Monday, March 29, 2010

The Joy Of Album Covers

I love iTunes, in the sense that it's where my music is, but seriously, look at that interface... it's just a big stupid spreadsheet with a play button tacked on! I don't want that; all I want are the beautiful album covers of all that wonderful music. Coverflow is a step in the right direction, but it's still too rigid and linear.

I love being able to set up a shuffle or a genius playlist and just go, but sometimes I like to get back into albums as albums. What's the point of getting new music if it's just going to dissolve into the sea of random shuffled tracks? Back in the days of CDs, whenever I got a new album, I'd keep it in the stack next to the player and it would go into heavy rotation until it had been burned into my brain.

Okay, so here's the idea: An app that gives you an alternative interface to iTunes that's all about the album covers. In fact, it's basically just a pile of album covers, some big, some little, arranged organically (no grids, no lists). Whenever you add a new album to your library, it shows up prominently. It pushes the other album covers out of the way a little bit. Albums you play a lot, or those you pick out special, stay prominent, while others fade away. Double-click on an album to play it. Delete an album if you don't like it. You could even have a Genius feature that highlights other albums like the current one, or causes them to all group together. Perhaps while the album's playing, the cover will get even more prominent, or we'll show other images related to that artist/album.

This app wouldn't be a replacement to iTunes. You may not even be able to access all of your music through it. It will, however, be a beautiful way to visualize and interact with your current high-rotation albums. If you're familiar with the old Mac app Clutter, it'll be a little like that, but more dynamic and more in tune with your play patterns.

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Totally agree, and love the idea! I try not to lose track of new music by giving it the benefit of doubt (immediately rating imported music as 4 stars), and having 'Recently Added' playlist always sync to phone, but that approach is less than optimal, and non-visual.
Coverflow could very much become the app you are talking about, no ?
Cover Flow, for all its prettiness, is still just a linear list, not a 2 dimensional field. Also, it's only decoration; you're still expected to do most of the "real work" with the spread sheet below it.

So yes, if those two limitations were overcome (which they easily could be with a bit of re-jiggering), and with the careful application of some smart playlists, it would be well on its way to what I am talking about.
Reminds me of tag clouds, and various information visualization maps. Hmm, I can imagine an album cover city, with streets and districts of related albums. Drive down memory lane?
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