Google Play makes its favorite songs of 2013 free today

google play twitter accountBefore going any further, I want to wish all of the GNC readers a happy New Year! To celebrate, many services are holding sales and even offering free options on this first day of 2014.

If you are an Android user, or simply a customer of Google Music, then you’ll want to head into the Play store today. The search giant has, not only unveiled its favorite 20 songs of the year that has passed, but is willing to give them away. Every single tune on the list is completely free today.

Songs include tracks CHVRCHES, Kanye West, Arcade Fire Bob Marley (not exactly new this past year) and many others. Aside from the music, the company also offers a few deals of apps and other items, but you’ll need to take advantage of the deals today, so don’t hesitate.

Pandora brings alarm feature to iOS app

pandora logoThere’s no shortage of music apps to choose from for both iOS and Android customers. While the former is synonyms with iTunes, that is by no means what you have to use. In fact there are countless alternatives, including personalized radio service Pandora, which today has unveiled a nice little update for Apple customers.

The update brings a new alarm feature that allows you to awaken to your music of choice. “When the alarm goes off, your music will begin to play with album art scrolling in the background. At this point, you can choose to snooze, keep listening to your music or turn off the alarm simply by tapping the song title or artist name on your phone screen”, Mike Grishaver of Pandora explains.

Snooze can be set for 5, 10, 15 or 20 minutes and when the option is pushed your music will pause for that pre-defined period. The feature can also be enabled by simply picking up your device and giving it a shake — in case your eyes aren’t open enough to see the button.

For now this new update is only available on iOS, but Pandora promises that it’s hard at work to bring this functionality to Android customers as soon as possible.

Turntable.fm is Shutting Down

turntable logoSay goodbye to turntable.fm. Their official blog states that, “as much as we love turntable.fm”, they have decided to shut it down for good. Instead, they are going to focus their efforts on Turntable Live.

Turntable.fm has been around for about 2 years. According to the official blog, the community has played over 400 million songs in about a million rooms in two years time. In other words, it isn’t going to be shut down due to lack of use. From their blog:

“As much as we all love turntable.fm, we have decided to shut it down to fully concentrate on the Live experience. It was a tough decision to make because we love this community so much, but the cost of running a music service has been too expensive and we can’t outpace it with our efforts to monetize it and cut costs. If we also want to give Turntable Live a real shot, we need to fully focus on it.”

Visit the Turntable official blog to find a link that will let you export your turntable.fm playlists and songs to Spotify or CSV. They are making all the avatars they designed accessible. There is a last day party planned that will happen on turntable.fm on December 2, 2013. Those who are extremely attached to the service may be excited to learn that there will be a special t-shirt available for purchase.

Moxytronix CordCruncher Earbuds Review

Moxytronix‘s CordCruncher earbud headphones are the latest attempt to defeat that bane of modern life, knotted and twisted audio cords. These tangle-free headphones solve the problem by using a secondary rubber tube to retract and hold the cords when not in use. Cunning.

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The headphones come in a small pack, with three pairs of different-sized interchangeable earbuds. I would imagine that anyone who is used to wearing earbuds will have no problems here. The CordCrunchers are available in a range of colours, included a very hot pink which the photos below completely fail to reproduce – it’s a gamut thing.

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The picture above shows the CordCruncher in the retracted state with all the cord inside the rubber tube – it’s only about 18″ long. To use the headphones, hold the jack end and pull on the earbud cords, drawing the leads out of the tube to a full length of over 3 feet. The picture below shows the Crunchers with the cords extracted. The zigzag gives a clue as to how the cord “crunches” up inside the tube.

Headphones extracted

To pack the earbuds away, hold the jack in one hand and then pull the black collar away from the jack. The rubber tube is latex and stretches enormously until the cables are back inside. Gently relax and everything concertinas back up to the original length, tucking all the cables away. It’s not that easy to explain, so here’s a video.

After using the CordCrunchers for a week or two, I can confirm that they actually work and tangled cords are a thing of the past. I carried these round in my sports bag during testing and I never had a single tangle. Yank them out, stick them in your ears and get to work.

Sonically they’re not the greatest earbuds ever and in comparison with Sennheiser CX-300s, the sound is muddy and poorly defined. To be fair, the CX-300s cost about twice the price and audio fidelity isn’t the main reason for buying the CordCrunchers. However, I hope that Moxytronic do consider a higher end model in the future for those who demand more.

Pricewise, they’re around US$25 and here in the UK, they’re being sold by Advanced MP3 Players for a £19.99 in a range of four colours (pink, green, black and blue).

Finally, my six year-old daughter thought they were cool, which is probably more to do with the pinkness than anything else.

Thanks to DAD and Advanced MP3 Players for providing the CordCrunchers for review.

Google Play celebrates The Clash

The Clash did not start the Punk music movement, but the band helped define it in conjunction with others such as The Jam, Sex Pistols and The Damned. More than 30 years later, much of this music has survived the test of time and today Google Play is commemorating one of the most popular bands of the era.

the clash

As Google points out, “from the reggae-inspired social commentary of tracks like “White Man in Hammersmith Palais,” to hip-hop infused cuts like “Magnificent Seven” and even Top 40 hits such as “Rock the Casbah,” their songs gave a generation a lifelong connection not just to the Clash, but to music in general”.

In celebration of the re-release of some of The Clash’s most popular work, Google Play has teamed with the surviving members (Joe Strummer passed away in 2002) to produce a series titled Audio Ammunition and featuring unseen footage of the late Joe Strummer discussing the arc of the band’s career.

Part one of this five-part series can been seen on Google Play, and you can check out the other four parts on Play YouTube channel at youtube.com/googleplay. Digging out your London Calling album is optional.

Torch launches Android Music app

torch musicTorch, an increasingly popular web browser based on Chrome, is known for some of the built-in features it brings to users. One of those is its music discovery and playback. The Music feature has now struck out on its own.

Torch Music is now available from Google Play Store. The app is free and offers millions of songs and videos straight to your phone. That means that you can get the amazing experience of Torch Music anywhere you go. The app runs in the background so you don’t have to stop listening to your music.

You will be able to listen to playlists that you have saved while using Torch Music on your computer, or you can make a playlist and listen to it straight from your phone.

Torch Music for Android offers you music from thousands of artists. There is also a Suggested feature, which offers personalized song suggestions. You can even check out which songs are most played using the Popular feature.

Rdio introduces Pandora-like channels

rdio stations

The digital music market continues to heat up with a growing amount of competitors, such as Pandora, Spotify, Google Music All Access, Xbox Music and others. Now Rdio today announces that it will try to stay competitive by introducing customized, personal channels for your music.

“We’re thrilled to reveal the new and improved Stations today. We’ve made stations smarter and custom-tailored to you, creating an effortless listening experience that highlights the best of Rdio: elegant design and social discovery”.

The new enhancement gets top-billing in the left column. You can click Stations to find new station types like popular genre stations and You FM — a station comprised of artists and songs inspired by your taste in music.

The new feature includes You FM, which is a brand new, personalized, adjustable station that leverages Taste Profiling technology from The Echo Nest and incorporates all your listening history, track voting, Facebook likes, Twitter follows, and more to create a truly unique and individualized listening experience. As your tastes grow and evolve, so does You FM.

Lollapalooza comes to YouTube live this weekend

The Lollapalooza music festival has been around for quite some time, originating with Perry Ferrell and Jane’s Addiction. The concert series persists, and will take place this weekend in Chicago — in fact, starting today at 2:30pm CST, taking place from Grant Park and featuring more than 20 artists.

The entire festival will be broadcast live on YouTube. The Google-owned video site announces “From Friday’s kickoff with Icona Pop (we love it), to Nine Inch Nails’ first U.S. performance since 2009, to Steve Aoki and The Cure closing out the weekend on Sunday, it’s all on YouTube”.

Best of all, those who didn’t, or couldn’t get tickets or travel to the Windy City need not worry. because sitting on the sofa will yield the same live action as the expensive tickets and trip to the city. Now the difficult part is up to you — spending your weekend being lazy! Personally, I plan to utilize my Google TV for the big screen experience.

SoundCloud Gives You More Control

SoundCloudSoundCloud just got a little bit easier to navigate. They have added some new features that people have been asking them for. It’s always nice when a company not only listens to feedback from its users but also makes changes in response to requests.

SoundCloud released their brand new play controls earlier this week. To use them, you need to begin by selecting a song to listen to. Any piece of music will do.

In the upper right hand corner of the screen on your browser, you will find the new controls that were released. You can now hit pause, an incredibly convenient button to have if you need to get up from your computer for a moment. You can now pick up exactly where you left off in listening to a song.

You can also skip to the next sound, or go back to a previous one. In short, you now have the control to pick out the exact portion of any song on SoundCloud, and begin listening to it from that point. I can see where this would be handy if you were trying to catch lyrics or to discern what type of instrument was playing in the background of a song you were listening to.

SoundCloud users can also make use of the “previous” feature to return to a song that they were listening to before the one they are currently enjoying. All of these new features make it easier to navigate through SoundCloud in a way that is tailor made for your personalized listening preferences.

Google Music

Once a pon a time a number of years ago I went through a period of several years where I spent a fair amount of money on compact discs. Those days are long gone and have been for some time.

It’s probably just my age showing more than anything, but in recent years I lost interest in finding new music. I stopped listening to the radio the better part of ten years ago. When I did listen to music, it was to the old stuff.

To my surprise, I’ve become more interested in listening again. There’s a genre of music I paid scant attention to in the past called “electronic” that has caught my ear in the past couple of months. Mind you, not enough to start shelling out money for CD’s or even MP3’s, but these days that isn’t necessary. The “electronic” category of music is not for everyone. It is created with synthesizers and some of the sounds are very aggressive; some people would consider them noise. To my surprise, I’m really enjoying listening to this stuff — not enough to buy the music outright, but enough to pay to have access.

Google Music is currently offering a 30 day free trial. The price after the free trial is $7.99 per month if you lock it in by subscribing before the June 30 expiration date. The regular subscription price is $10 dollars per month.

I subscribed to the free offer, and so far I like it. I searched for the names of some of the electronic artists such as Hardwell and Armin van Buuren. I was easily able to figure out how to start the “radio” feature, which is initiated from a particular song. Once tracks started playing, I gave many of them a “thumbs up” if I really liked them and a few tracks a “thumbs down” if I didn’t like them. Google Music seems to do a great job of figuring out what I like over time.

Google Music claims to offer access to millions of tracks. A few experimental searches seems to indicate that they do offer a broad selection of both new and back catalog tracks.

You can download any track to your device by adding it to your library. I didn’t read the terms of service, but I’m sure once you cancel any downloaded music will go away once you stop paying the rent.

Renting access to music is actually a great idea if you want to casually listen, but don’t want to spend a fortune doing it.