Welcome to NK’s Genre Journeys, where the Negative Kitty shares her thoughts on genres that catch her fancy. This month’s genre: Shoegaze and its subgenres!
Shoegaze is much more than walls of beautiful noise; it’s the result of decades of alternative music and general badassery. We’re here today to help guide you through your shoegaze journey with this brief primer on the genre and its multiple offshoots!
We’ve compiled a nice, short, 7.5 hour playlist with all this lush wavy goodness, which you can check out here. Feel free to listen along as you read, or check out the individual tracks embedded below.
Shoegaze traces its roots to the bustling alternative music scenes of mid 80s UK, taking much influence from genres like Ethereal Wave, Post Punk, Garage Rock, and Neo Psychedelia. Emerging as a sorta bridge between these genres, Shoegaze characterizes itself with swirly, whirly, lush guitar, layered between semi obscured vocals, and all wrapped up in plenty of distortion, feedback and VOLUME. Guitar effect pedals are the most crucial aspect to this genre, and an inspiration for the genre’s name — bands in the scene were noted for consistently monitoring and manipulating the seriously sick sounds they were making, gazing down at their pedals as they did so, or, “Shoe-gazing”. Silly name? PURRhaps. But the music is no joke. Its heavy, it’s ethereal and it is dreamy!
Bands like Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain influenced the ethereal and dreamy nature of this genre, while bands like The Velvet Underground, The Cure, and Sonic Youth influenced a lot of the scene’s ethos.
A criminally underrated duo that is considered the first true Shoegaze band, A.R. Kane, laid the groundwork for what would become the characteristic sound.
A.R. Kane was a lot edgier and nosier than future acts to come, and I love em for that >_<
Next up, possibly the most well-known shoegaze band, My Bloody Valentine.
You probably can’t understand the lyrics but you can at least hear how good that is omg. It feels like being wrapped up in a big warm blanket, which ever so often sorta constricts you, but its ok becuz comfy.
Equally iconic, but a band which leans more into the dreamy side of the genre, Slowdive ushers in enveloping sweets sounds that are perfect for when you need a good cry.
Slowdive is shoegaze full of reverberated guitars, dense productions, drawing the listener into a spacey, psychedelic, dream.
With the genre coming into its own during the early 90s, bands like Lush, Ride and my personal favorite, Loveliescrushing, push the genre to new listeners.
Shoegaze’s journey is sorta melancholic like its sounds, dwindling in importance by the mid 90s, only within a few years of its emergence. Genres like grunge and Britpop took its spotlight and appealed to wider audiences. Shoegaze continued in the underground, but can be seen through its influence in bands to this day, making way for countless subgenres, offshoots, and a mini revival that is still going on!
NU Gaze and Shoegaze Revival
Bands like Parannoul and Sweet Trip are examples of shoegaze from THIS generation, and they’re seriously out of this world.
Shoegaze doesn’t stop here tho, let’s chat for a bit about some of the dope subgenres. One thing you’ll notice with these subgenres is it’s a meld of shoegaze and an equally delicious, other genre of music.
Shoegaze + Black Metal = Blackgaze
Blast beats, tremolo riffs, and wailing, black metal esq harsh vocals accompany heavy, ethereal production and instrumentals. Blackgaze is perfect for when even the despair of black metal isn’t enough. Bands like Alcest and Deafheaven are some icons of the subgenre.
Blackgaze brings black metal out of its shadowy realms, with just enough mainstream appeal to garner widespread acclaim. The genre takes major influence from atmospheric black metal acts like Summoming and Ulver, melding post rock, post hardcore and shoegaze.
2013 was the year that brought blackgaze to major prominence and acclaim, with the release of Sunbather by Deafheaven.
The first time I saw the album cover I really thought I would be getting some bubblegum sweet pop; instead you’re transported to a world of despair, gloom, and maybe even a little hope.
This album became so well known and loved leading Deafheaven to often be the only metal act performing at mainstream festivals, reaching fans across genre divides.
Doom/Drone + Shoegaze = Doomgaze/Dronegaze
This genre takes the dreamy aspects of shoegaze and brings on the crushing endurance of Doom Metal and Drone. Simultaneously ethereal, sludgy and noisy, bands like The Angelic Process, Jesu, Nadja and Boris create music that has come to define the genre.
Have a Nice Life created Doomgaze that pushes the boundaries of the genre as much as it takes influence from classics of Shoegaze and 80s alternative scenes. Creating music that is heavily steeped in storytelling, Have a Nice Life’s 2008 album, Deathconsciousness, solidified its position as a mainstay of the modern alternative.
Noise + Shoegaze= Noise Gaze
Just when you thought layers of distorted guitar and heavy feedback were not enough, noisegaze hits you in the face with ethereal and muffled vocals become even more indiscernible, with the human voice becoming just an instrument in a delicious soundscape.
Heavily influenced by Noise pop, noise rock and sometimes even emo, post metal and post hardcore, Noisegaze is one of the more underground subgenre of Shoegaze.
And finally a subgenre that defies all conventions…
Shit?? + Shoegaze= Shitgaze
I suppose it gets its name from how its sounds, shoegaze recorded through the shittiest mic ever. Distortion and ear busting noisy lo-fi production are hallmarks of this shoegaze spawn from hell.
If you couldn’t tell already, Shitgaze takes any of the dreamy sweet parts of shoegaze and puts it through a shredder. It goes hard sometimes nevertheless…
Is it Shoegaze?
Deftones gets lumped in with shoegaze bands, much to the chagrin of most. Deftones is indeed a band that is extremely influenced by shoegaze and alternative music like post punk and dream pop, it is however not a shoegaze band >_>
But hey, here’s Deftones covering a Cocteau Twins song!
Deftones is just one example of countless artists and bands that have expanded shoegaze beyond its origins, bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, Stereolab and Duster. They may not be shoegaze, or even fall into a specific subgenre of shoegaze, but they take enough from shoegaze that some miiiiiiiiiight consider them shoegaze offshoots. Might. Don’t get mad. I’m just saying they MIGHT.
What is you fav contribution to the dreamy world of Shoegaze? Let us know and give our playlist a listen (and mayhaps… smash that heart button on the playlist, uwu?)!
Until the Next Genre Journey,