RAT!hammock: 9 Lo-Fi Geniuses
“These artists are all absolute geniuses who have rejected the sonic finesse and the over produced shine of the traditional recording studio, choosing the (mostly) DIY approach,” says singer Jackson Phelan.
Daniel Johnston is the ultimate lo-fi genius. I spent almost all of 2016 listening to his hefty back catalogue sucked in to his world of cartoons and recorded conversations. He truly gave his life to his art, making cassette after cassette of amazing music. Through the years he’s written some of the most sincere, direct and affecting songs I’ve ever heard. This is a beautiful, hopeful song.
(Sandy) Alex G
Recorded with a $60 USB microphone and GarageBand, this track absolutely slays. (Sandy) Alex G is a genius who uses minimal tools for maximum firepower. Armed with amazing chord progressions, melodies and lyrics. This song sounds like you’re watching Elliott Smith buy cigarettes.
Alexander Biggs is probably the most consistently great songwriter I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. This huge track was the one that started it all and it absolutely reeks of genius. Since putting out this first single he’s released two amazing EPs with a beautiful hi-fi take on the lo-fi aesthetic, but you can’t go past this for the OG. Washy stacked vocals, beautiful parlour guitar, subtle tambourine – and that’s all you need.
Mickey Cooper’s debut solo record Hit The Ceiling is a future cult classic. Flawless songwriting, recorded with a single Shure SM57 during a couple of months renting a New York apartment. Mickey was trying to save money and partially made this record as a free activity to fill his days. He just happened to make one of my favourite albums of all time. I pick a different favourite track every few months but at the moment this is it. A lot of people like this record for the cover art, but Mickey’s real genius lies in his lyrics and his chords and his melodies and his production and his vocal delivery.
Can we talk about evil geniuses for a second? This is the kind of music that would soundtrack a Playstation game called Satan’s Day Off where you play as Satan and drive your car around hell on his RDO trying to catch up on life admin. Recorded with binaural microphones, a nylon string guitar and a Nintendo DS, this is otherworldly lo-fi. “Saturate the tissue in epiphany tears/And clap for the mosquito whispering in your ears.” Mmmm super villain level genius.
I’m just gonna say it, ’Shit For Brains’ is the best song title of all time. If my music ended up sounding anything like I wanted it to every song I write would just sound like this one. Fergus Miller was undoubtedly a genius and the world is a little bit less shimmery without him creating art in it.
Neutral Milk Hotel
Seminal lo-fi rock band Neutral Milk Hotel, purveyors of all things surreal and melancholy. Singing saws, distorted acoustic guitars, foley tape sound. Magnum said this song was a children’s song, but I won’t be playing it to my future children anytime soon. “For I am an engine and I’m rolling on/Through endless revisions to state what I mean.” G-E-N-I-U-S.
New Hampshire-born sisters The Shaggs were hugely influential and known for their idiosyncratic and loose sound. Philosophy of the World has a simple message but it all just sounds like a face without eyebrows or like it’s melting or something. Serious genius to create a sound completely your own and almost impossible to replicate.
Mitski straight up just kicks ass. For me this song is incredibly melancholy, Mitski sounds so graceful and powerful giving one of a most heart wrenching self eulogy. “I always wanted to die clean and pretty but I’d be too busy on working days/So I am relieved that all of this turbulence wasn’t forecasted/I couldn’t have changed anyways.” Genius songwriter and has a voice like no other. Love that.