As long as there’s been a “lo-fi” genre, there have been bands ditching their basements for studios the second a record exec utters the term “album budget”. But as we slowly move out of the era of the Great Lo-Fi Explosion of 2008 (installment #80 of a never-ending series), it seems as though we’re starting to make just as big a deal of bands shying away from the lo-fi sound as we were them adopting it in the first place.
Last week, London band Male Bonding (a band I never really thought to be of the lo-fi persuasion), talked to Pitchfork about moving away from the “lo-fi” sound. If this were an isolated incident, it wouldn’t really be worth mentioning. But this seems to be a burgeoning Big Theme in the world of contemporary indie, a purported mass exodus of your favorite lo-fi bands to the greener pastures of Pro Tools. But this “trend” is nothing more than a natural progression, regardless of whether or not it gets treated as such.
Wavves traded in the “Beach Boys-meets-Slitbreeze” sound for something more mall-punk-friendly. The babyfaced glam-punks in Smith Westerns try their hand at Brit-pop. Dum Dum Girls go from covering GG Allin to covering The Smiths. Cloud Nothings decided smart-assed no-fi paled in comparison to the idea of a pop-punk band covering Gin Blossoms songs. John Darnielle slowly and gradually morphs into John Denver. So it goes.
And while fans of grimy, punk-leaning indie are wondering What It All Means, there are always going to be bands either continuing to favor their four-track decks or new bands coming to replace the ones paying for studio time. The forthcoming Times New Viking record finds the band cleaning up their act without having them put on a shiny suit, or even clean clothes. Newcomer Dirty Beaches channels rockabilly and Sun Records balladry underneath a thick sheet of tape hiss. And I’ll likely hang my dirty shoes up for good if Joe Chiccarelli is ever tapped to produce an Eat Skull record. If this seems like oversimplification to you, it probably is. Bands upping the recording quality of their tunes as they progress is as self-evident as a practice as it is baffling as a major talking point of a band’s legacy. That’s what the songs are for.