Separating complete albums from singles on my iPhone/iPod
March 23, 2011 11:34 PM   Subscribe

iPhone/iPod music conundrum. How can I easily see my full albums - and only my full albums - when I also have loaded playlists with multiple single tracks?

I enjoy listening to both full albums and eclectic, custom playlists on my iPhone. But they don't don't play nice when I have a bunch of each loaded at the same time.

It's easy to listen to specific playlists - I open the iPod app, select the Playlists tab, and pick a playlist. However, when I want to listen to a full album I select the Album tab.... and all my full albums are intermingled with the single songs from my playlists since they are listed under their respective album name. Out of a list of 60 "albums" only 10 may be complete. And there is no indication of which ones are singles and which are complete.

The only alternative that comes to mind is creating individual playlists for each album - but that is a poor workaround at best. Is it possible to move - or remove - the singles in the Albums tab?
posted by m@f to Technology (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've had this problem too, but my workaround is just a variation of the playlists approach. I hope there's a better way.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 11:41 PM on March 23, 2011

You could just create a playlist that contains nothing but full albums. When you select that playlist the songs will be grouped together by album. Just push play and your off.

If you wanted to listen to that album in random mode turn phone sideways after starting first song and it will cover flow right to that album.
posted by travis08 at 1:54 AM on March 24, 2011

My "work-around" for the past 10 years is that any track in iTunes that isn't part of a full album gets its album set to "none" (literally the word "none"). That way, when browsing albums you only see full albums (plus an album called "none", obviously...).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:49 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are two problems here:
1. Songs that are part of full albums, but that might be transferred to the iPod as a single
2. Songs where you don't have the full album at all.
A good solution would cover both.

The ID3 fields in MP3s do not (AFAIK) allow for arbitrary user tags, which is how I would prefer to solve this. Instead, I would suggest adding a keyword to the Description field, eg "[fullalbum]", for every track that is part of a full album.

If you're on a Mac, then you could use this script to do that. I'm sure there are tag editors on the Windows side, but I'm not knowledgeable about that. Obviously you'll need to go through and select all your full albums—I don't think there's a way to get iTunes to figure that out for you algorithmically (in theory, if you're really meticulous with your tags, and every track is labelled "track X of Y" it would be possible to write a script that finds albums with all Y tracks. Or possibly something that looks up albums on Amazon to find track counts for each album, which would be harder).

Then create a Smart Playlist where "description contains [fullalbum]" is one of the criteria and sync that to your phone.
posted by adamrice at 7:36 AM on March 24, 2011

I do pretty much the same thing as EndsOfInvetion -- playlist songs get tagged as "Various Artists" in the artists column (I tend to browse by artist) and the full album gets changed to the title of the playlist.
posted by puritycontrol at 7:40 AM on March 24, 2011

It doesn't really solve the problem of singles mixed in with the 'Albums' view, but for what it's worth:

I have a static "Desert Island" playlist into which I drag the albums I know I'm likely to want in their entirety.

I also have a "recently played" smart playlist and a "recently added" smart playlist which consist of the most recently played or added 50 or 100 songs (or something like that) So, for example if I've just imported a new CD or just listened to an album, chances are good the entire thing will make it onto my iPhone the next time I sync.

Between those three playlists I usually have all of the complete albums I'm likely to want, so even if I don't have a clear indicator in the 'albums' view I can at least count on my favorites being there in their entirety.
posted by usonian at 9:37 AM on March 24, 2011

I'm not sure if this will work with iOS (I'm stuck with a lowly iPod Classic), but if you take all of your singles and set them as part of a compilation, then I believe they won't appear in album view. At least on my scroll wheel iPod, I can go to Genre -> Artist -> Album and only my full albums (i.e. those not marked as part of compilation) show up.
posted by alidarbac at 10:04 AM on March 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all for the ideas!

Re: modifying ID3 tags (Album/Artist/etc) - I'm trying to find a non-destructive approach. I don't sync all my music to my phone so there are times where a playlist "single" may be part of a complete album in iTunes. Also, I may eventually buy the rest of the album someday (I'm a bit of a completionist.)

Re: playlist solutions - This might be the best option so far. The only thing it lacks is the visual album art scroll of the "Album" view. If only Cover Flow could be restricted to the current playlist!

The fastest method might be to use Voice Control and call out the album name. Disadvantages: no browsing, album names are less familiar, and I might get weird looks when I say "Play Album Inhuman Rampage" in the gym.

What? Dragonforce is great workout music!
posted by m@f at 11:40 AM on March 24, 2011

I have a similar problem. When I transfer compilations (that ARE marked YES as a Compilation in iTunes) to my iPhone, and I go to Artist view (not Album), those artists are listed that only have ONE song -- which is a part of a compilation -- on my phone. It's so annoying to have to scroll past all of them.

Anyway to make these "single song on a compilation" artists not show up in Artist view?
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 6:47 PM on March 28, 2011

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