Return of the Tapes: Peeking into the Window of Five of the Best Bedroom Artists
As these artists show, you don't need a recording studio to make a great record.
People have been making music out of their bedrooms and basements—or just within the general perimeters of their houses—for years. From the independent origins of Sebadoh to the brain-workings of R. Stevie Moore to Elliott Smith and the kitchen-run (for a little bit, at least) K Records, greatness often comes from humble origins. And so here, we present you with a few great home-recording projects of today.
Spencer Radcliffe, an Orchid Tapes alumnus and Chicago native, first started recording nouveau–Beat Generation collaged affections in 2008. He initially worked under the name Blithe Field, releasing a handful of introverted EPs and LPs—the most recent being January’s Face Always Toward The Sun.
Radcliffe might be the healthiest hoarder in North America; it’s not biohazardous New York Post clippings or Hostess Cakes he tends to hold on to, but moments—moments that revive the understated. He made beauty out of a voicemail, and he can do so with just about anything else. Radcliffe’s music is tender, interior, and winsome: if you ever feel a strange, self-reflexive voyeurism when you find yourself listening to old home recordings, listening to Warm Blood, Radcliffe’s 2012 record, might strike a chord.
Some time ago, the 4chan community converged to discuss Handsome Eric, a now nineteen-year-old musician from Dublin. For once, they agreed on something, and Stephen O’Dowd, the dude recording beneath his likely taupe and unwashed pillow sheet came alive. For, like, a second. Despite a brief gesture from VICE last year, Handsome Eric has managed, again, to fall between the cracks; unfortunately, it seems like his style, but it’s a real pity.
Granted, the parameters of “bedroom pop” have expanded, not to say there ever was a rulebook. So what makes Handsome Eric such a special snowflake? Well, as Palahniuk would growl, nothing really, besides his sincere belief that all is nothing. To backtrack, O’Dowd’s mastering his own paradox: he sings about his own deprecation and lassitude with meaningful energy, and though his albums, respectively named “nah, i’m good” and “oh, cool,” might seem to purport the exhaustingly cavalier and jejunely lo-fi attitude du jour, they tell us a whole lot more.
Ricky Eat Acid
All emotional granularity aside, if Stephen O’Dowd is a sad boy, then Ricky Eat Acid is a sad man. But while “sad” all too often connotes “static,” Sam Ray—the best bedroom project manager on the East Coast—reminds us anguish takes no breaks. Since 2011, Ray’s hosted an impressive catalog of musical projects—the main ones being REA, the brooding reverberations of Teen Suicide, and the comparatively-gentle Julia Brown, but also including more lesser-known ones like Starry Cat, Heroin Party, Gremlins, Dead Virgins, and a handful more.
Ray began recording under Ricky Eat Acid in 2011, but his peak critical acclaim materialized after his release of arguably one of the most magnanimous bedroom albums to date: Three Love Songs, a mastermind of an album that, miraculously, finds the ethereal in Drake. It could only be described as a warming of the insides.
Time seems to escape all but Viper, née Lee Carter, the Houston-grown rapper who made upwards of 300 albums in 2014. In 2015, sources said he’d made 262 more. You may recognize him from “You’ll Cowards,” his drawling, cloudy beat that almost broke YouTube. Viper’s chronology is as hazy as his album art, but here’s what we do know: somewhere in between 1981 and the completion of his 600th album, Viper got a business degree, saw the pen, acted in Fifth Ward (soundtrack by DJ Screw), and mastered Adobe craquelure.
Before Reddit became the best advice column on Earth, we had Yahoo Answers, the Internet’s greatest hermitage: where kids could cheat on chemistry homework and debate Gwen Stefani’s age. Last year, Celia Hollander (a.k.a. $3.33) released an album in the vein of our own repressed Yahoo past-lives entitled “I need some good rap music for my car.?”
Originally from Marfa, Texas, Hollander recorded the album after moving to Los Angeles and watching her life trail alongside the 405, or the 101, or the 110—doesn’t matter which, wherever dreams go to die and FreezeYourFat pays for advertising. Mostly, though, the record was conceived through the spirits of “Power,” or, Los Angeles’s Power 106, the radio station “Where Hip Hop Lives.”
Before you smirk, it’s not an ode. In the album’s press releases she stated, “This is something different: a pervasive commercial rap, an abstraction already from its origins, perverted, disseminated, dispersed, watered-down, packaged background music for white college girls driving to lacrosse practice.” Lacrosse or no lacrosse, give it a listen. She also makes recherché online mixtapes you can email her for. Commence!