Music really is louder than it used to be - the recording industry, in another one of its many, many brilliant moves, has been pushing sound levels up for years. You can tell the difference pretty easily - grab a CD (or even better, and LP) from the early 80s (or earlier in the case of an LP) - and then, leaving the sound at the same volume, slap in a new CD.
This is why the "volume equalization" option exists on the iPod, I guess. And why does the music industry do this? They think we aren't paying attention:
That distortion effect running through your Oasis album is not entirely the Gallagher brothers’ invention. Record companies are using digital technology to turn the volume on CDs up to “11”.
Artists and record bosses believe that the best album is the loudest one. Sound levels are being artificially enhanced so that the music punches through when it competes against background noise in pubs or cars.
Dynamic range? Who needs that?