Catching up with some of the articles I've saved and things I've wanted to talk about and over the last few weeks:
Right before Christmas Rolling Stone.com published an excellent article on the diminishing importance of quality sound in music as it becomes digitized and more portable. If you care anything about good sound, go read it. I'll wait.
Ok, now my personal opinion: I'm a music whore. I am always buying new CDs. I have well over 500 and counting. For some reason though I cannot seem to get into downloading music. Maybe it is because of bad experiences listening to the old "tinny" .midi files. Maybe because I have been convinced by the older generation that every progression of recording, from 45s to tapes to CD to MP3s, has made sound quality progressively worse. Maybe it is all just psychological.
Recently, however, I have even experienced a few CDs that just didn't sound right. The best example of this recently has been the new Down CD, Over the Under. This is not a bad CD, by any means, but it just doesn't sound right. For those not in the know, Down is one of the many bands spun off of Pantera, so they definitely have a hard-rock metal sound to them. The problem with this album however, is that it all sounds the same. In the Rolling Stone article they talk about loudness monotony and Over the Under is a great example. The songs just blend together and no part stands out. There is little sound variation. Whether or not that was the point of the album, which I doubt, this happens to me more and more often. Over the Under is just the last example.
To be honest, I am not sure whether I can pin a bad sounding album on the fidelity of a CD or an MP3 or any other kind of format. Maybe it is the production. Until recently, I've never been a big fan of acknowledging producers. However, producers getting hyped has become a huge trend in hip-hop and to an extent in rock as well. Apparently, big name producers all have a distinct sound to their albums. Again, this is more true in hip-hop than in rock. But in rock a producer can minimize or maximize a certain instrument or "depth" of sound. So of course, they play the same role. I still think producers are overrated.
(Disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of lyrics. You can give me an old blues man strumming on an acoustic guitar on the corner or a rapper freestyling over the sound of a dishwasher humming and I'm happy as long as they are passionate and their lyrics grab my interest.)
Ok, I'll stop babbling now. But before I go, I ask that you read that Rolling Stone link and take a moment the next time you turn on the tunes to think how much better, clearer, and crisper your music could be. If only we all still listened to the old Victrolas. Hook those bad boys up to a wall of speakers and you got yourself a system.