This week I’ve mainly been listening to Leonard Cohen - Song’s of Love and Hate, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanangan - Ballad Of The Broken Seas and Amy Winehouse At The BBC - all recent purchases (albeit third copy of the Cohen album!), interspersed with BBC 6 Music.
I’m old fashioned, still listen almost entirely on vinyl and still buying it. I’m really interested in music and always have been, dabbled in recording and production for years, not so much now but still interested in it. Still play guitar, electric and acoustic.
The discussion on the sound of a lot of modern popular recordings is interesting - it’s not to my taste either. It’s fashion though - that sound is what is popular now. Production is constantly changing as engineers and musicians use the latest developments available to them - been that way since recording started. That Cher song Believe, was the first big song to use Auto-Tune - and use it in a way that it was not designed to be used. It was initially intended to be a subtle correction tool but she cranked it to 11 for that robot voice sound and started a fashion.
My other big gripe with modern music is that it generally lacks dynamics, what people sometimes refer to as the loudness wars. I think this is due to how people consume music now. When I was a teenager, getting your first “separates system” was a right of passage. Hi-Fi was a thing. And you listened to physical albums.
Now people listen on streaming services through cheap earbuds or tinny bluetooth speakers. Artists (and record companies) no longer make money on sales, them make them on streamed “listens” - and without an immediate punch and catchy gimmick it’s very easy for the listener to simply skip to the next song. So everything gets “louder” to attract attention.
Recording even has a new measurement to cater for this need - the LUT, which is basically a measure of loudness. You should add that to your hate list alongside overt use of Auto-Tune. I’m less upset about Melodyne though as it is generally used as a subtle production tool rather than an effect; when used well it should be transparent and can make a good recording of a great voice even better. I do enjoy the imperfections in older recordings though.