iTunes Match and SongKick Awesomeness

Discovered something wicked awesome about the iPhone SongKick app the other day. After I updated iTunes to the newest version and got iTunes Match up and running, I checked out SongKick to see if one of my favorite artists would be stopping by any time soon. Sadly, no–she is not, but that’s okay. A new CD is in the works, and that’s even better news!

However, I started playing around with some of SongKick’s options. As you’ll recall, along the bottom, there are 4 options:

  • Concerts
  • Locations
  • Artists
  • Settings

I tapped Artists, thinking that it would only pull up a list of the artists that actually had a digital presence on my iPhone. Not so! The list is comprised OF EVERY ARTIST I HAVE IN THE CLOUD. 25000+ mp3s, probably at least 2500 artists … and I can find out if/when any of them are coming at any given time from the SongKick app. THAT is wicked awesome.

Just from scrolling through the list, I can see that Abigail Washburn, Alela Diane, Ani DiFranco, Apocalyptica, ATB, and Azam Ali are all on tour, and that’s just a sampling of the As! Very, very, VERY cool!

App Review: TuneIn Radio

I grew up in western New York. Buffalo area, to be specific. The radio station I listened to for sports out there was WGR 550. When I moved out here in the mid-90s, I lost the ability to keep home-spun tabs on the Bills and Sabres. Of course, that was about 15 years ago–right around the time the Internet was breaking wide open world-wide.

Streaming media came along, and all of the sudden, I was able to tune in to my favorite sports radio station from anywhere. However, the requirement was a desktop or a laptop; I couldn’t just plug in using my little Sanyo PM8200.

And along came smartphones. As phones got more and more smarter (see the grammatical humor there?) with more and more capability, apps like Pandora and Home Radio hit the app store. WGR thought they could jump into the fray and make their own app. And they did, right? What a great idea! It’s one of the most robust radio station apps I’ve seen. All kinds of awesome interaction–emailing the studio, texting, calling (hi … it’s a phone, after all), audio vault for past programs … great app! If only it would run well on something other than wi-fi.

What it touts as being its best feature in the ability to stream audio live (or at least as live as it can get with a pretty large buffer) becomes its greatest weakness; unless you’re at full bars or on wi-fi, forget it. The app will freeze up, and the only way to get it to function is to close it out and restart it. LAME.

I brought this up on the Sabres message board a few days ago. A bunch of people chimed in and said that they too were having issues, and they really hate the app cuz it’s so worthless. Fair statement. Then someone posted a comment about TuneIn Radio. This person kept raving about how it’s so great, the buffer is strong, and it’s never died on him. With free agency looming, I *had* to find some way to stay connected. I downloaded the app, and … wow. Just wow.

So here are some key excellent points.

First off, the app is an extension of the website, www.tunein.com. Great name. Easy to remember, very simple. Like it a lot. On the website, the first page you see is a list of local radio stations that you can stream. It lists 8, but you can click the “browse all local radio” link and get a full list. A few of the stations might be greyed out due to a lack of streaming address, so don’t freak out if you run across that. For example, the local radio station at Weber State is KWCR. While it’s listed on TuneIn’s website, it’s not available to stream. Boo. Hiss. I’m going to make some phone calls on Tuesday and find out if they have a streaming address cuz they need one. However, KRCL out of Salt Lake streams. Excellent!

So that’s the website. The app is about the same as the website … but *mobile*! Which, you know … should be, since it’s an app. The beauty of this thing is the sheer number of stations you can pull in with this thing. Fact: you can stream folk music from the Antarctic. Trust me–I know this because I’ve done this. So when I tell you that you can stream stations from ALL over the world, I really do mean ALL OVER THE WORLD. I’ve found stations from Portugal, Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan … that’s right–Uzbekistan. UZR1. No idea what they’re saying, but I’m digging the music.

If you hear something you really like, you can record it to your phone and play it back later. It store a list of your recordings in the Recordings section on the buttons tool bar.

Editor’s note: it should be pointed out that the Uzbek station sounds like it’s broadcasting under water at about 11000 khz. Any semblance to even a decent mono feed is purely coincidental. So while I’m not totally overwhelmed with the broadcast quality, I am more than just whelmed that I can actually pick up Uzbek radio at all.

There are lists according to local radio stations, recently visited, recommended, music, talk, sports stations … you can browse by location or language. Have a hankering for some exquisite Mandarin Chinese? Look it up! Want to eavesdrop on those retarded chowderhead beantown Bruins fans sports radio talk? Look it up! THERE IS A STREAMING STATION FROM BARROW ALASKA. Name of the station? “Top of the World Radio.” HA! That’s freakin’ awesome.

Because I want to come back later and check out what’s going on up there, I’ve added it to my presets by pressing the little heart icon in the top right corner of the Now Playing screen. You can do that with any station or feed. That way you don’t have to come back to it later.

There are two versions in the app store: free and paid. Pony up for the paid one. The free one “only” streams 45000 stations and broadcasts. 🙂 Because let’s face it: 45000 radio stations just isn’t enough, is it?

Now … I know there are other apps that do this kind of thing, with the streaming radio stations. I’ve used them. I’ve even liked some of them. This app, though … man. I just love it. The interface is clean, simple and intuitive. The number of available stations and locations is sick.

Give it a shot. It’s worth it.

App Review: Classical Music Radio

I like classical music. Really … I’m willing to bet that most people do to some degree. I’m not fanatic about it, nor am as well versed in it as I would like to be. But I’m working on it! It just takes me a bit longer cuz I’m Middle-Aged Man. If any of you know the reference, I request that you comment. Who knows … maybe you’ll win a prize. Emphasis on the word “maybe.”

ANYhoo, so I came across this app in the App Store the other day, and being that it’s free right now, I thought I’d try it out. Here are my thoughts, such as they are.

First off, the interface is a tad gaudy. It’s not extremely clean; the background graphic is distracting, and the color scheme washes out the text. Thankfully, the one button you actually NEED to read, “Radio Station,” is perfectly clear. So that’s nice.

The selection of stations is pretty good. Seems to be world-wide, and I’m sure they’re working on adding more and more stations. Germany, Belgium, Australia, Canada, Austria, Peru, Columbia, Norway, and France are all represented, as are a LOT of stations from across the USA.

However, having said that, it also appears that some of the stations are only broadcast in mono, or in something like 64kbps. That’s kind of annoying, given classical music’s strong stereophonic allure. I’d rather see them broadcast in CD-quality. Pandora, for example.

If I’m sitting downstairs at my desk, and I turn off my wi-fi connection to my phone, there is an almost instantaneous drop. Not of quality–of sound. Using just 3G and with 3 bars, I’m pulling in nothing. Contrast this to other streaming apps, such as Pandora, AudioGalaxy, or WGR550 out of Buffalo New York. With 3 bars on my phone for any of those, I get uninterrupted streaming. Not so from this app. Not sure why the difference.

When it does play though … it’s great. And over wi-fi, it’s fantastic. So this might be an app you’re relegated to using at home or over a wi-fi hotspot if you’re oot and aboot (as say the eastern Canadians). Or if you’re a persistent bugger like I am, you can try to wave your phone around until you get a good signal and then just find a way to get it to stay there, but … well, good luck with that.

Hey, for right now, it’s free. Maybe they’ll update it and make it better. You can do no wrong in downloading this right now.

iPhone App Review: Jamendo

I admit … I’m relatively new to the music blogging world. Sure, for the first few several months year, I tended to write more about what CDs I was buying. I look back on those posts and think, “Hmm. Well, at least you can recognize where there’s room for improvement. Onward and upward, right?!”

So admittedly, there were few reviews of anything other than a smattering of CDs and a few concerts.

I’m digging this review thing. I will always throw down the occasional rant whenever the need arises, but for now reviews are good.

Which brings me to this “Jamendo” app. So I had no idea that there was a website devoted to creative common-licensed music. The app is an extension of the website, which, I have to tell you … dear sweet merciful crap in a burning paper bag, this is out of this world. There’s more music on here and more variety than I ever dreamed possible. Right now, I’m listening to Diablo Swing Orchestra’s The Butcher’s Ballroom CD. It’s like the Phantom of the Opera has decided to delve into the weird (wait … what?), picked up a violin and started throwing the bow around just to see what would come out. It’s orchestral. It’s operatic. It’s rock. It’s … not rock. It’s Flamenco. It’s mondo-bizarro weird … and I am digging the shit out of this.

But this isn’t about them. It’s about the app.

To be truthful, I don’t even know where the hell to begin. There is so much going on here that it’s basically a toss of the dart as to where to start. How about the “Featured” tab, where you have approximately 45 artists to choose from. No idea what kind of music this is because I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF ONE OF THE ARTISTS.

There’s a radio tab. 5 categories:

  • Electro
  • Instrumental
  • Jazz
  • Lounge
  • Pop

Not a very diverse genre selection, if you ask me.

Okay, well … this will more than make up for the Radio tab. I completely missed the fact that under the “Featured” tab you have 4 choices:

  • Albums of the Week
  • New Releases
  • Popular Genres
  • Top 50 of the Week

Yah. That should make up for the “Radio” tab.

In the New Releases section, there are at least two Russian-language CDs and two Portuguese-language CDs. At least, if the titles are indicative of the material, and if I know my cyrllic alphabet (which really, I don’t … but I like saying that I can recognize cyrillic characters 8 out of 10 times).

No lie … check out the CD called “Free Mouse Jazz.” Check out the track “Free Mouse F***.” If you don’t laugh your ass off, you have issues. How someone came up with that is beyond me, but someone indeed did.

Anyway, so to tie the app to the website, you need to create an account. Probably on the website. In fact, I’m fairly confident that you have to create it online. I see nowhere to create an account in-app. Hmm … something to suggest to the dev team. Unless they want you to create the account online. Hmm. That’s pretty nefarious. Why? Dunno. Just seems … nefarious. Also, I like that word. A lot. It probably applies to you. 😉

Oh. Here’s a good reason to say that it’s nefarious: the only real purpose the account serves is linking to your “Favorites,” which, you know … if you don’t know how to use a search bar by now, you’re probably drinking your meals through a straw and having a nurse change your Depends. Basically, it serves little to no purpose.

<tangent>

Be glad you don’t know me. So far this week, I’ve been diagnosed with bronchitis and conjunctivitis. For those of you not “in the know,” conjunctivitis is that child-hood dreaded disease where your eye (or, in my lucky case eyes) gets all red, pusy, and blotchy. Commonly referred to as “pink eye,” which I don’t get. There is jack squat that’s pink. It’s *all* red, inflamed, itchy, and #$%@ing annoying.

</tangent>

BTW, hope you know HTML.  If not, learn it. It’s the 21st century. At the very least, you should know .php. AND html. And a myriad of other web dev languages. Oh … wait. Everything’s nice and automated.

</second tangent>

Okay, so listen … if you have an iPhone or any other smartphone that can download the Jamendo app, I would so much more than just highly recommend it. If you love discovering new music, this app is an absolute must have. And it’s FANTASTIC! Did I mention that the music is FREE to download on their site?

GO GET THIS!

Big Job Ahead

Nifty iPhone app: mylibrary. Not the lite version … the full-blown, non-ad-supported version.

Since it incorporates the Occipital bar code scanner SDK, it allows the user to scan a CD (or book or DVD/Blu-ray) to get the data for the disc. The only thing it doesn’t automatically populate is the genre and the price, which are relatively trivial if you’re using the app to have a one-stop shop for your music collection.

So the big job comes in that I need want to scan my collection. This will be time consuming. Remember how long it took Boston to release 3rd Stage after Don’t Look Back? Ya. Think in those terms. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but not by much. We have two shelves full of CDs. I’m guessing there are at least 500-600, but I could be wrong. The good news is that I already have about 160 scanned, but those are just the ones that don’t fit on the shelves.

The problem I keep running into is that I go to Graywhale and find some CD, but I think I already have it, but I’m not sure, so I buy it anyway, only to get home and find out that, indeed, I already own it. Lucky me–I now have two copies. Thankfully, they’re pretty good about returning something relatively quickly. Also thankfully, this app will prevent any kind of duplicate purchases in the future. Nice, eh? And at only 99 cents, I can catalog my book and movie library as well. THAT’s a pretty sweet bargain.

Throw in the fact that you can back up your data to their server, and voila–you’re set.

My only issue with the app right now is that it doesn’t download much cover art. I would much prefer that I don’t have to go out to Google, search for the image, save it to my photos library, open the app, select the image as the cover art, then re-save the file. Not a HUGE pain, but a pain all the same.

Other than that, if you have a large library of ANY kind–books, movies, CDs … you’re gonna need want this app.

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