THE BEATLES: “LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS (REMIX)”
The phrase “immersive audio” and the name of producer Giles Martin are practically synonymous terms these days, and his magic Atmos touch is out in full force on “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds (Remix),” an updated Spatial Audio take on this most head-trippy of tracks from The Beatles’ truly seminal June 1967 masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
John Lennon’s proto-psychedelic spin on an Alice in Wonderland-like scenario by way of a phrase his young son Julian coined for a drawing he made, “Lucy”—by definition alone—deserves to be heard way up in the clouds as much as possible, and Martin’s wide-open mix does not disappoint in that regard.
The opening, effects-laden Lowrey organ lines played by Paul McCartney establish the track’s dreamy-trippy vibe all across the field. The phrase “calls you” rolls left, then the pivotal “girl with kaleidoscope eyes” fills the ether. Lennon’s next lines fall back in the mix slightly as Ringo Starr’s cymbal taps and McCartney’s bass begin the shift to 4/4, then Ringo’s heart-pounding bass-drum beats hit even lower before a jubilant Macca joins in with Lennon’s voice at the left to share in singing the title phrase in that magical mystery blend of their own making. Meanwhile, a droning, middle-Eastern-tinged tambura played by George Harrison, in addition to his sending a Fender Stratocaster through a Leslie speaker, back-up the proceedings with much added flair.
When Lennon arrives at the knew-it-was-coming line “so incredibly high,” this is where Spatial Audio shows its true mettle. In Martin’s admittedly brilliant 5.1 mix of “Lucy” on the Blu-ray included in the 2017 50th anniversary box set for Pepper, the height of this lyric can really only go as far up in the plane as allotted—but out here in the most masterful Appleland of Atmos, the height ceiling is, well, literally the true ceiling of whatever room and/or headspace you happen to be in at the time you’re listening to it.
The Lennon/McCartney dada-lyric axis gets even more free-form as Ringo’s cymbals become more insistent and resonant across the board for the song’s final push, as is Macca’s wandering bass and Lowrey organ lines—they’re full-channel wonders unto themselves to the fade out.
Truly, the sky’s the limit for “Lucy” in Atmos, easily making it our Toppermost Spatial Audio pick of the week, right out of the box.
KAROL G, ANUEL AA & J BALVIN: “LOCATION”
The Latin urbano-trap trifecta consisting of Colombian reggaeton singer Karol G, Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA, and Colombian rapper/singer J Balvin collectively drop the pin on “Location,” and it’s muy divertido in Atmos.
A clean acoustic guitar hook opens the track nice and wide across the stage for the first 15 seconds, with the counter harmony guitar line nestled dimensionally behind it like a running back lining up five yards behind the quarterback. This is where Karol G’s pop-leaning vocals enter in Española, wafting across the field while her emotive harmony response “ohh”s roll to the right. When the chorus kicks in, the thumping bass should hit you hard while the percussive track supports the action, and the acoustic guitar figure returns good and wide.
The track swoops, and Anuel AA joins in behind Karol G, his voice slightly warbling, before she drops out and he takes the lead on the next verse, doubling himself along with Karol’s returning support all around him. Then it’s J Balvin’s turn to take the wheel—straight up the middle at first in a cool, even flow atop the percussion—albeit sans guitar. Karol G comes back again, left of center—and the guitar returns behind her as well.
Follow the impact of the final-syllabic “tion-tion-tion” repeat, the recurring “woah-oh-ohs,” and the call-and-response section that mainly moves from left to center and back again—including Karol G’s playful snicker, Anuel AA’s signature rolling “brrr,” and her final “ooh-ooh”s to carry it all to the fade. If you need a reggaeton primer and/or refresher, “Location” in Atmos is the right place to go to get yourself all caught up.
ONE OK ROCK: “EASY ON ME (APPLE MUSIC HOME SESSION)”
The Japanese alt-rock foursome known as One Ok Rock recently served up an Apple Music Home Session, in turn gracing us with a pair of supercool tracks here in Atmos—1) an acoustified version of their 2021 hit “Wonder,” and 2) a soul-stirring cover of Adele’s deeply felt 2021 ballad, “Easy on Me.”
“Easy on Me” opens with a smoky organ figure setting the table for Toru Yamashita’s guitar riff panning wide on slight delay before Takahiro Moriuchi’s lead vocals kick in with the line, “There ain’t no gold in this river” flowing just right of center, with the bass and drums more centered right behind him. Yamashita’s earworm-inducing opening guitar riff continues on over to the left, as the bass and drums then perch slightly right of center.
Moriuchi hits the high notes on the chorus, especially how he extends the word “easy” up into the sky with key organ support and now-layered guitars panning wide until the signature intro riffage returns in the left, along with a sleek counter guitar in the right.
In the second verse, note the inflection on the word “who” and the soaring takes on “easy” and “feel”—the extended note run on the next, ensuing “easy” is a clear payoff as Moriuchi stays up in the higher register for the following impassioned line.
A clear arena-rock ending is stamped onto this track, as the guitar riff and organ buildups taking “Easy” to the finish are sure to become lighter-waving moments of the highest order if this ultimately becomes a staple of the band’s live set.
There’s certainly nothing easy about taking on Adele, but One Ok Rock’s moving twist on this established tearjerker is way, way more than just “ok” in Spatial Audio. It’s simply sugoi.
MICHAEL BUBLÉ: “I’LL NEVER NOT LOVE YOU”
Western Canadian-born traditional-pop icon Michael Bublé is an international treasure. “I’ll Never Not Love You,” released ahead of his expected March 2022 release Higher, showcases all the reasons why his voice is so rightly revered.
Light piano and cymbal taps open the proceedings, with a throaty Bublé positioned right of center, then center left, then shifting even further left when he gets to the line, “I’m sure that you’re not sure,” with the line after that moving right of center. As each line unfolds, the in-time cymbal taps move slightly left to right behind him, sometimes dipping in its presence in proper, instinctual support of the vocal.
Fuller volume swells in the pre-chorus arrive with louder bass content and guitar strumming both entering the sound picture. By the time Bublé, now even more out front in the mix, gets to his very first citation of the title phrase, his vocals move right to left, punctuated with his extended vowel reading on the last word of the title, “you.”
Bass and drums become more insistent on the second verse. The line, “Part of you is terrified of love again” resides slightly over more on the left. Bublé’s consistent, measured tone remains intact through the second reading of the title phrase, as the third take on it rolls over to the right.
Female-dominated backing vocals, which subtly joined Bublé a number of lines earlier, continue to back him up to the very end, albeit a little more prominently. All the instrumentation drops out for his final, all-channel belting of the last two words, “love you,” with an ever longer extension of the final “you” floating him well up into the clouds.
Reassuring in his vocal approach to this delicate narrative rather than coming across as overwhelming and/or over-emoting, Bublé again reinforces his status as a world-class standards bearer. In short, you’ll never not love the full sonic arc of “Not Love” in Atmos.
Acclaimed British indie-rock trio alt-J return after a four-year layoff with their new-to-2022 album The Dream, and one of its more intriguing tracks, “U&Me”—a sobering rumination on imbibing perhaps just a bit
A churning guitar line commences in the left as the established beat arrives in the middle. Joe Newman’s echo-laden vocals absolutely embody the line, “happiness is between two worlds” as he begins in the middle strike zone, followed by some slight left-right movement either from word to word, or phrase to phrase—depending on the vibe of the line at hand, that is—while percussive loops and effects swirl and crackle all around him.
The music drops out for a few seconds for some clockwise slot-machine percussive movement across the stage before Newman’s vocals return, buttressed by more electro-effects from Gus Unger-Hamilton and Tom Sonny Green. The title phrase and background vocals enter back into the mix, sometimes up in the clouds as the clever instrumentation swirls together.
The tone shifts into a snarling lead guitar, supported by more intense percussive backing. The volume of the vocals swell, delineating an even more urgent yet claustrophobic feel to the track. The instrumentation drops out, and the “ooh”s build amidst more tribal percussion that now carries the load as the vocals move to the forefront in the mix and embody the full stage.
alt-J, “U&Me,” and a fully utilized soundstage make three—and we all belong together in Atmos.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF SPATIAL AUDIO
For more about the specs, gear, and setup options you’ll need to experience the very best of the ever-expanding Apple Music universe of fully immersive Made for Spatial Audio Dolby Atmos mixes, go here.
Still want more Made for Spatial Audio options to listen to before an all-new Spatial Audio File returns next Friday? Go to Apple Music: Spatial Audio Relations to get an additional all-channel fill.