Most musicians I know bemoan the current state of recording technology when it comes to the so-called "loudness wars." This refers to the digital tools engineers now have which allow them to make a recording sound louder through compression and limiting. In other words, if you listen to an original Beatles CD and then follow it with Metallica's latest release, Metallica will sound WAY louder. But this increase in volume comes at a price: the lack of depth or nuance in the recorded product and listening fatigue in the listener.
The problem for modern pop musicians is that it's impossible to make your CD today at a volume level similar to the Beatles because people won't listen to it. It sounds funny to them in comparison to everything else that's out there. In essence, we have trained listeners to expect this inferior sound and they reject anything that doesn't have it. The obvious solution to a difference in volume levels is for listeners to use the volume control to match volumes as they move from artist to artist on their playback devices. But that doesn't seem to have caught on. So if you're going to release popular music these days, you are condemned to participate in this little game.
The best thing you can do is find a mastering engineer who understands this whole mess and is able to give you a product that sounds loud enough to get by while still retaining a feeling of dynamics and variation in intensity throughout the work. Mongrel was a particular challenge because some of the songs swing between very loud and very soft parts. I have worked with Ken Lee several times now and he really stands a cut above other mastering engineers I've worked with. He understands and works with all genres, which gives him a perspective you won't necessarily get from engineers who focus on one particular style of music. He is also technically adept with an excellent understanding of how audio works in the computer age. I had one miserable experience in a prominent SF Bay Area mastering house where the engineer was unable to make a digital transfer of our files from one computer to another. He finally ended up running a 75 foot standard RCA cable between the two computers over which he transfered the files in real time as a S/PDIF audio playback. We should have walked out right then. The final product was not very good. We took one of the same songs to Ken and his version beat that inferior product by a mile. And his price was slightly less than other guy too. Ken's analogue equipment chain sounds superb. I always feel comfortable and welcome when I go see him. He goes the extra mile, quickly responding to any questions you have about the sessions by email and/or phone.