If you like reading about music and you’re not yet hip to what’s going on at NPR Music, you need to get familiar. The site’s a veritable wellspring of knowledge — a seemingly endless stream of concerts, blogs (including a recent guest post by Evolver.fm editor Eliot Van Buskirk), album previews and artist interviews.
But perhaps NPR Music’s most differentiating feature is the critical text that goes with it, written by an ace staff including Robert Christgau, Bob Boilen, Ann Powers, Stephen Thompson, Robin Hilton, and Ed Ward – a murderer’s row of insightful criticism. It’s not that NPR’s staff is any better at dissecting a song than any other resource; they’re simply better at presenting the text as a supplement to the multimedia at hand, to give you some background information in case you don’t know what you’re getting into.
NPR Music launched its mobile app just a few weeks after the iPhone 4′s release last summer, and the most recent version is popular enough to earn more than four stars on most iTunes app store reviews, gives users the opportunity to tune into live coverage as its happening, supports AirPlay, and provides artist and song info for any music that streams on its affiliated radio stations. As is the case with all NPR operations, the app is free to download and requires no subscription.
Positives: If you’re at all a fan of NPR’s music coverage, you’ll love the station’s mobile app, which completely streamlines its corresponding site and reformats each page to make reading easier. That means every blog (The Record, A Blog Supreme, Deceptive Cadence, All Songs Considered, Alt.Latino), the Song of the Day feature, All Songs Considered, First Listen, and the bevy of interviews, news and various features that NPR Music’s staff drums up every week. The app allows you to listen to NPR Music’s featured song or album while reading the author’s writeup, which is as close to the model of computer-based web browsing-while-listening as you can get on your mobile device.
Negatives: NPR says it’s developing an app for Android, but there’s no sign of that happening any time soon, so you’re in the dark without an iPhone (though the app for that doesn’t work on first-generation models), iPod Touch, or iPad.
Who It’s Great For: NPR Music’s app is a fine resource for those who already have some familiarity with NPR Music’s website plus an interest in discovering music simultaneously with eyes and ears.