The album I’ve listened to more than any other in 2010 may barely qualify as local, but that’s just how it is. I listened to Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me (Drag City) almost every day until I felt sick. After a month off, I’m back to three listens each week. It feels like this is the music I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear, I just didn’t know until I heard it.

This record has so much open space. When it needs to get dense, it does, but without ever feeling cluttered. The instruments are mixed so gently that even in the most explosive and saturated moments, the things never feel over-hyped or shoved in my face.

One of my favorite songs,“Good Intentions Paving Company,” demonstrates how well Newsom can drive a groove on piano, but my favorite moment is when she drops the triple layered vocals with perfectly synced vibrato. I get chills up my spine just thinking about that sound.

Around the time I first heard this record I also discovered the student recitals at the SF Conservatory of Music. Hearing those chamber instruments played in a room with such sweet acoustics opened my mind up to how those instruments want to sound. “Have One On Me” epitomizes the same flattering ambiance in recorded form, and has absolutely changed the way my ears hear music, both live and recorded.

Scott McDowell is a recording engineer who co-produces Chasing The Moon and also co-owns Hyde Street Studio C.