Don’t get me wrong. I like the good stuff. My new favorite new band is Dirty Beaches, and that’s about the lowest fidelity you can get—you can hardly hear the words singer Alex Zhang Hungtai croons when the fuzz kicks in. But he gets away with it because he wields the sharpest sword a musician can wave around: musicianship.
For Dirty Beaches, lo-fi-dom is a choice—he’d still be a good songster without it. You can tell because his live performance kills.
Compare Dirty Beaches to acts like Best Coast and Cults—lo-fi darlings who have a record of sucking live.
Is it because they’re sub-par musicians?
I think so.
And how do they get away with that shit?
By turning the fi way down.
Music reviewers can pin the bands’ lousy performances on acoustic problems. But the only “acoustic problem” that matters is that the venue’s fidelity was probably too high for their weak-ass voices. We’re finally seeing them through a clear window, and what we see is thin trash.
Lo-fi is music’s Photoshop. You aren’t that good of a singer? Image > Adjustments > Vibrance. You have half a drum kit? Clone stamp tool. Your guitarist isn’t even strumming the right chords? Auto-blend layers.
Don’t worry. If you’re not good, we’ll fuck with the circuits and use a cassette tape recorder and play a bunch of fancy recording tricks. Chumps will eat it up because it reminds them of like, the beach and the 50s and old movies.
Lo-fi musicians, do I need to write this again in a big, fuzzy gray typeface—or are you guys listening?
To you I present my big white booty. Lay a wet one on it.
– Jen Wasserman
Photo by Nicole Howl, courtesy Dirty Beaches