Basement tapes and beyond: 12 albums recorded at home

May 14, 2014
Photo: cassette
More recently though, the proliferation of home recording equipment has made it exponentially easier for musicians to record at home. Today, these independent artists are often discovered through recordings for which they did not have to book any pricey studio time.
Let’s examine 12 albums recorded at home:

The Black Keys - "Thickfreakness"

Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach recorded their first two albums in Carney’s basement, but by the time they were ready to record “Rubber Factory” in 2004, the landlord had enough and they had to find another place to record.

Beck - "Odelay"

Recorded in the home of the Dust Brothers, "Odelay" established Beck as an alternative rock superstar. The singer recalls that one of the walls was hidden entirely by records in the small room. The Dust Brothers original version of Pro Tools (the 1994 edition) was very outdated: it took so long for the mixes to finish that Beck was able to use the down time to find new samples to integrate into his music.

Elliott Smith - "Roman Candle"

"Roman Candle" was recorded while Smith was still in the band Heatmiser, in the basement of his then-girlfriend J.J. Gonson on nothing but a four-track recorder. It was never intended for release as Smith only expected to release a 7" record, but Cavity Search Records requested to release it in its entirety after hearing the album in 1994.

Nick Drake - "Family Tree"

A compilation album released in 2007, "Family Tree" includes many of Drake's songs recorded at home before the release of his first studio album "Five Leaves Left." The album includes an appearance by Nick’s sister, Gabrielle, and two original songs by his mother, Molly Drake.

Kathleen Hanna - "Julie Ruin"

Kathleen Hanna recorded under the pseudonym Julie Ruin after the breakup of her feminist punk band Bikini Kill. She recorded and produced the album in her Olympia, Washington apartment bedroom. Hanna claims: "Girls' bedrooms can be this space of real creativity. I wanted Julie Ruin to sound like a girl from her bedroom made this record, but then didn't just throw it away or keep it in her diary. She took it out and shared it with people."

Iron and Wine - "The Creek Drank the Cradle"

The first album from musician Sam Beam that was recorded/produced in his Miami, Fla., home. Like Elliott Smith, Beam used a four-track tape recorder to capture the sound he wanted.

Radiohead – "OK Computer"

Although not exactly produced cheaply, Radiohead’s "OK Computer" was recorded in a large “Tudor manor house” in Bath, England with producer Nigel Godrich. The mansion was the former home of actress Jane Seymour, best known as TV's Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman.

The White Stripes - "De Stijl"

The garage rock duo's sophomore album, named after the De Stijl (The Style) Dutch art movement, was recorded on an eight-track analog tape in Jack White’s living room. He later claimed he would never again record at home because of the many interruptions which he encountered.

Daniel Johnston - "Songs of Pain"

The cult musician and artist who was the focus of the 2005 documentary “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” recorded his 1981 debut album in the basement of his parents’ house in West Virginia. 

Guided by Voices - "Bee Thousand"

The seventh album from the Ohio lo-fi rock band was recorded on consumer-quality audio recorders rather than in a studio. Most of the influential indie record's 20 songs are less than two minutes long.

Mountain Goats – "Full Force Galesburg"

The Mountain Goats, known for John Darnielle's under-produced tape recordings, recorded "Full Force Galesburg" on a Panasonic RX-FT500 boom box. The album subsequently drew in legions of devoted followers.

The Thermals - "More Parts Per Million"

For the Portland punks' debut album, frontman Hutch Harris recorded in his basement (dubbed "Moss Motel"). It was mixed by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla, who made sure the record stuck to the band's lo-fi roots.