsoft's Analog Recorder from the now-discontinued Digital Media Plus Pack for Windows XP, which I bought with my own $20 or whatever it cost. That tool automatically outputs Windows Media Audio. It's possible for iTunes to convert WMA files to AAC files so they'll play on an iPod, but this is an extra step I don't have to take with the Zune. In other words, I'm not only cheap, but lazy.)

Without further ado:
1. "This Corrosion," Sisters of Mercy, from their greatest hits collection, A Slight Case of Overbombing. I went through a Sisters phase in the early 90s, about the time their album Vision Thing came out. I always associate them with Ministry, probably because both Vision Thing and Ministry's Psalm 69 have songs that make fun of the first President Bush. I bought a sealed reissue of Overbombing on vinyl a few years ago, and converted a few favorite songs, including this one.
2. "Rockets Fall on Rocket Falls," Godspeed You Black Emperor, from 2004's Yanqui U.X.O. This group from Montreal plays long, epic, ominous instrumental pieces with a full rock band and classical ensemble (I think there are nine or ten of them). They're highly political, which is interesting given that their songs have no lyrics...but you can see it in their album covers (this record features a plane dropping bombs) and choice of voice samples (the end of the vinyl version of this record contains a George W. Bush speech on fast-forward, with clapping breaks and all, and is quite frightening with snippets like "Islam" and "terror" coming through clearly through the muddle). This piece is particularly doomy--it sounds like B-52 bombers approaching. Converted from vinyl, which I bought brand new when the album came out.

Pretty heavy stuff so far. What's next?

3. "Four Minutes," Roger Waters, Radio K.A.O.S.. No respite here--an album about the threat of nuclear war! I think I'm one of the very few people in the world who loved this album when it came out, and still listen to it today. I was a senior in high school when I first heard it, and its combination of paranoia and slick dance-beat production seemed to capture the 1980s perfectly. Roger Waters pulled out all the stops on the tour for this album, even allowing members of the audience to "call" him on stage to make a request (the album revolved around a mythical radio show). Unfortunately, he was touring at the same time as his former band, Pink Floyd. Guess which sold more tickets. Which is why most people have probably never heard, or even heard of, this record. But everybody's heard that Floyd song from around the same time. This was converted from oft-played slightly scratchy vinyl.
4. "Diner," Widespread Panic, from the band-approved online recording of their July 15, 2006 show in--of all places--Redmond, Washington. A relative took me to this show shortly after I became a father. It was a great break in my sleepless state, a meandering set of music (this song's more than 11 minutes long) in a beautiful outdoor venue on a gorgeous Northwest summer day. I am not a big fan of "jam bands," but of all of them, Widespread is my favorite. The same relative later bought me this show from the online archive as a Christmas present.
5. "Straight to Hell," The Clash, Combat Rock. My favorite song from this album, and the only one on my Zune. As with jam bands, I'm not a huge punk fan, but these guys and Dead Kennedys are probably my favorites of the classic 1970s punks. Converted from vinyl that I bought used for $2 or something.
6. "Good Lovin Outside," Animal Collective, Sung Tongs. An amazing record, probably my favorite of 2004, and perhaps of the last few years. I'm not sure how you categorize these guys--I suppose they fit into the recently invented genre of "freak folk," with mostly acoustic instruments and an avant-garde approach with odd time signatures and overlapping vocals and joyous percussion. It could be annoyingly pretentious, but on this album it's weird and beautiful. Converted from vinyl that was given to me as a birthday present.
7. "Bellevue," Half Light, Wait for Someday. A seven-minute, glacially slow dirge-like song from a band I used to play with. (I know I promised no more plugs. But this really came up in the #7 position, out of the 2800 songs on my Zune.) I really enjoyed playing slow amplified music--it's actually much harder than playing typical fast rock, with much more restraint required and less room to cover mistakes. Ripped from a CD that I helped create.
8. "Veinte Anos," from the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack. I missed all the hype around this album, as I was traveling overseas when it came out. I watched the movie some time later, and bought the soundtrack after that. Ripped from a CD I bought new.
9. "Olsen Olsen," Sigur Ros, Agaetis Byrjun. These Icelanders are often categorized with Godspeed because they play long, slow, epic pieces with vocals that sound more like another instrument than words. In fact, on their followup album to this (which had no title), the singer sang in his own made-up language. Listeners were invited to submit their own "lyrics" to the band's Web site. This may sound gimmicky, but the music's gorgeous, and they are able to pull it off very well live with only four members. Their bassist plays an old Ampeg flip-top tube amp, which is very rare and gives a rich, warm tone, but doesn't have a lot of power (not that it matters in large club or arena shows, where a microphone is placed in front of each amp). Ripped from a CD that a friend burned for me. (Can the RIAA sue me for that?)
10. "Sad Songs and Waltzes," Cake, Fashion Nugget. I really liked this album for a few years, until I saw the band live at Seattle's Bumbershoot festival. The singer seemed to be making fun of the crowd, and they didn't play their biggest hit, "The Distance," which was written by their original guitarist, who was no longer in the band. This particular song was written by Willie Nelson. Ripped from a CD that I bought new.