Stylus Magazine has published a superb feature about music, which answers the question: why does so much modern music sound crap? It’s all about loudness, apparently: not volume, but compression that’s designed to make tracks sound as loud as possible. That’s why Keane are twice as loud as Nirvana, which is wrong on so many different levels.
Levels have crept up over the last decade though, and alarmingly so. Nevermind is 6-8dB quieter than, say, Hopes & Fears by Keane—to contextualise this, those 6-8dB will make Nevermind sound approximately half as loud. On most modern CDs the music is squashed into the top 5 dB of a medium that has over 90 dB of range. It’s like the oft-quoted myth that humans use only 10% of their brain, only real—imagine what we could do if we realised potential. Think of the classic, exciting Pixies formula again—it doesn’t exist anymore, because those dynamic leaps have been ironed out. Keane should NOT be twice as loud as Nirvana.