Lo-Fi Indie Folk recommendations
June 18, 2005 10:42 PM   Subscribe

I've just discovered The Mountain Goats (John Darnielle) courtesy of Large Hearted Boy and some positive online reviews. I love the fact that he used to record albums into a boom box, and has a voice and singing style that are quirky but oddly compelling. Any other recommendations for acoustic indie lo-fi folk (if that is a category)?

Extra points if the group/performer makes you feel like you could pick up your guitar and do what they're doing (i.e. not Leo Kottke)
posted by craniac to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Iron and Wine.
posted by shawnj at 11:01 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: I'm a longtime fan of the Mountain Goats. There's nobody out there quite the same, but several people kind of remind me of them: Palace / Will Oldham / Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Songs: Ohia / Magnolia Electric Company, the live Jeff Mangum (of the late Neutral Milk Hotel) album, Iron and Wine, Elliot Smith, Joanna Newsom, and maybe Uncle Tupelo or Novi Split, off the top of my head.
posted by jacobm at 11:02 PM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

You might give Willy Porter a shot.
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:10 PM on June 18, 2005

Definitely Iron & Wine, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (I'd recommend starting with Master and Everyone), and Elliott Smith.

Others I love: Vetiver, Sufjan Stevens, Currituck Co. (especially Ghost Man on First and Sleepwalks in the Garden of the Deadroom--hard to find, but you can order the latter from the artist), Devendra Banhart (if you like his voice; I can't stand it), Nick Drake, Julie Doiron, Kings of Convenience, Jolie Holland, and Damien Jurado.
posted by Hegemonic at 11:10 PM on June 18, 2005

acoustic indie lo-fi folk

Sebadoh, if you can stand a bit of noise. They pretty much invented "lo-fi indie folk." Early Portastatic, too, with Superchunk's Mac McCaughan recording in bathrooms with cardboard boxes for drums.

Extra points if the group/performer makes you feel like you could pick up your guitar and do what they're doing

Well, that pretty much defines the Mountain Goats' early stuff. Be sure to dig deep into John Darnielle's catalog.
posted by mediareport at 11:14 PM on June 18, 2005

Best answer: pick up In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. this album changed me.
posted by mcsweetie at 11:31 PM on June 18, 2005 [2 favorites]

Another veteran Mountain Goats fan here. He lived in Ames, IA for awhile. Neat to see him in the grocery store or whatever. Biggest celebrity I've ever "run in to" really. If you want to combine mcsweetie's reccomendation with the MG, you can grab the second track from the bottom of the "live stuff" here.

Also the first and fourth track on the jack and faye 7" at the top of the same page are amazing.

PS- This stuff is OK to download. Absolutely kosher, even.
posted by jaysus chris at 1:01 AM on June 19, 2005

Best answer: Joanna Newsom! She is simultaneously the worst and best singer ever. And the music is like some sort of otherworldly elf music from the forest. (she doesn't seem to really have an internet presence, so I'll send you to this pitchfork review.)
posted by philscience at 1:53 AM on June 19, 2005

Daniel Johnston
posted by springload at 4:28 AM on June 19, 2005

John Vanderslice's earlier albums, such as "Life and Death of an American Fourtracker" and "Time Travel is Lonely" are decidedly lo-fi and largely, though not exclusively acoustic. His last, "Cellar Door" is outstanding but not as acoustic. Also, have you heard M. Ward and Devendra Banhart?
posted by leecifer at 5:58 AM on June 19, 2005

Another recommendation for Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. F'ing brilliant album.
posted by saladin at 6:29 AM on June 19, 2005

I'll see your Neutral Milk Hotel, Nick Drake, M Ward, Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine, and raise you Holopaw.
posted by matildaben at 6:39 AM on June 19, 2005

All good reccomendations, esp. M Ward and Iron and Wine (esp. the first album).

I would add
Hayden - (esp. the Moving Careful EP - lofi 4 track stuff)
Vetiver (Devendra Banhart plays guitar for this group)
Josephine Foster (female equivalent to Mountain Goats? - really great, esp. the new album Hazel Eyes, I Will Lead You)
Greg MacPherson (esp. the Maintenance EP)
Six Organs of Admittance (esp. the album School of the Flower, a really great psychadellic folk album)
TW Walsh - he plays with Pedro the Lion (whom I reccomend as well), but I love his two solo albums Blue Laws and How We Spend Our Days)
posted by Quartermass at 6:57 AM on June 19, 2005

Definitely Devandra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens.

Also, this may be going out on a limb, but have you tried old folk blues recordings? The guys from the 20s and 30s — Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt and so on — are about as lo-fi and quirky and mysterious as you could hope for.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:59 AM on June 19, 2005

You'll probably be happy with a lot of The Mountain Goats music going back years and years, he's got a huge back catalog. For other artists, I particularly like Sufjan Stevens, Neutral Milk Motel, Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsome as many have also mentioned. You might also like more folksy musicians like Robert Blake and Erik Petersen and possibly even Jason Webley [different vocal style, similar content]
posted by jessamyn at 7:34 AM on June 19, 2005

As Franklin Bruno (who has made some terrific recordings in this vein, as well as some terrific recordings not at all in this vein) put it, "fidelity to what?"

You might want to look into Shrimper Records, which has basically no web presence, but released a lot of amazing low-tech stuff on cassettes in the early '90s. The 4-track/hiss-and-crackle incarnation of Sebadoh was called Sentridoh, and pretty much anything under that name is great (esp. "Losers"; also see Sebadoh's "The Freed Weed," which collects their early albums "The Freed Man" and "Weed Forestin"). Lou Barlow of Sebadoh/Sentridoh has a site with tons of MP3s.

I'm also a very very big fan of The Secret Stars, all of whose music is out of print but can be found in, um, the usual places.
posted by 88robots at 7:43 AM on June 19, 2005

Correction: Just went back to J. Vanderslice's older stuff and it's really just lo-fi, not so acoustic as I had remembered. Still great though.
posted by leecifer at 8:20 AM on June 19, 2005

Check out the Finnish scene for more beautiful and strange lo-fi music:

Islaja, Lau Nau, Hertta Lussu Ässä, Avarus, Kemialliset Ystävät, Keijo, Drowsy... 267 Purkkia Liimaa is a great compilation to get you started.

You should also investigate the Jewelled Antler Collective, operating in the Bay Area. They've produced some of the most beautiful and deceptively simple music I've ever heard. The Skygreen Leopards, The Blithe Sons, Dead Raven Choir are good places to start.
posted by nylon at 8:22 AM on June 19, 2005

You need not only Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, but lead singer Jeff Magnum's Live at Jittery Joe's for the true low-fi acoustic goodness.

Not exactly lo-fi and not always acoustic, but you might also like:

Richard Thompson
Big Star, plus Chris Bell's solo "I am the Cosmos"
Jonathan Richman/Modern Lovers
Smog -- especially "Supper"
Yo La Tengo's "Fakebook"

And if you really want someone with an quirky voice and singing style who recorded on a boombox in his bedroom, I second Daniel Johnston.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2005

Most of the artists I would have recommended have already been named so I'll just chime in and say you should check out emusic.com fo a lot of this stuff. Very cheap there. They have Mountain Goats, Banhart, Songs: Ohia, tw walsh, Sufjan, m. ward, daniel johnston, yo la tengo, etc etc.
posted by dobbs at 8:39 AM on June 19, 2005

Sufjan Stevens isn't so much lo-fi as meticulously arranged. Mallet percussion rockin' in 9/8 isn't something I could just do.
posted by kenko at 8:43 AM on June 19, 2005

Richard Thompson's Small-Town Romance live album is both lo-fi and acoustic, and quite good.
posted by kenko at 8:51 AM on June 19, 2005

These are my favorite bands, I hope you like them too.

Apparently you made this question for me, but everybody else got here first.

The only one I can think to add is Ugly Casanova, the Holopaw/Modest Mousey sideproject.

Iron and Wine's frontman, Sam Beam, is practically the next Jesus for me.

I *love* Holopaw.

I'll make you a mix cd. Hell, I've got about twenty of them laying around with all these artists already on them.
posted by redsparkler at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2005

And after looking in my "Lo-fi Alt. Folk" folder, I'm going to add Damien Jurado and Hayden.

And seriously. Mix cd. You. Me.
posted by redsparkler at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2005

The Golden Apples of the Sun compilation, assembled by Devendra Banhart, was recently re-released (scroll down about 3/4 of the way down that page). We discussed it here. It's definitely worth getting a hold of; it'll give you a good sampling of the emerging "freakfolk" (god, I hate that label) movement. Actually, you can listen to the whole thing for free online.

Let me nth the recommendation for Neutral Milk Hotel.

If you ever have the chance to see the Mountain Goats live (and you should; they tour a lot), please, please go. Great show.

Also, have you seen Darnielle's website? He's a hell of a music critic, with really eclectic tastes. I suppose the first piece you should read is his tour-de-force review of Radiohead's Amnesiac. (Start here; then go to the archives and read the articles entitled Amnesiac 2 through Amnesiac 11.) He actually managed to convince me that Amnesiac is a great album; It's my favorite Radiohead now.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:04 AM on June 19, 2005

kenko has a point about most of Sufjan Stevens' work, but Seven Swans isn't like that; it's much more stripped down, with lots of quiet acoustic guitar and sensible time signatures. That one's probably the best starting point for craniac.
posted by Hegemonic at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2005

you might also like Jeffrey Lewis.
posted by mcsweetie at 1:35 PM on June 19, 2005

i'm not too familiar with them yet, but the evens seem somewhat similar to the mountain goats.

and these are more lo-fi and less folk, but you might be interested: mirah and the microphones. both are on k records (which has a wide array of lo-fi goodness), mp3s available here.
posted by jetskiaccidents at 2:03 PM on June 19, 2005

Epitonic.com is great for this sort of question, particularly because they'll let you preview mp3s.
Here's their answer (from here):

similar artists:
Smog, Songs: Ohia, Appendix Out, Franklin Bruno, Dave Fischoff, Bingo Trappers, Extra Glenns
other suggestions:
Nothing Painted Blue, Jeff Mueller, The For Carnation, East River Pipe, Palace Brothers, Knife In the Water, Will Oldham, Palace, Royal City, Cat Power, Sarah White, Lou Barlow, Edith Frost, Ashley Park, The Mother Hips, The Capitol Years, Beachwood Sparks, Daniel Johnston, Manishevitz, Simon Joyner, TW Walsh, Alasdair Roberts, Spokane, Aroah, JR, Molasses, Maestro Echoplex, Bobby Birdman, Nate Ashley, Bright Eyes, Megan Reilly, The Curious Digit, Sean Na Na, D+, Steve Von Till, Erik Sanko, Elliott Smith, Migala, Win Foster, Patrick Phelan, Souled American, Bevel, Drunk, Geoff Farina, Arab Strap, Owen, Barzin, Burd Early, Papa M
posted by metaculpa at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2005

Woo! I get to post this link again.

Also: Dan Bern. Maybe.
posted by blag at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2005

I'd like to second any of the Jewelled Antler groups (i'm partial to Hala Strana, but that's much more influenced by East European folk than maybe you'd like), and all of the Finnish free (folk) underground...Islaja in particular--their new album is wonderful.

If you want something on the noisier end of things, I'd suggest a group called Iran, and their album The Moon Boys...Dark, bleary, and occasionally quite loud...
posted by hototogisu at 2:48 PM on June 19, 2005

As always, I will recommend (to the point of raving) the indescribable brilliance that is Califone.
posted by scody at 2:51 PM on June 19, 2005

I think Neutral Milk Hotel should be your number one priority here. And then go for the John Vanderslice and Iron and Wine.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:51 PM on June 19, 2005

Oh yes! Hala Strana, Steven R. Smith, and Thuja (I think the first and third are Smith by other names, actually) are all very good in a lo-fi folkie way, though not so much "indie rock" (and no lyrics, either). But they're very good. Hala Strana's self-titled is a good place to start.

(looking at the list metaculpa copied... Alasdair Roberts is very good, but he's got a kind of idiosyncratic singing voice, and he does real, honest-to-god English and Scottish folk—we're talking Childe ballads and such. No Earthly Man is good.)
posted by kenko at 2:58 PM on June 19, 2005

You might want to try the Antifolk Vol. 1 compilation from Rough Trade. "Call it what you want, this is Antifolk" is another similar compilation. They'll give you a taste of a bunch of different bands/people.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 3:40 PM on June 19, 2005

I wouldn't consider The Mountain Goats antifolk or freak-folk. He can be strident, sure, but in general he's much easier on the ears and closer to the "norm" than what you tend to find from those artists. I'd call him (sometimes) lo-fi indie rock.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:50 PM on June 19, 2005

Little Wings and Bobby Birdman.

posted by Coda at 5:01 PM on June 19, 2005

You need music.metafilter.com! More specifically, cortex, folktrash, and adrober.
posted by holloway at 5:22 PM on June 19, 2005

Response by poster: Excellent suggestions, this is a juicy thread! It's going to take me a while to sort all of this. I was already familiar with Newsom and Jeff Magnum, both are great. Thanks to all.
posted by craniac at 10:05 AM on June 20, 2005

Lots of bands I would have mentioned are listed here. But to find new stuff, I've been reading Uncommon Folk a lot lately. A great audioblog with consistantly good material that's new to me.
posted by emptyage at 12:01 PM on June 20, 2005

I caught The Mountain Goats last night in Portland craniac.
You Must Go See Them Live
Barring that...
posted by togdon at 12:37 PM on June 21, 2005

No shit. I was only mildly amused by John Darnielle and Co. on the albums until I saw them at that same Portland show and they, you know, blew my mind and all that. Luckily, my roomates are away and don't have to put up with the constant repetition of the latest album, since that's all I've been listening to for the last week or so.
posted by redsparkler at 3:38 PM on July 1, 2005

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