We're a pretty techie bunch, but we still yearn occasionally for the days when buying a new album was an event. The sleeve; the liner notes; gently resting a pristine LP on a turntable and popping on a pair of headphones to enjoy the whole lot from start to finish, in the order the artist intended.
It’s not fair to say that digital music has ruined everything, but the practice of hearing an album all the way through at least once has been marginalised in favour of single-track downloads. Could releasing albums as self-contained apps restore a little gravitas to new music? Here are four of the best.
He’s not a businessman, he’s a business, man. Magna Carta Holy Grail went platinum the day it was released, thanks to an app that allowed Samsung customers to get the album for free, in return for downloading an app. Controversy followed sharply, though: 20 million people tried to download the album via the app, clogging servers and causing the great Hova himself to be flooded with complaints about unavailability. Then once people managed to get the app, a privacy storm swept in, with the app able to see who users were talking to, where they were, and to harvest data from their social media accounts. You didn’t get that with the vinyl of Reasonable Doubt.
This app was available for a limited period to Samsung users.
Bjork (iOS) - £8.99 (Android) - £8.49
Everyone’s favourite Scandinavian free-thinker, swan-impersonator and one-time actress released Biophilia last year, and it’s every bit as weird and wonderful as you’d hope. A multimedia exploration of Bjork’s music and featuring collaborations with animators, musicians, scientists and writers, each song comes with its own experience. A fascinating experiment in its own right; a must-have for Bjorkians everywhere.
The XX (iOS, Android) - £Free
Perhaps the closest thing to digital liner notes in this lineup. Coexist, The XX’s second album, was accompanied by an eponymous app, offering lyrics, interactive, reactive album art and exclusive messages from the band. For those with whetted appetites you also get tour dates and the ability to buy tickets. All for free – but then, that’s what liner notes should cost, isn’t it?
Calvin Harris (iOS, Android) - £Free
We like Calvin Harris’ companion app, 18 Months, for two reasons. Firstly, Harris makes us dance. He doesn’t make us dance well (nothing can), but he makes us dance. Remember Acceptable in the 80s. Tune. 18 Months, impressively, gives you Harris’ latest album for free, and you can unlock exclusive remixes by snapping the cover art of the physical album. But our absolute favourite thing? The album only plays while you’re moving. Stop dancing/jogging/skipping and the music stops. So when we say Calvin Harris makes us dance, we really mean it.
Downloading music apps on the go? You’ll need a decent internet connection. O2’s awesome, fast 4G network will be live in 13 UK cities by the end of the year. Sign up for a 4G contract with O2 and you’ll get access to the fantastic O2 Tracks – allowing you to download the entire UK top 40 and music videos – free for a year. Visit http://www.o2.co.uk/4g to see more.
Consider your 4G fancy well and truly tickled: now head to www.o2.co.uk/4g for everything you need to know – including availability and handset compatibility – about the next generation of mobile connectivity.