Skeumorphism, nostalgia, digitized analog — call it it what you will, but people have a clear tendency to make digital technologies that pretend to be analog things.
Mixta.pe, an freeiOS app for creating, sharing, and listening to virtual mixtapes, does not fall into the trap of making new things look like old things (and after all, those old things were once trying to be new themselves). Yes, what it does is analogous to what we music fans used to do with cassette mixes, but Mixta.pe brings a decidedly modern interface to the mixtape sharing concept.
Before you go any further, consider that Mixta.pe is a front end to both Rdio and Spotify, which is how it gets away with letting you share and listen to all of these free mixtapes without paying for music — again, that is. Because in order to use it as it’s intended to be used, you’ll need to pay $10/month for one of those services. Otherwise, all you get in this app are 30-second samples.
However, if you do subscribe to Rdio or Spotify, you’ll get a wealth of free stuff to listen to in Mixta.pe – always useful in these times, when we’re surrounded by more free music every single day. This is a good thing, too, because the whole point of the app is to cut through the clutter and deliver some nice, easy-to-play mixes — its design is really well thought-out.
Whenever you spawn a screen for the first time, you get helpful “handwritten” directions telling you how to use that screen, and once the screen loads, everything is easy to do: creating a mix (song-by-song, by genre, based on your Facebook likes, or based on your Last.fm top tracks); discovering other people’s mixes (featured, most viewed, most favorited, newest); searching for playlists and users (by artist, track, user, or hashtag); and following the mixtape-makers you’ve decided to follow.
Once you find a mixtape you want to listen to, you’ll notice that they’re split into Side A and Side B, with the ability to commend, “like” the track, or share it to your friends in the usual places (Facebook and Twitter). There are no Fast Forward or Rewind buttons, because this app isn’t retro, despite its name — instead, you just tap the songs you want to hear. To anyone who remembers dealing with mixtapes in the ’80s and ’90s, this will either come as a shock or a relief.
Download Mixta.pe (free, iOS).