10 Best Modern Shoegaze Bands
When My Bloody Valentine's 'You Made Me Realise' single hit record shops in 1988, no one knew the profound effect it would have on the indie music scene in the coming years. Taking the Irish group's formula of soaking their guitars in reverb, distortion and other effects, an army of new acts emerged in the early '90s, and to the dismay of many, the sound came to be known as shoegaze. Love it or not, the term stuck, and for a few years back then, bands like Ride and Slowdive found themselves landing major distribution and playing to packed houses. The music press lost interest in shoegaze around the time the Britpop movement took over in the mid-'90s, but that didn't mean the sound and spirit of the sound faded away. Through a small but growing network of blogs, record labels and club nights, shoegaze has lived on, and in recent years, some of the newer bands carrying its torch have even found critical acclaim. In honor of these noise-loving newcomers, Diffuser.fm has compiled a list of the 10 Best Modern Shoegaze Bands. Throw in some earplugs and take a listen.
The most popular act on our 10 Best Modern Shoegaze Bands list is M83, the musical vision of French multi-instrumentalist Anthony Gonzalez. Since launching the project in 2001, Gonzalez has taken what was initially a first-wave shoegaze-influenced sound and added everything from ‘80s synth- and dream-pop (most of the ‘Saturdays = Youth’ album) to the ambient soundscapes found on ‘Before the Dawn Heals Us.' In addition to releasing music as M83 and selling out tours throughout the world, Gonzalez has made his presence felt on the big screen, scoring French director Gilles Marchand's 2011 film ‘Black Heaven' and 'Oblivion,' Tom Cruise's latest sci-fi flick. (Stream that soundtrack here.) Wherever Gonzalez steers his talents next, Diffuser.fm will be following right behind.
This Chicago four-piece has been at it since 1997, and while they haven’t been all that prolific (one album, six EPs), Airiel have made their records count. Listening to this group, you’ll hear most of the stylistic nuances associated with the shoegaze movement, but strip off all of the bells and whistles, and you’re still left with the kind of dreamy melodies that lodge themselves into your brain from the very first listen.
Shoegaze lovers might know guitarist/vocalist Dave Dupuis from his work with Film School, but it’s his newer band, Nightmare Air, that has Diffuser.fm all hot and bothered at the moment. Also featuring bassist/vocalist Swaan Miller and drummer Jimmy Lucido, Nightmare Air recently released their debut album, ‘High in the Lasers,' and it's stuffed to the gills with hooky melodic turns, haunting atmospherics and sublime vocal performances. This one certainly deserves more attention than it’s getting.
Man Without Country
Next up on our 10 Best Modern Shoegaze Bands list is the duo of Ryan James and Tomas Greenhalf, otherwise known as Man Without Country. ‘Foe,’ MWC’s 2011 debut album, was recorded entirely in Greenhalf’s bedroom in South Wales, but Ken Thomas’ (Sigur Rós, M83) mix makes the thing sound like a million bucks. Crashing with buzzing synths one moment and bathing in slow-burning ambience the next, 'Foe' is one Diffuser.fm recommends listening to on headphones.
Sure, Anne have released music on A389 Records – a record label better known for hardcore and extreme metal – but their sound couldn’t be further removed from that world. The Portland quartet delivers ethereal shoegaze of the highest order, and 2011’s ‘Dream Punx’ collection would sit nicely next to your Air Formation records.
San Francisco’s Young Prisms don’t do anything particularly new with the shoegaze formula, but if you’re a huge fan of this kind of music, you probably won’t mind. Check out last year’s ‘In Between’ album if you’ve worn out your Alcian Blue and Pale Saints records.
Formed by Canadian musicians Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd in 2009, No Joy has been garnering glowing press from places like Pitchfork and England’s Guardian. The group’s new ‘Wait to Pleasure’ is easily one of modern shoegaze’s finest full-lengths. The group keeps up a busy touring schedule and has shared bills with the likes of Clinic and Vivian Girls, so they'll probably be in your neck of the woods sometime soon.
A Place to Bury Strangers
A Place to Bury Strangers founder Oliver Ackermann takes his guitar effects so seriously that he created his own custom hand-wired pedal company called Death by Audio. The guitarist/vocalist showcases his pedals in A Place to Bury Strangers’ muscular, pulsating and abrasive guitar-driven discography.
Lead by American guitarist/vocalist Scott Cortez (of lovesliescrushing fame), Astrobrite exists in a kind of time warp where 4AD bands still land on the cover of NME and the import section of the local mom-and-pop record store is loaded with the latest goodies from Slowdive, Loop and Chapterhouse.
Rounding out our list of the 10 Best Modern Shoegaze Bands is Texas trio Ringo Deathstarr. The band plays a style of shoegaze that is steeped in more of a noise-rock feel (think Drop Nineteens, Medicine) than the dream-pop-type sounds favored by other acts on our list. The way the band float breathy vocals on top of the dirty guitars on tracks like ‘Rip’ and ‘Nap Time’ is tough to resist.