Top Menu front page

Using as your life soundtrack front pageI’ve been listening to a lot these days. The listener supported service reminds me that radio at its best functions as a sort of accompaniment to one’s daily life. You’ve picked a station because the signal musically or narratively reflects in some positive way the world as you experience it. Thus the venue validates your lifestyle; it becomes your life soundtrack.

Soma is part of that story: around thirty or so online music channels that stream nearly six million listener hours every month. When the service first launched over a decade ago, it got a lot of media attention. These days everybody is streaming, but I still think is Soma is special, in large part because of the high quality and originality of its channels. They really function, at least for me, as life soundtrack stations.

So when I am in gotta-make-things-happen mode, I tune one of three Soma channels: Poptron, Groove Salad, or Beat Blender. I especially like the last stream, sort of low stress steady energy electronica with lots of Thievery Corp, Boards of Canada, Royksopps, and Ltj Bukem stuff. Beat Blender “will keep you awake but not stress you out,” the station info page proclaims. Groove Salad is a little more intense. It plays songs like Forces of Nature’s “Ion Storm.” Definitely an all-nighter channel.

If you need a little more postpunk soulishness in your morning mix, Poptron will probably work. It is playing Fan Death tune “Reunited” as I write this. Reminds me of Roxy Music without the antidepressants.

Alternately, if it is 10:30 PM and you are writing up some grand Desiderata on your fourth cup of coffee for your cosmology and metaphysics class, here are the Soma stations for you: Deep Space One, Earwaves, Space Station Soma, and Drone Zone.

The first, second, and last are hosted by founder Rusty Hodge. When I tune into Space Station Soma, I definitely feel like I’m scanning for life on the moons of Saturn. Deep Space One, Hodge explains, consists of music “that’s too slow for Space Station Soma, and too fast for Drone Zone.” The latter channel streams as advertised: “atmospheric space music and ambient textures with minimal beats.”

Of these four, Earwaves is probably the most challenging. But the music is truly beautiful—deejayed by New Mexico public radio veteran Dwight Loop, whose programming regaled Albuquerque and Santa Fe listeners on KUNM-FM and KSFR-FM for two decades. I just tuned into Steve Reich’s “Octet.” Awesome stuff.

Then again, if you are in Trendoid Mode, dressing up and getting ready to go out on the town and meet the movers and shakers, I recommend the following stations: Secret Agent and Illinois Street Lounge.

Secret Agent is pure camp: “the soundtrack for your stylist, mysterious, dangerous life.” Lots of tunes like Unforscene’s  “Nuclear Symphony” and Al Caiola’s “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” medley. Illinois Street Lounge is where you go if you want to get back in touch with your inner Yma Sumac (I forgot all about the “Gopher Mambo”). has lots of other great streams: indie-folk, synthpop, world, Christmas, and Americana. But when I am in Plotting Revenge Mode, there’s only one Soma station for me: Doomed, aka—”dark industrial/ambient music for tortured souls.” And we are definitely talking dark and tortured here, people. Five minutes of listening and I feel like the proverbial cinematic stranger coming to in a bathtub full of ice and . . . wait, what are those stitches on my waist . . . NOOOooo!!!

All ghoulishness aside, three other things I like about this service. First, no ads (as long as folks contribute). Second, many ways to listen, including a nice popup application that obviates downloading endless .pls files to your desktop.

Third, the system doesn’t ask me to “like” tunes. I’m getting very tired of streamers that want me to train their database software not to play me anything I don’t expect. Soma’s streams are curated. An actual human being gave the playlist some thought. If you enjoy the tunes, listen. If not, go listen to something else. There are lots of choices on, and as far as I can tell, they’re all good.

We cover social music sharing communities every Monday in our Internet DJ feature.


, , ,

7 Responses to Using as your life soundtrack

  1. Sherry Gendelman November 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    I love the music. Unfortunately, or not, I’ll never have boobs as sumptuous as those pictured in the musical clips attached. See, life gives, in this case music, and it takes away….

  2. h MacKiernan November 19, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Minor correction:

    “Nuclear Symphony’s ‘Unforscene’ ”

    I believe that ‘Unforscene’ is the artist, ‘Nuclear Symphony’ is the track name.

  3. Rene Schmidt November 20, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    somafm has been my constant companion for many, MANY years – way back since iTunes first started offering Internet Radio. I now actively evangelize the suite of stations, and have turned MANY folks on to the highly addictive ear-drugs that somafm deals.

    Listening so much even started me on an Amazon CD-reselling discipline years ago simply because of the sheer number of CDs that I was buying after hearing something ah-MAYYY-zing (over and over and over, ha ha!!). I really cannot say enough about just how much somafm (particularly Groove Salad) means to me and how deeply integrated into my life it is. The soaring heart-joy brought about by a beautiful melody, the indescribable inner thrill of a fat groove, the spiritual transport brought about by a massive jam – and NONE that you’ll ever hear on that piss-poor cousin, “radio”. At least not in the USA – it seems that in many other places throughout the world there are entire radio networks dedicated to the downtempo/chillout genre…

    Anyway, I was once again delighted to see Rusty & Co. get proper recognition.

    Think I’m gonna go donate to, they totally deserve it!

  4. Matthew Lasar November 20, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Unforscene glitch fixed. Thanks.

  5. Maxwell December 6, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    SomaFM is awesome. I’ve been a fan for a few years. My favorite stations are Bagel Radio, Indie Pop Rocks, and around this time of year, Christmas Rocks (a beautiful balance of classics covered by rock artists and new interesting holiday sounds).

    What I love about these stations on Soma is that its always a mix of something I know I love against something I’ve never heard. Never has a single music service given me more discovery of music. It’s not Pandora- so sometimes there is something playing I wouldn’t really normally listen to. But its the same thing I love about public radio- sometimes you need to broaden your horizons, and build an appreciation for something you don’t identify with.


  1. If Pandora goes the way of Amazon, what's next?Radio Survivor - April 28, 2014

    […] The listener supported model. Basically streamers create interesting musical genres and fans contribute to keep service going. This is the model. […]

  2. Wayback: the top ten Shoutcast streams circa 1999 and 2004Radio Survivor - June 25, 2014

    […] talking listeners; thousands of them. There’s even a classical radio station and . . . look, Soma.FM’s Groove Salad at number […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes