Test Drive: Spotify dev’s Nelson is a playlist metadata playground

Spotify is known for its vast stores of metadata, but that information is usually invisible for listeners. Arielle Vaniderstine, a developer advocate engineer at Spotify, has made a new tool available called Nelson that puts the streaming service’s curation controls in your hands. Link up your Spotify Premium account and you can toggle the sliders for the various possible music traits to get a playlist immediately generated in your browser.

I started off with the “rock” and “alt-rock” genres, then tried a couple different options with the sliders for energy, danceability, and acousticness. Nelson really, really wanted me to hear Thurston Moore’s “Benediction;” it showed up in almost every combination I tried. At one point, it was even the only song available.

Initially, shifting to “blues” as the sole genre wound up playing Curtis Mayfield. That doesn’t seem to be the strongest genre classification, because it took significant tweaking on the toggles to get a consistent selection without too many soul cross-overs.

Next I tried the sub-genres that Spotify has tagged as among my most common in the past: “indie-pop” and “synth-pop.” This was the most successful, yielding long playlists almost every which way I set the parameters.

Vaniderstine said in her tweet sharing the tool that it’s her first version. If you’re looking for hard recommendations, I’d advise waiting until Nelson gets a little more finesse. But if you, like I, simply want some play time exploring the odder corners of Spotify’s catalog, then have at it.

Anna Washenko