Rolling Stone has been an iconic benchmark in the music industry ever since founders Jann Wenner and Ralph J. Gleason introduced the magazine to the San Francisco streets in the late ’60s. Whereas the publication was once driven by the music of the baby-boomer generation and politically bolstered by the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, it has adapted over the years to appeal to a younger audience, swiftly loosening its coverage to include all manners of popular music. Likewise, the publication’s Spotify app is tailored to showcase a wide swath of genres, from primitive folk to electropop, from new and old artists alike. The app is divided into four sections — Home, Playlists, Albums and Songs — each featuring a different type of content. Playlists gleans some of the best tracks from Rolling Stone contributors, as well as those handpicked by noteworthy musicians such as David Guetta, Melissa Etheridge, while Albums and Songs provide tracks and the same accompanying reviews you’d likely find in the print edition of the magazine. The innate page layout for the albums reviews is gorgeous, with red highlights and the kind of intuitive navigation we only wish Spotify would adopt.
Whether Classify refers to classy or classical music, there’s a market for that sort of thing. The popular app is heavily intertwined with classical composers and compositions, ditching the heavily-distorted electric guitar and furious percussion in favor of the clarinet, harpsichord, oboe and other instruments of the classical canon. Users can break down classic works by a hodgepodge of instruments and assorted moods, or simply click a bust of famous composers like Mozart and Bach to quickly dip into their respective catalogs. Additional tools for filtering pieces by themes (i.e. ballets, concertos and chamber music) and eras (i.e. baroque, contemporary and renaissance) are also available, with modern composers being those soundtracking today’s full-length films and video game scores. The options are extensive, coupled with related news and brief album reviews, and offer ample background information on composers in addition to a trove of musical discovery techniques. I, for one, didn’t know Beethoven began going deaf during his late ’20s. Talk about bad luck.
Jazz often exudes the kind of snobbery most of us try to avoid, or worse, feel intimidated by. However, the Blue Note Records has put together one of the finest collections of jazz records ever assembled within an app, capitalizing on nearly 500 records that have graced the prestigious label since its inception in the late ’30s. The Blue Note app is designed to be a portal for those just stepping into jazz, along with those well-versed in the genre, offering a bundle of features tailored for discovering classic players such as John Coltrane and Eddie Hubbard in addition to more recent artists.
Users can browse albums using the interactive timeline within the Home panel, scan historical artist profiles and learn the essentials from the Blue Note 101 section. Furthermore, the app pairs slices of original albums alongside those which sampled the tracks, showcasing how the jazz legacy has been subtly incorporated into albums from a Tribe Called Quest to Blue Scholars. It’s not merely the ability to stream albums making Blue Note a standout, but the wealth of detailed information putting it all in perspective.
With Twitter #Music possibly its way out, it’s hard to say what fate will befall upon the social networking giant’s Spotify app. For now however, it remains one of the best ways to discover and quickly listen to the popular songs trending in the musical blogosphere and social media. Conveniently sorted into five grid-intensive sections — Superstars, Popular, Emerging, Unearthed, and Hunted — the app allows users shuffle through a variety of well-known and lesser-known with a single click.
Whereas Superstars might include the likes of Eminem and Katy Perry, the Popular tab will feature artists trending on Twitter regardless of their clout. The Hunted panel, an ode to Twitter’s recent accusation of San Franciso-based startup We Are Hunted, curates the top tracks surfacing on melange of popular music blogs, while the Unearthed panel highlights hidden talents found within tweets. Clicking an image in the center automatically plays a song, while additional options for viewing the artists’ discography and similar artists can be accessed from directly in the app. It’s far better than the Web version of the software, and quite frankly, the best way to stay up to snuff with what most people are listening to at any given moment.
If you move from a small town to the big city, you might be somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of bands rolling through every weekend (I know I was). Much like the Bandsintown Concerts app, Songkick Concerts provides a simple means for tracking all of your favorite artists’ touring schedules within Spotify. Once added to the service, the app scans your music and various playlists housed within your library, subsequently creating a personalized calender of upcoming shows within your designated area. Each concert is listed by date and accompanied with additional information regarding the full lineup and venue directions, along with five of the artists’ top tracks for direct streaming within the app. Links to purchase tickets are also on-hand, along with an overaching view of all concerts within your region for a specified date, and the the app can scour multiple locations simultaneously if added. Plus, a built-in calender lists any shows you’ve previously decided to attend for quick reference so you’ll always know what’s coming up. The app is no more complicated than need … and sometimes that’s enough in and of itself.
What do you think of our selection of the best Spotify apps? Did we miss any standouts? Let us know in the comments below.