Ranking the 2018 Grammy Nominees for the Best-Engineered Album

k. flay singing
Recording Arts
For anyone looking for a recording arts degree in Chicago, our Recording Arts Department Chair, Yuri Lysoivanov has been engulfed in the music industry for over a decade. He has a trained and experienced ear for great sound. Below is Yuri’s ranking of the 2018 Grammy Nominees for Best-Engineered Album in the non-classical category as well as the top three songs you should listen to from each album. 

1. Rose Cousins: Natural Conclusion.

My goodness, this album is a masterpiece. Every audio engineering student should listen to it. Ryan Freeland, who used to be Bob Clearmountain’s assistant engineer, recorded and mixed the whole album. Every instrument is crystal clear and yet sounds fantastic on their own and every song was mixed with musicality in mind. The songs are powerful, deeply emotional and this is about as perfect sounding as an album gets. I literally get goosebumps listening to it. If there’s any justice in the world it will win the award.
Listen to: Chains, Lock and Key, White Flag 

2. Bruno Mars: 24k Magic.

This album is likely the frontrunner. And it’s great! Lost in the Pop/funk sensibility is the fact that there are some great performances here and pop engineering guru Serban Ghenea did a hell of a job mixing it. I’ve always personally enjoyed the way Bruno’s vocals are mixed compared to his fellow artists. It’s generally less aggressive and breathes a lot better than other modern pop performances – reminding more of Michael Jackson’s work. The album is also a master class in how to handle bass.
Listen toFinesse, That’s What I Like, 24k Magic

3. K. Flay: Every Where is Some Where.

I want to root for this album because it’s personal. K. Flay is originally from the Chicago area and this album has an old friend (seriously, since 6th grade) on the engineering team. The songs are energetic, creative and has some really cool modern production choices. It’s a solid mix of modern female-fronted pop and electronic (a field that is already crowded with Banks and Halsey). The album is a dark horse (no pun intended) to win.
Listen toBlood in the Cut, Black Wave, High Enough

4. Perfume Genius: No Shape

An album written for the pitchfork crowd. Really, really dynamic for a Pop record which is unusual in a good way. Fiona Apple’s producer worked on it so naturally there’s also a ton of creative recording decisions. The album is incredibly atmospheric and takes a ton of advantage of the stereo field. Shawn Everett (who won two years ago with the Alabama Shakes) is also an incredible engineer.
Listen to: Slip Away, Die 4 You, Go Ahead

5. Roger Waters: Is This the Life We Really Want

An album as political as the man himself, produced by Nigel Godrich (made famous by his work with Radiohead). This is certainly the most traditionally engineered on the list – representing a career of an artist that has been writing for five decades. The album certainly is epic– and the moments of sound design interspersed with the music add a nice creative touch to the overall theme. It has also been some time since I’ve listened to a record with such up close drum treatment.
Listen to: Déjà vu, Picture That, The Most Beautiful Girl

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