I'm a big music fan, and I spend a good portion of my day listening to an iPod or iTunes because music helps me concentrate and stay motivated. I have a pretty extensive music collection, but I also enjoy streaming music services like Last.fm and Pandora to find new music, listen to a mix of related artists, or just play something random. My problem with streaming services is twofold: I don't like having to have a web browser open and I like to be able to easily switch songs, pause playback or even go back to iTunes. For Pandora, the excellent PandoraJam that Scott covered a few years ago is a great option, but until today, I hadn't had any luck finding a good Mac Last.fm client.
SweetFM is a new Last.fm client that offers up a seriously sexy way to listen to your favorite Last.fm stations on your Mac. Here are some highlights:
You can pause songs mid-stream and resume playback
Unlimited song skipping
Compatible with both the Apple Remote and the media keys on your Mac Keyboard. I love this because it makes it really easy for me to skip ahead, stop or pause without having to pull up the app window.
Album art support from both Last.fm and Amazon.com
Mark songs as loved, banned or add them to a playlist
If you subscribe to one of the Last.fm pay plans, you can play your loved tracks
Easy access to tagged stations, artist stations and your library
Direct access to buy songs
Export tracks to iTunes: you can do this with all tracks or just tracks you "love," and the MP3 file that is coming from the Last.fm server is automatically added to a specific iTunes playlist.
Acts as a regular iTunes controller when not streaming
I've been playing with the app on and off all day, and I'm really, really impressed. One of the things that annoys me about Pandora is that I can't see what songs are next in the queue. Sometimes you just want to skip ahead. With SweetFM, I can see up to 4 upcoming tracks from the menu bar. That's seriously nice.
I also like that the app will automatically take me to the artist page in Last.fm in my web browser or to my profile page. You can also set-up a shortcut to hide/unhide the app, if you want to keep it running but not on top of anything.
Saving tunes directly to iTunes will appeal to lots of users. At first, I thought this was being achieved through some sort of analog-hole, but after looking at some of the meta-data (which sometimes indicates how the MP3 is encoded), I think that it is actually grabbing the MP3 file that is served from Last.fm from cache and then writing it directly to iTunes. We're talking 128 kbps quality, which doesn't do much for me -- but this is a great way to create a playlist of beloved tracks. The program is smart enough to NOT export a song already in your library.
This is a 1.0 release, but I did have a few problems. Sometimes after streaming for long periods of time (or even shorter periods), I might get a stream error and have to either restart the app or try to stop/restart the station. There also seem to be a few UI inconsistencies -- although for the most part I think the UI is nice. You can even create skins for SweetFM if you are so inclined.
I wish there was an option to switch an radio station to the artist being currently played or some in-program tagging options, but I really can't find much else to quibble with. I reset my Last.fm scrobble history a while ago and have never really gotten back into the habit of using the service, save CoverSutra's scrobble integration, and this has reminded me of the value of the service.
SweetFM is $29US for a single user license, $38 for a two-pack and $47 for a five-user pack. SweetFM requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. You can try the program before purchasing, you're just limited to a number of played songs per session.
How do you listen to music? Let me know in the comments!