I think it's time to take a break from the usual music recommendations and turn to something equally important: music software. It is, after all, the bridge between ourselves and our music in this digital age. Personally, I'm not attached to any one program, largely because my habit of constantly rearranging my files doesn't really suit library-based systems. But if I was to pick one, I'd have to go for Media Monkey, with it's brilliantly simple organising abilities.
However, with the arrival of Songbird, it might be time to give up my nomadic days and settle in the comfort of just one player. Its features are just too damn good to resist. For those who don't know, Songbird is a hybrid media player and web browser. In simple terms, it's pretty much iTunes and Firefox rolled into one nice product. This might seem rather pointless, but just wait till you see what this baby can do.
The media player functionality starts off simple and is based heavily around iTunes. It can do everything iTunes can, including loading songs onto an iPod (or similar) and even playing protected files bought from a digital store. This basic functionality can then be expanded through the use of add-ons (think Firefox extensions). This allows you to add things such as a play queue, last.fm support, cover flow and much more. One extension will automatically load information about the artist you are playing, such as photos, gigs, lyrics and a bio and display it nicely under your browser.
All in all, it does the trick in the media player department. And with the ability for users to create their own add-ons, functionality will quickly expand. But it is the web browser capabilities where the fun really begins.
As you can see in the above screenshot, you can visit websites from within Songbird, just like a normal browser. But when you stumble upon an mp3 blog such as this one, it automatically finds all the audio files and displays them nicely in a tab underneath. From here, you can play them as if they're in your library or download them for later enjoyment!
Anything you download is placed in a playlist where you can watch its progress and listen to it when done. It's also automatically added to your library, which goes to show how nice it is having one program handling everything. This really is great for anyone who frequents the mp3 blogosphere, making music discovery a breeze. It does have the occasional problem, where it doesn't pick up on dead links, and you're left waiting for a non-existent file to start playing, but otherwise it's great. And if you're a hype machine user, there's more to come....
Songbird is designed so that websites can be made to display extra content when viewed with it. The Hype Machine is the first website to properly implement this and it works a treat. On any page, it finds all the music files for you to easily stream, but also gives you a host of links for each. For the purchasing types, you have links to iTunes, eMusic and more, and for the thieving types, you can quickly jump to the relevant post.
Just to make sure I get the attention of you machiners out there, I thought now would be the appropriate time to share a track I'm loving (hehe...so subtle). It's by Brooklyn-based Yeasayer, who make some very powerful music (as you may already know).
Now I would hope that everything above has you more than convinced, but I thought I'd mention one last cool thing about this brilliant piece of software (I'm not a nerd, I swear.....). Music blogs aren't the only thing that's enhanced when browsing with Songbird. Someone has created an extension called YouPlayer which is a must for any YouTube fans out there. It allows you to drag videos into the sidebar, so they play one after another while you continue browsing. Not only this, but you can download the files with a simple click to be played on your computer at a later date! The files are in flash video format, but will work on a player like Media Player Classic (which I also recommend!). I don't know how often you'd want to do this but it sure does seem cool.
After all this ranting and raving, I should probably add a disclaimer. This software is in the early stages of development, so doesn't always work as it should. However, it's stable enough to be enjoyed so don't shy away. With in-built expandability and developers who appreciate what music listeners want, Songbird is a very promising program that is sure to be a hit with music lovers. Download it here.