ShoegazerThe other day a friend asked me:  “So, this ‘Shoegaze’ music you keep going on about… what’s it sound like?”

OK, I’ll admit that my friend is completely mythical and exists solely to set up the topic of this article, but I think the question is a valid and interesting one, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer.  If you asked 20 Shoegaze fans to list their three favorite Shoegaze bands of all time, I’d be willing to bet that very few would pick the same three.

That’s because (as I noted in a prior article) Shoegaze isn’t a single, narrowly defined sound.  Looking back to the first wave of Shoegaze, if you listened to Lush’s Spooky alongside Chapterhouse’s Whirlpool, Slowdive’s Souvlaki, Pale Saints’ In Ribbons, Ride’s Nowhere, Catherine Wheel’s Ferment, and My Bloody Valentine’s loveless, I doubt that your first thought would be “Wow, those all really sound the same!” But you’d probably notice some commonalities in the way that the bands utilize guitar textures and the way vocals stand out (or don’t) in the overall mix.

Shoegaze is a sonic aesthetic that can be layered on top of many different kinds of music, and that’s why two bands that sound almost nothing alike could both get marked with a Shoegaze tag. Just for fun, I spent some time perusing Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and Wikipedia, and I kept a list of all the other genres that were applied to bands I personally think of as Shoegaze. Here’s what I found:

Dream Pop, Dreampop, Dreamgaze, Noise Pop, Psychedelic, Drone, Ethereal, Ethereal Wave, Darkwave, Doomgaze, Drone Metal, Post-Metal, Metalgaze, Space Rock, Krautrock, Nu Gaze, Nü Gaze, Electrogaze, Dark Ambient, Drone Doom, Ambient, Dronegaze, Dreamsludge, Grindgaze, Alternative, Stargaze, Slowcore, Coldwave, Jazzgaze, Dreamwave, Postwave, Shoegazing Punk, and Hiphop Shoegaze.

Faced with such a huge variety, where does one even start to explore?  Fortunately, the Internet has made it easier than ever to start trekking through all the possibilities that Shoegaze has to offer.  Back in the 90’s, finding new bands could require tracking down pricey imported copies of Melody Maker or NME, and then ponying up serious cash for even-more-expensive import CDs or vinyl. But these days, there’s a wealth of free or inexpensive music from around the world that’s just a few mouse clicks away.  Quite a few Shoegaze compilations have surfaced in the past few years, and they’re a great way to sample the new wave of ‘gazers.  Here’s a bunch you can find on Bandcamp (which is my favorite source for new music):

Static Waves Volume 1 from Saint Marie Records.

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=1190978296/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Volume 2

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3660464937/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Volume 3

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=758985516/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

100,000 Gazes

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=980174639/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

200,000 Gazes (two volumes)

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=392728774/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

and 300,000: A compilation (two volumes)

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3079578136/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

from the folks who publish the When The Sun Hits blog.

Revolution – The Shoegaze Revival

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2419462582/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

compiled by Gerpfast Kolektif

Compilado 2012 (three volumes)

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=4254837089/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

from Latino América Shoegaze

Leave Them All Behind – A Tribute to Ride

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3867132373/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

and Autumn Noises

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=1281106985/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

from The Blog That Celebrates Itself Records

The Active Listener New Shoegaze Sampler

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2693917438/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

from The Active Listener

Efflorencence

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3922308637/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

by At Sea Compilations

Nothing Much To Lose

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3957309672/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Dreams Burn Down

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=561334911/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=2ebd35/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

A great source of Shoegaze goodness right here at Step On is the series of Shoegazers We’re Listening To playlists. And another valuable playlist-based resource is the Shoegaze & Dreampop compilations put together by Dean “Shoegaze” Bromley over on Tumblr. He’s up to installment #55 and you can find the whole series in his Tumblr archive. His single-track Tumblr and Twitter posts are another easy way to learn about cool new and/or obscure bands.

I’d also like to put in a plug for eMusic, which started out as a subscription service focusing on small/independent labels. A few years ago, they went through a massive overhaul (and pissed off a lot of users) to accommodate the addition of major label artists to their catalog.  In the past year, however, the site has gone back to its roots and is once again focusing on independent music.  You won’t find the latest Madonna album on there anymore (sorry to all you Madonnagazers!), but you can find excellent bands like Nothing, The Cherry Wave, Pinkshinyultrablast, Strata Florida, and tons of other great ‘gaze.

There’s a lot more Shoegaze out there, and I’d be happy to provide additional recommendations, but hopefully the lists above will get you started on the path to finding your new favorite band that you just haven’t heard yet!

phil locke