10 Greatest Lo-Fi Albums Of All Time

The best of the fidelity-challenged.

Bob Pollard

Whatever its legacy is today, the lo-fi movement from the mid-1980s to the 1990s allowed more musicians to get their ideas out there. Without having to shell out extra money or go through some sort of gatekeeper, many recorded their albums through very inexpensive tape recorders or boomboxes - the term "lo-fi" being coined in reference to subsequent quality of sound, which was lower than that of the industry standard at the time.

Lo-fi served as a means of tearing musical boundaries down, to allow for complete accessibility. It showed that sound quality should not matter to a musician if they can write interesting music.

Many of the most well-known albums associated with lo-fi have a deliberately ruined aesthetic, as artists merged pop sensibilities with off-putting experiments in noise. Lo-fi showed that albums could be colorful murals of genre, rather than having to submit to a standard form, as a movement it was a great equalizer. It allowed anyone and everyone to record their music and get it out to an audience, and it shined a spotlight on artists that may have never received attention from the major music markets otherwise.

More important than any of that though, it produced some brilliant and original albums...

10. The Mountain Goats - All Hail West Texas


The final Mountain Goats album recorded on a boombox is arguably their best album. "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton" alone merits its inclusion towards the top of their discography. 

John Darnielle's songwriting talents, honed on his handful of previous lo-fi releases, reach a zenith on All Hail West Texas. It is a devastating collection of music about lonely citizens scattered about West Texas. Although, this desolation is occasionally comforting - one cannot help but related to the persistence of characters such as Cyrus and Jeff. 

Other times, the loneliness is overwhelming. Songs like "Fault Lines" detail the dismal after effects of a once-youthful relationship that rode on naiveté. This selection of songs is the first high point for an artist whose catalogue is full of high points. 

Posted On: 

Musician and student from Pennsylvania who knows very little.