Dense layers, gliding vocals, and more pedals than the Tour de France – chances are you’ll have heard of at least a few of shoegaze’s trappings. But for the uninitiated, getting started in this genre can be an intimidating prospect – here are 12 recommendations tailored to fit any listener, all shown in order of appearance.
For those who feel confident enough to dive in, the classics of a genre are a great place to start, and shoegaze’s big three are Loveless, Souvlaki, and Nowhere. Loveless is undoubtedly the standard-bearer of the genre, it’s warm, thick instrumentation winning it universal critical acclaim, whereas the less bombastic Souvlaki stands firm as an emotional peak. Elsewhere, Nowhere’s washed-out 90s alt-rock bent will make it familiar ground to many listeners despite its prominence in the genre.
For those looking for something more accessible to begin with, dream pop carries many of the features that shoegaze adopted without the abrasive noise that so often turns off prospective fans. Bloom is a contemporary take on those ideas, with clear, spacey songs that focus on Legrand’s vocals, a clear descendant of Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas, a similarly styled album with a denser, textural approach to the sound. Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts acts as more of a bridge, connecting the airy dream pop sound to sections of thrumming guitars with a unique electronic influence.
To round off the list of more accessible albums, Velocity: deign: comfort combined the closely wound instrumentation typical to shoegaze with an uncharacteristic set of upbeat songs and catchy riffs to great effect. For those who listen to guitar music predominantly, both JJ’s Crystal Palace and RARE provide great jumping-off points by modernising the sound and couching it in more current alt-rock trends, with great transitions throughout both.
Of course, not everyone needs (or wants) to be inducted from the mainstream, so we’ll kick off the last three with Ecailles de Lune, which combines ethereal guitar sections with heavier instrumentation than has been seen so far on the list, in compositions that break the mould of most shoegaze song writing. Sunbather is often considered the archetypal “Blackgaze” album, blending our now-familiar genre features into those of black metal. Whether you’re trying to get into shoegaze from a metal perspective or vice versa, this is not to be missed. Finally, Weighing Souls with Sand is another missing link, this time to drone metal. Whilst not for everyone, the oppressive atmosphere of this record tops all else and is sure to leave a strong impression – for better or worse!
And there you go – 12 picks to get your foot in the door. Those struggling to appreciate the albums on offer may find some direction on popular review sites such as Pitchfork, theneedledrop’s YouTube channel, or the public rateyourmusic.com – all of which are also great for finding albums beyond the scope of this article.
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