Enter Delaware, a company that founded Re<ords, a virtual record store, of sorts, that releases two-track album apps mimicking the look and feel of vinyl. A free app called Re<ords Mag serves as a catalog for the album apps they’ve released — an app app, if you will.
Among the artists who’ve worked with Delaware is Singapore-based The Analog Girl, a.k.a. Mei Wong.
The Analog Girl has released music through a variety of mediums; her A/B EP, released by Delaware, is only available in app form. That’s right, you can’t buy those songs on iTunes, Bandcamp, CD, or vinyl, and you can’t even rip them off YouTube.
When Evolver.fm emailed The Analog Girl about her decision to release the app through Delaware, she mentioned the app’s ability to evoke more of a physical presence than a regular digital track does:
“Releasing music as a standalone app makes me feel like I am releasing an actual record, as opposed to just tracks through iTunes. When you purchase the A/B EP app, you will see its record icon show up on the desktop of your device, so it is much like going into a record store and picking out a record. Releasing the A/B EP on Delaware Re<ords not only gives my audience a chance to own a virtual vinyl copy of my music and have fun with spinning the record, but also lets me explore the art and graphic side of the music as well, as I chose photos that would work well on a spinning record. I also picked the song ‘Merry-Go-Round’ as one of the tracks for the EP, as the music and lyrics go with the spinning record. I also hope for listeners to bring this to picnics as it would be like having a turntable party in the outdoors.”
Like many artists, she puts a lot of thought into matching the visual and audio aspects of her work. Instead of relying on thumbnail-sized artwork accompaniments (or no artwork at all, in the case of some pirated songs), the nostalgia-inducing app has an interactive interface. You can move the playing arm to skip within the song and you can scratch by flicking the record with your finger.
Flipping your iPhone will turn over the vinyl so you can hear the B-side, while pinching in and out will zoom so you can take a better look at the song artwork. You can’t listen to the music as you update your Facebook status, so forget about multi-tasking; this app forces you to immerse yourself in the music.
You also get some album-sleeve-style extras: lyrics and a photo of the artist. We asked The Analog Girl about how her app strengthens the relationship between the aural and visual:
“Many times now, when we purchase music online — at times just a couple of tracks from an album — we lose the connection between the music and the album artwork. Playing music from an app presents the art alongside the music and it is not just a static .jpg or .pdf file of the artwork; they are moving visuals that you could also interact with. Visuals to me are an important extension of the music that I make. There is so much room for this art form to grow on the digital platform — the coming together of music, art, installation, and technology. I and other musicians are super excited about the openness this album release format that Delaware has created has to offer.”
I’d have to agree. After shrinking as music turned into a file-based phenomenon, music+visuals are making a comeback; see also Pitchfork’s interview for Bat for Lashes, Designers.mx, the Mix feature in the new Myspace, and Wirewax‘s interactive videos.
Perhaps the album app will catch on, if more artists see apps as a method of not only releasing chunks of music as a complete work, but as a way to integrate visual material and package it with the song, the way they used to do.