I had to break up with AltNation and SiriusXM

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 17, 2021, 10:30 AM | comments: 0

Way back when I lived in Seattle and bought my first Prius (man, the jokes really write themselves there), in 2010, I was introduced to the world of satellite radio from SiriusXM. Immediately I latched on to Lithium, their channel with all of the 90's/aughts alternative rock I grew up with, and AltNation, their current alt rock channel. It really brought back those feelings of listening to 107.9 The End in Cleveland back in the day, because it was a fairly broad spectrum of music. In those days, you could hear something weird and obscure one minute, but then hear something that was popular across genres. I don't think people really remember that you could hear Jewel on alt rock stations around the turn of the century, right along side Nine Inch Nails or Garbage.

While the world is generally satisfied with streaming services that allow you to pick and choose specific things, and most have "channels," they're largely algorithmic. The thing I always liked about AltNation is that it was curated the way radio was back in the day. You could argue that there's some taste-making going on there, and you're probably right, but that's OK because some humans are better than others at identifying "good" art, whereas group think is not, and that's why there's so much "reality" TV.

In any case, AltNation has been my go-to for a long time. However, in the last year or two, they seem to have gotten into a rut. It's not just that the playlists are repetitive, but they've become more homogenized than ever. Hearing the same crappy imitations of already crappy emo bands gets old pretty fast. How many fucking bands feature Travis Barker? And then they get a stiffy for The Killers, who haven't had a good record in years.

But the real problem is what they seem to avoid entirely, despite having committed before to certain bands. I first heard of Wolf Alice on AltNation, and now that they have arguably the best indie rock album of the year, and they're tearing up the UK scene, they haven't featured even a single song. Last year's The Naked And Famous album had no action, even though songs like "Punching In A Dream" were a staple of the channel. And they've completely ignored the last two Garbage albums. Even slam dunks, like this year's Foo Fighters album, definitely one of their best, get little play.

When our Nissan Leaf got totaled in an accident late last year, that was the end of our SiriusXM radios. I held on to their cheapest streaming plan, just for AltNation, but I finally let it go because listening just wasn't doing it for me. It makes me sad that the channel just degraded so much. Our current cars stream LiveXLive, formerly Slacker Radio, and their Alternative Hits channel isn't bad. They play all kinds of stuff you'll never hear on AltNation. Right now, I'm listening with ads, but $4 a month might be OK (it's already included with the cars). It doesn't have the "live" DJ's (what can I say, having done that job, I value it), but it may work out. We'll see what kind of things I discover going forward.


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