By Paul McBride & coauthors from Evolver.fm.
Smartphone apps have been a viable way for artists to distribute their music, keep fans informed, and present other stuff that would never make it onto a CD for well over three years now. So many established artists now have their own apps that it’s almost harder to think of which major artists don’t have apps than to identify the best artist-specific apps among them — and that’s even before the much-heralded Lady Gaga app, Artpop, appears on the scene in early 2013, which will surely be so over the top as to spawn even more artist apps.
Note: All “Top 5″ lists are a work in progress — or, rather, they should be. If we missed a great artist-specific app, please let us know.
Above thumbnail courtesy jster91.
Björk’s Biophilia (iOS)
Björk’s app-album, Biophilia, is truly an app to behold, even a year later. Working in conjunction with a team of graphic artists, composers and designers (interviews here and here), Björk believed that the creation of apps could be integrated together with her music, creating a new experience wherein the music and app have a mutually-enriching relationship.
Meshing well with the idea of an interactive album, Björk’s music ranges from heavy percussive takes on modern genres such as dubstep and drum ‘n bass (16-Bit, a dubstep duo from London, worked on some of the albums tracks) to experimental featuring the use of a tesla coil as a bassline, featured on the track “Thunderbolt.” The app and album both push forward into new territories for music releases, although the app itself is arguably the more daring concept overall.
The Biophilia app is amazing to play around with regardless if you are a fan of her avant-garde, experimental-electronica take on pop music. If you are willing to dive into an immersive app-album with ten different tracks, all combined with specific games and graphics for each, then check out the pre-eminent app album that is Biophilia.
Created by critically-acclaimed electronic musician (and SoundCloud CTO) Eric Wahlforss (aka Forss); Leo Lass of the Viennse-audio-visual team Depart; and CGI artist Marcel Schobel, the Ecclesia iPad app blends Wahlforss’ love for Europe’s oldest musical form, choral church music, and his skills as an electronic composer and technologist. In the app, he and his collaborators guide us through a new-yet-reinvented auditory and visual landscape.
Their approach turns every sound, large and small, from inside and outside of an ancient church, into completely contemporary-sounding music. It’s musically strong; pristine choice voices ring out in perfect composure in these pieces by and/or inspired by Faure and Duruflé. -WL
To accompany his latest album, A Wasteland Companion, M. Ward unveiled an app by the same name. Typical of other musician-focused apps, A Wasteland Companion (powered by Mobile Roadie) features links to M. Ward’s Twitter, streams of his albums and videos, show listings, and a link to an email newsletter sign-up. We’ve seen all that stuff before.
The most noteworthy feature, which could actually be a reason for even non-fans to install it, is an online database of public radio stations throughout the country.
“I had the original idea of trying to create an app that could inform and direct people to radio stations that are focused on non-commercial music and non-biased news,” Ward said in a statement. “I think a lot of people don’t think that there’s anything valuable in radio anymore, but I disagree with that. I think there’s a lot of great radio all over America. It just takes a little bit of research.”
This Public Radio function is where the app shines, giving access to hundreds of different stations across all fifty states and several U.S. territories. Users can save their favorite radio stations to jump directly to them later.
Blur App (iOS, Spotify)
Blur released an artist app for the iPhone and iPad that walks fans through the band’s 21-year history, replete with music, new interviews conducted specifically for the app, photo galleries, setlist information from setlist.fm, and a whole slew of other stuff that makes it “the most comprehensive artist app of its kind” according to EMI, which published the app. The juiciest bits include rare, previously unreleased audio tracks (such as demos and remixes) and video clips of interviews and live shows not available anywhere else. The app also keeps you up to date on all things Blur. We think this sort of thing is a rather good idea. -EVB
Check out more app madness from Blur frontman Damon Albarn.
Third Coast Percussion (iOS)
If you are into any experimental music from any genre, then you probably know the composer John Cage and his beautiful ideas about spacing, repetition and experimentation. If not, the app created in honor of Cage’s 100th birthday by Third Coast Percussion and developer Joseph Genden will not only educate you on the genius of John Cage and his work, but also lets you hear the genius at play as performed by Third Coast Percussion.