You could set your… calendar by it. We’ll start with a round-up of music apps and services we’ve put to the test since last week’s installment, and don’t forget to check out previous issues for more great apps.
- Bargain Alert: TableDrum, Nifty Augmented Reality Drum Kit
- Awareness App Is Like Having Ears on the Back of Your Head… Or Something
- Ubuntu One Offers Open-Source ‘iTunes in the Cloud’ for Linux, Windows
- MTV Unveils Group Viewing iPhone App – But What About the Music?
- Google Launches a Music Blog: Magnifier
And now, the latest picks from the iTunes and Android app stores, and across the web.
Free Music Download Pro ($1): It’s name is deceptive, because it sounds like one of those apps that gets banned from iTunes and, now, the Android store too. But it’s not. Unlike “free music” apps that appear to leech music from somewhere or other, this one is basically a web browser for the iPhone with one key distinction from Apple’s Safari app: It lets you download MP3s from wherever they exist on the web, which is all sorts of legal places (label’s sites, the free section on Last.fm, band sites, MP3 blogs, and so on). You can build playlists or folders out of your downloaded tracks within the app. And, crucially, the app includes instructions for syncing the songs back from the iPhone and into your regular iTunes collection, so you can integrate the downloads with the rest of your stuff.
musiXmatch (free): All lyric sites are not created equal. MusixMatch’s free app can save you the trouble of bothering with them by matching the songs on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad to its library of over 5.4 million lyrics, which are constantly corrected by the magic of crowdsourcing. You can save your favorites for easy reference, read artist biographies, and comment on an entry if you feel it needs to be changed. The app also surfaces the most popular tracks among all musiXmatch users.
TwinPlay ($1): Picture this: You’re on a long bus ride, your friend wants to listen to Metallica but you’re feeling Al Green, and you’re sharing a single pair of headphones. It would be a puzzling predicament without the TwinPlay app. This oddity can send one song to one earbud and another song to the other one, simultaneously. This is helpful for sharing your headphones with a friend, or for solo use, should you feel the need to blast yourself with two songs at the same time. Setup is as easy as selecting a song for each side of your headphones from your iPod music library, and pressing Play. You and your bus-riding friend could even set up playlists, and each can use full audio controls (play, pause, next song, previous song, volume). Plus, it can play in the background while you use your phone for something else.
What’s On Air (free): If you like to while away the hours wondering what great songs you could be missing on the radio, you probably need to find more to do, or at least buy a more portable radio. Or you could skip all of that and let What’s On Air keep you updated on what’s playing on FM radio stations across the country and various internet radio services. You can also search by artist or song (this might be helpful or amusing if you’re in the biz), or browse not only the currently-playing tracks, but the ones that are up next. An Instant Boost feature gets a faster response to your search queries, and you can view artist biographies, discographies, and so on for each artist getting airplay.
WP7 ZPlayer ($3; pictured left): If you rock a Windows Phone 7 or Zune media player, or have done so in the past, this interactive, themed media player app brings familiar features and interface design to your Android phone. WP7 ZPlayer offers more than just music playback, allowing listeners to view album reviews and artist biographies in addition to scoping top tracks, playlists, and related artists. The app also enables headset controls, home-screen customization, and scrobbles to Last.fm.
Mufin Player Pro ($2.50; pictured top right): When smartphone designers realized that phones didn’t have to try to be little desktops, and were actually better off embracing their own, mostly-buttonless, touch-screen identities, it changed application design for the better. Mufin player brings one of the most intriguing interfaces we’ve come across. It performs an acoustic analysis of songs in your collection and maps them in space according to their relationships with each other. It’s really one of those “have to see it” kinds of things, but its pretty cool, and the screenshot at the top should give you a hint. Mufin also offers a cloud-based web app that allows you to listen to your music through a similar interface on your browser.
Festivals (free): Last.fm’s Festivals app keeps you updated on several major festivals as they approach and progress, and might also help you find your next live music destination. Fans can browse or search for festivals in their area, check out the line-ups and read about the artists playing each one. The app also lets you add your Last.fm user profile to search for festivals based on your own scrobbling behavior.
Reactable Mobile ($11.50): If you’re a fan of Björk, whose app album we’ve covered extensively, you may also appreciate this Android take on a unique modular synth she’s been known to use on tour, called The Reactable. The “real-life” Reactable uses colored objects to trigger filters, oscilators, and other effects based on their relationship to each other on a specialized reactive surface (think “musical air-hockey pucks”). The app works much the same way, representing each sample, synth module or effect as an icon that you can move in relation to the others, creating music that’s a combination of generative music, DJing, and digital audio synthesis.
Spotisquare (free): We’ve talked about simpler mobile web apps taking advantage of the freedom and flexibility of the web to gradually replace native apps. Spotisquare is one such offering, combining Spotify and Foursquare functionality in a mobile browser app that lets users link playlists to specific locations. And because it’s a web app, you can bust it out on most modern smartphones from the same URL: m.spotisquare.com.