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Back in the day, it was easier to decide what to listen to: whatever you had with you. Once that was a bulky CD wallet of 12 carefully chosen albums. Then it was a few hundred digital files loaded onto an iPod, and then a couple thousand. Now that music is in the cloud, the embarrassment of riches can lead to decision-making paralysis.
Pandora can play you "stations" based on an artist, but if you don't pony up $36 a year, your grooves are interrupted by audio ads. Paid streaming services Rdio and Spotify let you fire up stations too, but those cost even more, at $5/month for web only and $10/month to go mobile. The Genius Mix feature in iTunes offers never-ending playlists, but only of music you actually own.
Which is why Songza is my new jam. Billed as a "music concierge," the free service and universal iPhone/iPad app is packed with playlists for any situation — relaxing on the beach, soothing traffic-jam road rage, getting work done (with lyrics or without), by genre, and even music recommended by some top-notch artists. (My recent favorite playlists are David Byrne's Record Collection and James Murphy's Record Collection.) It's so fun to use, and such a deep rabbit hole to play in, that I'm constantly surprised it's free.
Really, it's free. No audio ads, no listening limits. The relatively unobtrusive iAds stay on the screen, never in your headphones. Due to the licensing agreement, you can only skip six tracks an hour, and you can only skip forward, not back. While the music is playing, you can give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down (to further tailor suggestions to your tastes), buy the track on iTunes, mark the playlist as a favorite, or share a link to the playlist via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Taking advantage of iOS's abilities, Songza can play in the background while you run other apps, plus you can control it with the remote on your iPhone headphones and it's fully AirPlay compatible.
The bottom line. With thousands of playlists, easy navigation, and most importantly, awesome music at no cost, Songza is a must-download, you hear?
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.1 or later
It's free. No audio ads or listening limits. Tons of playlists to suit your preferences or specific situations.
Can only skip six songs per hour, but this is the only limitation we encountered.