BitchTapes: Lo-Fi Ladies

Ashley McAllister
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"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!

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11 Comments Have Been Posted


Thanks for this, Ashley. This mix provided a ray of sunlight in a dreary Austin Friday. In addition to lo-fi's defiant amateurism, I often think of musicians replacing the studio with intimate, domestic space, potentially queering the bedroom and reclaiming it as a space for resistance rather than assumed passive girlhood. Yay!

You're very welcome! Your

You're very welcome! Your blog was actually one of the first that came up when I typed in lo-fi + feminism, so I thought you might like this one. I'm super intruiged by the talk I've been hearing lately about girl's bedrooms as spaces of cultural production... Is there anything in particular that you recommend I read?

How 'bout Sleigh Bells?

This unlikely duo of a hardcore guitarist and the singer for a failed teen-pop group won my heart back in December with their wonderfully sticky lo-fi noise-pop song, <a href=>"Crown on the Ground"</a>. Their debut album just got named Best New Music by Pitchfork today, so I'd really love to hear it!

I'll make sure to listen to the mix, it sounds great!


I appreciate the recommendation. This song is AWESOME.

Sourpatch! Shop Assistants!

Sourpatch! Shop Assistants! yesssss. love this.

Where's Linda Smith?

Are you familiar with the work of Linda Smith? Indie rock royalty and lo-fi pioneer.

Fantastic mix

Great job curating this mix. A great intro for all my friends who are completely perplexed by my love of lo-fi women. I'll be sharing it.

I always hated punk music.

I always hated punk music. Who knew all it took was for girls to do punk? Cause I really enjoyed this. A couple of the tracks did remind me a bit of Joan Jett, who I actually appreciate a bit more now, I think. Please, just say no to Crystal Bowersox. . . All I know is she makes me glad I did not listen to music in the 60's and have to listen to the all important 'authenticity' of Janice Joplin. She could sound like she just came out of a black church like no ones business.

Lofi musicians overlooked

This is a good mix. But what about nerdkween? She's been making music for a while now and I think her music is incredible. Its cyptic, gothic and dreamy too. She even performs with live radios on stage.

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