More than two years into the launch of Apple Music's Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, the immersive catalog is unrivaled and continues to grow at a breakneck pace. As a follow-up to the September/October 2023 edition, we analyze the best new spatial audio tracks released through the streaming services in November & December 2023.
The Church - "Under The Milky Way"
Like other immersive music fans, I’d hoped that the excellent Atmos mix of The Church’s latest album–The Hypnogogue (2023)–might lead to some other entries in their vast back-catalog getting the immersive treatment. Surely enough, two singles from their 1988 classic Starfish (”Under The Milky Way” and “Reptile”) unceremoniously appeared on Apple Music in December 2023.
”Under The Milky Way” fills up the room nicely, kicking off with acoustic guitars extended out towards the side speakers and Steve Kilbey’s vocals in the front ‘phantom’ center.
The Pineapple Thief - "The Frost"
Among the most exciting upcoming immersive releases of 2023 is The Pineapple Thief’s latest studio album, It Leads To This. Though the full album isn’t out until February 2nd, the first single entitled “The Frost” is already available to stream in Dolby Atmos.
The Atmos mix is another masterclass from Soord, making full use of the side, rear, and height speakers for full-on immersion. Gavin Harrison’s drums sound absolutely massive filling up the front, side, and front height speakers, while rhythm guitars and background vocals take up the rear soundstage. Lead guitar highlights often pop up from above, with Steve Kitch’s keyboard swirling around the room.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "The Trip To Pirates Cove"
Mojo was Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ twelfth studio album, originally released in June 2010. The band's first airing of new material in nearly a decade was intended as a sort of ‘back to basics’ experiment: an informal blues-based jam session with everyone playing together in the same space and very few overdubs.
Fans may recall that Ryan Ulyate had previously mixed this album in 5.1 surround sound for a Pure Audio Blu-Ray release in 2010. Now, over a decade later, he’s revisited Mojo in Atmos for the new ‘Extra Mojo Version’ currently on the streaming services. “The Trip To Pirate’s Cove” features Mike Campbell’s lead guitar largely in the front left height speaker, with the spooky vocal delays hitting off the rear heights and keys from the back.
Read our full review here!
Richard Wright - "Holiday"
To honor what would have been his 80th birthday, the Pink Floyd keyboardist’s underrated 1978 debut album received the deluxe treatment in 2023 with brand-new stereo, 5.1 & Dolby Atmos remixes from Steven Wilson. The immersive mixes are up to Wilson’s usually high standard, with full use of the side, rear, and height speakers for key musical elements like synthesizers, backing and double-tracked vocals, and solos.
“Holiday” is definitely a highlight of the album, showcasing Richard Wright’s vocal in the center channel while its double pops in the rear surrounds. Snowy White’s guitar solos command the center speaker, with synthesizers swirling overhead and strummed guitar bursting from the sides.
Frank Zappa & The Mothers - "Montana"
Nearly one year after the acclaimed Waka/Wazoo reissue, The Zappa Family Trust and Universal Music Group joined forces once more to bring fans an equally-excellent 50th anniversary release of 1973’s Over-Nite Sensation. The new Dolby Atmos mix is truly an assault on the senses, with all 11 speakers in a 7.1.4 system getting their due. Frank Zappa’s lead vocal appears simultaneously in the center channel, front heights, and rears at near-equal level, yet other elements such as keyboards, horns, backing vocals, and percussion appear completely behind or above the listener.
More all-channel Zappa vocals kick off “Montana,” as keys percolate from the rear and horns pop up from above. The extended guitar solo at around the two-minute mark appears directly behind the listener’s head, while the crazy high-pitched backing vocals from The Ikettes seem divided mostly between the side right and front left height speakers.
Read our full review here!