The anti-folk tradition

This is a drawing of a CD half out of its case. The case reads ‘From me to you’ with a heart in handwritten font. 
Are you for pro-folk or anti-folk music? PaliGraficas via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

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Music is taken seriously by many people. The music they enjoy is something they feel possessive over. No one likes to hear that their favourite genre is considered terrible by someone else. Sometimes the people who feel most serious about their music are the industry and the artists themselves. That’s where anti-folk comes into the picture. 

In the 1980s, the music industry was incredibly serious, and there were some artists who preferred to mock the industry rather than join its ranks. Thus, anti-folk was born. It was born with the intent to poke fun at how serious music was and as a protest against the seriousness. 

Another reason anti-folk started was because folk artists were struggling to find gigs at places most folk artists were playing, mostly in Greenwich Village in New York City. Instead of fighting to get gigs at those places, like Folk City, a new place was made. It was called the Fort and it was in the Lower East Side of NYC. The opening of the Fort was also called the New York Anti-Folk Festival. 

The songs that fall under the anti-folk genre are raw and real. However, not in the way you may think. When people talk about music that’s raw or real, they tend to talk about lyrics that reveal what the artist is thinking or feeling. With anti-folk, it’s the sound that is raw and real. The instrumental feels rich and outspoken in a way you don’t hear with popular music nowadays. Yes, the lyrics are also often deep and real, but it’s the lyrics matched with the raw instruments that makes it beautiful and cohesive. 

My personal favourite anti-folk band is The Amazing Devil. I’ve written about their most recent album Ruin in depth, so if you want a song-by-song review, I’d check that out. Their music feels like the things your soul wants to shout when you’re alone in the middle of the woods at night. It takes your fears, your wants, your loves, and puts it into music with hauntingly beautiful vocals. If you’re a fan of Netflix’s The Witcher, one half of the duo is Joey Batey, a.k.a. Jaskier.  

If you’re trying to think of an anti-folk song you’ve heard before, your best bet is probably Regina Spektor. Her song “Two Birds” has made the rounds on TikTok quite a few times. Her notoriety comes straight from the anti-folk source at the East Village in NYC. Her music is imaginative and fun, and you’ve probably heard more of it than you think. Her music has been featured on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, How I Met Your Mother, 90210, and more. 

My second favourite band is called AJJ, formerly called Andrew Jackson Jihad. The band members have changed a few times, but the music is still great. They tackle heavy themes like morality and death in a way that still feels like you can dance to it and not even realize what the song is about. They also get stuck in your head so easily, so if you check out any AJJ, which I highly recommend, be prepared to have their lyrics on replay in your head for days. 

If you’re tired of music that seems too serious or artists that promote their songs on TikTok for months before releasing them, listen to some anti-folk and let yourself feel carefree in rich instruments and melodies.  


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