With the 2019 Grammy’s just passed and a recent New York Times op-ed bemoaning the loudness wars and poor sound quality of today’s top artists, I figured it was the perfect time to put together a list of music recommendations.

I’ve put together this list not in the interest of refuting claims that the Billboard Top 40 hits aren’t poorly recorded and mastered (they are) nor am I actually all that interested in rebelling against the Grammy’s – I work as a musician and engineer and pay pretty much no attention to them in the first place. What I’m looking to do is draw attention to new music and artists who do sincerely care about sound quality, and luckily, there’s so many out there I had a hard time paring the list down to just twelve.

All of the music on this list is from 2019. I think that says a lot about how much good stuff really is out there. I’ve attempted to curate the list with an eye towards diversity, and it has a little bit of everything on it, from electronic to classical, so I’m hoping it will have a little something for almost everyone out there. All the album on this list I’ve listened to several times and feel confident in recommending them for both their musical and sonic qualities, both on headphones and on two-channel systems.

So, whether you follow the Grammy’s and the loudness wars or not, my hope is that this list introduces you to some fresh and exciting new music and encourages you to dig further into all the music being released lately that does sound good. Happy listening!

  • Manu Katche – The Scope Jazz fusion with electronic and French house elements.
  • Julia Kent – Temporal Cello and other instruments on a loop pedal, sort of ethereal, ambient or soundtrack type music, but more melodic than chillout electronic.
  • R.L. Burnside – Long Distance Blues music from a legend, recorded pristinely. You can even understand some of what he’s saying on this album.
  • Ivan Conti – Poison Fruit Brazilian music of all kinds, from experimental to straight ahead samba and bossa nova.
  • Nicola Cruz – Siku Ethnic Central American instruments combined with light electronic elements.
  • Mavis Staples – Live in London Soul music, Mavis Staples style.
  • Eva Zaicik – Venez Chere Ombre Classical music from the baroque period, some operatic elements.
  • Que Vola ? – Que Vola ? Frame drums and small drums combined with jazzy brass and wind instruments.
  • Rival Sons – Feral Roots Rock n’ Roll.
  • Aaron Siegel – A Great Many Minimalist/Soundtrack-esque Classical music, somewhat similar to John Adams or Steve Reich, but with more melodic movement.
  • City Girl – Somnolent Nova Electronic chillwave.
  • HieYon Choi – Beethoven Piano Sonatas Nos. 18, 26, 27, 30 A fascinating new take on some of Beethoven’s lesser known piano sonatas.