If you listen to music even half as often as I do, you burn through your favorite tracks in the span of a heartbeat. I’m way too much of a hipster to even think about the Top 40 (although I admit - under serious duress - that I hit repeat on that new Carly Rae Jepsen song… more than once. Dammit, it’s catchy). And no way do I have enough spare time between writing killer mobile tech articles and lifting heavy things in the gym to sit down and trawl music blogs.
Yes, the life of a music snob on the go can be rough. Lucky for me, we’re living in the Age of Aquarius for music discovery. Here are the absolute best apps I myself use to find new tracks and artists that match my exquisite taste.
I use 8Tracks like some people use oxygen. You can harp on about algorithms and zero-input UI music players, but I’m all about human curated playlists. Each and every user - including you, dear reader - can upload and share playlists for every taste, mood, and unique situation.
NextSong is an essential little app exclusively for Android. It performs just one function - a pop-up notification at the top of your screen every time a new song plays on compatible streaming music apps. It works with Spotify, 8Tracks, Pandora, Google Play Music, and probably plenty more that I haven’t tested myself.
It’s exactly what you need: no more switching back and forth between what you’re doing, and your preferred music app, to find out what’s playing now. Lightweight and utterly functional.
Okay, Shazam isn’t exactly a secret - but you don’t necessarily need underground apps to discover underground music. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple years, Shazam listens to whatever’s playing in the background - on the radio, on TV, in a bar, in the mall, wherever - records a snippet, checks it against its database, and tells you what the song is. It’s that simple, and it works better and better each year.
Interestingly, so many people use Shazam that it can now start to predict music trends before they happen based on how many people are looking up songs in certain areas. I mean, I’m sure you would never look up anything so mainstream, but the data is way cool.
Sonarflow is casual music browsing by navigating nebulae of genres and related artists. Sounds scientific, plays out artistic. Look up a starting point that you dig, then pinch and swipe to explore the surrounding area of similar grooves. It’s actually beautifully designed, and super easy to lose yourself on a streak of discovering music you’ll immediately love.
If you’re a music snob with any cred to your name at all, you already know and love Hype Machine. Don’t waste time attempting to keep track of the pastiche of cutting-edge music blogs out there yourself. Just keep an eye on Hype Machine, which brings you the best of over 800 of ‘em.
The most talked-about tracks are at the top of the list - but rest assured, there’s no Maroon 5 here in Hipsterlandia. Read the best posts, share great finds with friends, and scour your customized feed for hidden gold. Automatic scrobbling to your last.fm account is included, so the world can know what great taste you’ve got, champ.
The app runs smooth like butter. No free version, unfortunately, but if you love the website, the small investment is unquestionably worth it.
I’m telling you, you won’t know how great curated streaming radio can be until you’ve used SomaFM to accompany a workday or a big project. Get yourself to their website first. Select from over 20 streaming radio stations, including such greats as Groove Salad (downtempo/ambient beats), Secret Agent (“The soundtrack for your stylish, mysterious, dangerous life”), and Indie Pop Rocks! (hot new indie artists, unsigned groups, and a whole heap of classic favorites). Sit back. Groove, baby.
Once you find yourself swathed in never-ending musical atmospheres without once having to pick a track yourself, you’re just gonna have to get the app. Take super-high quality streaming stations with you wherever you go.
SomaFM is totally commercial-free and listener-supported.
Dig deeper into the music around you with WhoSampled, a bustling community of music freaks obsessed with finding out the original source of borrowed sounds. A huge percentage of today’s top hits sample their catchiest riffs directly from obscure tracks of yore; this app helps you find out where that groove came from.
The app’s organized like a wiki, including samples, covers, and remixes, all searchable by both track and artist. YouTube links let you listen to the original source in full. Every track page includes a space to chat with other music lovers (it’s a little disorganized, actually - I think it’s just ported directly from the online message boards, so there’s room for improvement here).
Find out the samples that built over 270,000 tracks by 95,000 artists - and post new connections yourself!