"Subverting the term 'hi-fi', 'lo-fi' music refers to a musical style in opposition to high production values. Encompassing an ideology that has been both championed and ridiculed over the decades, for some, this is the only way they are willing to make music, to others it represents an annoyingly shambolic, amateur style. It is, however, this celebration of the amateur that is at the heart of the DIY scene."
-Amy Spencer, DIY: The Rise of Lo-fi Culture
Most of us are taught that 'good' music is polished, without background noise or distortion. Popular culture embraces this kind of music. We're shown that if we want to succeed as musicians, we must aspire to make flawless music with the best equipment out there (meaning the most expensive, of course). Lo-fi music is awesome because it rejects this idea. It breaks convention. It's distorted and fuzzy, contains background noise and limited frequency response. Lo-fi doesn't give a shit about the rules.
We've all heard one of Audre Lorde's most famous lines: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." Let's take a minute to apply this to the music industry. If the house we're talking about is the music industry, well, it's important to mention that it's long been dominated by privileged white males. The music industry was not built with most people in mind. So it's no wonder that riot grrrl and queercore began to reject the 'master's tools' (the expensive equipment, polished sound, the idea that conforming to an industry created without you in mind is something you should be doing). Lo-fi rejects the 'master's tools' and creates its own sound.
This mix is comprised of music made primarily by women. I don't mean to ignore the guys in the bands by calling this a "lo-fi ladies" mix; rather, I want to highlight lo-fi female-fronted music. Additionally, I can't say why these bands decided to make lo-fi music and I won't pretend to know each band's politics. While some of them definitely made the music as a statement against mainstream music/the man, others were probably just into the sound. Either way, this mix makes me feel like all I need to start a band is a $1 microphone and a couple of friends.
1. Bratmobile - I'm in the Band
First generation Riot-Grrrl. This song is THE song to listen to if you're a grrrl in a band (or a grrrl thinking about starting a band).
2. Pearl Harbor - Luv Goon
Dreamy California fuzz-pop. Pearl Harbor is comprised of two sisters, Piper (who's 22) and Skyler (who's 14!). I love what Piper told Pitchfork: "I'd never really played music before this project…it just seemed like I could be the most comfortable in expressing myself with my sister. We have this psychic chemistry...that really has worked in terms of being able to develop ideas and work together. "
3. The Sandwitches - Back to the Sea
If I were to go to a sock hop, I imagine this is the kind of song I would hear.
4. Best Coast - Sun Was High (So Was I)
My new favorite. In a recent interview, Bethany Cosentino described her band's songs as, "stoned love letters to imaginary boyfriends."
5. Vivian Girls - Where Do You Run
Because it would not make sense to not include these gals.
6. The Shop Assistants - I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You
To the point.
7. Fizzbombs - Sign on the Line
Fuzzy beach jam! A short lived band from Edinburgh (1987-1989).
8. Sourpatch - Fun
Four band mates from San Jose. This is a fast-paced, sweet song that's got me thinking about friendship and springtime. "I'll supply the lunch if we go far/And you can pick the tunes we'll sing in the car/And we'll run away if you'd like to go."
9. PENS - You Only Love Me When I Tell You I'm Wrong
A garage pop trio from London. This song has lots of reverb and super catchy lyrics. Their super lo-fi video for "High in the Cinema", another one of their songs, is above.
10. Moofish Catfish - Lightbulbs
Coolest band name ever. This song is FUN. Listen to it all the way through for dog barking, a kazoo, and references to hairy men!
11. Sexy Kids - Sisters Are Forever
Lots of wonderful bands come out of Glasgow (Camera Obscura, Belle & Sebastian, Orange Juice, The Jesus and Mary Chain). Sexy Kids is one to add to the list. This song is contagious (and very cute).
12. Rough Bunnies - Poppy Eye
Rough Bunnies consists of two cousins from Sweden. I like this song because they sing about skateboards and roller blades.
*A big shout out to Ben Estes for getting me started down the lo-fi road.
Please feel free to share your lo-fi favorites!