Call me old fashioned, but I love queueing up albums and listening to them all the way through. Nowadays, playlists are all the rage, but because listening to Albums in a CD-changer was the way I grew up listening to music I still enjoy hearing the entire album from start to finish. For me, it tends to invoke more memories than the random song showing up on a playlist. While one of the primary reasons I switched to Apple Music earlier this year was around better album support, the app (especially on iOS) still could use some work to make albums feel like first class citizens.
But there’s good news! As the Apple Music API has gotten more robust, more apps have been released to deliver niche music experiences on iOS. In the past month, 2 such apps have come out – Albums and Longplay. To my delight, both focus on allowing users to play their library in a way that’s “album first” – sorting albums based on certain criteria and playing them in their entirety. Both of these apps do a lot of similar things, but I thought it’d be worthwhile to highlight the pros and cons of both.
Albums is over a year old but the 3.0 release is a big one. Adam Linder, the developer of the app, has added a ton to the latest version. You have a few views at your disposal:
- Albums – the traditional grid based layout that lets you perform basic filtering based on album play count, date added, etc. Tapping on any album starts playing it.
- Library – a more granular breakdown that allows you to drill down by genre, decade, artist and more.
- Insights – These are ‘smart playlists’ of albums that meet criteria like unplayed albums, old favorites, only listened once, and more.
- Stats – Here are some dashboards that allow you to see which albums have been played the most.
- Super active development gives me hope that the stability issues (see below) will be worked out eventually.
- I love all of the ways you can sort and visualize albums.
- Tons of settings you can adjust to your style.
- You can view different sorts of stats for an album (play ranking for the year, compared to other albums by the same artist, etc).
- The now playing view gives you a track listing, album metadata as well as stats about the album. The progress bar is also very interesting, as it shows you each songs progress as part of the album.
The not so good:
- It’s pretty glitchy. The app crashes a decent amount, things jump around at times (especially on an iPad where I use it in split view from time to time), and there’s a lot of room to improve the UX and the visual consistency is lacking.
- It’s yet-another-subscription if you want all of the features. It’s only a buck a month but the mental overhead of subscribing for yet another app isn’t ideal for me. Still, I signed up for a 1-year subscription ($10) to see where things are going and to support development.
- Due to some limitations around the way the Apple Music API works, a lot of the play recency stats seem to be tied to your device. Uou may have out-of-sync sorting between the iPhone and the iPad.
Longplay is an app I just found out about in the past few days. This app is a lot simpler but approaches the job in a similar fashion. There are no stats or advanced sorting options so this is a bit more like Albums 2.0 was. Still, There’s a lot to like here.
- It’s only $2.99. Sold.
- Playlists are included along with albums!
- You can long press and hide an album or playlist from the wall of art.
- Visually, it’s very clean.
The not so good:
- This app is really basic right now. The now playing screen is essentially a blown up version of the album art.
Appears to be iPad only right now.Apparently it’s on the phone, so scratch that from the list.
Anyway, I’d recommend either of these apps if you’re looking for a way to sort through, rediscover and shuffle your albums.