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Intro to lo-fi rock: 5 bands to start with

Collegian | Abby Flitton

The lo-fi genre as a whole is a fantastic breeding ground for artists who want to refine their sound and presentation through experimental approaches and vulnerable recording styles.

Typically, the lo-fi genre exhibits elements of crude recording quality and more experimental approaches to traditional songwriting. However, these elements combined are what make lo-fi rock so special; it provides a unique and powerful listening experience to each person listening. If you are looking for a more experimental approach to traditional rock music, look no further. Here are five bands that utilize the lo-fi sound to their full potential. 


1. Duster

Duster is undoubtedly one of the most important bands to harness the lo-fi rock sound. Their entire discography has elements of lo-fi rock, but their album “Stratosphere” is an absolute must-listen for music fans in general.

The “Stratosphere” album also incorporates elements of slowcore, which blends perfectly with the lo-fi sound for a somber and slower listening experience. It’s hard to describe Duster’s sound without actually listening to their music, so get yourself a pair of headphones or good speakers, and embrace the experience.

Recommended tracks: “Heading for the Door,” “Inside Out,” “Stratosphere,” “Shadows of Planes,” “Echo, Bravo,” “Me and the Birds.”

2. The Microphones

The Microphones was created by an artist named Phil Elverum in Olympia, Washington. The range this band covers is immense, yet it masterfully crafts each track with the utmost consistency.

For example, each song spans a wide range of genres. The song “The Moon” starts off slow and somber but eventually picks up into a breakneck speed, diving into a more lo-fi noise rock sound. The songwriting and lyrics are also just as impressive as their sound. Elverum’s lyrics span plenty of feelings like isolation, longing and harping on sweet, but lost to time, memories. The Microphones are a must if you’re looking for more experimental lo-fi song structure. 

Recommended tracks: “The Moon,” “Headless Horseman,” “I Want to Be Cold,” “‘The Glow, Pt. 2,’” “Sleepy Hollow.”

3. Sebadoh

Sebadoh is a real treat. Their grungy and in-your-face production style is not only impressive but serves as an incredibly addictive listening experience. Sebadoh is one of many bands that truly pioneered the lo-fi rock experience, which blew its way into the mainstream and the ears of thousands of listeners. Lead singer Lou Barlow performs excellent lyrics that are catchy and powerful. When paired with the muddy yet bright-sounding instrumentation, Sebadoh is an excellent, fun and worthwhile band to listen to.

Recommended tracks: “Spoiled,” “Flame,” “Dreams,” “Not Too Amused,” “Magnet’s Coil.”

4. Car Seat Headrest

You may already be familiar with Car Seat Headrest, and maybe you have even heard a song or two of theirs. However, what you may not know is that Car Seat Headrest was started by Will Toledo during his college years when he would often record the vocals for his songs in the backseat of his car. If that does not scream “lo-fi,” nothing else does.


Car Seat Headrest is definitely more based in indie rock with its lyrics and delivery; however, the charm of lo-fi bleeds through each track. If you want to listen to charming tracks that involve topics like introspection, confidence, love, denial and self-acceptance, Car Seat Headrest is a must-listen.

Recommended tracks: “Beach Life-In-Death,” “Bodys,” “Maud Gone,” “Plane Crash Blues (I Can’t Play the Piano),” “Nervous Young Inhumans,” “Sober to Death.”

5. Neutral Milk Hotel

Neutral Milk Hotel did not have a long tenure as a band, as they only released two studio albums. However, even with only two albums, they left a lasting impact on the lo-fi genre as a whole.

Sonically, their sound is very recognizable, with Jeff Mangum providing his very distinct vocals along with his acoustic guitar playing. This blended with the rest of the band’s loud and very powerful background instrumentation makes for an incredible listening experience. The lyrics of each song are packed with body and provide a great storytelling experience. Neutral Milk Hotel is not a band you should pass up. They are an absolute necessary listen for any music fan.

Recommended tracks: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” “Holland, 1945,” “Communist Daughter,” “Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2,” “Ghost,” “Naomi.”

Check out RMCollegian on Spotify to find our lo-fi rock playlist.

Reach Christian Arndt at or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.

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About the Contributor
Christian Arndt
Christian Arndt, Life & Culture Editor
Christian Arndt is this year's editor for the life and culture desk at The Collegian. Arndt joined The Collegian in the winter of 2023, when he started as an arts and entertainment writer, primarily focusing on movie reviews, local art installations and music-curated lists. Arndt is the second life and culture editor and is proud to step into this position. He is focusing on providing the best local coverage in the Fort Collins area with a focus on unique business profiles, important cultural events and fun local happenings. Arndt comes from Silverthorne, Colorado, and came to Colorado State University in the fall of 2021. He is a third-year and is majoring in journalism and media communication with a minor in English. He found his passion for writing during his English classes in high school, and eventually with the style he chose to pursue, he ended up finding a passion within journalism. Because he had no prior experience with journalism, he was adamant to join The Collegian and build up his experience and reputation there. Aside from writing for the paper, you can find him at the cinema, watching basketball, playing video games with friends, walking his adorable dog Penny Lane, snowboarding and listening to plenty of music. Arndt finds his role as an editor thrilling and looks forward to providing the utmost care and consistency with the content that comes out for the life and culture desk.

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