Critical 5: The Best of New ShoegazeBy Michael Wojtas
Albums that revitalized staring at the floor.
While new shoegaze scenes have come in continual waves over the last two decades, the genre hasn't seen a proportionate amount of artistic growth. In fact, there's even something almost anti-progressive about most of the revivalists who have popped up in the last 20 years. Thankfully, more experimentally inclined bands have recently been begun to explore the possibilities of one of indie rock's most distinctive strains, and here, we've chosen to celebrate a few of the most exciting new shoegaze albums. Spotify listeners can hear more at Critical 5: The New Shoegaze.
Echo Lake - Wild Peace
Don't stop me if you think you've heard this one before: Londoners Echo Lake put out Wild Peace on Slumberland Records and they're openly, heavily informed by indie pop from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. But, believe it or not, this isn't the kind of frothy, female-fronted guitar pop you've heard countless times before. Unlike most albums by Echo Lake's peers, there's nothing remotely lo-fi about the sleek, graceful Wild Peace, and the band also let a surprising amount of contemporary influences (especially beachy American jangle) seep into their confectionary shoegaze.
Pure X - Pleasure
Somewhere in Austin, there must be a pharmacy running curiously low on pain medication. How else would you explain the sound Texans Pure X arrived at on Pleasure, an anesthetized album that lands somewhere between euphoria and euthanasia? Like the music of My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain, the songs on Pleasure are rooted in classic pop, but Pure X thankfully aren't the thousandth band to go the Crystals-buried-in-feedback route. Actually, the album sounds a bit more like the Everly Brothers took some ether with them up on "The Ferris Wheel," and were never quite them same when they came back down.
Lotus Plaza - Spooky Action at a Distance
Subtlety isn't exactly synonymous with the genre, but Lotus Plaza (a project from Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt) is the polar opposite of any band whose take on shoegaze involves buying a mess of pedals and trying to sing over the resulting noise. Pundt is a nimble guitarist who plays like the delicate, escape and flight-obsessed songs on Spooky Action at a Distance might crumble if a single note was played out of place.
Trailer Trash Tracys - Ester
The most experimental outing on this list, Ester abstracts Phil Spector pop until it's barely recognizable, and its skittering beats owe to both hip-hop and electronica. While there are precedents for what Trailer Trash Tracys do (Lush, Loveless's "Soon," the surreal and smoky alternative-universe slow dances of the Julee Cruise/David Lynch/Angelo Badlementi collaboration Floating Into the Night), nothing quite predicted the glitchy, amorphous shoegaze of Ester.
Minks - By the Hedge
There's plenty of overlap between dreamy goth pop and shoegaze, from My Bloody Valentine's mopey eyeliner origins to the way Robert Smith's yelping on Disintegration often seems in danger of drowning beneath all the atmospherics. Brooklyn's Minks seem to understand these parallels better than anyone, with their debut LP, By the Hedge, standing as an intoxicating intersection between melodic gloom and controlled noise. In Minks' world, there's no more romantic place than a rain-slicked cemetery, the headstones glimmering iridescently.