Commercial music radio may be an artistic wasteland, but independent-minded stations like Seattle's KEXP, Silicon Valley's KFJC, and New Jersey's WFMU are still great ways to learn about new music. Plus, if you want to hear talk radio, news, or live sports in your car, radio's still your best choice.
The iPhone and iPod Touch lack a built-in radio tuner, but there are plenty of ways to listen to radio stations on these devices, including podcasts and a multitude of apps that offer near-live streams delivered over the Internet. Tuesday morning, the App Store added another entrant, SparkRadio.
This app lets you search among more than 10,000 stations, with directory information provided by RadioTime, and is location-aware if you want to scan local stations first. You can also choose from dozens of Internet-only stations from providers like Ministry of Sound and RadioIO.
The interface is both simple and comprehensive, showing you exactly what's playing on each station, and giving you easy ways to add favorites and return to stations you've recently been playing. I also liked the full-screen visualizations, which were pleasantly understated and dark--particularly the soundwave representation, which reminded me of the cover of Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures."
Overall a very solid app, SparkRadio costs $5.99.