Genre Deep Focus: Shoegaze

Story posted 6 days ago in Arts & Entertainment by Jon Mead.

The term “shoegaze” is a historical term introduced sometime around the late 1980’s to describe a style of music characterized by its sliding and distorted guitars, heavy waves of feedback and soft vocals.

While many prominent artists during that era dawned flashy outfits and wild dance routines, members of shoegaze stood on the stage motionless, detached and almost in a trance, relying solely on their sounds to sway the audience.

The term “shoegaze” came about due to performers staring down at their feet, at the overwhelming amount of effects pedals they used for their guitars. Literally, shoegazing.
The atmosphere created by this music can be best described as woozy and ethereal, with its droning riffs and bent guitars.

Through the walls of sounds and distortion, came about a soundscape that will melt the minds of those that expose their ears to it.

Shoegaze is easily one of the most identifiable genres of music, and those that take the time to listen will realize that it’s like taking a bath in beautiful sounds, with its melancholic and dreamy vocals.

The many bands that can be best described as shoegaze were inspired by dream pop bands that emerged from the neo-psychedelic movement of the ‘70’s.

Historically, many have used the two terms shoegaze and dream pop interchangeably, while fans have also argued a distinction between both styles of music, and most generally agree that they're very similar.

Although some may have never heard of shoegaze, its influence still lasts today, even when it met its decline at the hand of the more commercially successful grunge rock bands that started to form in the ‘90’s.

In the early 2000’s, the indie scene saw a resurgence in shoegaze, and even today one can still go on Spotify and find many indie bands that are shoegaze-influenced.

With that being said, here are some of the best shoegaze bands, and a few of their greatest albums.

My Bloody Valentine

Headed by lead guitarist Kevin Shields, My Bloody Valentine remains one of the most genre-defining groups of shoegaze, as they’re credited for truly making the genre.

Bilinda Butcher’s distinct, shy vocals blended with the ethereal atmosphere of each of their works makes for a breathtaking listen.

Their LP “Loveless” is absolutely essential.

Slowdive

Slowdive really packs a punch when it comes to bringing the ethereal aspect and atmosphere to shoegaze.

In addition to My Bloody Valentine, they’re also one of the most well-known groups in that genre.

Although they’re a little more slow-paced, their album “Souvlaki” can be best described as heavenly.

Ride

During their reign, this band had a powerful energy, yet remained very underrated.

Ride cemented themselves as the archetypal shoegaze band. In addition to that, they helped kick off the whole Britpop movement along with Blur.

Their records “Nowhere” and “Going Blank Again” are some of their best work.

Cocteau Twins

Although many think they fall under dream pop rather than shoegaze, Cocteau Twins’ influence is undeniable.

Originating from Scotland, guitarist Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser met at a local disco, establishing a musical match made in heaven.

Fraser’s vocals completely abandon any recognizable form of language, but are gorgeous nonetheless.

The album “Heaven or Las Vegas” and the track “The Itchy Glowbo Blow” are sure to blow audiences away and get them hooked on the rest of their discography.

DIIV

DIIV — pronounced “dive” — is a perfect example of a modern-day indie band that can be classified as shoegaze-influenced.

They released their album “Deceiver” in 2019 and their sound and vocals are explosive, whispery and grungy.

Look out for tracks “Horsehead” and “Like Before You Were Born,” songs that are absolute bangers.

 

Jon Mead is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jkm6040@psu.edu.

About the Contributors

Jon Mead's photo

Jon Mead

/