music listening technique

tl;dr, use Marvis if you’re an Apple Music user with an iPhone. It’s great.


The way I like to listen to music is as follows: I have a group of about 30 albums going at any given time. (It’s my rotation pile, and it used to be CDs and records stacked up near the stereo.) I select an album from this pile and then I listen to it. Seems simple, right? But it’s basically impossible with the Apple Music app.

What’s in the pile? In the streaming era, when it’s so much easier to check things out, it would be stuff I have been meaning to check out, recommendations, new stuff I somehow feel obligated to stay current on, old favorites, stuff selected completely at random. Albums go into and out of the pile based on my whim.

And, for the most part I only listen to albums–not playlists (except for the occasional Essentials” playlist for some band I don’t really know), and certainly not some algorithmically generated playlist or fake radio station.” (For radio, I mostly just listen to WFMU.)

It has been a huge pain in the ass to do this with Apple Music. (Maybe you can with Spotify. I don’t know.) There’s no way to just have a grouping of albums, apart from a playlist. Inside a playlist, you can’t browse by album. And, when you play an album, even the whole way through, from inside a playlist, you don’t see it in the Recently Played” area. That’s annoying, since I do like that feature, and in general I want my Apple Music stats and history to be accurate.

Well, luckily Apple Music does support third-party clients, and one of them, Marvis, allows me to do exactly what I want.

First, third-party clients like Marvis just work with your existing Apple Music account, with no setup needed. This is how a few things on iOS work, like calendars. But they have the same limitation as Apple Music, in that albums played from a playlist don’t show in Recently Played”–most people just listen to individual songs in playlists, not albums, after all, and listing every album lightly touched upon by a playlist would be messy.

Marvis is a more configurable app than Apple Music with lots of cool ways to customize how you view music. But the one I care about is: You can have a view of your music Library, filtered to show only those albums that appear in a particular playlist. So, I have such a view, filtered to show only those albums in my Rotation” playlist. And it displays these albums by album, so I select them via their cover art. Because you are playing the albums from your library, and not the playlist which just works as a filter, they show up in the main Recently Played” album in Apple Music. (In fact with third-party Apple Music clients, if you flip to Apple Music Primary you see the now-playing song in the now-playing area, too.)

some of my current rotationsome of my current rotation

Further, Marvis has lock screen widgets. One of them just picks a random album from my Rotation playlist/Library view, and plays it. This is great and cuts down on decision fatigue.

Big thanks to Marvis developer Aditya Rajveer for helping me with this. Buy Marvis!

ps: I think the best way to listen to digital music that is not on streaming is with your own Plex server and Plexamp.


March 26, 2024