With every new cultural trend, a counter-trend inevitably evolves to rebel against it. We are living in an era when the most popular music is beaten to a shiny, shiny Auto-Tuned pulp. It is no surprise, then, that many of those making music outside the mainstream have shifted into reverse and record on old, obscure equipment that submerges the music in a bath of clipped sound and fuzzy distortion. Some of these artists choose lo-fi for practical reasons -– studio time is expensive. But in this day of cheap recording equipment and open-source software, it’s not hard to sound professional, even recording out of a bedroom. More and more artists are choosing lo-fi as an artistic statement, and using its limitations to their advantage.
However, there comes a time in most lo-fi artists’ careers when it makes sense to move on to less fuzzy pastures. This transition can be a difficult one, often diminishing a band’s intimate, retro charm and angering a fanbase dedicated to the old sound. (Dylan going electric, anyone?) But sometimes it works out. After the jump, we’ve complied a list of artists that navigated the passage from lo-fi to hi-fi with grace and ease. We’re not gonna lie: we love the early stuff. But as their production values escalated, their music kept pace, and for many of these artists, their best work is surely still ahead of them.
Over the course of their three albums, Beach House have transformed from an obscure dream-pop act to a band playing fleshed out songs with crystal clear production for audiences of thousands. Their self-titled debut felt like a half-forgotten secret, full of songs that made us want to curl into bed with some incense burning and watch the snow fall. Though their aesthetic has remained the same, with each new installment Beach House grew more ambitious and confident. On last year’s Teen Dream, they expanded into hugely beautiful and emotional songs that took their initial concept to perfect fruition. And they still make the best music to make a chilling winter seem romantic.