Posted by: Joe | October 27, 2006

It’s the dynamic range, stupid!

The Tragically Hip‘s new CD, World Container, might be a good album. I honestly can’t tell. Hidden behind the wall of blurred drums, hazy cymbals and nondescript guitars might be a set of great songs. The sound engineering is abysmal.

I listened through the CD twice today. Well, that’s a lie, I never made it through the second time. It’s tiring. The bass and treble are all mashed together into a sonic wall of muddied midrange that drowns out the vocals and exhausts the ear.

I’ve linked in passing to this Stylus article in the past, but didn’t really elaborate on it. Music shouldn’t just be listened to, but experienced. There’s nothing like the feeling of bass that knocks the wind out of your lungs, just a little. Hearing a snare rip through the air in a way you can almost see. When I throw on my Senns and really turn up the The Crystal Method’s “Weapons of Mass Distortion”, it’s like the bridge of that wailing guitar is embedded in the base of my spine–I get chills every single time. Music that’s recorded and engineered properly just gets better the louder you play it.

I know that I keep bringing up Jenny Lewis, but no exaggeration, I have probably listened to Rabbit Fur Coat north of 100 times since its release at the beginning of the year. A couple weeks ago I was listening to it again; I had it up loud and was really into it because we’d just gone to the concert a few nights before. At the end of “It Wasn’t Me”, as the steel guitar is fading out at the end of the song, I heard something I’d never noticed before–a man’s voice, almost imperceptibly whispering away from the mic, “Say goodnight, Jenny.”

Now, I don’t know whether that was the producer, giving Jenny an instruction to echo the last line of the song, or whether it was one of the band members saying “Say goodnight, that’s the take that we wanted!”, or whether it somebody handing Jenny a phone so that she could say goodnight to her sister. But I do know that you’d never be able to pick up something like that on a CD engineered like World Container. On well recorded music, if you *really* pay attention you can pick up subtle nuances in the performance, and hear something a little bit new every time.

Whoever came up with this “hot”, “wall of sound” concept needs to be kicked straight in the balls.

*edit – grammar.  I shouldn’t write at 1am.



  1. I’ve never, ever liked the Hip’s sound. The drums sound a $199 kit bought from the Sears catalog.

    I love Dylan’s sound on recent albums…muddy, but deliberately, immaculately muddy.

  2. The topic is quite trendy on the Internet at the moment. What do you pay the most attention to when choosing what to write about?

  3. Slihgtly embafrassed and with a qukck smile to the busa driver, hed reached behind her to unzip her skirt a little, thinking that this would give her enough slack to raise her leg.

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