As the thermometer consistently tops 70 degrees here in New England, it's safe to say summer is coming in. For music lovers, that means music festivals. This week's batch includes Last.Fm's Festivals app (available for Android, iPod and iPad) to get you ready for this year's wave of shows.
We're also featuring two radio-like apps that borrow from your iPod's music library rather than play songs from the airwaves. And as I mentioned last week, visual appeal is an increasingly important part of the listening experience, so this week's Web Apps focus on sites with a beautiful mix of playlists and high-end design.
In case you missed last week's edition, we should also mention a new section on the site called Evergreen, where you'll find stories that make a suitable read any time of year. First, let's check out the latest reviews, then we'll get to the apps.
- PlayFi Lets Bands Play Shows Online and Sell Tickets
- IK Multimedia iRig Mix Turns iOS Device(s) into a Respectable DJ Setup
- iAlbums Music Player Tries to Save Music Blogging
- MusicBunk Social Music Player Unites iOS and Android Under the Groove
- Tone Target Shows Promise as a Music Trainer, But Leaves You Hanging
MixOnMyRadio ($2, free): This app makes stations out of the music and podcasts on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. The app kicks off with a tour of the controls, and by connecting to Facebook so you can record custom song dedications and send them to friends; however, they need to use the app to hear them. The Lite (free) version lets you mix in podcasts from BBC, NPR, CNN and Fox News, and you can control how often they play -- after every song or never. You can assign each channel a particular artist, album or playlist. Another channel features 30-second previews of the top 25 songs on iTunes, with an option to buy them.
Kitsch Player ($1; pictured above): The design lessons of Apple prove that simplicity is always in style, and with only two buttons, the Kitsch player is as simple as it gets. Four transistor radio skin options induce a sense of nostalgia, and the app stays true to its radio role: The space between stations fills your speakers with a static-y fuzz. You change the station to change the song; returning to a previous station picks up where you left off. Each of the 11 stations is assigned a genre, so similar songs will play on each station (more details here.) With the screen locked, you'll be able to see the name of the song -- useful if the app calls up a long-forgotten song from the deep depths of your iPod. Overall, we found Kitsch Player to be a fun way to shuffle through your music and revisit songs from the past -- and for that reason, it works best if you have lots of music on your device.
Score Generator (free): Here's a new one: Select the thickness of your drawing tool, draw some lines and dots, click the music button, and this app transforms your doodling into a musical score. I can only speak for myself, but everything I drew somehow ended up sounding like a bunch of badly put-together chords and was hardly recognizable as music. Hint: Use the thinnest pencil, as the thicker ones created the most strange-sounding chords (unless that's what you're into).
Music Blog DJ (free) : For those who like to keep up with music blogs, this app collects recently-posted songs from well-known sites like Pitchfork, Stereogum and KEXP, as well as a number of individual blogs. The app provides access to the original post, so you can easily read it on the original website, just like Hype Machine. You can also just plow through all recent songs, or create a personalized list by "pinning" the songs you want to listen to, a la Pinterest.
Festivals (free, pictured above): Last.fm's Festivals app transforms your music listening history into a list of music festivals you would probably like to attend. The date and compatibility rating -- the two most important factors, aside from location -- are listed by each entry, making it easy to see which events you want to attend. A Highlights section features the most popular of festivals, including the likes of Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and SXSW. Clicking on any festival displays the number of days until it transpires, as well as the full line-up with artist biographies. Finally, you can share your plans via communication apps elsewhere on your phone, so update your status and tweet away.
US Music Chart (free): This app makes the Top 100 songs in the U.S. into a YouTube playlist, so you can see what's up, as it were. Each video lists the artist and song; clicking them leads to a YouTube player that displays within the US Music Chart app, and scrolling down will provide you with some additional suggested videos. If you see something worth talking about, you can share it through the usual social networking sites. Although some of the videos don't play, as they are not supported by YouTube mobile at the behest of the copyright holder, the app does serve as a pretty easy way to access today's hits.
Designers.mx (free): This web app is the modern designer's version of the customized mix tape -- a visually-appealing way to discover music. Anyone with a Twitter account can join, but only hand-picked "designers" can make mixes. These designers build their own cover artwork and compile their own playlist. While the homepage helpfully sorts these mixes by recent, popular, and favorited, you can't search for mixes by the artists or songs they include, which feels like a needless omission. The site also plays a small role in helping designers find jobs; a small widget at the bottom declares who's hiring. Designers.mx is planning a mobile app, so look forward to hearing about that soon.
Decorated Playlists (free): While we're in the realm of playlists and design, check out Decorated Playlists, which currently features thirteen themed playlists. (Its creator and designer, Simon Foster, also has a mix on Designers.mx.) The playlist names incorporate song titles such as " It's All In Your Head" (which has songs like "Blow Your Head" by the JB's and "My Mind's Playing Tricks On Me" by Geto Boyz) and " L'anatomie de musique," featuring French tracks from the '60s and '70s. In this fashion, the web app covers a broad range of genres. And thanks to Foster's design graphics, this is another visually-appealing way to discover (or re-discover) interesting new music.