I think I’m in love…
I’m listening to the new James Blake album on Apple Music. I saw it in the new releases and just clicked on it, out of curiosity. I haven’t really paid any attention to him until now – but WOW.
I’ve been busy launching this year’s Dynamic Range Day competition, and while I work on things like this I’m in the habit of listening to music with my monitors dimmed – that’s 12 dB lower than my usual mastering level. Actually, I often listen even quieter than that, because modern music is mostly mastered at such a high level !
But for this album, I found myself tempted to turn it up.
And when I did, it sounded huge.
So why does it sound so good ?
It has depth, it has weight, it has space. I started nodding my head, listening more carefully, pulling stupid faces to the music (which is a good thing, yes!).
Try it. Play the video below with the volume cranked, and see if you get chills when the vocals come in @ 1’15”, too.
That’s the dynamics, doing what they’re meant to do, in music – giving you goosebumps. Of course it’s a superb vocal performance too, that goes without saying – but trust me, it wouldn’t have anything like the impact if it was crushed and distorted the way so many recent releases are.
And unlike those releases, where I inevitably turn them down lower and lower over time, exhausted by the constant maxed-out wall-of-sound, listening to this album loud feels great – and I want to keep listening. That’s the great thing about balanced dynamics – they make you want to listen loud – the way the artists want you to listen.
But, I hear you say…
I can already hear the objections from the “loudness-sounds-good-really” camp: this album is left-field and eclectic; lots of the material is intended to be quiet; this genre doesn’t typically require limited dynamics.
It’s all rubbish. They could easily have given in the to the FUD and crushed the life out of this album, just as with almost every other mainstream release these days – but they didn’t. And it sounds so much better as a result. Other big-name artists like Beyonce and Drake are making moves in the right direction, as I mentioned in my last post – but this is a truly dynamic release.
And what’s more
The reviews agree with me – I keep seeing glowing references to the sound and production of this album, and the dynamics are a big part of that. Guess what I’m not seeing ? Anyone saying it’s not loud enough. Even though it’s almost 6 dB quieter overall than most new pop releases ! (PLR 14 as measured by Dynameter, for those counting)
The message is getting through – dynamic is the new loud. People are starting to pay attention – and this album is a pure pleasure to listen to, as a result.
If you agree, and want more albums with dynamics like this – please support Dynamic Range Day and help spread the word !
I haven’t been able to find out who mastered this yet – I’ve seen intriguing suggestions that “much of the album was mixed and mastered at [Rick] Rubin’s Shangri-La studios in Malibu” – long-term followers of the Loudness Wars will know how ironic that would be, if it’s true !
Please let me know, if you have any info – I want to give whoever it was a big sloppy kiss !
Or at least buy them a beer, if it turns out they have a beard.