This is a very interesting article, but I feel that the problem is akin to organising books.
If you associate artists, how do you link bands like (just taking the first one I think of) The Beatles? Are they close to the Beach Boys, the Status Quo, ELO, the Monkees, and even Britpop like Oasis? Are they close only to some? The Beatles started out with Please Please Me and Help!, but finished with Sargent Pepper’s… If one considers the Beatles as a whole, they become linked to so many bands there’s little point in linking them in such a way… I only like their Psychedelia albums, and I definitely don’t like their early pop tunes. I have no interest in the Monkees, but I like the Status Quo and the Beach Boys. To go back to the author comparison I made earlier, who is Wilde close to? The Portrait of Dorian Gray and the Ballad of Reading Gaol are so dissimilar (and then there are all his plays that are once more a different tone) that he can be linked with far too many people to make any links useful to someone who is only interested in the Ballad of Reading Gaol (or the Portrait of Dorian Gray).
So what about albums? That’s already a better proposal, since it would make an artist’s evolution clearer. “Help!” and “Sargent Pepper’s” can be linked because it’s the same band, but at least groups like the Monkees will be kept away from Sergeant Pepper’s.
Unlike you, I listen more to just one track of an album at a time. Create playlists, play them. So I wouldn’t be very interested by grouping music by album. After all, I feel that between Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, She’s Leaving Home, A Day in the Life and Sergeant Pepper’s Hearts Club Band, there are differences so great I don’t always feel like listening to all of them one after another (or in such a short time frame). So I’d be a proponent of linking each song… I think you can see where this is going. It’s going to be a nightmare to link songs individually, and even harder to recognise if said link is worth it (how many hundred of thousand of songs imitated Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ sound, and how many were any good?).
The problem is that liking or disliking (or being indifferent) to a track seems to me as something very subjective. I think a lot of people (or at the very least myself) like music that is very diverse. From Joy Division to the Happy Mondays, Dizzy Gillespie to Bill Haley, and countless others, with each time tracks that I like more and others that I like less… What does “bleak/cold” mean when talking about Louis Armstrong? Is it the same as for A.I.R and Grandmaster Flash? All these appreciations are ultimately extremely personal. Last.fm suggest I listen to Alain Souchon, Luke, Renan Luce, Cali, BB Brunes, Francis Cabrel and Bruel… Except I already know all of them and I dislike them. Yes, they sound like some artists I listen to (funnily enough, not artists I listen to a lot, so perhaps last.fm’s ranking system needs to be re-tuned), and lots of them have fans who are also fans of bands I like. But when my top fifteen only has three french-language artists (according to last.fm), why suggest so many french bands, and -NO- english-language bands (nine of those fifteen)?
These ideas are very interesting, but I think I’ll stick to making my own playlists, and every now and then either going straight to a track/album/artist I want to listen to, or just putting on the shuffle mode.
I’ve drifted away from the book comparison I started with, but I do find it similar. We don’t rank books by the author’s name, and organising music by the name of the composer/performer is also not the best. However, once the topic is broadly defined (novels, refence books, psychology, philosophy or rock, classical, electronic) it becomes slightly futile to attempt to continue classifying them since any further division will likely prove more confusing for the user than helpful. If Victor Hugo’s books were separated more than between “plays”, “novels” and “poetry”, would it be useful? In my opinion, no. (However, I still find these different “organisations” mightily interesting, and perhaps one day I’ll feel compelled to use them and find them brilliant!)