I discovered a cool music web site the other day (again, through wilwheaton.net) called Pandora.com. It allows you to set up “stations” which play a variety of music. The cool thing is that you can give it a band or song and it will choose songs from its huge catalogue that are musically similar to the one you chose. By “musically similar”, I mean it ignores the “style” of band or the popularity of the band, and just goes by the song itself. It even tells you why it chose a song — one such description was “Based on what you’ve told us so far, we’re playing this track because it features mild rhythmic syncopation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, minor key tonality, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation, and many other similarities identified in the music genome project.” Several were chosen at least partially because they contained “a dirty electric guitar solo”. :-)
My first station started off with Dream Theater, and it chose bands like Dio, Chris Cornell, Korn, Anthrax, Three Days Grace, Triumph, Tool, Obituary, Ozzy, Sevendust, and a few bands I’d never heard of like Angra, Shadows Fall, Avenged Sevenfold, Further Seems Forever, and Soak. Some of them were a little heavier than I like (Dio, Ozzy, Korn, Anthrax — the Obituary song (Dying) was very cool musically, but the vocalist was a little too death metal for my tastes), but in general, they were all similar. I just added Rush to the station, so it should start choosing songs that are similar to both Dream Theater and Rush, and perhaps get a little further away from the death metal stuff.
It’s free for 10 hours, and then you pay $36/year. I’ve been listening to this all day, and I think I may subscribe.