Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gnome music players & Complilation albums

Winamp was my prefered music player in Windows because it was:
  • quick to start
  • easy to find and play albums
  • easy to hide the player in the notification area while doing other things.
  • excellent at tag editing
The only niggle I had was that it didn't recognise some compilation albums correctly, so I had to resort to playing the folder.
So what is the equivalent in Linux? Amarok seemed to be the answer, doing everything Winamp did and more- it even recognised my compilation albums and would play them without fuss- the only problem being it is a KDE application, and launching in Gnome takes a few seconds for required KDE dependencies to load. I wanted something which would launch quickly and play songs simply, but missed the excellence of Amarok- I tried Rhythmbox, Exaile and Banshee, eventually settling on Rhythmbox.
Meanwhile, Amarok was updated to version 2 with Ubuntu 9.04, and I didn't like the new GUI much, so I uninstalled it. Recently I was looking at my compilation albums spread all over Rhythmbox and thinking about how I was going to play them.
Why can't Rhythmbox recognise compilation albums?
The problem is that it's tricky to 1) detect compilations and 2) to know where to store the info. You can't always know if a particular track belongs to a compilation, because there may be duplicate album names. (Link here.)
So Rhythmbox is still working on it: are there any music players for Gnome that can list and play compilation albums correctly?
I was doing a search recently and came across Gejengel. (It's not in the Ubuntu repositories, but a Deb package for Ubuntu is available here- one dependency is also required.) It's a lean and simple player that nonetheless looks quite elegant and claims to properly handle compilation albums. It did manage to recognise one of my compilation albums, but split the tracks into two albums with the same name for some reason*. [* See update below.] However, the big drawback of this program is it only recognises the MP3 format. There are also still a few bugs in the program (not surprising as it seems to be a one-man effort). Still, I'll be keeping an eye on future developments.
So I was back to searching for a music player that could handle compilation albums. I found a reference to Banshee handling compilation albums well, but when I had tried it, all my compilation tracks were spread out over the music library. I did another search and found this:
Since version 1.2 Banshee has had good support for multi-artist (compilation) albums. If your files already contained album-artist metadata, Banshee should have picked that up and things should Just Work. If not, you can always manually edit the Album Artist by selecting the tracks of the album, pressing e to Edit Information, and setting a common value (e.g. "Various Artists" or the main artist on the album) in the Album Artist field. When sorting by anything except Artist, your tracks will get sorted by Album Artist as you'd expect. (Link here.)
Trying Banshee again, I found that selecting a track and clicking Edit Track Information, there is a Compilation Album Artist tick box. Ticking this and entering Various Artists means that compilation albums are correctly grouped. Success! (I did have one problem with Banshee- it wouldn't show album art until I started playing each album. I had to do that manually for each album- but now all my album art is nicely displayed.) Looks like Banshee is going to be my chosen player from now on- and there's a new version coming soon with lots of bug fixes and new features, so it can only get better! (A repository is here.)
UPDATE: Gejengel split my compilation album into two because it found a "Various Artists" tag in one track. If no track has this field completed, or all tracks have it competed correctly, Gejengel lists the album correctly. (A stray "Various Artists" tag in a non-compilation album also causes the same problem- an album split into two.) If you try the program and have a similar problem, try looking at the MP3 tags with a good tag editor. (See post above.)

1 comment:

  1. I use foobar2000 in wine and love it.