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!

WHEW!

All the music from my phone remained intact. THAT’s a relief.

So, the point of my concern was that a few months back, I had to re-install Windows (guess Bill didn’t like me using my “evaluation” Windows 7 OS anymore …). Unfortunately, my iTunes library wasn’t backed up entirely. All the purchased material was flushed with the hard drive re-format. Fortunately, that consisted of a total of two songs from my friend in Seattle, who sings with the band Paisley Rose out of Portland. Again, just two tracks, and I most certainly did not mind re-purchasing them … but what if i had lost my whole library? I’m not an iTunes guru by any stretch, but from the attempts I made at finding a way to re-download my already purchased tracks, I seemed to be up the proverbial creek without so much as a canoe, much less a paddle. 

Anyway, so it was a great relief to me to see that my phone did not purge the purchases when I connected it to my desktop for the first time.

And stand by for another post! A concert announcement that I didn’t know was even on the docket. SWEET.

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.

iPhone for Concert Video and Audio Recording

I’m going to give you one very solid reason to pick up an iPhone 4.

HD recording. Insane sound quality RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE FRICKIN’ STACK. impeccable video and audio recording capaiblity alone should push you towards an iPhone 4 IF you are a fan of concert video footage of your own making. You can hear everything–from the background keyboards to the syncopated high hat. That’s impressive. You don’t just get the extreme high and low end sounds … you’re getting a fantastic full range. I can only imagine that the next iteration of the iPhone will have full 1080p HD capability, but for now 720 is fantastic (get it? FANtastic? music fan? recor … blergh. Never mind.)

Not to mention the 5MP camera. Granted, it will do better the closer you are to the stage, but it works well, even in the low-light conditions of a concert. Of course a steady hand is mandatory, but that’s true of taking pictures with ANY camera. The iPhone is no exception.

So there you have it. It does HD video, audio, and pictures, all on one convenient device.

I can find other reasons to justify picking up this awesome little device that are non-music related, but really … this one is the deal-sealer in my book. If you attend concerts regularly and want to record some video for posterity (read: flood YouTube with amazingness and such), this is the phone for you. Sure you could buy a Flip or something else, maybe even something that does 1080p, but A) you might run into issues with getting into a concert with such a device, B) a phone is much less likely to be turned away at the door.

iPhone Music App You NEED

Nifty.

That’s about the best way to describe Moodagent. This app ($4.99 in the App Store) will take all your songs, catalog them and assign them to one or more categories (up to 5), then you can select your mood–sensual, tender, happy, or angry, then select the tempo. All of this selecting is done on color-coded sliders. The higher you slide a particular mood, the more songs of that type will be added to a playlist. The playlist can be up to 50 songs, but the default is 25. 

With the new 2.0 version of the app, you can tweet or Facebook your playlist. I *love* that. I’m a big fan of sharing what I’m listening to (though once it got me in a bit of trouble with FB friends who wondered why I was posting every 3-5 minutes, “I’m listening to ‘X’ by Y,” but that was a different app, iShareTunes). I’m also a monster fan of helping others discover new music. Others better than I have done it for me; the least I can do is return the favor. “Pay it forward,” as it were, only with a musical twist.

There is a music profiler that you can download from their site, both for PC and Mac platforms, that allows you to “speed up” the process. I’ve noticed that quite a few of my songs (read: a few thousand) weren’t catagorizable because they weren’t in the profiler’s database, nor could the program cull the information from the internet. I’d say about 90% of my items were cataloged. Pretty good, considering the amount of indie and foreign/world music I have.

Things I’d like to see in future releases:

  • Longer playlists. Really, 50 songs is good, but it’s really only about 3-4 hours of music, if that. If all you have is Weezer, then it’s probably about an hour and a half of music. 🙂 And sure moods can swing in that 4 hour span, but … meh. At least it’d be another option.  
  • Better cataloging. This has to be a no-brainer. 90% is good, but … when you have a 30000-song repository, that means you’re lacking 3000 tunes. Not good. That’s approximately 300 CDs. WHAT?! Yes–you read that right. 300 CDs not cataloged. So, again, 90% is good. 100% … yah. That should be the target. Always (again, a no-brainer).

Other than that, it’s a *great* app. I like selecting the “angry” mood with the slowest tempo possible. I get some seriously brooding, bruising tracks. Conversely, selecting the “happy” mood with the fastest tempo could very easily cause me to swerve off the road from the sheer energy.

For example, here are the first 10 tracks that Moodagent selected for me, based on the “angry” mood being all the way at the top, and the tempo being set to the lowest setting:

  • Autolux – Turnstyle Blues
  • Phaser – Life and Illusion
  • Muse – Microcuts (a personal favorite)
  • Adult – Contagious
  • Land of Talk – Magnetic Hill
  • The Beautiful Confusion – Rain
  • Xandria (Casablanca)
  • Krypteria – Victoriam Speramus
  • The Music – Guide
  • The National – The Geese of Beverly Road

Here’s an uptempo happy playlist:

  • Niyaz – Arezou
  • Vas – Moshka
  • Mike Oldfield – Sunjammer
  • Nouvelle Vague – Dancing with Myself
  • Von Iva – Birds of Prey
  • Of Montreal – Oslo in the Summertime
  • Niyaz – Golzar
  • Dido (don’t judge) – Us 2 Little Gods
  • Straylight Run – Untitled
  • Azam Ali – I Am a Stranger in This World

Anyway, for all you iPhone users out there, get this app. I think it’s well worth the $5 it costs. There is a free version, but the only difference is that it’s not ad-supported. In other words, annoying ads appear at the top of the app. If you can live with that, by all means, download the free version. I loathe ads, so I ponied up the $5.

More iPhone Fun

So, I use my iPhone for a lot of things–music, blogging, staying in touch, reading up on news, playing, edutainment, etc. I’ve downloaded some pretty cool apps lately that I would highly recommend. Some cost; some don’t. If you have the means, I would highly recommend these.

  1. Shazam. Ever hear one of those songs on a commercial and wonder who’s performing it? Or you’re listening to your local radio station and you change the channel right as the last 30 seconds are playing to some song that you’ve been dying to hear, BUT you have to get out of the car before the announcer says who it is? Shazam to the rescue! The concept is that you launch the app, press “tag now” in the top right corner, then hold the phone up to the speaker. The app “captures” about 20 seconds’ worth of music, analyzes it and sends back the results. Once the results are displayed, you have a ton of options: tweet, send as a postcard, album review, biography of artist, discography, view youtube video, purchase the song from itunes … you can even geotag where you heard the song. Why you would want to do this is beyond me, but you can.

    It finds really obscure things, too. It’s found everything I’ve thrown at it. I especially like using this when I’m listening to the local college station when they have their indie music time slot. REALLY handy. REALLY free.

  2. Drum Kit. For all you Neil and Danny wanna-bes (and yes, I throw myself in that mix), you *have* to have this. 4 toms, 2 crash, 1 each of high hat, ride, bass and snare. Press the icon in the lower right, and you have access to recording and playback of what you churn out. Sorry, no gong.  🙂  Price: 1.99. Worth every penny.
  3. More Cowbell. Straight from Christopher Walken’s best SNL performance, you too can now bang cowbell with Blue Oyster Cult zeal and zest (or not …).  You can also select maracas, triangle, tambourine or sleigh bells. You know … for when it’s Christmas and stuff. 

    There are all kinds of fun things you can do with this. I won’t spoil the surprises here. Just get it. It’s 99 cents, for crying out loud. And SOOOO very worth it.

  4. Music Studio. Wow. Just … WOW. You really could write your own music on this thing. 128-track recording studio, replete with all kinds of keyboard sounds. WOW. Seriously … i’m going to use this to rework Ravel’s Bolero. All 13 sections.

    This one will cost you 19.95, but again, I say without reservation that you will be amazed at everything this little app can do.

That’s all I have right now. Well, okay … I have a few other apps I could discuss, but those are the maat and potatoes of my musical app time. Enjoy!

iPhone Blogging

So I have this iPhone, courtesy of my previous company. I installed the WordPress software on it, so now I can write from pretty much anywhere. That’s pretty cool. The problem is that I have fat fingers, which, sure, have their useful purposes, but writing on a tiny keyboard is not one of them.

Anyway, this is just a test blog to see how well this iPhone app works.

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