Several Weeks With Apple Music

I’ve been an iTunes user for over 10 years. I’m probably one of the few people out there who really enjoys the app, specifically how powerful it can be for managing a large music collection like mine. I was also an early adopter of Beats Music, so I was naturally excited when Apple acquired Beats and as much as announced they’d be building their service into iTunes. Beats recommendations inside of iTunes, yes please. My music collection and Beats’ streaming catalog all in one app, sign me up.

In execution however, the marriage can be quite a goddamn kludge.

Spotify for iPhone's Missing Key Feature: Library View

Update 2016: I wrote this piece when Spotify had just launched in the US. They've since added a My Library view. Looking back on it, it's such an obvious feature. I wonder how many people it was immediately clear to that they'd have to get around to it eventually.

I've been using Spotify for a whole two days now since it launched in the US. I'll probably write more later, but for now I'm compelled to point out a glaringly obvious missing feature in its iPhone app. I recently posed this idea on Spotify's official forum on the customer service portal, Get Satisfaction:

Add "Library" view to iPhone app for iPod-style Artist > Album browsing 

I'd like to add to the chorus of folks who seem to think Spotify for iOS is a great start, but is missing some key features. The gaping hole in the mobile experience is that browsing for a specific album or song is incredibly cumbersome: you have to search by typing the name of the artist, album or song. (Sure, you could make a playlist for every album in your collection, but with a large library that would become unwieldy.) A scrollable list like the iPhone (and iPod Touch) has for Artist > Albums > Songs is absolutely essential.

Adding a "Library" icon on the tab bar at the bottom of the app is the first implementation that comes to mind which fits with Spotify's current design. This view would have the same contents as the Library in the Spotify desktop app, except in an iPod-style scrollable list with a drill-down structure of Artist > Albums > Songs. In "Offline Mode", the view would work the same except only containing content previously enabled for offline listening.

As a customer new to Spotify since its launch in the US, I see this as the key missing feature Spotify needs in order to create an experience that rivals and could potentially supplant iTunes.

Hacking My Mac's Keyboard to Control Pandora

In this how-to, I’ll explain how I hacked my MacBook Pro’s built-in media keys to control the Pandora One desktop app. We’ll use AppleScript, Keyboard Maestro, Growl and, of course, an obscure utility posted to a French language forum. It took me a bit of hunting to piece together the essential bits, so I think you’ll find this how-to useful. 

Important Note: This hack is designed for how Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) handles the interaction between the media keys and iTunes. It goes without saying that I take no responsibility for however you may break your computer :)

Detroit's Underground Resistance on Cars and Music

Detroit is known for two things, one more so than the other depending on who you talk to and when: cars and electronic music. Here, they converge.

From the NYTimes Wheels blog:

Mr. Banks (of Underground Resistance) works out of a recording studio that originally housed a labor union on East Grand Boulevard, several blocks from Motown’s origins. He counts car designers from Ford, General Motors and Chrysler among the fans who come to the building to buy vinyl.
“There have been times at our small store here in the basement of the building that some rather odd customers will come through,” said Mr. Banks, an avid Chrysler muscle-car enthusiast. In 1991, his label released “G-Force” as an homage to Detroit drag racing. “These people aren’t your average dance floor D.J.’s that usually buy our products. They are young automotive designers. They listen to our music so as to inspire progressive thoughts of what automotive transportation will be in the future.”
Read the article…

Trent Reznor Scores The Social Network

Says Reznor on NIN.com:

I was planning on taking some time off after the continual waves of touring that ended last fall and spend this year experimenting around with what would become How To Destroy Angels and some new NIN. Well, that plan didn’t work out so well. David Fincher started inquiring about my interest in scoring his upcoming film, The Social Network. Yeah, the movie about the founding of Facebook. I’ve always loved David’s work but quite honestly I wondered what would draw him to tell that story. When I actually read the script and realized what he was up to, I said goodbye to that free time I had planned. Atticus Ross and I have been on a creative roll so I asked him if he wanted to work on this with me and we signed on.
Read the post…

Talk about a trifecta: Reznor, Fincher and Sorkin, on a movie that’s a thriller about a technology startup. I have to agree, I was a bit skeptical when I heard Hollywood was involved with adapting Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg’s story into a feature film. But first we learned that the screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men) and later that it would be directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Finchers (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, ZodiacFight Club). Now with Reznor and Ross collaborating on a soundtrack, I’m putting this film in my must-see-in-theaters column.

I mean really, just watch the trailer. The Social Network will premier at the New York Film Festival on Friday, September 24.

Updated 7/16/2010: The full-length trailer is out now and (fittingly) features a piano and choir version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Check it out:

In Conversation with I Fight Dragons

Ask I Fight Dragons lead vocalist/guitarist Brian Mazzaferri to describe his band’s sound and you’ll likely hear an explanation of an underground internet meme scene known as Chiptune. More on just what that is later.

You can start to get an idea of the how eclectic this band is by taking a solid chunk of pop-punk, mixing it with some old-school NES, Commodore 64 and Atari tones, and then throwing in lyrical references to everything from sci-fi pop culture to youthful idealism. If you’re skeptical, know that in just over a year this Chicago-based band has amassed a legion of fans, headlined legendary rock venue The Metro, and recently signed to Atlantic Records. 

Mazzaferri took some time out from touring and working on I Fight Dragons’ debut full-length album to take some questions. In our discussion, we cover the band’s unexpected beginnings, connecting with fans over the internet, and of course, the geeky gadgetry behind their music.

Finally, a new music app for the iPhone (not the iPad)!

I’ll admit it: I played with an iPad yesterday. A colleague of mine brought his to the office and, low and behold, had loaded it up with a few piano/synth/drum machine apps. I played for a good few minutes before I drove a few people nuts by making 808 beats.

So, here comes this news from Propellerhead Software that they have released a new iPhone app version of their ReBirth composition software.

From Propellerhead’s PR:

ReBirth faithfully emulates dance music’s three backbone devices: The Roland TB-303 Bass synth and the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines. Combine these with FX units, fully featured pattern sequencers and a quick-acting, scalable iPhone interface and you’ll soon be making techno on the train, trance on the tram or beats on the bus. 

More info and pics at the link. Via FutureMusic.

Apple is shutting down Lala.com -- And why it matters

Lala.com will be shutting down on May 31 this year. The move comes after Apple’s purchase of the music streaming web site a few months back. Apple’s instant benefit from the purchase of the site was top-ranked results when users search for songs on Google. However, what Apple truly benefited from is the acquisition of a team that knows how to do music over the internet, or “in the cloud.”

When tech insiders speak of music in the cloud, they’re usually referring to an extension of the purchasing a song through a digital music store like Apple’s iTunes. Such a cloud-based service would ideally include storage of the song on the user’s computer but also access to that song from any number of devices connection to the internet. Put simply, you could buy a song on iTunes, you can play it on your computer, your iPod, iPhone as you can today plus over the internet on your friend’s computer, your computer at work or even your car.

Bill's Favorite Album of the Year 2009

The criteria I use for this tradition is simple: When I think back to 2009, what is the album that I will remember listening to and liking the most. This “award” is not an endorsement of superiority per se but a snapshot of what I enjoyed at this point in time.

This year’s winner is:
Flyleaf - Memento Mori

And the runner up is:
Third Eye Blind - Ursa Major

Picking my favorite album of the year on my birthday is a tradition I started last year. I noticed that I’d selected a favorite album around my birthday a few non-consecutive years in the past.