Lo-fi artists, mixes, and playlists are exploding on YouTube. Lo-fi tracks are pieces of music that are intentionally low fidelity, wherein listeners can hear ‘imperfections’ that are normally removed from tracks, for aesthetic and authenticity purposes. One of the best traits of lo-fi aesthetic is that it transcends genres. When you search for ‘lo-fi music’ on YouTube, you’ll find a wealth of playlists and tracks for hip hop, jazz, experimental, meditation, and pop music.
There are also entire playlists dedicated to lo-fi remixes of popular anime and video game soundtracks. That said, with the boom in lo-fi and expansion to different genres and cultural touchstones, fans of fantasy and science fiction – there are plenty of tracks for you too.
I’ve picked five of my favorite mixes out of the thousands you can find on YouTube. A few are focused on recognizable IPs, and others are more general. Please consider supporting the creators that have compiled and developed these mixes. Header image from Jens Mahnke.
Creator: Madame Gandalf | Length: 1:00:22
This track feels like a modern take on what it would be like to cozy up in a medieval tavern. The art and animation by Anne Isaksson & Hendril Costa is cozy and darker than other lo-fi tracks I’ve seen, and kind of makes you wonder what kind of weather system we’re working within this particular world. The video features 27 tracks that are generously timestamped, so listeners can jump to specific points in the video to replay their favorite tracks. As of writing, MadameGandalf has under 1k subscribers and I think that qualifies them as criminally underrated in the lo-fi scene.
Creator: Blue Turtle | Length: 1:00:14
This mix is just one part of a story currently being developed by creator Blue Turtle. The hour-long track begins with us out in the pouring rain, watching a lone cloaked figure hurry into a warmly lit tavern. The figure is revealed to be BlueTurtle’s character, Ithya, an ‘Elementalist’, who has found a lovely place to continue her studies. The hand-drawn scenes change over the course of the video. While Ithya is the main focus of the scene, we are treated to the comings and goings of other patrons of the tavern as well as brief glimpses of the village outside. It’s a peaceful and beautiful scene, one that makes you feel like you’re seated across from Ithya, wiling away at your own work.
Creator: Mr MoMo Music | Length: Live Stream
Here’s a mix that will take you to the next galaxy, or specifically, MoMo’s Space Cafe. Imagine finishing up your work or studying at a window seat, with a sea of stars just beyond a pane of glass. That’s the feeling this mix inspires. It’s a live stream, meaning listeners are treated to nearly endless music. It appears this mix is updated regularly too, as MoMo invites listeners to submit music to add to the stream. The artwork from Shane Marcos is adorable and I can’t help but feel like the cafe is a beacon, shining out and drawing intergalactic visitors in from afar.
Creator: Closed on Sunday | Length: Live Stream
Closed on Sunday’s Star Wars lo-fi live stream is a treat. The stream features 31 tracks composed by CoS and an incredibly animated Ahsoka from Prophet Art and Logan Himango. Ahsoka’s face is lit by a softly glowing screen in stark contrast to the gloomy day in Coruscant. The lo-fi remixes are recognizable enough to inspire a kind of nostalgia for the franchise, as well as those days from your childhood where you’d curl up in the back of your parent’s car during a long trip while they blasted the ‘modern classics’ radio station. …No? Just me?
Creator: Critical Role | Length: 52:16
I started watching Critical Role in early 2020, using my extra time at home to play catch-up with the years-long series and campaigns. I’m perpetually late to the party on these things, but during my binge of all things Critical Role, I came across their Mighty Vibes playlist on YouTube. The animations from this particular track, from artists Kami and Kevin Areopagita, are mesmerizing, rich with detail and callbacks to the show. The track also features audio clips from Liam O’Brien and Marisha Ray, portraying their respective characters Caleb Widogast and Beauregard Lionett.