Plex and Sonos

With the death of Google Play Music I needed another way of managing my music library and playing it through our Sonos system. We opted to go with Plex and in general it has been a good experience.

Plex

We have a Mac Mini hooked up to our TV for those times we want to watch something on YouTube or some other service that our not-very-smart TV doesn’t support. This was clearly the logical choice for the Plex server as it is always on and has worked really well.

I keep a copy of my music on my main laptop. Despite not using Music (formerly iTunes) to play music, I use it to manage my music on the filesystem. When I purchase music (now from Bandcamp or Amazon if I can’t find it there), I import it into Music and then run an rsync script to refresh the copy on the Mac Mini. Plex automatically picks up the changes and my music is ready for playing.

After some work I was able to import my playlists from Google Play Music (GPM) into Plex as well. See my GPM playlist reconstructor and Plex playlist importer gists for some python code to help get you going in the right direction.

Now I can access music, including all of my playlists, from my phone and any web browser.

Sonos

Being able to play my music through our Sonos system is one of my primary use cases and one of the reasons why YouTube Music is such a poor substitute for Google Play Music. Plex integrates nicely with Sonos without requiring a Plex Pass.

When I first got Plex and Sonos connected two months ago everything worked perfectly. Then a few weeks ago Sonos stopped reliably finding my music which was incredibly frustrating. When the Sonos couldn’t see the Plex library I was still able to access the library from the Plex mobile app and the web interface. Indeed, everything except Sonos seemed happy to talk to the library.

We did all of the usual things like rebooting the devices. I followed the Plex and Sonos troubleshooting docs both from Plex and from Sonos. I even tried upgrading the Sonos system from S1 to S2 to no avail.

Eventually I found this Plex on Sonos forum post which goes into a lot of details about the nuances of how the two devices connect. We had a 9-year-old Netgear WNDR4500 wireless router that in theory supported UPnP but it didn’t seem to be working to allow Sonos to reliably access the Plex library. I set up a manual port forward which seemed to make things slightly more reliable but didn’t fix the problem.

Eventually out of frustration I bought a brand new TP-Link AX1800 wireless router to replace the Netgear and suddenly everything just started working and has been rock-solid for a week now. No special configuration & no fuss.

So if you’re having trouble getting your Sonos to talk to your Plex library and are using an old wireless router, consider upgrading it.

YouTube Music is a poor replacement for Google Play Music

Google is replacing Google Play Music (GPM) with YouTube Music (YTM) starting this month and shutting down GPM entirely in December 2020. Google is touting YTM as a great replacement for GPM but are conveniently not revealing that YTM does not have feature parity without a YouTube Music Premium subscription.

With GPM I can listen to my music in the background on my Pixel. But with YTM you need a monthly subscription to do that.

With GPM I can listen to my music on my Sonos. But with YTM you need a monthly subscription to do that. Ars Technica reports that Google Home users will need a YTM subscription too, just in case you forked out money for Google-branded smart speakers.

And it doesn’t matter if this is music that you’ve uploaded or that you’ve purchased from Google. That’s the real kicker for me. I’ve been buying music from Google since 2013 — 669 songs to date, some of them via albums and some of them as individual songs. It’s hard to know exactly how much money I’ve paid to Google for music over the past 7 years, but at $1/song that would be just under ~$100/year. 

I don’t subscribe to music; I still purchase music. More over I’m not going to pay $12/month for YouTube Music Premium to be able to access the music I’ve already purchased. If I wanted a subscription service I would pay $10/month to Spotify. I realize that I am no longer Google’s target audience.

Instead I’ve downloaded my purchased music from Google and am trying out a Plex server. I can listen to music on my phone and Sonos without a subscription of any kind. So far it’s working out well.

Now I just need to figure out who to purchase music from that isn’t Amazon or Apple.

Casey’s 2019 Playlist

It’s December, which means it’s time to reveal this year’s playlist (aka: mix cd). Like every year, this playlist is a year in review.

Woman Up, Wannabe, and This Is Me is a shout-out to all the amazing women in my life. Thank you for being awesome just the way you are.

My friend Sam introduced me to Cowboy Bebop and the intro credits won me over. Sadly, the original Tank! by The Seatbelts isn’t available for digital purchase so I had to buy a CD and rip it. (The version on the Spotify list is a cover.)

At the beginning of the year I got to see Steve Grand in concert down in Puerto Vallarta, so he had to be on the list for sure. Pink and Norah Jones released new albums so they got a lot (and I mean a lot) of airtime. Yes, there are 4 Pink songs on the list this year — she’s just that amazing. And while Michael Buble’s new album was released in 2018, I didn’t discover it until the beginning of 2019.

From Pink’s 90 Days, which tears me up every time I hear it, I discovered Wrabel’s music. If you’re up for an emotional roller coaster about trans acceptance, watch his music video of The Village. Then feel a little better by telling all the conservatives assholes You Need To Calm Down. Finally, pay homage to the leader of the queer mafia himself: Elton John. His biopic Rocketman reminded me that yes, sometimes that’s really why they call it the blues.

And most importantly: I got married this year! Up’s Married Life seemed like the most perfect way to end the set.

  1. Tank! – The Seatbelts
  2. Woman Up – Meghan Trainor
  3. Wannabe – Spice Girls
  4. (Hey Why) Miss You Sometimes – Pink
  5. Hustle – Pink
  6. This Is Me – Keala Settle
  7. Wintertime – Norah Jones
  8. Help Me Make It Through The Night – Michael Buble
  9. You Need To Calm Down – Taylor Swift
  10. Walk Me Home – Pink
  11. 90 Days – Pink & Wrabel
  12. Stay – Steve Grand
  13. Walking – Steve Grand
  14. 11 Blocks – Wrabel
  15. The Village – Wrabel
  16. Easy Like Sunday Morning – Lionel Richie
  17. That’s Why They Call It The Blues – Elton John
  18. Your Song (instrumental) – Moulin Rouge Soundtrack, disc 2
  19. Married Life – Up! Soundtrack

You can listen to the songs on Spotify too (except for track 1 where you get a cover of Tank! and track 16 because Lionel Richie isn’t on Spotify). As always, the order of the songs have been carefully curated. You may not be able to listen to them in order with the Spotify free account.

A Grand Time

On Tuesday night we saw Steve Grand perform at ACT II down here in Puerto Vallarta. And I can’t tell you how moving it was to hear a man sing about love for another man on stage.

Steve Grand is probably best known for his 2013 breakout country music video All-American Boy about one guy’s unrequited love for another man. As someone who grew up listening to country music, I remember being in awe that we finally, finally, had a country love song by a gay man. Then, admittedly, I lost track of Steve and what he was up to until this week.

On Saturday evening we bought tickets for his Tuesday show, where he performs covers as well as his own work, almost on a lark. Of the four of us going to the show, two of us remembered his music video and the other two were game to be dragged along. It’s very common in PV for performers to walk around the beaches handing out cards marketing their shows, and Steve was no exception. Except Steve one-upped all the rest of them by walking around in a bright blue speedo and a blockbuster smile. And to say that he is incredibly handsome would be like saying that the ocean is merely damp. We were all excited to see him perform after that!

The show was good — really good. He’s an excellent performer and has a great stage presence. What surprised me the most was that, oddly, I knew several of his own songs without knowing they were his! It didn’t take me long to figure out that his song Stay was on Sean’s 2013 mix CD and his song Walking was on Sean’s 2017 mix CD (and somehow I knew his song We Are The Night too, although I haven’t figured out how). These CDs live in my ancient car that only has a CD player and the CDs get a lot of air time so I’ve listened to them, and these two songs, many many times. Enough that I could have sung along.

I never knew they were about another guy and knowing that changed everything about them.

I’ve been raised in such a heteronormative culture that when I hear a guy singing about someone else I assume it’s about a girl. Because it’s almost always true. And to have that preconception totally dismantled about songs that I love by this handsome guy on stage who wrote them was mind-blowing.

Stay with me, we don’t never have to leave
You my southern king, we live it for the daydreams
So don’t get mad—what’s past is in the past
And we can make this last
if you just give me that chance
So when my old man’s out of town but a couple days
I think that you should…

Stay with me
all summer
Stay with me
under the covers
Stay with me
Be my lover

He’s singing about another guy, folks!

We talk about the importance of representation all the time, and I guess I never thought about how that might apply to me in music. I’m ecstatic to have relearned the lesson in such a fantastic way.

I’m certain that my newly-purchased Steve Grand albums will get a lot of air time when I get back from vacation next week. If you identify as a gay man and have the opportunity to hear him in person, I highly recommend it!

Casey’s 2018 Mix CD

2018 has been a hard year for many of us. Between the shit-show that is the GOP administration to #metoo, my community has really struggled. And this year’s mix CD playlist reflects it. (See the mix cd tag to see prior years.)

Pink’s Barbies and Better Life reminds us of simpler, arguably better, times as does Ben Rector’s Old Friends. I discovered Fire Drills by Dessa and Rescue by Yuna which are great reminders of the underlying struggle women face in this country as well as their strength and perseverance through it. This year I became estranged from some formerly-close people, bringing Somebody That I Use To Know to the forefront of my mind; because really: Take Me or Leave Me.

But this year wasn’t without (musical) redemption as I found Girl Blue’s song Fire Under Water (from a touching Las Vegas tourism advertisement of all places). Sam Hunt’s song House Party and Your Song by Rita Ora always makes me want to scoot-a-boot. Daniel and I heard orchestral performances of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes and Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence by the Seattle Symphony this year too. The former was an instrumental arrangement for strings that was simply astounding and I’ve been unable to find a recording of it anywhere.

Also, did you know that Dolly Parton is a huge advocate of childhood literacy and her Imagination Library celebrated delivering their 100 millionth book to kids this year? That’s worth a little 9 to 5 for sure.

So without further ado, this is my 2018 Mix CD:

  1. And So It Goes – Billy Joel
  2. The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
  3. Barbies – Pink
  4. Somebody That I Use To Know – Walk Off the Earth
  5. 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
  6. Your Song – Rita Ora
  7. Rescue – Yuna
  8. Take Me or Leave Me – Jonathan Larson (from RENT)
  9. Fire Drills – Dessa
  10. Fire Under Water – Girl Blue
  11. House Party – Sam Hunt
  12. All Night Long – Lionel Richie
  13. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon
  14. Better Life – Pink
  15. Old Friends – Ben Rector
  16. 2 Places at 1 Time – Zac Brown Band
  17. Ladies in Lavender – Joshua Bell

You can listen to the songs on Spotify too. Note the order of the songs have been carefully curated as well, although I don’t think Spotify will let you listen to them in order on the free account.

Casey’s 2017 Mix CD

In 2011 I started creating mix CDs1, one a year, of songs that resonated with me to share with friends. In January I create an empty playlist and add to it over the course of a year. Then in November I tweak, tune, and adjust it before sharing it with friends.

This year saw new music by Caro Emerald & P!nk (two of my favorite artists), new-to-me music by Meghan Trainor (who quickly became a favorite, although I think it makes me a bad gay to have just now found her), and a slew of oldies that just hit the spot.

Speaking of spot, this year you can listen to the playlist on Spotify. Long live mix tapes mix CDs digital playlists!

  1. Exotic Flu – Caro Emerald
  2. Brave – Sara Bareilles (this is a repeat from last year for good reason)
  3. Big Yellow Taxi – Amy Grant
  4. If I had $1,000,000 – Barenaked Ladies
  5. Curious Thing – Amy Grant
  6. I Just Called To Say I Love You – Stevie Wonder
  7. Perfect Picture – Carlos Bertonatti
  8. Rather Be – Glee Cast (for Daniel)
  9. Whatchugot – Caro Emerald
  10. 455 Rocket – Kathy Mattea (for Mr. Moore)
  11. Me Too – Meghan Trainor
  12. What About Us – P!nk (for all of us being shafted since the election)
  13. I Won’t Let You Down – Meghan Trainor
  14. I Am Here – P!nk
  15. Champagne Problems – Meghan Trainor
  16. Once Upon A December – David Newman
  17. The Dark – Caro Emerald

1 Anyone remember mix tapes? No? Just me? Damn I feel old.

Casey’s 2016 Mix CD

This year saw the end of my 9-month sabbatical, changing jobs to a new company, and then the disaster that was the election. It was also a great year for music with new albums from Norah Jones and Michael Buble.

Throughout the year I throw music, both new and old, into a playlist as the mood strikes me. In November I take a week paring the set down and carefully crafting the order. This year the end of the CD crafted itself.

Thanks to the power of Google, if you subscribe to Google Music service you can listen to it directly.

  1. Not Upset – Dario Marianelli
  2. One Day I’ll Fly Away – Nicole Kidman
  3. Lost – Michael Buble
  4. Everything – Michael Buble
  5. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Glee Cast
  6. Satellite – Dave Matthews Band
  7. Shiftwork – Kenny Chesney
  8. I Love A Rainy Night – Eddie Rabbitt
  9. Hold On – Wilson Phillips
  10. Can’t Stop the Feeling – Justin Timberlake
  11. Someday – Michael Buble & Meghan Trainor
  12. I Believe in You – Michael Buble
  13. Hello – Adele
  14. Day Breaks – Norah Jones
  15. Jean Arrives – Dario Marianelli
  16. My Dear Country – Norah Jones
  17. Over My Dead Body – Dario Marianelli
  18. Brave – Sara Bareilles

Daniel and I have decided that Brave will be our theme song for 2016:

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
― Sara Bareilles, Brave

Casey’s 2015 Mix CD

Once again, it’s time for my anachronistic tradition of making a mix CD (which is just one step away from the 80s mix tapes of old). This marks the my 5th year of doing it (see the mix cd tag for the others). Thanks to the power of Google, if you subscribe to Google Music service you can listen to it directly.

This year’s songs are a mix of both newly discovered and rediscovered. The stress leading up to my sabbatical played a role in this year’s selection, as did the relaxation of being on it.

  1. Your Song (instrumental) – Craig Armstrong
  2. I Just Want To Dance With You – George Straight
  3. Girl In A Country Song – Maddie & Tae
  4. A Night Like This – Caro Emerald
  5. Stickshifts and Safetybelts – Cake
  6. The Motown Song – Rod Stewart
  7. Morning Train – Sheena Easton
  8. My Give A Damn’s Busted – Jo Dee Messina
  9. Take This Job and Shove It – Johnny Paycheck
  10. Tears Dry On Their Own – Amy Winehouse
  11. Rhythm of My Heart – Rod Stewart
  12. Miniature Disasters – KT Tunstall
  13. Georgia on My Mind – Michael Buble
  14. Quando, Quando, Quando – Michael Buble
  15. If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas) – Caro Emerald
  16. Silent Sea – KT Tunstall
  17. Touch Me With Your Love (instrumental) – Beth Orton

Casey’s 2014 Mix CD

Just like 2013, 2012, and 2011, I made a mix CD this year. It didn’t come together near as easily has the past couple of years. And yes, I really do dance to All About That Bass every time it comes on…

  1. Ariel Julia – Larry Unger
  2. Crusin’ – Gwyneth Paltrow
  3. Royals – Walk Off The Earth
  4. I’m Your Man – Michael Buble
  5. Talk To Me – Keri Noble
  6. Better Than One – Wide Awake
  7. Tell Me How Long – Caro Emerald
  8. All About That Bass – Meghan Trainor
  9. One Day – Caro Emerald
  10. Little Numbers – BOY
  11. Brighter Than the Sun – Colbie Caillat
  12. Happy – Pharrell Williams
  13. I’m Your Man – Wham!
  14. Extraordinary Thing – k.d. lang
  15. Turning Tables – Adele
  16. Soir De Fete – Yann Tiersen

Casey’s 2013 Mix CD

I participated in the annual Holiday CD Exchange Party again this year, just like in 2012 and 2011. Unlike before, I had been adding songs to my in-progress playlist all year long instead of throwing them together at the last minute. Oddly, having to whittle down and order a year’s worth of songs into 80 minutes was harder. Without further ado, here is my 2013 mix CD:

  1. Fatima’s Waltz – Justin Roth
  2. It’s Another Sunny Day in Minnesota – Marty Winkler
  3. Runaround – Coyote Grace
  4. Cups – Anna Kendrick
  5. xote das meninas – trio la strada
  6. Thinking About Tomorrow – Beth Orton
  7. One of Those Days – Joshua Radin
  8. At Last – Etta James
  9. Cowboy – Cross-Eyed Rosie
  10. I Want to Hold Your Hand – Glee Cast
  11. Coolin’ in the Streets – Andra Day
  12. Love Song – Sara Bareilles
  13. Riviera Life – Caro Emerald
  14. Back It Up – Caro Emerald
  15. Red Hands – Walk Off the Earth
  16. Emily – Mika
  17. Falling – Keri Noble
  18. Leona Tuttle – Larry Unger
  19. La Valse D’Amelie – Yann Tiersen

If you recognize a song you introduced me to, or that we shared together, it was put there for you.