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The 50 Best (?) Shoegaze (?) Albums

I don't know how many readers of this blog are interested in this. I only know for certain that one person is, and that's Rob G, who sent me the link to Pitchfork magazine's "The 50 Best Shoegaze Albums of All Time." But it's one of the enjoyable things about blogging that you can write about anything that happens to interest you. And the pop music sub-genre "shoegaze" is one that I like a lot. (In fact it's one of only two sub-genre names which, when applied to a band, will cause me to be interested in hearing the music even if I have no other information about it. The other is trip-hop.)

The question marks in my title, by the way, are meant to say that I don't necessarily agree (of course!) that these are the best, or even that they are all shoegaze.

The Wikipedia article, which uses the term "shoegazing" rather than "shoegaze," describes the style well enough. Like any such term, it's not precise. The word itself comes from the fact that some of the first bands which defined the sound often seemed to be looking at the floor while playing. The Wikipedia article explains all that. I'll just say that in my mind the term implies very thick guitar textures combined with wistful and dreamy melodies and lyrics. Personally I lean toward the overlapping term "dreampop"; that is, the shoegaze I like tends also to fit the "dreampop" category. 


Here's a suitable-for-dictionary-example example, Slowdive's "Waves":

I've heard a lot of the bands on the Pitchfork list. My opinions follow, and discussion is welcome, naturally. If it seems strange to you that I have so many of these, and yet mention at several points that I have not actually listened to this one or that one very much, or even at all, it's because of the great firehose of music from which I drank between roughly 2000 and 2010. For much of that time offered music on mp3 which was almost free, so that if I was the least bit interested in an album (I'm old-fashioned about albums) I would grab it. Soon I had far more than I could listen to, and I'm still working my way through it.
I don't mention the Slowdive albums that appear on this list because in my mind Slowdive is shoegaze and everything they did is good-to-great, including their recent "comeback" album, which is just called Slowdive. (Thanks to my friend Daniel Nichols for introducing me to them back in the days of the mixtape.)
#49: All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, Turning Into Small. I have this album and have only heard it a couple of times. On that basis, it's not a favorite. Kind of...jerky beats. Nice sound but no great tunes jumped out. That could change with more hearings.

#46: loveliescrushing, Bloweyelashwish. Only heard one song by this group, but I really like it, and they're on Projekt, which is a generally good label (though mostly "darkwave," which I like but is certainly not everybody's cup of tea).
#39, Windy and Carl, Antarctica. I would call this ambient rather than shoegaze. I have several of their albums and they're all somewhat similar, but iirc this is one of my favorites. 
#37, Asobi Seksu, Citrus: On the basis of a few hearings there are at least three or four tracks here that I really love. Have meant to return to it for a more attentive listen. "Thursday" is a remarkably joyful song. If you don't like it there's probably something wrong with you.
#35, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Ashes Grammar: Haven't heard this one, but have another of theirs, Autumn, Again, which I would call more interesting than involving. Sort of jagged and jumpy but intriguing. Don't know how it compares to this one.
#32, Alcest, Souvenirs l'autre Monde: As suggested in the review, very heavy in places--black metal meets shoegaze. Pretty good but you might not like the noise level at some points.
#31, Ulrich Schnauss, A Strangely Isolated Place: It wouldn't have occurred to me to call this shoegaze, but I love it. I think this is one of those things that either hits you hard where you live, or doesn't. But if it does, wow. I'd actually recommend another of his albums, Faraway Trains Passing, over this one, but they're both extremely good. Faraway Trains is sonic sehnsucht for me.
#30: Blonde Redhead, 37: I don't know this one, but I have their Misery Is A Butterfly and like it a lot. Also less typically shoegazey. Quirky little tunes and vocals.
#27: Lush, Spooky: I have a best-of which includes some of these songs. Doesn't knock me out.
#24, Lilys, In the Presence of Nothing: Another one bought in the great firehose and not really listened to. Seems fairly typical but deserves more attention.
#23, Catherine Wheel, Ferment: A great album. Actually rather hard rock, but very melodic. Rob Dickinson is a great singer. When I first heard it I thought of it as updated psychedelia.
#8, Swervedriver, Mezcal Head: Have been wanting to hear this, as it's so highly regarded, but on the basis of one song it doesn't strike me as especially my cup of tea. Closer to Ride I guess but not as shoegazey.
#7: Catherine Wheel, Chrome: I haven't heard this, or at least not all of it, but think the tape of Ferment which a friend sent me and which was my intro to CW actually includes a few songs from this. If so it's probably as good as Ferment.
#4 and #1, My Bloody Valentine, Isn't Anything and Loveless: I have both of these but have not listened to them that much. They're sort of...demanding. Loveless seems to be pretty much universally loved (heh) so I have hopes. Isn't Anything seemed almost abstract on one hearing. 
#3, Ride, Nowhere: Yes. Closer to psychedelic rock than to, say, Slowdive or MBV, but a great album.


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I'm sorry to say that I've not heard of any of these folks, with the exception of My Bloody Valentine. I don't think I've heard any of the music either.

I strongly recommend Slowdive, at least if you like the song I posted. I think their appeal is wider than that of anybody else on that list (of the ones I've heard).

I agree with Mac's judgment on the majority of the stuff that we both have heard. But in comparing notes we found that there were a lot of records here that neither of us have heard, and also quite a few that one of us has heard but not the other.

Our conversation about this subject started last week upon my discovery of this video by a band I had previously never heard of, The Veldt, who put out a couple albums in the 90's then reformed as Apollo Heights to do one album in 2007, which is very hard to find. And apparently now they're The Veldt again. This song, "Everlasting Gobstopper," is from the Apollo Heights record. Definitely shoegaze-sounding, although I think you can hear a little Prince in there as well!

I think this performance is partially sequenced (for one thing there's no drummer in sight) but it's great stuff nevertheless.

I'm with Mac on Slowdive probably being the best representative of this music.

As far as #3 goes (Ride) I would have picked this song instead of the one they chose:

And my favorite "heavy" song of theirs is this:

I haven't even heard the album from which that last track is taken (Going Blank Again). Somehow I got the idea that Nowhere was their only good album. Apparently not!

The song by The Veldt sounds like Cocteau Twins with a male vocalist. CT always (as far as I know) used a drum machine.

I don't like GBA nearly as much as Nowhere, but there are definitely some good tracks on it, and I think "Cool Your Boots" is one of their best songs period. It's the stuff that came after GBA that isn't so great.

I believe CT always recorded with a drum machine but had a drummer with them on tour in their later years. Drum machine technology certainly advanced over the span of their career. On their early stuff it's quite clear that the drums are electronic, but by Milk & Kisses(1996) it's hard to tell.

"it's one of only two sub-genre names which, when applied to a band, will cause me to be interested in hearing the music even if I have no other information about it. The other is trip-hop."

Do you know Hooverphonic's album A New Stereophonic Sound Spectacular? It has elements of both and is excellent.

Yes, I do, and it is indeed excellent. I can't remember how I came across it but it may well have had something to do with seeing it described as trip-hop.

I've listened to Loveless twice over the past few days. It's definitely grown on me. I like it but not nearly as much as the best of Slowdive's stuff.

Had a listen through #41, Starflyer 59's Gold and also their first one, Silver. Liked them both. Also like the Asobi Seksu one very much.

Not really shoegaze at all, but my record of the year for 2018 is Low's Double Negative, which is probably like nothing you've ever heard: quiet, but full of noise, and gorgeous.

I just revisited them after not hearing any of their stuff for a long time, but their 2015 album Ones and Sixes is one of my favorites of the last five years, and then they do this amazing album late last year.

Listening to clips just doesn't do it justice.

Isn't there something on Things We Lost in the Fire that sort of fits that description? Anyway, sounds enticing.

I also love shoegaze and trip hop! I have a playlist on spotify that has a bit of all kinds of dreamy music like that, and also some minimalist and classical stuff, and chillstep and vaporwave on the quirkier side. More about the atmosphere than the genre lines. I like both the Ulrich Schnauss albums you mention a lot.

"Isn't there something on Things We Lost in the Fire that sort of fits that description?"

Yes, somewhat, but DN is really a whole new ballgame. Lots of distortion and glitchy stuff, but with this beauty present underneath constantly fighting its way to the surface. It's like nothing I've heard before. I've sat and listened to it about once a week since I first got it back in December.

I'll definitely check that out. Melody + noise is a combination I really like.

Chillstep and vaporwave are new to me, Xenie. Sounds intriguing. Any recommendations? I guess chillstep is some development of dubstep? I thought I liked dubstep when I thought it meant Burial. Then I heard Skrillex...

Well if you want to see everything I've got, this is the playlist:

And no, I'm not a fan of dubstep at all really, but chillstep is kind of similar to trip hop, with the beat but also quiet and downtempo. There are some compilations called the Chillstep Files that you can check out.

Vaporwave is kind of weird, lots of samples from TV and radio, a fascination with the plastic culture of the 1980s. I like Nmesh and 18 Carat Affair. And Com Truise.

Anyways if you check out my playlist let me know what you think. It has followers but no one has ever said a peep to me so I always wonder if it is enjoyable to anyone other than me and my husband, who has similar tastes.

Thank you, I'll give that a whirl. I have a Spotify account but haven't used it for a while. I'll see if I can fire it up.

Xenie, I'm enjoying your playlist. Took me a while to get Spotify going. It's a free account so when the commercials jump out it's pretty startling. I know a number of the artists: The Album Leaf, Lali Puna, Mum, Dntel, of course Sigur Ros, Marconi Union. But many are new to me.

Vaporwave sounds very intriguing.

Yeah it's a work in progress. I do a major revamp every few months, and a lot of periodic trimming and adding of new things I come upon. I have a paid subscription to spotify because I love having access to so many things I haven't heard before.

At the moment I have two paid subscriptions, one to Tidal and one to Pandora (the premium on-demand thing, not the radio). Long story but I'm trying to decide which one to keep. When I do, the one I pick will probably fold. :-) That's what happened with Rdio, which I loved. I don't like Spotify's user interface, although I see now that it's been cleaned up a good bit since I last used it.

It says your playlist has 9,996 songs on it. !!

I've listened to #'s 14 and 30 a few times over the past several days. 14, My Bloody Valentine's MBV, is pretty much MBV: if you like them you'll like it, if you don't you won't. For myself I find it's a sound I appreciate more than like.

#30 is Blonde Redhead's 23, which frankly I don't see why is on the list. Only two of the songs are very shoegazey, while the rest are more of a lighter, somewhat quirky dream-pop. Not bad, mind you, but not shoegaze.

Next up: The Veldt - Afrodisiac and Slowdive's Pygmalion, which I've never heard.

On the list they have M83's Dead Cities..., which didn't do much for me. But Mac, you may like their 2011 album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. It's a 2-disc amalgam of electronica, 80s-style synth rock, and anthemic ambience. It's got 22 tracks, not all of which work, obviously, but imo a good 3/4 of them are great stuff.

That does indeed sound interesting.

If I remember correctly, Pygmalion is somewhat different from Slowdive's other stuff, and that I didn't like it as well.

Agreed about MBV. I like Loveless but I don't think it's going to be a big favorite. I'm a little surprised that they're so revered. It's not the friendliest music.

"If I remember correctly, Pygmalion is somewhat different from Slowdive's other stuff"

Yes, I've read that too. I have their EP "5," which came between Souvlaki and Pygmalion, and I really only like one song on it.

Notes on current listening:

'Pygmalion' didn't do much for me. Mostly ambient, which I don't mind, but not particularly interesting ambient.

Ulrich Schnauss -- I'd never heard of the artist, but listening to 'Far Away Trains...' I found I was very familiar with the general style, as it appears on the several "chill-out" compilations that I own. Good stuff.

The Emerald Down -- 'Scream the Sound' This originally came out in 2001 but was re-released in 2016. Sort of a cross between MBV and Slowdive, with the sonics of the former being combined with the musicality of the latter. As such it's not particularly original, and at first it struck me as good but fairly derivative. Upon a second listen, however, it seems more like this record wasn't so much a knock-off as it was an homage, but one that sought to push the envelope a little bit, by combining the various shoegaze elements into something of a whole, then tossing in a little electronica for spice. Not all of it works, mind you, but the good stuff on the album is very good.

The Veldt -- 'Afrodisiac' Not bad, but a bit more psychedelic than I like, and I found the sexual nature of the some of the lyrics off-putting.

Exitmusic -- 'Passage' Not exactly shoegaze, but big loud dreampop -- like Beach House on steroids, some of it approaching Sigur Ros wall-of-sound territory. Very good melodies for the most part, but singer Rose Palladino's voice took a little getting used to for me, at times reminding me of something like a female Eddie Vedder, if you can imagine such a thing.

Good heavens, you're right, she does. I'd kind of forgotten what they sound like so I played From Silence, their EP which is the only thing I've heard by them. I like it a lot though.

As I think I said earlier, I was disappointed in Pygmalion, too. I remember that at one point it was the only album of theirs that I hadn't heard so I was looking forward to it. Haven't heard it for a long time.

The guy I bought the CD from online threw in a copy of 'From Silence,' but I haven't listened to it yet. I think only one of the four songs is repeated on the album.

Having just listened to the whole thing, I really like it.

Listened to 'From Silence' last night -- very much like 'Passage.' The song that appears on both is "The Modern Age."

I'm not sure but I think that track may have been a freebie that caused me to buy the whole EP.

#42, "Against Perfection" by Adorable is my favorite 'unheard' one so far. Generally falls pretty much in the Ride/Catherine Wheel vicinity.

I haven't gotten past #48 yet. It's good but doesn't necessarily stand out.

Are you doing them in order?

I've got the Asobi Seksu one up next. I listened to the Boo Radleys one a couple times over the weekend, but I like their previous record, "Everything's Alright Forever" a lot more. It strikes me as more cohesive, while "Giant Steps" is all over the place musically speaking.

Sorta. It will take me a long time, as there's so much other music to listen to. It will probably be an occasional thing, like my ongoing effort to make a list of all the Scarlatti sonatas I have (mainly so I can find the ones I like, since they're only identified by numbers).

Over the past week I've spent some time with both Asobi Seksu and Starflyer 59. I like the former very much. The latter have some good songs, but a fair amount of what I've heard, mostly from their first two records "Silver" and "Gold," veers a little too much in the grunge/metal direction for my taste. There are a few tracks on each disc that sound a bit like Ride or Catherine Wheel, but an equal amount are in the Smashing Pumpkins vein, and that's a style I'm not keen on. Although I must say I do like S.P.'s (relatively) quieter album "Adore" a lot.

Two of my children, now in their mid to late 30s, were big Pumpkins fans, so I heard them a good bit. I might have liked some of their stuff more than I did if they'd had a different singer. I really disliked Billy Corgan's voice. Never really heard Adore.

I listened to Turning Into Small (somewhere in the high 40s on that list) the other day only because it happened to be on the MP3 cd currently in my car. That was probably the 3rd time I've heard it, enough for me to put it pretty firmly in the "interesting but not loved" category. It is inventive but in a jumpy, fragmented sort of way.

Personally, I don't love his voice but I can live with it. I can certainly see why his voice would be a turn-off to some people though.

I like Adore a lot, and the b-sides compilation Pisces Iscariot.

I do like Starflyer 59 quite a bit but it's not on my quiet list, but my loud list with Anberlin and Mae and some other "Christian emo" type stuff I admittedly have a weakness for.

"Christian emo" does not sound very promising. :-)

I'm about to go off pop music for Lent, so will not be hearing any more of these groups, or posting about pop music. So I will mention now something that I had sort of meant to do a blog post about:

Mark Hollis of Talk, Talk died a week or two ago. That prompted me to get out the two generally-considered-to-be-masterpieces albums of theirs (his), Spirit of Eden and Laughingstock. Wow, they are even better than I remembered. I had mostly heard them in the car and they're really not suitable for that. They truly are masterpieces of a very unusual sort. Can't even call them pop music, really.

I discovered that after he abandoned Talk Talk and mostly he dropped out of the music business he produced a self-titled solo album which I haven't heard but which AllMusic says is quite good.

RIP, Mark Hollis. I hadn't known about his passing -- very sorry to hear it.

Yes, those two albums are magnificent. And the others aren't too shabby, either.

Just came across this, of related interest. A lot of stuff on here I haven't heard of.

Same here. A lot I haven't heard of, at least as many that I've heard of but not heard. I approve the ones I recognize, though. Not necessarily the rankings. I like Beach House but not as much as, for instance, Cruise-Badalamenti-Lynch. Good to see This Mortal Coil in there.

Also The Clientele's Suburban Light. My favorite of their albums.

I also looked at their '50 Best Trip-Hop Albums' list and most of them were unfamiliar, even by name. Of course the biggies were on there, but a lot of the other stuff didn't register, and frankly didn't look all that attractive.

Something you may be interested in that I ran across this weekend is the UK band GoGo Penguin. They're a jazz piano trio that incorporates elements of trip-hop, EDM, rock, and minimalism. I found out about them when looking up the label that that Hania Rani album is on. GoGo Penguin is now on Blue Note, but their first two albums were on that same label. It's really interesting and fun stuff.

Sounds like something that would be on ECM. Which is a good thing. They're on Pandora so I'll check them out.

I don't see a Best Trip-Hop list at Pitchfork. There's an Industrial...yay... Also Ambient, which has a whole lot of stuff I've never heard of, which is a little surprising to me.

Speaking of trip-hop, btw, I really like that recent Laki Mera album. Thank you.

You're welcome -- glad you liked it. Still looking forward to your take on Low's 'Double Negative.' ;-)

Sorry -- wasn't a Pitchfork list. My mistake. Here it is:

This has been put together from Pitchfork reviews and is a little more manageable:

Haven't gotten to Double Negative yet. I have a backlog, as always.

At a glance I think those lists tend more toward the "hop" than the "trip" side. I.e. less of the mysterious Portishead-type stuff and more dubby-dancey. I'd say that about Thievery Corporation on the basis of the one album of theirs that I've heard.

I think you're right about the hop vs. trip thing. I often get the feeling that some people think that trip-hop is just slowed down hip-hop.

Funny you mention Thievery -- I just bought their 'Culture of Fear' album and like it a lot. They're coming here for a concert next month and I'm trying to decide whether to go or not, only because it's a little on the pricey side.

The stuff of theirs that I have is from the cheap mp3 days at eMusic. The only complete album is their first, Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi. I like it but not with all that much enthusiasm. Which I'm sure is why I have a few miscellaneous tracks from other albums but never bought the rest.

Actually, that and Culture of Fear are the only two I've heard in their entirety. I like CoF a lot better.

In my music-player software, I sometimes tag individual tracks as "four-star single"--tracks that I really like but either don't have the full albums from which they're drawn or don't care all that much for the rest of the album. There's one Thievery track with that rating: "Le Monde," from The Mirror Conspiracy. which is very trip-hop. Don't know why I never picked up the rest of the album.

Funny this has come up, because just the other day, while looking for something else on YouTube, I ran across this live performance by them and played it. That was mainly out of curiosity because I wondered how much of their stuff was electronically created. It's pretty good. Might help you decide whether to go to their show. I think "Le Monde" is on it.

I've heard good things about Mirror Conspiracy. It's next on my list to check out among their records. And I'll definitely watch the live video.

Here's GoGo Penguin on Tiny Desk:

By the way, I have the exact same flannel shirt as the drummer, and I often sport it over a gray t-shirt just like that. In fact I've probably done gigs in that same get-up. Lol.

I'll have to wait to watch that, but in the meantime, congratulations on your fashion sense. :-)

Thanks. Easiest style in the world. Like a post-grunge Garanimals for adults.


In her early teens (late '90s) one of my children wore a flannel shirt pretty much every day. I mean the same shirt except when it had to go into the laundry. Somewhere in that time a cartoon appeared somewhere that showed kids complaining that school uniforms crushed their individuality, and every one of them was wearing a plaid flannel (presumably) shirt. My daughter was not amused.

I didn't know you were gigging. That's good. I've been meaning to do a blog post about how in recent years I've come to really appreciate drummers. For most of my life I've paid that aspect of pop music almost no attention at all, except for the occasional flamboyant one like Keith Moon. An old story to you, I'm sure.

I listened to the GGP video. I liked it but I wasn't knocked out. YouTube then recommended this Olafur Arnalds Tiny Desk, which I haven't listened to yet but should be interesting (at least):

Yes, I've watched that one. It's pretty good.

I haven't been playing out lately, I just still have the uniform.

Speaking of Arnalds, his CD 'Island Songs,' which is quite lovely, comes with a DVD that features videos of the same performances that appear on the CD. It's almost like a mini version of Sigur Ros's 'Heima,' (it runs about 35 minutes) except that most of the performances don't include an audience.

I had watched it on youtube a year or so ago, then bought it at Christmas time but never opened it. I finally watched it again a couple nights ago and quickly remembered why I wanted to buy it in the first place. It's calm and beautiful stuff.

Variations of Static is the only one of his albums that I have, purchased unheard on the basis of the Broadchurch music, and it's a little disappointing. The music itself is very beautiful, but it's marred by words spoken in the old Apple computer voice. It sort of discouraged me from seeking out more.

I'd recommend 'For Now I Am Winter' and 'Island Songs.' Both are similar to the Broadchurch music and are mostly instrumental, except that the former has a couple songs with vocals by the same guy who sang the Broadchurch theme song, while 'Island Songs' has one track with a wordless choir and another with a female singer.

I have his latest one, 'Re:member', on order from the library.

Both on Pandora, as is the Broadchurch soundtrack, so I'll tag them.

Well, I've listened to Double Negative once, semi-attentively. I definitely like it, but it remains to be seen how much. Have to hear it several times for that. What immediately strikes me is that they must have been listening to artists like Belong and Fennesz, who sort of create noise sculptures, and both of whom I really like.

I've heard of Fennesz but not Belong, and haven't heard their music. Some of it I'm sure has to do with the producer, B.J. Burton, who apparently has something of a background in electronica. He did their previous album too (Ones and Sixes), which I really like, but it really only has hints of where Double Negative ended up.

I think Belong is pretty obscure. They were an eMusic find for me, maybe an initial freebie that caused me to get the whole album. Fennesz has more of a following, I think. Both are almost completely abstract. No doubt there are others so it might be a stretch to infer a direct influence. But in any case Double Negative seems to take some of the same noise techniques and combine them with actual songs.

I see Fennesz made it into Pitchfork's Top 50 Ambient list: #22, Endless Summer. I have that album but haven't listened to it much. Reportedly it's more melodic than most of his other stuff.

Came across a *really good* shoegaze record, and immediately wondered why it didn't show up on this list; then saw that it was released after the list was compiled.

Secret Shine -- "There is Only Now" (2017). Far and away the best contemporary manifestation of the thing I've come across, right up there with Slowdive's 'reunion' album. They've been around since 1992, but bounced around on several small indie labels, so were mostly under the radar. This record, their latest, is quite a revelation.

AMG: "Underrated shoegaze band on Sarah Records, re-formed years later with classic lineup intact." Release dates indicate a roughly 20-year hiatus. No ratings on their most recent releases, but 4 1/2 stars on their first. That's a *really* high rating on AMG, as they rarely award all 5. I'll definitely check them out.

Discogs shows a number of indie and self-released items scattered between 1992 and 2017. No full length albums between 1993 and 2005, other than a singles compilation in 2003.

All the stuff looks hard-to-find/pricey except the latest one and a more recent singles compilation.

Unless you're on Pandora. :-) And probably the other streaming services. Pandora shows seven "albums", which includes both LPs and EPs.

Note to Grumpy: Got the new Long Beard album yesterday (Means to Me) and it's very good. I especially like the song "Snow Globe." The first half is better than the second half imo, but it's still pretty enjoyable.

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