Great-sounding recently released albums are becoming increasingly rare, so when I find noteworthy efforts, I'm happy to share the news.
The goal here is to highlight new stuff, or at least music recorded in our century, so there's no need to include Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" or Steely Dan's "Aja." I assume you already know the best-sounding music from decades past; I'm trying to spread the word about the best new music, over a range of styles, something for every taste.
For more good-sounding music, check out my "How to make your speakers sound better: Play better-sounding music" blog from earlier this year.
Feel free to chime in with great sounding music suggestions in the Comments section.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings "I Learned The Hard Way"
Daptone Records doesn't claim to be an audiophile label, but its hard-core analog roots shine on every release. Musically, the label owes a lot to the 1960s sound from Muscle Shoals and Stax, and with Sharon Jones, Daptone found a woman up to the task of bringing the raw power and sweaty swagger of today's soul music to life. "I Learned The Hard Way" is the latest from Jones and her stellar band, and it is, by far, the best thing they've ever done. The record's great, but pales compared to the music live. If Jones and her men come to your town, don't miss them!
Bob Dylan "Good As I've Been To You"
I broke my own rule about only new titles on this list, but the sound of Dylan, partnered only with his guitar was too good to leave out. Recorded in a rather dark period in 1992 Dylan sings covers of old folk and blues tunes, no originals; not one. Dylan's voice sounds way better than it does now, and he plays the heck out of his acoustic guitar. The sound is really good, so if your system is up to it, Mr. Dylan, his guitar, and harmonica will appear between your speakers.
"Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra"
Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" is an awesome work, and this recording's breathtaking dynamic range and deep bass power will test the stamina of all but the very best hi-fi systems. I didn't listen in 5.1, but in stereo the soundstage is huge! This audiophile recording from 2009 is available in ultra-high-resolution sound (24 bit /176.4 kHz stereo PCM and multichannel DVD), or on SACD, which is how I heard it.
Midnite "Ras Mek Peace"
This is the best, most natural sounding reggae recording I have ever heard. Sounds especially great turned up nice and loud. "Ras Mek Peace" was recorded live to two-track analog tape, with absolutely no compression, equalization, reverberation, or noise reduction. It was done in 1999, but it's so special I had to include it on this list. The rhythms are deep, and the vocals are emotionally powerful.
I'm a sucker for Spoon's grooves. What can I say? The rhythm section has a knack for pounding out unexpected shifts in tempo. "Transference" sounds like a weird blend of gritty low-fi and polished hi-fi. Immediacy is a strong suit, and I love the way the mix layers reverberation over the sounds of the instruments. Guitarist Britt Daniel's jagged edge is more front and center this time out, and I like it that way. "Transference" is the sort of record you keep coming back to.
This is part 2 of "Music that'll make your speakers sound better." I covered five other titles in the previous blog post.