On My Drive-Time Listening

Life of full of good news/bad news events – after all, every situation has plusses and minuses. This past September I received good news that I would be involved in an 11-month project starting in October. Bad news is the work is 70 miles away.

I accepted the work, thus spend more time than I prefer in a car. Friends ask me if I listen to books on the road. Although I good idea, I tell them that XM radio is my reliable companion. Since I appreciate many types of music, XM allows me to select the music that is best for the time of day, travel conditions, and my mood. Besides, I enjoy hearing music that I do not know. Here is my primary listening choices, listed by channel number (not preference).

XM 32 – The Message
Playing contemporary Christian music that is more electric and pop than I realized, The Message offers me inspirational words of faith and hope through music that causes me to reflect and even at times pray. I admit that I had only heard of a few artists before becoming a listener, but this music has been a pleasant surprise.

XM 45 – Spectrum

To me, Spectrum offers contemporary rock for adults. It’s not heavy, but not pop – yet a blend of artists that I know and others that are new to me. Plus, some of the original MTV VJs host.

XM 51 – Coffee House
I’m not a coffee drinker, but I can imagine sitting in a coffeehouse listening to acoustic versions of hits by the original artists or original tunes by local artists that probably won’t make it to the national scene. Although Coffee House does not feature songs from the latter, I thought the description would help describe the music.

XM 72 – Spa
Spa attacks the new age side of me as I really like the music. Whether at the end of a hectic day or when taking precautions by driving slower on slick, snow-covered roads, Spa’s music selection gives me a sense of calm … a journey into tranquility. Besides, it is also quick access to some interesting music on neighboring stations.

XM 73 – Simply Sinatra
The channel of crooners – whether Mel Torme, Sammy Davis Jr, or Nat King Cole – or modern day crooners as Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr – female artists from the past as Peggy Lee or Rosemary Cloney – or every fifth song by Frank Sinatra – this channel takes me back to an era of nightclubs and fox trots.

XM 74 – Bluesville

Although I listen to this the least of the listed, certain blues offers a beat that I enjoy. Although I recognize the artists, others catch my ear and cause the toes to tap – such as Tab Benoit’s Too Sweet for Me.

XM 134 – NPR Now
I like learning and think, so talk shows can provide that avenue – but listening to some talk-show hosts is difficult. Listening to callers can be worse. Sometimes I treat my cerebral side by tuning in to hear intelligent conversations about a topic. Oh my, this can be quite enlightening.

Traveling on Air Tran airlines introduced me to XM radio. Two years ago, I purchased a new car offering free XM for 3 months. I loved it and have been an avid listener (only in the car) ever since. Click here to read other posts I’ve written about XM radio.

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On XM 32: The Message

XM Channel 32 is The Message, a station focusing on contemporary Christian music. I don’t know much about this genre; however, I do know what my ear and mind like, and this channel works for me.

So if I don’t know many of the artists featured on this station, why does it earn a preset on my radio?

  • I find it pleasing
  • The tempo is upbeat
  • In general I don’t focus on lyrics as I like rhythms
  • When I do listen to lyrics, these have a positive message

I don’t listen to The Message all the time, but there are times I prefer it. Meanwhile, Stephen Curtis Chapman performed a concert after a recent Reds baseball game. Since I knew he’s won a Grammy and one heard on The Message, I stuck around for the post-game concert … and it was well done! I was amazed at the number of people who knew the lyrics to many of his songs.

Below are two songs I’ve enjoyed on The Message plus a Stephen Curtis Chapman video.  See what you think … and if you like the sound, turn to XM Channel 32. Below the videos are links to other XM channel posts.

Jars of Clay: Two Hands

Newsboys: In the Hands of God

Stephen Curtis Chapman: Dive

Other XM Posts

On XM SPA: Channel 72

Some say “hot tub”, but my friend says “Shhhhhpppaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” But this post is about music – not about the comfort of warm water and jet action.

For whatever reason, my posts on XM radio are popular, so hear are some thoughts about XM channel 72 (Sirius Channel 73), SPA, which replaced XM’s AudioVisions (Channel 45) during the XM’s post-merger channel reorganization.

New Age music is peaceful, melodic music of various styles. Think of music for yoga, massage, and relaxation; but think beyond the tinkly-a-boos or nature-oriented sounds. New Age is most commonly instrumental, both electronic or acoustic forms, and featuring sounds from a variety of cultures; however, it can be upbeat.

Here are some thoughts about Spa

  • New Age followers will find some familiar artists on SPA as Kitaro, Hans Zimmer, David Lanz Vangelis, Yanni, and George Winston
  • SPA seems to integrate a sense a down-tempo, melodic, contemporary sound, whereas AudioVisions was more committed to New Age
  • SPA still provides tickly-a-boos, but probably less frequent than AudioVisions
  • A tagline: SPA – A soundtrack of peace

Although AudioVisions was my second favorite station on the old XM, I still listen to SPA … and it’s still #2 – but I prefer AudioVisions over SPA.

Since not everyone has XM or Sirius radio, here’s a New Age music tip. I enjoy listening to Echoes (on NPR) as I go to sleep. Click here to find a station near you carrying Echoes.

XM Cafe vs. Sirius Coffee House

On an earlier post I mentioned how the XM programming transition to Sirius-XM caught me by surprise; especially when I discovered my favorite station, XM Café, was no more. Surprisingly, (for whatever reason) that post is one of the most-frequently read on this site.

At that time I pledged to give the Sirius Coffee House a try, so now is the time to render a verdict.

A Few Notes

  • XM Café offered a more eclectic selection of music, whereas one will hear more-recognizable music on Coffee House.
  • XM Café offered a bit more energy behind the music, whereas Coffee House music has a tendency to be more acoustical – which includes acoustic version of hit songs by the original artist, plus different arrangements of cover tunes by other artists.
  • XM Café offered an outlet for lesser-known artists, whereas while Coffee House is somewhat like that, its playlist includes more high-profile names.

The Coffee House taglines from commercials are accurate:

  • Acoustic reinterpretations of great songs
  • The best venue for acoustic singer songwriters
  • New music from your Coffeehouse artists

The station’s description is also accurate:

Unwind in the Coffee House – with your favorite singer/songwriters, new artists and rare acoustic versions of great songs! The perfect place for a laid back mood, a stress-filled workday, or you just want a perfect musical getaway. Settle in for the great acoustic songs and cool vibe of the Coffee House!

Although I still prefer XM Café, the reality is simple – it’s gone. I find myself bouncing around a bit more, but the Sirius Coffee House (Channel 51) is my station of choice. Then again, there’re still CDs and MP3 music for the car.

XM Lineup – I’m Sorry to See You Go

I get into my car and, as usual, turn on my XM radio. Whoa! The channel is different. Yes, that happened last week, November 12th; the day the Sirius-XM merger affected XM’s lineup.

I got XM with my new car, so I never “shopped” the competition. Once they announced the merger, I knew this day would come; but uncertain on what would actually happen. Now, I’m adjusting to what I lost while trying to determine what’s offered – much like I did when I bought the car.

My favorite is gone: Starbuck’s XM Café (Channel 45). The replacement (The Spectrum) isn’t close enough to the music I grew to appreciate. The closest thing I can find is The Coffeehouse (Channel 51). It’s not the café, but I’m giving it a chance.

Another favorite also gone is Audiovisions (Channel 72), which has been replaced by The Spa. Both feature new age music, but The Spa has an easy-listening edge. It’s close enough, but not close enough to stay tuned in for a period of time.

Flight 26 (Channel 26), another favorite, and yes, it’s gone. Being that it featured adult rock sounds, replacing it in the new lineup will be easy. The question is where; but I’ll find it.

XM-Sirius says the new lineup offers more music. Maybe so, but it depends how one defines music in terms of style and genre. So far, my eclectic, wide-ranging ears have detected channels that are more similarities, yet differentiated by small differences. Others can say the new lineup favors listeners 30 years old or younger. Even if so, management has reasons for their decisions.

Satellite radio is a good thing, especially for those with a wide range of music interests. My time with Starbuck’s XM Café was a pleasure and will be missed; but I’ll adjust. Time will tell what Sirius does with its new sibling, and time will tell not only how I adjust, but also what I discover.