iOS 4's most controversial new feature is multitasking. Is it really multitasking, or just a glorified app switcher? The jury's still out, but apps like the brand-new NPR Music apps make me thankful for even the limited multitasking now available. But this isn't about iOS 4—there's been plenty of digital ink spilled on that already. Let's talk NPR Music!
NPR is one of the best sources for streaming music (including video footage), period. There's the Tiny Desk Concert series, which gets popular musicians to play a short set behind a desk in NPR's cluttered office. (That can get a little hairy for a band like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, which has about sixty-five members.) NPR is one of the most reliable and high-quality gatherers of live video from festivals, be it SXSW or Bonnaroo. And lately, NPR has taken to streaming entire albums, for free, before release, including such high-profile albums as The National's High Violet.
Then, of course, there are the legions of local shows from more than 75 public radio stations, plus the shows we all know and love, like All Songs Considered and the tapings from the WXPN World Cafe venue in Philadelphia. That adds up to around 300 new features monthly.
The NPR app brings all of that, including a nice, easy-to-search directory of artists. Aside from the streaming music, there are also a ton of news stories, reviews, interviews, and other assorted music journalism. It has integration with Twitter and Facebook, so you can let everyone know how amazing The Tallest Man on Earth is in concert (answer: extremely. Extremely amazing.).
I've only played around with it briefly, but over Wi-Fi, music streams very quickly and in pretty high quality. There are a few stutters (especially while searching), but that's a minor quibble for what's a really fantastic app. Pop, folk, jazz, classical, rock, whatever: If you take your music seriously, this is a great resource.
NPR Music is available in the App Store now, for free.