The 12 Potentially Best Shoegaze Albums

In recognition for what could be considered the first shoegaze album's (by the Cocteau Twins) 26th anniversary, let's take a look back at a strange but beautiful genre that has died but is recently coming back into fashion.

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Shoegazing, or shoegaze, is a bizarre genre of rock. It can be considered dream pop, brit pop, rock, indie, and more. The genre consists of droning, mostly excruciatingly loud guitars, but soft-spoken, poetic vocals. Shoegaze can either be very savage, or even ambient. So how does the name for the genre have anything to do with the music? It doesn't. Coined by British press in the early 90's, shoegaze refers to how musicians of said genre would stare at the ground during shows. Since many pedals are used for this genre, it appears that the guitar players were just "gazing" at their shoes. Not the greatest conception of a genre name, but it was unique enough to be a genre that can be so easily referable to.

It is debatable what are the best shoegazing albums, or even which was the actual first shoegaze album. One suggestion would be the band Cocteau Twins. They have two albums (Head Over Heals, and Treasure) which were made one year and a day apart from each other (October 31st for Heels, November 1st for Treasure). Since either album can be considered the spark of this genre, in my opinion, I think this would be the best time to celebrate this genre, especially since it is starting to make a comeback after its untimely demise in the mid 90's. Of course there will be people arguing and saying "oh why isn't THIS on there?", but that's what the comments section are for: create your own for other fans of this genre to reflect upon :). This is my personal list of the top 12 shoegazing albums.

12. Tamaryn-The Waves (2010) Sure this album is brand spanking new. But that doesn't mean that it cannot be good. As there are two people in charge here (Tamaryn and producer Rex Shelverton), this album is one of the most well controlled albums of the genre. With nods to PJ Harvey's "Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea", The Waves has a bit of an urban-but-natural feel to it. If this is how she will start her career, we can only hope to hear more from this aspiring new artist. Tamaryn - Sandstone

11. Moose-XYZ (1992) One of the more upbeat, poppier albums on the list, XYZ takes the whole dream-like style into an uplifting experience. Hints of The Cure can be heard all over the underlines of XYZ, but without the complete depression of course. Instead, Moose leave us with an album that begs to be on repeat and sung to. Moose are one of the bands that can be considered the founders of shoegazing, which is again debatable. Whether they are or they aren't, they still made one of the best albums of said genre. Moose - Friends

10. The Black Ryder-Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride (2009) Australia's The Black Ryder are one of the many new tours-de-force when it comes to the rebirth of shoegaze (sometimes called nu-gaze but I find that title a bit strange, then again so is shoegaze). A common duo of male-female vocals make up this band, as they swap roles for lead and backing vocals on each track (again, very common in shoegaze). Only this time, these vocalists are the only members of the band, so they can add the classy "multi-instrumentalist" title to their resumes. What sets The Black Ryder apart from many "nu-gaze" bands is their use of psychedelic and even sometimes country-like guitars. One of the more ear-friendly bands on the list, from here on in the bands get louder so be sure to fix your audio levels accordingly: either to soft to save your ears or loud to be reborn. The Black Ryder - Gone Without Feeling

9. Swervedriver-Raise (1991) Swervedriver are one of the more aggressive bands on this list. They took the use of loud, screeching guitars to their advantage to make blistering noise rock anthems. While most shoegaze was melody based and focused on creating waving soundscapes, Raise is an album that uses more fill-based drumming and punk-like guitars. Raise only has six new songs (at the time), as a few others came from their well recieved EP's, but there isn't anything wrong with that. That's what helps make Raise such a memorable album: The tiny bit of audience input with the praise of the other added songs. Hey if the fans like them, why not include them on the first full length? With the rebirth of shoegaze, Swervedriver are one of the few bands that have reunited so if you are a fan, be on the look out for possible tour dates. Swervedriver - Sci-Flyer

8. Lovesliescrushing-Xuvetyn (1996) By far the noisiest, loudest band on this list (seriously, be very cautious with the provided clip), Lovesliescrushing have always tried to take advantage of the idea of "dream" in dream pop. Like their other albums, Xuvetyn is packed with abstract lo-fi soundscapes. An album for the die hard fan of the genre, it may take some getting used to until you finally begin to hear the beauty with this album. Its ambiance of crushing guitars on top of a haunting vocal track can only be described as painstakingly gorgeous. I have a feeling this particular entry will cause people to go "but reviewer this is so noisy! Why is it so high up on the list?", to which I reply "give it a chance and see it as a diamond in the rough because it takes time but you will find its symphony". Lovesliescrushing - Mandragora Louvareen

7. The Horrors-Primary Colours (2009) The final nu-gaze of three on this list, The Horrors weren't even a shoegazing band to begin with. A band that could be described as garage-revival, the Horrors came about within the middle of the last decade with Strange House, of which helped boost them into the popular rock scene. With a completely unforeseen move, they changed their sound almost entirely with 2009's Primary Colours; an astonishing album that demands to be listened to over and over again. Will they stay on this music path, or will they release a completely different album next time (could be grunge? could be rap? could be death metal? who the f--k knows at this point)? Either way, I can't wait to see what these guys come up with next. Yet, I mostly hope they stick to their shoegaze style, because they do it so well. Proof of this is with their song Sea Within A Sea; a song that explores the many sounds of shoegaze and one that I personally find to be one of the best songs of the past decade. The Horrors - 'Sea Within A Sea'

6. Ride-Nowhere (1990) Getting back to the poppier, easier-to-listen-to side of the genre, we have Ride. Ride have come to receive much acclaim for their debut album Nowhere, especially in recent years, and for good reason. It's catchy, inspiring, and an inspiration for some of the modern indie and alternative rock bands. Don't believe me? Member Andy Bell went on to be the bass player for Oasis's latter albums until their split in 2009 and is in Liam Gallagher and company's new effort Beady Eye. Now, don't listen to Nowhere and expect anything Oasis. But, just listen to it and expect something great. Ride- Vapour Trail

5. Cocteau Twins-Treasure (1984) Possibly the weirdest entry on the list, Treasure is, again, possibly the start of shoegazing and dream pop (but again that's up to debate). Cocteau Twins were very experimental, but at the same time fairly dark and gothic. But where they differ, is with the dark comes the light, in Elizabeth Fraser's incomprehensible but pretty vocals. Cocteau Twins may not have been the first band or artist to experiment with harsh and light music, but they sure took advantage of this formula and created something not heard of at the time. Who would have thought that this unusual combination of styles were to have influenced such a genre? Aloysius - Cocteau Twins

4. The Jesus And Mary Chain-Psychocandy (1985) One of the more recognizable and well known bands on the list, The Jesus And Mary Chain's Psychocandy has been praised by critics from left right and center. Fourteen songs that range from more aggressive punk rock, to beautiful poppy pieces. In the end, all the songs are different but are still a part of this expanding new genre, and Psychocandy is one of the albums that helped make it expand the way it did. Because Psychocandy is so short and sweet (it's just under forty minutes), it is easy to put it back on and go through the Reid brother's memorable songwriting over and over again. One of the best rock albums of the 80's, easily. The Jesus And Mary Chain - Just Like Honey

3. Lush-Split (1994) Split is such an appropriate name for Lush's penultimate release, as it is as split as you can be with any album, never mind shoegaze (while staying in the same genre of course). It is full of both poppy, short, distorted anthems and long dreamy ballads. With two female vocalists and guitar players, with a male rhythm section, Lush set themselves as a band that were fast and fun, but also extremely serious whenever they wanted to be. Lush had such a following in the UK, that there was actually a campaign online to bring back their lead singer, Miki, into the music industry. Why not the whole band, you may ask? Drummer Chris Acland sadly took away his own life in 1996, so a full band reunion isn't very likely. But for what it's worth, Lush have left us gorgeous music that will only age gracefully. Lush - Desire Lines

2. Slowdive-Souvlaki (1993) With an album named after a Jerky Boy's comedy prank call, Slowdive's second album is anything but silly. Souvlaki features absolutely magnificent songwriting which is hard to match in the rock scene even to this day. Slowdive features the common male-female vocalist combination with singers Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead. This was taken advantage of with their cover of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra's Some Velvet Morning (I'm not a big fan of covers but if there are any covers that have to be heard, this is one of them.) Slowdive had, and still have, an immense following that are awaiting a reunion (but unfortunately there aren't talks of any yet). What we do have though, is Mojave 3: A band consisting of members from Slowdive, of whom are also worth a listen. Slowdive - Allison

1. My Bloody Valentine-Loveless (1991) Now we get to what I call the best shoegaze album: Loveless. My Bloody Valentine were your usual dream pop, indie rock band from the UK. They released many EP's but few full length albums, as well as having a few lineup changes. Once they featured their classic line up, they released Isn't Anything. It followed the usual structures of the genres but it had its own feel. Now, what this band needed was something special and singer/guitar player Kevin Shields knew this. Loveless could be one of the most difficult to make albums in recent rock history (no match for Chinese Democracy, but still): It made bass player Debbie Googe stop visiting the studio, it made drummer Colm O Ciosoig sick (as well as having other physical and personal problems at the time), and it made the record label almost bankrupt. But, perfectionist Shields wanted his perfect album and he got it. Bilinda Butcher assumes the role of primary vocalist on most of the songs, and her calming ambient vocals get instantly crushed by some of the heaviest, loudest guitars in rock. With waves of sound consisting of a minimum of three separate-but-connecting melodies per track, Loveless is the shoegaze album to get not just for those curious about the genre, but fans of music in general. My Bloody Valentine - When You Sleep

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    hard to believe that The Verve aren't on that list. probably one of the more influental bands of that genre. also, God Speed You Black Emperor?
    godspeed you black emperor! are post rock ffs
    Baby Joel
    You are thinking of Godspeed You! Black Emperor Zippo is talking about Godspeed You? Black Emperor
    Called #1-6 with the exception of Lush. I'm a pretty big Lush fan, but for some reason I never considered them "quintessentially" shoegaze.
    Cocteau Twins have way more than two albums. 1982- Garlands 1983- Head Over Heels 1984- Treasure 1986- The Moon and The Melodies 1986- Victorialand 1988- Blue Bell Knoll 1990- Heaven or Las Vegas 1993- Four Calendar Cafe 1996- Milk & Kisses Sidenote, What about Mineral? EndSerenading is probably one of my favorites in the genre