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10 of the Best Modern Shoegaze Albums
A lot of people think shoegaze music lived and died with My Bloody Valentine, whose opus Loveless was released in 1991. However, there are plenty of bands carrying the torch for shoegaze and this thread is here to celebrate some of the amazing albums which have been released this side of 2000.
I’m going to be fairly liberal with the definition of shoegaze as I’ve always seen it more as a school of thought than a rigidly defined genre of music. Hence this list includes bands that could be considered more electronic or ambient or whatever.
1. Heavïness – Self Titled: This whole album reminds me of what would happen if you had a band entirely inspired by My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Moon Song’ but with some violin and cello thrown in just to spice things up. This is a fabulous album in its own right even without reference to the mighty MBV and the music feels fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Oh, and they’re excellent live if you do manage to catch them.
2. Fleeting Joys – Despondent Transponder: A lot of bands over the years have been compared to My Bloody Valentine but these guys are the full-on, sound-a-like deal. This is a great album if for no other reason than so few other bands have managed to mimic the MBV sound so well. That may sound like an insult but when you consider that the sound in question is the awesome whale-noise of MBV its difficult to see why no-one has attempted to do this before. Their more recent album treads a more psychedelic and individual path but this album is a great find for shoegazers hungry for more Loveless.
3. Astrobrite – Whitenoise Superstar: Astrobite has been releasing sugar-coated, fuzzed-up pop for a while as a break from Scott Cortez’s other incredible noise projects, the most famous of which is Lovesliescrushing (see below). This album is a departure from his previous work as it blends drum and bass beats with blessed-out noise, creating a sound that feels very unique and progressive. Gorgeous female vocals help this album soar, but there are excellent quiet bits too, including the incredible track ‘slo red’ which with its monastic, hushed vocals is reminiscent of Arvo Pärt.
4. Belong – October Language: I’m not a huge fan of post-rock or instrumental music, but this album is one of the good ones. Part of the reason this works is the quality of sound but the rest of the reason the album is so good is due to the music itself. There are tunes in here, albeit very slow ones! You can leave this album on and in its own quiet way it will make you feel better in the way that only the best music can.
5. Lassie Foundation – Pacifico: Lassie Foundation themselves dub their sound ‘pink noise pop’ which sounds about right to me. The music on Pacifico sounds very laid back and Californian, kind of like if Brian Wilson had led the Beach Boys to lend their great harmonies to shoegaze music! There is drama as well though, on the beautiful penultimate track ‘Bomber’s Moon’ which shows that Lassie Foundation can handle the serious stuff as well.
6. M83 – Before the Dawn Heals Us: Are they or aren’t they shoegaze? Who cares? M83 deliver an incredible soaring electronic album which to my mind at least is deeply steeped in the ideals of shoegaze, coupled with some French oddness. Before the Dawn Heals Us is like the soundtrack to the greatest science fiction film never made. Apart from some spoken-word silliness on ‘Car Chase Terror’ the quality is high throughout with standout tracks ‘Don't Save Us from The Flames’ and ‘Teen Angst.’
7. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Scribble Mural Comic Journal: On this album A Sunny Day in Glasgow craft their brand of busy, reverb soaked songs, topped off by C86-style vocals. While these guys are definitely in the ‘are they, aren’t they?’ category when it comes to shoegaze, they have more than enough to keep the average shoegazer happy and plenty of great tunes to boot.
8. Ringo Deathstarr – Self Titled EP: Ok so it’s not an album but if you add the more recent ‘In Love’ EP into the mix these guys have probably got in the area of an album’s worth of music. More importantly, there’s every reason to think that Ringo Deathstarr have an excellent album in them. I’ve spoken about the charms of killer track ‘Starrsha’ elsewhere, but the rest of the EP is a delight. The only thing these guys need to do to make a great album is to balance out their Jesus and Mary Chain Songs from their noisier My Bloody Valentine impressions.
9. Mustafa et Monique – Houdini Aubergine EP: Yes another EP, but sadly this is listed because, judging from what (very) limited information there is on this band, they don’t exist anymore. So what are we left with? A six-track EP only released on vinyl for some inexplicable reason full of fantastic lo-fi MBV impersonations. This band is so underground they never even bothered to create a myspace page. Nonetheless, the EP and some extra tracks should be reasonably easy to track down for the dedicated internet music bloodhound.
10. Lovesliescrushing – Chorus: The latest album from Scott Cortez’s Loveliescrushing moniker will be familiar to fans of previous work. However, this album gets its name and uniqueness from the fact that the album only features vocals. Warped, blurred and generally mechanically altered vocals they may be, but nonetheless there are no guitars whatsoever on this album. It’s a neat statement about why shoegaze philosophy trumps guitar tech but it also makes for a great and eerily beautiful ambient album in its own right.
If you’ve been clutching those old My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive records for what seems like an eternity you now have no excuse not to go out and explore some of the great modern shoegaze records. Enjoy!