I listen to music for a living — and this new Rewind app lets me travel back in time

Man listening to music in a record store
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As audio editor, I am privileged to spend parts of my working day listening to music. It's part of my job to evaluate and give my opinion on the audio performance of all kinds of products from the best cheap soundbars, to the best audiophile headphones, and everything in between.

Overall, I love listening to music of all genres and discovering new and up-and-coming artists. But recently I've been on bit of a nostalgia streak thanks to the introduction of a new music app that turns back time. And I'm not alone. 

From vinyl, to wired headphones and flip phones, retro tech and a passion for older stuff is very much on trend right now. One of the catalysts for Gen Z music fans getting into older music was the track "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, which had a new lease of life after a skateboarding TikToker lip-synced to the song while drinking raspberry juice. The 1977 track subsequently rocketed back up the music charts worldwide in 2020, and reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" was another, which was revived for a whole new audience after it appeared in season 4 of Stranger Things TV show last year. Some 37 years after its original release, the track re-entered the music charts around the world, claiming the #1 spots on both the Billboard Global 200 and U.K. charts.

Rewind: The app that lets you travel back to any year in music

Rewaind music app open screen on black

(Image credit: Rewind / Ziad Halabi)

Rewind (iOS, Android) is not a new music streaming service, but a music app that enables music fans to explore tracks from past decades. It currently integrates with Tidal, where you can listen to a track in full, or add it to a playlists. I'm told that Rewind will integrate with other music streaming services in the future.   

I've been surprised by number of songs I've (re)discovered that I once liked but had I'd forgotten about thanks to them being overlooked by streaming algorithms.

The Rewind app can be freely downloaded to iOS and Android devices, and is seemingly becoming increasingly attractive to music fans curious about songs and artists that have defined popular music over the five decades that span 1960 through to 2010. 

It's really easy to use, although I sometimes had to relaunch the app to get back to the home screen. Simply select a year, and Rewind gives you a 30-second preview of songs from that year, with a video or track/album artwork. It also serves up trends that defined the era with a selection of albums as well as mixtapes that link to genre playlists for the era.   

Rewind's nostalgia push isn't just songs, though. There's a news section, which highlights music events and moments from the selected year such as the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine, the rise of Janis Joplin as a new rock icon, and Aretha Franklin's breakthrough album "Respect," which all came from 1967. Images and retro adverts match the era and add an authentic feel, too. 

I love the way it's been thought out and the additional era-defining touches, but for me it's more about the music and discovering songs and artists that were around in whatever year I've traveled back to. In fact, I've been surprised by number of songs I've (re)discovered that I once liked but had I'd forgotten about thanks to them being overlooked for whatever reason by streaming algorithms.

Rewind: How the app started

Rewind app montage showing montage of three promo images

(Image credit: Rewind / Ziad Al Halabi)

The Rewind app started out as a side project for app engineer Ziad Al Halabi on top of the day job at Tidal, hence Tidal being the first music streaming service to be integrated. Rewind has been developed in response to the growing number of young music fans discovering music from past decades through soundtracks for popular TV shows, and/or have been blowing up on TikTok.

Rewind's creator says “I’ve always been interested in how music has changed over time. Rewind is a capsule of all the music, artists, and major events in one place.”

“The app offers a new way of discovering new old music which is based on historical eras with a little hint of nostalgia. Rewind is perfect for tastemakers and fans looking to discover new music from the good old days,” Al Halabi continues.

Rewind: My new favorite way to explore old music

I'm signed up to plenty of streaming services, including most of the ones in our best music streaming services guide, plus one or two others that we've not yet covered in Tom's Guide. Each has their own discovery mode and algorithm aimed at feeding me with music that I should like. But despite their sophistication, the music that often gets served up misses the mark.

Although I'm not a TikTok user, I've enjoyed watching "Stranger Things" and the season that included that Kate Bush song, and I appreciate how this kind of show and social media engagement can influence listening habits and introduce music fans of all ages to unheard or long forgotten music. 

I find it interesting that a developer working for one of the music streaming giants has identified the need for an easy to use music app that enables users to connect and explore music in a more intuitive and engaging way. Rewind is a satisfying and interesting music discovery app to use. It's a great way of turning back the clock to music that influenced generations of artists and music lovers that continues to shape our music choices today. I recommend you give it a try. 

Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.