The Smile: Thin Thing (Live at Montreaux Jazz Festival)
Radiohead is one of my all-time favourite bands, but for some reason The Smile’s A Light for Attracting Attention never quite grabbed me. After I saw them live (Seattle, December), I wondered if a reason might have been that, while Radiohead works (worked?) out songs live, often over the course of many years, A Light was a “pandemic album.” The track “Skrting on the Surface” was a candidate for this list, being perhaps the closest thing to a Radiohead track we’re ever again likely to get; but in performance everything came alive and “Thin Thing” was one of the highlights. The interplay of Yorke’s bass and Greenwood’s guitar at 3:12 is just so great.
“And then, she’ll steal the photos / From your phone.”
Long ago, I had a copy of Orton’s Trailer Park; but I lost track of her over the years. The Pitchfork review of her new album prompted me to have another listen, and the album one of my favourites of the year; the title track is a standout. She and her band were great live in Vancouver in November.
“Almost makes me wanna cry / The weather’s so beautiful outside.”
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available on how to access CBC content using Siri on HomePod and HomePod mini, so I decided to put together a guide based on my experience and research. Last updated November 2023.
Failure. “Okay Information radio from CBC Radio Manitoba – Highlights. Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Podcasts.”
“… play CBC Radio 1.”
Failure. This had been playing CBC Radio One Vancouver until March 2023, when, oddly, I started to get CBC Radio One Victoria. Fixed a couple of months later, then reverted to Victoria in November 2023.
“… play CBC Radio Music.”
Failure. Plays The World This Hour.
On the 2018 page (3), there is a video with Piya Chattopadhyay demonstrating the “play CBC Radio One” command. The video ends by promoting a url, cbc.ca/smart, which as of this writing only has instructions for Amazon Alexa.
Page (2) states “We will continue to work on our Apple implementation of the voice experience and will announce late in 2019 when it’s ready to go. Stay tuned!” Page (3) says “New experiences are coming in 2019.”
Communications with CBC
I wrote to CBC in June 2019, and received the following from CBC Audience Services:
“CBC Radio One is limited to the Ottawa feed on HomePod. CBC Music is not officially supported on HomePod either. All a work in progress and changing constantly. We are continually working on improvements and upgrades on all digital platforms.”
There is a lot more CBC content Siri on HomePod can access besides Ottawa Radio One (see below). But since that message, CBC had stopped responding to emails or tweets on the subject until, quite unexpectedly, an email arrived July 11, 2022, which stated in part:
“This is a known issue which we are currently investigating. Please read the following CBC Help Centre article referring to this issue: NEW Issues connection to CBC Radio networks on internet devices [apparently updated in early 2023, though it doesn’t appear there were changes]. We do apologize for any inconvenience.”
It’s also unclear who has responsibility for ensuring that Siri can be used to access CBC content. The page sent to me above says to “reach out to the software support team for your device or service and ask them to contact CBC directly.” But is this TuneIn (the service that provides radio to Apple Music and hence via HomePod)? Apple? I replied with all of these questions, but in a response sent July 19, 2022, only got back “As the article link from our help centre says:” with the first and third paragraphs of the above page quoted, and “That’s all I can give you for the moment.”
It’s not clear whether by “this” they were referring to issues with HomePod in general — every time I email or tweet CBC I include a link to this page, but have no way of knowing whether they’ve looked at it — or some specific issue, perhaps the recent problem with CBC Music Vancouver.
Siri Command Reference
Particularly with the introduction of the HomePod mini, not to mention the second-generation full-size HomePod, these issues would seem to be a significant oversight on the part of CBC. But in the meantime, I’ve discovered through trial and error that there are other commands that work, over and above the few documented on the original web pages from 2018-20. I also looked at the TuneIn pages for CBC stations and music. The following is my analysis of what plays based on various commands. It’s worth noting that some results may be affected by my location, Vancouver; thanks to ThiefClashRoyale for doing some tests from Ottawa in March 2023. (I have omitted podcasts, since they can be asked for directly; some generic commands like “play the CBC news” happen to redirect to podcasts.)
“Siri…” or “Hey Siri…”
“… switch to CBC news.”
Worked when tested in both September and November 2023, but not in October. September 2023 was the first time it had worked in months or years of being broken.
Again, fixed as of September 2023 — plays The World This Hour! It had played The World at Six podcast for a couple of months until the November 2022 update, when it started playing Quirks and Quarks, then switched to Front Burner in June 2023.
“… play CBC Music.”
Plays The World This Hour. Was playing CBC Radio One Vancouver for me in August 2022, perhaps based on my location; regressed to CBC Radio One Toronto in October 2022, then in February 2023 shifted to Montreal, then Vancouver in March 2023; as of June it started playing Front Burner and as of September, The World This Hour. What a mess!
For a few weeks in May 2021, this no longer worked as CBC Music Vancouver disappeared from TuneIn. I tweeted at CBC and TuneIn and only TuneIn responded. They wrote, “CBC Music Vancouver have decided to restrict their stream within mobile device users only. This means CBC Music Vancouver can’t be accessed through smart speakers or receiver such as HomePod.” However, a week or so later the station had been restored to TuneIn. But this makes me wonder whether there might be a movement at CBC to try to force people to use their Listen app.
“… play CBC Music Halifax.”
Fixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Halifax … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Edmonton.”
Fixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Edmonton … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Winnipeg.”
Fixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Winnipeg … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Toronto.”
CBC Radio One Toronto
Wrong result, and with the 1974–1992 CBC logo. For a couple of years this played Norma Beecroft: Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 1, From Dreams of Brass, Collage ’76, Jeu II, Accordion Play (Canadian Composers Portraits) [link].
“… play CBC Radio One.”
In March 2023 had switched to Victoria; working as of May, then in November had reverted to Victoria. This should reflect my location (Vancouver).
“… play CBC Radio One Vancouver.”
“… play CBC Radio One St. John’s.”
St. John’s, Newfoundland
“… play CBC Radio One Saint John.”
Saint John, New Brunswick. In October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Kelowna.”
“… play CBC Radio One Toronto.”
Station artwork is, for some reason, the 1974–1992 CBC logo rather than the CBC Radio One logo that all the other stations use.
“… play CBC Radio One London.”
“… play CBC Radio One Kitchener-Waterloo.”
“… play CBC Radio One Halifax.”
“… play CBC Radio One Moncton.”
“… play CBC Radio One Edmonton.”
“… play CBC Radio One Prince George.”
“… play CBC Radio One Ottawa.”
“… play CBC Radio One Winnipeg.”
“… play CBC Radio One Sudbury.”
“… play CBC Radio One Montreal.”
“… play CBC Radio One Victoria.”
“… play CBC Radio One Charlottetown.”
“… play CBC Radio One Regina.”
“… play CBC Radio One Fredericton.”
“… play CBC Radio One Thunder Bay.”
In October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Goose Bay”
In September 2022, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page for the first time in a few months, and discovered this station had been added. Bonus! As of October 2023 it’s no longer listed, but still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Barrie”
Added to TuneIn circa September 2022, but Siri wasn’t able to find it until the February 2023 update. As of October 2023 it’s no longer listed, but still works.
Was new to TuneIn some time in 2022 but couldn’t be accessed by Siri on HomePod at all until I got No Lie by Duo Lip starting in March 2023. In May, it was Chance the Rapper: All Night (feat. Knox Fortune), then reverted to Dua Lipa.
As of October 2023 it’s no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page.
“… play CBC Radio One Peterborough”
In October 2022, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, and discovered this station had been added — it resulted in an error until the November 2022 update. As of October 2023 it’s no longer listed, but still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Saskatoon”
Added some time in September 2022. As of October 2023 it’s no longer listed, but still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Sydney.”
In April 2023, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, and discovered this station had been added.
“… play CBC Radio One Windsor.”
In April 2023, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, and discovered this station had been added. As of October 2023 it’s no longer listed, but still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Calgary.”
In April 2023, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, and discovered this station had been added. Interestingly, in June 2023 I was testing all the channels and my HomePods were playing Windsor above; I asked for Calgary and on the first try it said it couldn’t find CBC Radio One Windsor-Calgary.
“… play CBC North Iqaluit”
In July 2023, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, and discovered this station had been added. Cool!
Interestingly, “… play CBC Radio One North Iqaluit” doesn’t seem to work.
There’s clearly some room for improvement here. CBC should at least fix the incorrect mappings. It’s unclear to me what the relationship is between an entity like CBC and Apple, but there’s a blurb and link on Apple’s Siri for Developers page for integration of a streaming service with HomePod (I don’t currently have an Apple Developer account, so I can’t view the page).
Please let me know if you have any updates or other information, and I will try to keep this page current.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross said “the current [pandemic] crisis was the reason they completed the two records in the first place, ‘as a means of staying somewhat sane'” (Pitchfork). While my neighbourhood was boarded up in the spring, this track in particular seemed the pitch-perfect soundtrack; but both albums — Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts — helped get me through that initial strange, disconnected time.
A Hopkins– like perfect balance of melody and electronics; her second appearance on these lists of mine (see 2017). The outtro, hinted at through the verses, is crowning. “And so / Let go of the hope / That it could / That it could be.”
I’ve posted a “Three Tracks” list for a number of years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), but have always run into a bit of a problem: single cuts versus album tracks. A lot of the listening I’ve done has always been album-oriented; this has only increased for me in the era of Apple Music and HomePod (“Hey Siri, play the latest album by …”). So this list represents full-length works from which I have found it difficult to pull a single song — though I’ve done so for the videos below, largely randomly.
True. “Don’t look down, my dear, don’t be surprised […] Don’t look back, my dear, just say you tried.” Bonus points for striking perhaps the most musically interesting note of the year: the second note of the second “love” in each chorus’s “No one’s easy to love.”
Pathos for a difficult year. “Well Mary kept sewing / Holding on to her TV / Even if the water was rising past her knees.” I believe this is the only one of my yearly “Fall” playlists (all songs I’ve gathered in the last few years are here on Apple Music) to make it to this list so far.
I listen to a lot of jazz, but I’m not knowledgeable enough and my listening is not sufficiently comprehensive to produce any kind of narrowed best-of list. I put some of my favourite albums into a Recent Jazz playlist on Apple Music.
Hard to pick a track from my favourite album of the year, but this is a standout. “Everybody says that the war is over / It isn’t something you forget so easily.” Can’t wait to see them live in March. I hadn’t seen the video until I put together this post.
Women seem to be making the best rock music these days. “Hooo-oo, woo-oo-oo oooo-oo, whooo-ao-oo waaa-yyy-yooo, ya-aa-yoo i-yoooo; oo-ii-yaaaaaaaa, i-yaaaaaaa, aa, aa i-yaaa-yoo, oo-waaa-aa-aa.” Best lyric of the year, makes me tear up every time I hear her wail this.
Snail Mail, Stick (“What is it about them / They stick around”); Thom Yorke, Suspirium (“Is the darkness ours to take? Bathed in lightness, Bathed in heat”).
I didn’t realize until I was done choosing that they’re all female artists. Some of the other candidates were perhaps too obvious, and not because they’re mostly men: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” by the National; “I Ain’t the One” by Spoon (saw an incredible live performance of this song in September at Malkin Bowl); “Soak” by Zola Jesus; “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar.