How not to get your Grooveâ„¢ on in Windows 10

Overall I am enjoying the improvements of Windows 10. Its quirks and issues have been minor irritants at best. I tried most of the included apps but they have so far proven too limiting in one way or another, even if they do include some nice/handy features (it’s not a good sign when the outlook.com web mail has more features than the dedicated Windows 10 mail app). There was one app in particular that I really wanted to commit to: Groove.

Groove is the current incarnation of Microsoft’s music app (see also: Xbox Music, Zune, etc. etc.) Like iTunes it will play your local music and let you buy more from a digital store. I wanted Groove to be groovy because while the name is dumb (even Edge is better) iTunes is a bit of a mess and I’m quite willing to move away from it as my primary music player should a better option present itself.

On the plus side Groove is minimal. You will not be overwhelmed with options. You will barely be whelmed with options. It has a light theme and a dark theme. It can import your iTunes or Google Music library. It will play your music. That covers most of its features.

I import my iTunes library. A lot of the artist pictures are weird and scary, a strange mix of artists when they were young and artists as they are at age 150. The artist pictures are all presented in circles, which is a UI convention I really don’t care for and I can’t say why, exactly. Album covers are mercifully presented as squares instead of, say, trapezoids. The importing of my iTunes library initially seems fine. I play some tracks. I like that Groove has large controls. It does what I want it to. It will even let me pin music to the Start menu if for some reason I absolutely need to listen to Pink Floyd in as few clicks as possible.

Then I decide to listen to 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields. This is a triple album that came out in 1999, when CDs were not yet considered quaint. As such it really was originally released as three physical discs. The iTunes version preserves this format, even labeling each Disc 1, Disc 2 and Disc 3. Groove preserves the notion of the songs spanning three discs, but it sorts the songs like so: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, etc. Yes, it wants to play the first song from each disc, then the second song from each disc and so on. This is, of course, madness.

I order it to find album info and it comes up with a lengthy list of choices, all of which contain fewer than the album’s 69 songs (most often because each only contains one disc’s worth of music). There is one entry that has all 69 songs and as a bonus has the correct cover art. I choose it, content that although Groove was bad, this fix is simple and painless.

I look over the copious collection of songs and something seems amiss. Closer study reveals Groove has duplicated a number of tracks. Further inspection shows the duplicates are in fact different songs that have been mislabeled. There is no way to edit the properties of a song from within Groove. Undeterred, I ordered Groove to find the album info again and when I choose the same album as before it highlights “problem” tracks and allows me to “fix” them by choosing other tracks to take their place. After carefully matching everything up–by checking the album in iTunes–I confirm my changes and am presented with the same garbled list of duplicates. Well, not entirely the same. On its second attempt Groove has garbled a slightly different set of songs, possibly for variety. The only option now is to delete the album from my library. This also deletes the files from my iTunes folder. This is what you call sub-optimal.

I gave up. I will probably try Groove again because I’m silly and stubborn about these things, but it’s unlikely I will ever really use it again because I have no confidence that the great mangling of songs is something that will ever be fixed (and to be fair to iTunes–how the very utterance grates–when it mucks up some songs it happily lets you dive into the track’s info and edit to your delight to set things right).

Groove, we shall not play music together.