As we begin to dig into the second half of 2012, stories and fun abound in the world of music -- to pluck out a few random examples, the Roskilde Festival in Denmark went off, Dan Deacon put together a Steve Reich-esque version of "Call Me Maybe," and we can finally all sleep soundly, as Big Boi has unveiled a new line of absurd socks.
Even with America's Independence Day breaking last week in half, the music app scene never rested. We saw everything from a make-your-own mixtape for Android, to an artist-powered free music website, to an automatic calendar of release dates for music from your favorite artists. The Android apps were especially strong this week, but first, the reviews:
- 'Fingertips-On' Review of Tap Tap Revenge: Tour
- Audio Xciter Makes iPhone Sound Much Better with Something Called 'Aphex'
- NME Launches Recommendation App for Spotify
- Futuristic-Looking Media Streamer Nexus Q is Great, If You Only Use Google
- @Uncovery Tweets Full Albums That Critics Like
MIDI Guitar (free, pictured above): This app from Jam Origin could be a gem if you have the right equipment: a nylon-stringed guitar and iRig, a guitar-iOS interface that costs around $30-$40. The app connects to a Garageband-enabled computer over Wi-Fi, and from there, lets you create MIDI tracks with a number of available effects (like ambient synths or grand pianos). What's more, your playing creates a tablature in real time, so that any delicious riff won't be soon forgotten.
Sound Calendar ($3, pictured above): Sound Calendar looks at all of the music on your iOS device and lists the most recent releases from your artists (kind of like iConcert Cal except without the concerts and the not working). The latest entrant in the market for keeping you up to date on shows (see also: Songkick), the app also provides a series of related artists, solo projects, and other collaborations from said bands and the ability to view all of these shows by country.
MusiCue ($6): Although ostensibly for pro or semi-pro dancers who would rather not sit down and rewind their iPhone's music to practice a step again, MusiCue has other applications. Are you struggling to pound that arpeggiated rhythm for your new album of Portishead covers? Just loop the part you want to learn to hear it over and over, and begin playing with it as you master the part. The app also enables the track to be slowed down to 10 percent or sped up to 200 percent of the original recording. Who doesn't like the cheap fun of slowing mixes down to the point of being unrecognizable?
Pitch Perfect (free): Pitch Perfect bills itself only as an app that provides rudimentary tonal information for musician in the studio, and in that regard, we suppose it is fairly perfect. Although it doesn't boast a truckload of features, Pitch Perfect provides a seven-octave range of test tones, and shows the notation of key signatures to those who are still having trouble remembering. This free app throws in a pitch pipe and a set list for shows that helps you remember which keys your songs are in -- all making it worth the $0 price and the 1.9 MB of space on your iOS device.
Tempo Power ($6): Power Music offers DJs, fitness instructors, and anyone else who needs a consistent, reliable way to slow down or speed up tracks to 35 percent of their original speed, a sleekly- and intuitively-designed way to keep their beats on track. This might not seem like a big deal, but if you're a low budget DJ who mixes from an iOS device (or two) as well as other audio sources through a mixer (as opposed to doing it all with the iPhone), or if you find yourself trying to keep a room full of people kickboxing in harmony, it could come in quite handy.
SnapNPlay ($3): SnapNPlay is one of the most original Android-only apps that I've come across in a while. Using the camera on your phone, it analyzes whatever sheet music is in front of you. Seconds later, it can play back the sheet music's melody right in front of your ears. Not only is this awesome and from the future, but it could be incredibly helpful for trying to learn a new piece, learning to sight-read, hearing your own compositions played back, or just blowing people's minds. It's still in fairly rudimentary form (a wooden block and a steady hand might help), but this app has major potential even if it's not ready for playing back quick snapshots of transcendental etudes.
The Art of Rap (free): Tied in with Ice-T's documentary by the same name, The Art of Rap provides help for uninitiated-but-curious fans of hip-hop who want to try their hand at making some. The app offers up beats from some of the godfathers of hip-hop (Cypress Hill, 2pac, Snoop Dog) for you to rap over. From there, you can finely-tune your demos ( you can't rhyme "cloud" with "style," right, Method Man?) to make your very own mixtape out of your creations. You can share them on Facebook and Twitter from within the app, of course, as well as hearing other users' tracks and rating their flow (as with Rap Rivals).
Listener Approved (free): This recently-launched Chrome app and web app lets artists upload their music, so that "the crowd" can, hopefully, make the cream rise to the top. It's definitely in its early stages, with a limited number of bands, rap acts near the top of the indie charts, and other issues, but the future could be bright for this new rookie on the scene assuming more fans and artists flock there.
RageChill (free; reviewed before this was published): Although it sounds like a new EDM genre, RageChill is a new web app and iOS app whose purpose isn't exactly well hidden. By controlling a gradient ranging from "rage" to -- you guessed it -- "chill," you can rage, chill, or somewhere in between to the website's pre-selected tunes. This app pulls from a large selection. Depending on where I set the meter, my playlist went from The Beatles to a Bassnectar remix to Washed Out in the span of three songs.