10 of the best music hero apps

Caressing record sleeves is over – download these musician-made smartphone and tablet apps instead

Whale Trail


Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and his mate and music video director Neil MacFarland made and soundtracked this psychedelic action game that's as addictive as Tiny Wings. Listen to Rhys warble about thundering through the atmosphere as you guide Willow the Whale, dodging clouds and collecting bubbles on iPhone, iPad and Android.

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Bjork's app-album Biophilia hit the headlines late last year and we weren't surprised that the Icelandic pop star threw herself head first into creating mini games, essays and animations to work with her music. If Bjork isn't your cup of tea, we reckon the allure of the app-album will catch a few more artists before 2012 is out. If you have the choice, get it on iPad.

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KORG iElectribe Gorillaz Edition


The same price as the standard KORG iElectribe iPad-only app, the Gorillaz edition comes complete with novelty Jamie Hewlett art plus 128 sounds and 64 preset patterns from the band's album The Fall – mash them up to your heart's content with the 16-step sequencer.

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Kling Klang Machine No1


Kraftwerk and audio artist Norman Fairbanks got it on for this timezone-controlled app that makes electronic music from an algorithm-based melody and lets you play around with pitch, tempo, reverb and echo as you listen. When you get cocky, create your own stuff with the 16x16 grid sequencer to roll with the big boys.

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The granddaddy of ambient music, Brian Eno was also one of the first to collaborate on a music-making iOS app. He calls Bloom 'an endless music machine' and he's right – even when you leave the app to itself, it will generate Eno-esque compositions. The pastel-coloured circles don't exactly blow our mind but remember, this is a 2008 app.

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Remember those booklets you got inside CDs with arty photography and the ramblings of your idols? Well here's your companion piece in app form – The Roots added photos, lyrics, interviews and music video clips to their album undun to beef up the story of Redford Stephens and his inner city troubles within this clean and sparse app.

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I Am T-Pain 2.0


Sing into your iPhone's mic to give your voice the T-Pain effect with free and paid-for tracks. Buy U a Drank is 69p. Not sure we need to say anymore.

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Daniel Johnston's Space Ducks


The newbie to the list, Space Ducks is Daniel Johnston's latest album in comic-book app form. If you like your music and illustration suitably "indie" (it launched at SXSW festival) you'll love the animated films and the game pieces that come with the physical graphic novel to play through the app with.

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Inception – The App


This surreal music game uses your location to unlock new Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr (yes, that Johnny Marr) tracks to turn your surroundings into something Christopher Nolan might have dreamt up. If you liked the film, it's worth a download – just don't blame us when you don't want to wake up.

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And an honourable mention goes to David Byrne...

David Byrne's Fake Apps


Ambush! Any talk you've heard about a David Byrne app is a lie. He created a series of fake iPhone apps including one that claims to turn your phone into a babysitter for an exhibition called Social Media. What did you really want, a Talking Heads soundboard?

You can't get them, sorry.

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Radio Soulwax


A digital love letter to analogue radio and sleeve art, RadioSoulwax (from the Belgian boys behind 2manyDJs) gives you hour-long mixes to stream from the cloud or download, all for free. Each mix has visuals to match the music with themes ranging from bad rap to cover versions.

Read the full review

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