Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Impossible Germany

Wilco's Sky Blue Sky was one of my favorite albums of 2007. The track I chose to examine, "Impossible Germany" is exactly what I imagine Television would have sounded like had they signed to Asylum instead of Elektra and hung out in Laurel Canyon with Jackson Browne and The Eagles instead of The Bowery with Patti Smith and The Ramones. (And I mean that in a good way.)

As you can see in the graphs below, there is likely some added compression on the CD compared to the LP, but far less than on most contemporary pop and rock releases. The CD actually preserves most of the dynamic range evident on the LP. Relative to most contemporary CDs this album will sound "quiet." You might find yourself tempted to turn the volume knob on your stereo up a couple notches when you listen to it. Nothing wrong with that. After all, isn't that why God created the volume knob?

Not coincidentally perhaps, the album sounds excellent on either format. The CD does not fall victim to the harsh and fatiguing sound that characterizes so many contemporary over-compressed CDs. Meanwhile, the LP manages to avoid many of the shortcomings typically associated with vinyl due the the excellence of the mastering and pressing: this is one of the quietest LPs I have ever heard (although a very small amount of surface noise is still audible during the quietest passages when listening on headphones). I highly recommend this album on LP, but there is no denying the CD sounds excellent as well. I wish this were the rule rather than the exception.

Nonesuch includes a cute slipcased CD in the package with the LP, making the cost of the premium LP pressing seem pretty reasonable (I think I paid around $20 for mine). Whatever format you chose, this album is a keeper. Well done all around.

Wilco - "Impossible Germany" CD (2007)
Wilco - "Impossible Germany" LP (2007)

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