App Review

WHY THE FUCK AM I REVIEWING “WHERE THE FUCK SHOULD I GO FOR DRINKS?”
June 3, 2016 1:58 pm

When I want to get a drink, I’m not the type to Yelp, because I’m not a fun person. My preferences are all about bear cheapness, music being played at a reasonable volume and optimal seat availability. And the more sweatpants friendly the place is, the better.

My favorite local bar has all of these qualities. It also has karaoke every weekend that exclusively attracts middle-aged barflies who have made all the wrong decisions, and sing emotional ballads with the fervor that’s only attained after fully coming to terms with that level of failure. I never sing, but after one particular karaoke regular does his weekly heartbreaking rendition of My Way, I silently mumble, “that’s gonna be you someday, Greg” into my pint of Guinness. This bar as a 2.5 rating on Yelp.

Again, this doesn’t really matter to me. I really do not listen to what these sites or apps have to say. But it’s impossible to refuse what a site like Yelp has been able to do. Not only has it provided expansive coverage and categorization based on actual customer experience, it’s kind of left very little meat on the bone for other up-and-coming sites with similar aspirations. How can one possibly stand out above the fray when Yelp has seemingly perfected the art of eatery suggestion?

Hmmm, what if you curse a whole bunch?

Sure.

Enter WhereTheFuckShouldIGoForDrinks (WTFSIGFD for short), a site that was probably created by Eric Cartman circa 1999, with a pretty simple template: you tell them where you are, and they show you which bar to go to.

Intrigued by the moxie of it all, I decided to give WTFSIGFD a go. Maybe there’s another undiscovered dreggy paradise out there for me and I’ve been blind to it the whole time. With that in mind, I typed in my location.

Aaaaaaand….

statenIS

Outback Steakhouse. Not ideal. In their defense, they do give a ‘no, that place looks like shit’ option, so I was able to get a new suggestion.

fridays

What the fuck. Are these guys even tryi–

sephora

Okay, now they’re just fucking with me.

The obvious argument for WTFSIGFD is that, as a Staten Islander, there aren’t any cool places for me to go to, and if I were to search in a more hip neighborhood, like the Lower East Side, I’d have better luck. And I, of course, did have better luck:

les

library

For starters, they gave me an actual bar to drink at this time, and not just the wine section at Trader Joe’s. Progress.

But aside from the novelty of being cursed at by a website, there’s very little reason to ever go on this site, let alone pay $2 for the app. The bars suggested have no descriptions whatsoever, so you’re expected to walk into the place blindly. It’s kind of an interesting idea that goes against the Yelp establishment, but that’s not what’s being brought into the forefront here. And even if that’s what the app focused on, it’s still not worth $2, especially with such a poor database of places outside of the Metropolitan area.

For people looking to find a dependable bar with their specific preferences in mind, Yelp is still the place to go by far. It’s not even close. But hey, if you’re looking to experiment and have a swearing alcoholic tell you what to do, then by all means, give WhereTheFuckShouldIGoForDrinks a try. I’m going to stay with my depressing karaoke bar for lost souls. It’s the only atmosphere I’m comfortable with at this point.

SOUNDCLOUD GO SUCKS
April 19, 2016 9:00 am

Don’t get me wrong–Soundcloud kicks ass. It’s got most of the big names you need and all these remixes and obscure random stuff you can’t get anywhere else. Tons of it. Way more than anybody else. Go look for yourself, just click around for awhile. The Berlin-based company claims users upload twelve hours of content every minute. Most of it’s pretty good, to be honest. That’s why it supplements your pay-to-play service(s) so well, just by sheer quantitative force. Well, and also because it’s free.

But now here they are trying to make you pay for “premium” content. What the heck are you talking about, Soundcloud?! Get outta here with this bullshit! Whatever “exclusive” content you’ll withhold from free users is a drop in the bucket compared to what you’ve already established. You can’t take that away from us, Soundcloud. Anyone and their grandmother can upload anything they want any day of the week, that’s the best part. You can’t stop me from enjoying all the juicy, public goodness of free, user-created content, and you have nothing to offer that more established music-streaming services don’t provide already. Soundcloud Go is a bad idea, and nobody should use it.

Just my two cents #ChaChing

8 FREE MUSIC-MAKING IPHONE APPS
April 15, 2016 9:00 am

Everybody likes music, but not everybody can make it all by themselves. Well that’s okay, because technology has the answer! Here are a few solid apps:

photo (4)

Soundprism App

Tonepad: Picture a 16 x 16 matrix, each point representing a note in the pentatonic scale. Time is horizontal, pitch is vertical, and the instrument is a cool, muted synth, pure and serene. The program cycles through the matrix like clockwork, a measure of music before repeating. Couldn’t be simpler! Start with a blank slate and build your masterpiece from the ground up, or shuffle everything around and take it from there. Go crazy! You can even flip or rotate the matrix, just to see what happens. Sounds totally different, right? Weird! Notable downsides include ads (yuck!) and just the fact that it’s pretty basic when you think about it. Not sure how it got on this list. [3/10]

Beatwave: Boy, do I wish I had known about this little gem before bothering with that last one. Beatwave totally blows Tonepad out of the water. Not only can you add a drums to the matrix, but you can layer that onto the synths for a richer texture, and you can string along different sections all in a row, just like in a real song. Reorder those verses and/or choruses however you see fit. It’s intuitive, musically stimulating and ad-free. Now we’re talking! [6/10]

Figure: Where Tonepad and Beatwave are calm and linear, Figure is an energetic and versatile EDM paradise. Start with a highly customizable beat, throw down a phat bassline and solo on top with the lead synth. Each instrument’s tone, range and rhythm can be tailored to any passing fancy, along with the global tempo, key and tonality, so your only limit is your imagination. Isn’t that just life though? [8/10]

Auxy: This is a lot like the first two in it’s loop/matrix dynamic, but it requires a little more technical knowledge. You might be able to get a handle on Beatwave more easily, but in the long run you can do more with Auxy. Jeez how many of these are we gonna get?  [7/10]

Soundprism: This one is a mindfuck, no doubt about it. We’ve navigated beyond the “oh this is nifty” plane and are now firmly entrenched in the “I’m writing The Great American MIDI arrangement” state of being. Look pal, if I’m making serious music for other people to hear for real, I’m not doing it on something I downloaded onto my phone. Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, or get the fuck outta here (sorry Garageband).

That said, this app is absolutely amazing. It’s like a whole new kind of instrument. Like how with an accordion you get one hand playing the bass chords and then the other playing the melody on a keyboard, except the “keyboard” here is another matrix of chords, and you can modulate between them by cycling through the color-coded modes. Rows are arranged by thirds to create triads, leading columns to represent pitch and therefore inversions (it makes sense when you try it, I promise). Musically intricate yet intuitive and engaging. Forget what I said before about not making serious music on my phone–this shit is for real. [9/10]  

Launchpad: This little number is just a simplified DJ pad (and by “simplified” I mean “still very complicated but just not as expensive”). Mix and match a huge number of preset loops to create a cacophony of EDM madness (or, you know, whatever). Similar to the last one in that you can do a whole lot of serious musical stuff with this, but just not as original. A well-executed substitute for expensive hardware. [8/10]

Groovemaker: I don’t even wanna start with this one. Picture blacklights and glowsticks. You can do some cool mixing/looping/waiting-for-the-bass-to-drop kinda stuff here, but the music itself is pretty lame. [4/10]

Garageband: I know I was talking shit about Garageband earlier, but it came from a place of love. Garageband was, is and will always be a great place to start making music. Almost as serious a DAW as the rest of them, and already installed on every Apple product you own, you really should check it out if you haven’t already. I’ll give it an honest rating here (don’t wanna make Soundprism feel bad), but in my heart it’s a 10. Always has been, always will be. [6/10]

THANKS, LIKE A LOCAL
February 18, 2016 5:54 pm

You like to travel, sure, but you ain’t no tourist. You’re here to see the real city, not these smarmy tourist traps featured in your airport brochure. You’re not afraid of the road less traveled. Any city can be paradise if you know what you’re looking for. You do know what you’re looking for, don’t you?

If not, don’t worry, because Like A Local has you covered. The popular travel app has up-to-date recommendations from residents of cities around the globe. And when I say cities, I mean every single city you could possibly want to visit. From Amsterdam all the way down to Zagreb (which, it turns out, is the capital of Croatia), the list is truly staggering. Of course they know the skinny on Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro–I mean who doesn’t, right? But what about Istanbul, Vancouver or Buenos Aires? Local recommendations out the wazoo. Boulder, CO; Phoenix, AZ; or Lafayette, LA? Make domestic travel your bitch. Even if you’re not actually traveling you can still find loads of activities in NYC, LA, DC, Chicago, and a handful of other North American cities. It’s all just a click away.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples.

By now you’ve probably heard that New York City has a lot to offer, but God forbid you actually live here to find out for yourself. What does Like A Local recommend? Given my location (off the L train) and time of day (afternoon), they recommend Roberta’s Pizza, The City Reliquary, and Beacon’s Closet (to name a few), three highly regarded Brooklyn establishments. So, pretty legit.

Did I hear somebody ask about Boston? No? Maybe it was just me. Anyways, Like A Local recommends the Arnold Arboretum, the Harpoon Brewery and the Coolidge Corner Theatre (to name a few). All of these places I have been to during my days as a local Bostonian, and all of them are awesome. Good work, Like A Local.

Okay let’s try international. I’ve always wanted to go to Vienna (mostly for the sausages) but I’m sure I wouldn’t know what to do once I got there. Well Like A Local has 130 recommendations grouped into categories like “Guide to Imperial Vienna,” “Most Popular Green Areas” and “Best Nightlife Spots.” Couldn’t be easier! Kind of makes me want to hop a flight there right now…

I won’t, but it’s nice to know that, if I did, I’d have cool things to do once I got there. Thanks, Like A Local (and also the hundreds of helpful foreigners providing insight into their respective cities), for optimizing my next vacation. Looking forward to it!

WTF BOOMERANG
December 13, 2015 10:17 pm

From the makers of everybody’s favorite time waster, Instagram, comes a whole new way to fabricate memories with your friends; Boomerang. Boomerang allows users to create mini videos that loop back and forth, the app shoots a burst of 10 photos and plays them forwards and backwards, which you can then share on Instagram or Facebook right from the app. In the demos for it when you first download the app, it shows a girl who’s taken a picture of herself blowing a bubble of gum and it shows it bursting and un-bursting. The app makes videos/pictures/boomerangs, whatever you call these monstrosities that look like a glitchy video game. Why would anyone make such a thing? I don’t know.

Boomerang is not something that you should read 300-800 words to understand. In short it is a boring dud. If you stop reading here, you’ll have gotten what the app does, but if you want to read a guy rant on about an app that was probably made by a think tank of dumb college kids somewhere in Silicon Valley or wherever the hell Instagram houses its Hefe-filtered headquarters, then keep going.

Is it supposed to be artsy? Is it supposed to be fun? I am not sure. I downloaded the app and immediately un-downloaded it after taking a video, or a gif or a Harry Potter type picture, taking a …boomerang? Whatever the verb of making one of these dull time wasters. Not that I am above a good time waster, or a bad one for that matter. I am usually a person that will give anything a try, I watched 10 minutes of Shia LaBeouf live-streaming himself watching all of his movies, I had more fun in those 10 minutes than I did with this app, and nothing happened in those 10 minutes by the way, he was just sitting there.

Although the app has mixed reviews in the Play Store, it worked well for me. It did record me throwing my beanie up in the air and it did play it forwards and backwards. One of the best things I can say about the app is that it works, another good thing that I can say about the app is that its an app.

What is the reason for boomerang? What is its purpose? Does it stay up late at night asking itself questions like; is God real? No, because Boomerang is one of a thousand fads, you remember Floppy Bird? If you are a person that downloaded Boomerang, I recommend another app for you, it is called Send Me To Heaven. You might not have heard of it, but if you haven’t go ahead and look it up. It is an app made just for you.

In the end Boomerang is just something that your 12 year old niece will download, play with for an hour, and then realize that she has more important things to do with her time than record one second loops of herself making a funny face or whatever it is that people do on this app. Things like, oh I don’t know, literally anything else would be more important that this app.

If you can already record 15 seconds or so on Instagram, why would you limit yourself to a one second loop without a sound? If 15 seconds of content is too much, Vine is a thing. If you want something in between six and 15 seconds, I recommend Snapchat.

Is Instagram out of ideas? Possibly. Is this a bad thing? No. Remember when people didn’t take pictures of their food every time you went out with them? I do, those were good times. Then again I could be wrong and this could be the next big thing and this could be the downfall of civilization.

Boomerang

CHOO-CHOO! ALL ABOARD THE GRAVY TRAIN
December 9, 2015 12:00 am

Ain’t nuthin’ like punching outta work, amirite? Tipping your cap to bossman and walking out the door. “Sayonara, sucker!” Ooo boy it’s just the greatest, and you can’t help but smile. Maybe you reward yourself for getting through the day, maybe with an ice-cream sandwich and a stroll through the neighborhood. “Look at all these buildings,” you say to yourself, licking chocolate sandwich-residue from your fingers. “I wonder what’s inside? What sorts of activities are people doing in there? Can I play too?!”

Gravy1Well put down your pre-dinner dessert and grab your phone (and maybe a napkin). You need to check out Gravy, the app that lets you know what’s going on inside all those buildings. “Couldn’t I just look through the windows?” No that’s insane–how are you going to search miles and miles of buildings for activities you might be interested in? Far better to let the internet do that for you. It’s good at that sort of thing, plus it has informative descriptions and classifications that learn what you like and tailor recommendations to you. But all you really need are options–fun things to do nearby–and you’re good. Everything else is just gravy.

See what I did there? Nailed it.

Alright that’s enough fun for now. Let’s get down to business. Let’s ask the hard-hitting, life-changing question every app review requires: are you going to use Gravy in your life, or are you going to download it, take a look-see and then forget it forever? I’ll be honest (because to be anything else makes me sick): my phone is full of apps I’ll never use. It’s the product of a vicious cycle; my friend shows me something cool, I download it, decide it’s cool (or not) and then move on with my life as if the whole thing never happened. You might be the same, it’s possible. I don’t know, I don’t know who you are. You could be anybody. It’s a world wide web out there.

Well I got news for you, stranger. The answer is “Yes!” Gravy could be easily integrated into your planning routine. It is intuitive and informative, and works locationally and in real time. During that moment when you don’t know what to do Friday night (or Thursday night, or Wednesday night), click a couple phone buttons and educate yourself. There are fun things going on all around you every day. Gravy aggregates these events, activities, and general goings-on so that you don’t have to. Fifteen different small(ish) concerts within five miles. Karaoke tonight, just around the corner. Fiddler On The Roof next weekend. How else are you gonna find out about these things? Gravy is a must-have if you’re trying to go out and do stuff. Tell your friends! Tell your mother! Write it in a letter and send it to yourself via snail mail so you get it in a week! All aboard the gravy train baby! Choo-Choo!

KARAOKE ANYWHERE & THE STAGE OF HEROES
November 11, 2015 12:44 am

A single spotlight on an empty stage. Fade-in synths, enter baseline and percussion. A shadow emerges, a face in the dark. Lips pursed, brow furrowed, eyes tight, heart racing. Drum fill shatters the tension. The crowd is electric, hanging on every expression, every whiff of emotion. W-whoa w-whoa w-w-w-whoa w-whoa w-whoa w-w-w-whoa. Every single hardship of humanity is irrelevant. In this moment we are heroes, a collection of souls united behind a single, magical, performative experience. Once upon a time, not so long ago. Reputation be damned. Nothing exists beyond the end of this song. Pride and shame become one in the limelight, and the only course of action is to expose your heart to the world, to define yourself once and for all. Confidence abounds, sure as the day you were born, barely in time to begin: Tommy used to work on the docks…

Everybody has their go-to karaoke jam. If you don’t, figure one out. It’s an excellent first-date question, like “what’s your favorite animal” or “would you like to play my kazoo?” or “did you just call me ‘mom’?” Who you are in your karaoke moment is how you’ll be remembered by tens, maybe hundreds of people. Were you Jon Bon Jovi? Probably not, but you were close. You could have been, maybe you still could be. Never give up on yourself.

Now imagine you could have the same karaoke experience without the hassle of a dark, dusty bar. Without the smelly mic, the kids yelling from the anonymous corner of the room. “You suck!” they say, crushing your swollen heart. “Sing like Creed!” What are they thinking?! The absurdity of it all is overwhelming, and you might not survive.

Fortunately there’s Karaoke Anywhere, an app that lets you sing karaoke, well, anywhere. Wherever you are, you can sing. Need I say more? Here, I’ll let them explain:

karaoke

“We’ve partnered with a ton of Karaoke manufacturers to bring you the world’s most complete and fully legal streaming Karaoke library on the planet! For a low monthly price you can stream as many songs as you can handle, selecting from an expansive library of songs updated monthly.”

When I first read that they were the world’s most complete library on the planet, I saw past the redundancy and focused on their emphatic completeness. Do they have every song ever made? Perhaps they’ve conducted extensive research on karaoke preferences around the globe, ranking music by popularity and singability. Who is to say what constitutes an entirely complete collection? Surely I could find a counterexample, a song I’d like to sing not included in their library. Wouldn’t that prove their imperfection and imply their incompleteness?

Precisely, and it didn’t take long. It was the first place I looked, in fact, right between Bonnie Raitt and Boston: a big empty patch of nothing. My heart sank. No Bon Jovi! Why else am I here except for my main man JBJ! We used to call him Jonny Badass in high school, a practice I’d defend with my life to this day. My name is Ian and “Livin’ On A Prayer” is my go-to karaoke jam. Karaoke Anywhere did not have that song, nor any other Jovi masterpiece, and I am disappointed.

Maybe it’s not their fault. I can totally see Jonny Badass withholding the rights, squeezing every dollar out of his songs. It is all about the Benjamins, baby. Indeed, Karaoke Anywhere does have an immense library full of reputable artists. Scroll through the A’s to find Aretha, Aaliyah, Alanis, Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse, Alice Cooper and All-American Rejects, as well as about 75 more “A”-listers. Yes I said 75, I counted them because I was surprised by how many there were. About as many B’s too (despite one glaring omission), and generally consistent throughout the alphabet. I’d consider paying $9.99/month for the listening rights if I didn’t already have Spotify.

But I do have Spotify, and I don’t need Karaoke Anywhere. They’re not even the actual songs, just wordless, soulless reproductions, background tracks to Kidz Bop music. Yes I can imagine an unlikely scenario where I would want to sing these songs in public specifically without the artists’ vocals, but doing so requires a seriousness usually reserved for professionals, most of whom wouldn’t be caught dead using a karaoke machine they downloaded onto their phones. I’m comfortable just singing along to the actual song, especially in informal situations. Obviously life on stage is a different story–how dare JBJ step on my toes during my moment of glory–but most karaoke stages have karaoke machines. You don’t need to bring your own.

JamCam & The Spectrum of Human Archetypes
September 29, 2015 2:19 pm

Is JamCam too foreign for a yokel like me? Too intangible? Or is this just the music/social app I’ve been looking for? I don’t want to find new music, and I don’t want to find new friends. I just want to watch strangers lip-sync pop songs. Not the entire song either–no that would be exhausting. I want short, 15-second, Snapchat-esque selfie videos. “Who are these people?” I ask. “What are their stories? Do they feel what I feel when I listen to Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean’?”

That was a trick question, of course, because I’d never listen to that song (or feel anything if I did). Don’t make me laugh.

JamCam app

As far as I can tell JamCam is Vine meets Chatroulette, with a little bit of Snapchat and a lot bit of top-40 hits. I do not picture myself sending my friends JamCam videos (no matter how much they miss me), nor would I otherwise be listening to the selection of songs featured on the app. However, I am totally fascinated by the people in the videos. I love people, looking at them and stuff. Comparing them to myself, trying to analyze where I fall on the great spectrum of human archetypes. And JamCam has people, you better believe it. People I can relate to, people I can’t relate to, people who make me look in the mirror and question everything I’ve ever known. “Who am I, how did I get here, and where am I going?!”

About half the time, the person is a child: Preteen girl lip-syncing Ke$ha into her phone. Skinny boy with glasses screaming “Let It Go.” Baby on swingset with “Gangnam Style.” Sometimes they seem appropriately innocent, just a girl taking a selfie video at school. A few concern me though, the way my mother might be concerned if she saw a very young girl mouthing The Weeknd’s “The Hills.” This girl really understands what she’s singing, but I’d rather she didn’t.

More revealing though are the adults. My cursory analysis suggests about a 50/50 split between kids and grown-ups, but the 50 that can vote are a lot more varied in character. A woman in Lululemon singing “Dancing Queen” on the stairmaster. A scruffy, chubby, white dude blasting Rob Zombie in the car at night. A shameless older black woman absolutely crushing “Stayin’ Alive.” These are human beings just like me. They talk and poop and love. They film themselves singing “Moves Like Jagger” while driving, because multitasking is easy! They don’t need your attitude, thank you very much. “What a great song, watch me sing it!”

And then out of nowhere everybody’s vaping (thanks a lot hipsters)! Smoke and Drake just pouring out of their mouths. I’d love to figure out some sort of correlation/causation situation here, but it doesn’t seem to be limited to any particular demographic. College girls vape in groups. Older bros vape on the street (or wherever the hell they want, bro). Suspiciously young-looking people stare proudly into the camera as they suck down that vapor. Ooo, delicious!

Now I’m not one to get carried away with things, but I just cannot stop watching the seemingly endless amateur karaoke show that is JamCam. I even posted my own video (The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me”) but then grumpily deleted it because I looked terrible. Couldn’t pull it off, sorry. Better to focus on other people’s lives, how they spend their time, what their priorities are, who they lip-sync Backstreet Boys hits with. Am I like them? Would I have looked so innocent at that age (had I a smartphone and JamCam)? Should I vape? What can I learn from these strangers? Can I amass enough data to positively alter my social interactions? Am I changing how I see others and, in turn, myself? Do I actually like “What Do You Mean”?

None of these questions have an answer, and that’s a good thing. Ignorance is bliss. I don’t wanna know. Don’t think about it. It doesn’t have to make sense. All I need is a 15 second glimpse into the musical life of a stranger, and I’m good. Butter me up and serve me at dinner, baby. I’ll just be over here, watching me-as-a-kid vaping along to “Trap Queen.”