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Music App Stuff #11: Albums 4.3
Listening Reports, widgets, and an elegy
Happy New Year, and welcome to Music App Stuff #11! Albums 4.3 is out today, but we must first set the table before dining on its rich, bounteous feast of new features. There is a tale that needs to be told: a tale of love, heartbreak, and capitalism, unfolding over 17 years.
Our story begins on April 24, 2005, in an IRC channel for aloof, music-obsessed teenagers to share thoughts and takes (and links to FTP servers hosting hundreds of gigs of high quality rips of most of the world’s recorded music). On that fateful afternoon, the topic was a website called AudioScrobbler, which tracked everything you listened to and turned it into sweet, sweet data, with charts and statistics to pore over. As you might imagine, we took to “scrobbling” with a religious zeal.
Those were the halcyon days. AudioScrobbler turned into last.fm and was, for several years, a place I spent an inordinate amount of time. It was a website made by music lovers, for music lovers. It was a community of communities, a music recommendation engine ahead of its time, and an excellent way to grate on your friends by constantly commenting on what they were listening to. The experience of using last.fm in those days imprinted on me the unmistakable feeling of using something made by someone who cares a lot about it. It knew what it was and who it was for, so it was free to indulge in esoterica.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but things took a turn when it was acquired (by, of all companies, CBS). The ensuing years brought a widely-reviled redesign and a culling of features. Ah, to have loved and lost. I’m still a devout scrobbler today, but it just isn’t the same.
So there you have it. All good app updates are, of course, manifestations of emotional baggage, and now we know the pathos underpinning this one. Albums 4.3 expands on the existing stats features with new visualizations, and the ability to calculate charts based on either “play count” or “time listened.” Stats pages are more customizable, faster, and prettier, if I do say so myself. And, oh yeah, a feature I’ve been sketching out for over a year, that I am over the gosh dang moon to finally be launching…
The start of a new year is a time to turn inward and reflect on who we were in the previous year, asking deep questions like “what month did I listen to the most music?” and “which Record Labels did I spend the most time listening to?” Listening Reports answer those questions and many more!
On the first day of every week, month, and year, an adorable lil’ mini report will show up on the Library tab, giving you an overview of your listening for the previous time period. Tap it for a deluge of statistics, graphs, and charts!
It was important to me to time the release of this version with the first week of the year, since that’s the appropriate time to look back at the previous year’s listening (not December 1st, you hear me Spotify Wrapped?!). I hope it gives you the same feeling of dumb joy it gives me, or at least more insight into your listening than the paper-thin Apple Music Replay. I hate to throw shade but what can I say, the blood of last.fm circa 2007 runs through these veins.
There are other new features too. Let’s take a deep breath and get into them.
Incomplete Album Completion/Excluding Tracks
Mmmm, I can practically smell the intoxicating scent of the huge permanent marker drawing a thick-ass line across two of the remaining entries on my list of “reasons I could conceivably imagine someone needing to leave Albums to use the built-in music app.”
There is now a “Show Complete Album” button below the tracklists of albums marked as incomplete. Tap it to display the missing songs and add them to your library, or decide you don’t need the 30 bonus tracks and demos on the expanded version, and mark the album as complete anyway.
Speaking of those 30 bonus tracks, if you’ve already got them in your library but never want to listen to them, you can now go to an album’s settings and exclude songs. Doing so will no longer display or play them, and will update the album’s play count to reflect the new “canonical” track listing.
Big widget doings! The Now Playing and Collection widgets now support the extra-large size for iPad OS, and the smaller sizes have all been redesigned. There has never been a better time to let Albums cannibalize your Home Screen!
Bits ‘n Bobs
You can now resume albums you didn't finish last time you listened. A half-filled circle icon in your Listening History or on an album's page denotes a resumable album.
If you are the kind of weirdo who wants to wander around a record store adding albums to your library by scanning their barcodes, you can now be exactly that kind of weirdo, using the “Scan Barcode” option on the Add to Library and Add to Tag screens.
There is now a prompt that displays whenever you perform an action that will clear your queue, as well as a setting to disable that prompt if you find it annoying like I do. Don’t say I never did anything for you!
The Insights tab has undergone intensive prettification, and it has agreed, along with its friend the Search tab, after some convincing, to be more performant.
As always, the full list of features, changes, and fixes is available in the Change Log on the Settings tab in the app. Thank you, sincerely, for reading this, and for using Albums. 2021 was a big year for Albums, and with any luck, 2022 will be even bigger. I’m so excited I could just bounce up and down like this little guy…