The globe-spanning networks of musicians, label owners, fans, and songwriters that make up the shoegaze community can withstand most things.
Now on to its sixth (or is it seventh?) wave, shoegaze has moved from early hype to critical derision, learning to survive both in the limelight and on the fringes. Indeed, it’s little wonder that the Scene That Celebrates Itself has developed such in-built capabilities of providing access to mutual support.
Recent years have been a boom time for the genre, with returning greats and new generation acts providing some sensational releases. We’ve had new albums from Swervedriver and Wild Nothing, aan album that displayed the darker side of DIIV, some excellent work from Ride (and its subsequent modern-classical re-working), The Telescopes first new album in three decades, the emergence of Australian artist Hatchie, and a lot more besides.
With temperatures hitting new lows across the country – and with renewed lockdown measures giving us all a lot of alone time – Clash has picked up some superb shoegaze releases from 2020.
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bdrmm – Bedroom
Hull-Leeds newcomers bdrmm delivered arguably 2020’s defining shoegaze release. An imperious statement, ‘Bedroom’ matched the band’s impeccable influences – the glacial sigh of Slowdive, the rather more rock elements of NOTHING, say – towards a truly individual approach.
An album of enriching beauty, ‘Bedroom’ came at a time when none of us seemed to know what lay ahead. A song cycle to lose yourself in, bdrmm seemed to suggest remarkable depth, a sense of comfort and toil that harked back to their Northern roots.
Denied the ability to tour due to the impact of the pandemic, bdrmm later followed this album with a flurry of demos, live recordings, and radio sessions – more spartan than its parent record, these are also well worth seeking out.
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Ringo Deathstarr – Ringo Deathstarr
Texan group Ringo Deathstarr are key players in the international noise pop community, with their bracing, needle-to-the-red take on the shoegaze legacy helping to find blistering new spaces for the sound to dwell in.
2020 brought a self-titled record, and in the true tradition of such eponymous affairs it allowed the band to distil their multi-layered sound down into one heady document. ‘Once Upon A Freak’ is a savage piece of Kevin Shields-style whammy bar onslaught, while ‘Lazy Lane’ heads towards rather more demure, fuzzed out territory.
‘God Help The One’s You Love’ is a plea from the hinterlands, with Ringo Deathstarr left to expose their feelings on plangent pairing ‘In Your Arms’ and closer ‘Cotton Candy Clouds’.
It’s a fantastic listen – if their discography has ever felt a little intimidating, or just out of reach, then ‘Ringo Deathstarr’ is perhaps your most secure best for a voyage into their reverb-soaked realms.
As a bonus, the band also took part in the excellent Levitation Sessions.
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Peel Dream Magazine – Agitprop Alterna
What have you wound up doing with your free time during lockdown? Some online yoga classes? A walk in the park? Maybe finish the the novel that’s been lying beside your bed?
Well, New York outfit Peel Dream Magazine embarked on an intimidating creative pull. Their rightly lauded album ‘Agitprop Alterna’ was a significant statement, a sign that their dreamy, effects-laden guitar pop contained some unexpected depths, as well as a commitment to emotional rigour.
Mere weeks later, however, Peel Dream Magazine dropped a surprise – an eight track EP that drew upon those same sessions, acting as a kind of parallel statement to ‘Agitprop Alterna’.
Taken as a whole, that’s more than 20 songs, a universe that moves from neat Neu!-esque cosmiche moments through to My Bloody Valentine leaning pedal stompers. Something to adore.
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Andy Bell – The View From Halfway Down
While this isn’t strictly a shoegaze album per se, it certainly exists in parallel to that arena. After all, Andy Bell’s day job is powering Ride’s guitar attack, while this solo album – a kind of Krautrock meets psych pop meets dubbed out electronics – certainly draws on a similar realm of sounds.
Honing in on Andy Bell’s exacting songwriting skills, ‘The View From Halfway Down’ packs eight songs into a mere 42 minute run time. ‘Cherry Cola’ is a fizzing delight, while opener ‘Love Comes In Waves’ is the sound of pure abandon.
‘Ghost Tones’ is playfully melancholy, with Andy Bell conjuring opaque ambient tones on spaced out closer ‘Heat Haze On Weyland Road’. A refined, contoured example of his songwriting, he closed 2020 by releasing ‘Cherry Cola’ as a stand alone single, featuring a nimble acoustic take, and a typically searching Pye Corner Audio remix.
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Gold Celeste – Common Ground EP
Norway’s Gold Celeste are one of the most under-rated groups around. Perhaps that’s due to the spaced out, ad hoc nature of their catalogue – put simply, they only release when they’re damn well ready to do so. New EP ‘Common Ground’ follows 2019’s full length ‘The Golden Maverick’, and it’s another dip into the Nordic group’s vast well of imagination.
Four tracks of glistening beauty, the EP opens with a short, sharp burst on ‘Eye Of The Storm’ before blossoming into psych-pop textures with the emphatic title track. ‘I Don’t Wanna’ offers precocious thrills, while closer ‘Tell Me Something’ shows off Gold Celeste’s melodic capabilities.
A real joy, ‘Common Ground’ is an excuse to uncover more of their work – Gold Celeste could be your new favourite band.
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