New Music for Headphones: Spring 2019

I hope you’re feeling adventurous today because it’s time to explore the great outdoors of new music. As before, everything on this list is from 2019, and if I’m not mistaken, all of it is from this very month. If you’re only interested in the tunes, head to the bottom of the piece as I’ll be musing a little bit.

As usual I’ve tried to grab a variety of recordings to suit differing tastes, and all of them have gone through musical and sonic quality checks on a variety of headphone systems.

Speaking of which, I’d like to talk a little about the listening experience. Especially with regards to new music, our mode of listening is often dependent on our habits. Do we listen to music through earpods on a train? Most often that listening experience is based on filtering out background music and offering a more pleasing sonic alternative to the sounds (and smells) of a morning commute. By contrast, when we sit and do ‘critical listening’ we often pick much different music and focus particularly on the sonic, rather than musical elements.

So what? Why do we care?

Well, between all the disparate ways we hear our daily soundtracks as we move through our lives, we cover quite a wide variety of music and listening modes. Maybe I’m projecting, but let’s just assume your listening life is diverse and includes a lot of new music. In this case, you might want a headphone that is relatively even in its frequency response, to give you a relatively balanced window into all music and modes. The truth is that none of our headphones or listening systems is really truly balanced, they all have strengths and weakness that highlight different aspects of the music we listen to. So when we pick a headphone, even if it has a very balanced frequency response, we are still picking a particular sonic signature.

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of hobbyists I know are picking up a few pairs of headphones, using each for particular types of music or listening modes. This one has a great frequency response, that one has marvelous transients, this other one does soundstaging and bass really well. It all depends on the listening mode. Want a relaxing, chill out session before bed? Cans with a relaxed treble and presence region might actually be perfectly suited for this sort of thing. Likewise, if you’re feeling like rocking out, you likely aren’t reaching for unmodded HD800’s (or maybe you are, I’m not judging… too much)

My personal preference is for headphones that are as balanced as possible, pretty much all the time. I’m open to variations, but tend not to keep many headphones around, and tend to have one ‘primary’ headphone more than many hobbyists. The one exception to this is travel, where I’m constantly on the lookout for better and better wireless headphones. There are some good things that have come across my desk recently, but there remains a lot of room for this category to grow into proper audiophile shoes. I digress though. For me, a lot of the things I listen to on high-end gear is the same stuff I listen to while traveling. I enjoy music where the musical quality matches the sonic quality – for example; rock music with tight punchy transients, or classical with an airy, open soundstage and minimal compression have appropriately matching sonic ‘personalities.’ Snappy, Latin music drenched in reverb and mixed quietly might be kind of weird for example.

I thought it relevant to mention how I listen for a few reasons, first being that I personally feel most confident reading reviews where I know a little about the reviewer’s mindset and listening habits. I feel it helps to parse where their opinion and mine might diverge and thus determine if I’m interested in actually investigating the piece of gear they’re talking about. Second, I believe the two facets of this hobby are mutually enjoyable and beneficial – we can be gearheads and still have an emotional reaction to music. Want to really see what your gear can do, but tired of the same old reference tracks? New music is an opportunity to practice both sides of the hobby.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them in our comments section, and in the future I may leverage some of my music school background to dig deeper into listening, recordings and its relevancy to us as audiophiles if folks are interested. I hope that in listening to the music this week you find that the sonic signatures match the musical signatures, and provide some enjoyable listening sessions, whether you’re on the go, or comfortably at home with your rig, however grand or modest it might be. And most importantly, I hope you enjoy yourself.

  • Finding Gabriel, Brad Mehldau – Experimental Narrative Jazz fusion/Soundtrack, from a master pianist.
  • J.S. Bach Concerto for Organ and Strings – Les Muffati/Bart Jacobs, Large scale late Baroque organ and orchestra work.
  • Smells/Colours/Noise – Bangkok Lingo Jazz Fusion, experimental elements.
  • Dedicated – Carly Rae Jepsen, Pop.
  • Balance, Not Symmetry (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Biffy Clyro, Prog/Alt Rock and Soundtrack music.
  • Hyperuranion – Chat Noir, Light IDM, groove based electronic music.
  • Bonegasm – Jennifer Wharton, Brass focused Jazz chamber music.
  • Borrowed Time – Barbe-Q-Barbies, 90’s style rock.
  • Zandoli – Charlotte Adigery, Experimental Electronic.
  • Where The Action Is – The Waterboys, Bubbly alternative pop-rock.
  • Going to Market – JV’s Boogaloo Squad, Instrumental Funk.
  • Dreaming the Dark – Tamaryn, Dreamy Electro-pop, think Enya meets Eurhythmics.
  • Real Life – Cayucas, Singer-Songwriter meets light dance pop.
  • Kassa Overall – Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz, Experimental rap.
  • Mari Samuelsen – Mari, Classical.
  • Grand Tour – Big Big Train, British Prog Rock
  • Hands of Time – Climax Blues Band, Blues Rock.
  • Bach to the Future – Olivier Latry, Unusual interpretations of Bach organ music.
  • Hildur Guonadottir – Chernobyl Soundtrack, Moody, dark soundtrack music.

Jrg102948's picture

grover how do i listen to this playlist?